MDOD's Italy Trip Report April/May 2007

Jun 6th, 2007, 01:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 247
We arrived at Roma Termini 12:10. We were going to buy a Roma Pass but the line at the TI was a mile long. We walked to Francesca House B&B at 160 Via Cavour. There was a laundry, with internet, 2 doors down. They charged 9 EU to wash and dry a load of clothes. They loaded the washer, put in the detergent and put them in the dryer. They told us it would be an hour so we picked up some pizza and walked over to Santa Maria Maggiore. Got back at 2:00 and our clothes were in a pile on the table. Good deal.

Next we decided to walk up toward Galleria Borghese and stop at the Cappuccin Crypt (under Santa Maria della Immacolata Concezione) just north of Piazza Baberini. It was closed until 3 so we had to wait about 15 minutes to get in. There are several rooms ďdecoratedĒ with thousands of bone from monks. They took collar bones and wrist bones and made decorative scrolls on the ceiling, mounds of femurs to makes shelves and tables, etc. My husband thought it was gross but I thought it was pretty neat the way they turned the bones into art (though Iím not sure what the originals owners would have thought if it). I have to admit that the full skeleton mounted in the center of the ceiling of one room was a little unsettling but it was an interesting 10 minute diversion. No photos inside so I had to buy a postcard for the scrapbook.

We headed further north to Villa Borghese and contemplated going to the Priscilla Catacombs while we were up there but we werenít sure how far away they were or how long it would take to see them so we decided to just sit in a shady spot in the park and chill out until 4:30 when we had to pick up our tickets and Roma Pass.

Weíre not that much into art but I will say that we liked Galleria Borghese more than most. We spent a little over an hour and then went in search of a view of Rome from Piazza Napoleone I. We made it to the top of the Spanish Steps (whose obelisk base was under renovation) and looked down at the crowds below. From the top of the Spanish Steps, we headed N on Via Trinit dei Monte. When the road splits, stay on the right side going up into the park. It will open up into a plaza with a large terrace on the left that faces west overlooking the Piazza de Popolo just below and across Rome to St. Peterís. After being awed by the view, we walked down the adjacent stairs to the Piazza de Popolo. Then we headed back to the Spanish steps to see them from the bottom. There were so many people you could hardly see the fountain.

We had dinner at the Ristorante alla Rampa nearby. The food and service were nothing to write home about. They sat an older Italian couple next to us that didnít seem very happy about sharing the table but they stayed. After dinner we still had some energy so we decided to take the subway to the Colloseum to get a look at it at night. We headed out of the station and, bam, the Colloseum was right there but so was the pouring rain! We turned around and took the subway one to our B&B. It was still raining really hard so we did the only thing we could: got some gelato next door to the Metro station while waiting for the rain to stop.

We woke up at 7:30 and another guest was in the bathroom. They stayed in there for another 30 minutes! Thank goodness I woke up at 5:00 and went or Iíd have exploded. We had breakfast in our room then took the subway up to the Spanish Steps so we could take a look without the crowds. This time it was full of work crews cleaning up all the mess that was left behind-not a pretty site. At least we could see the fountain.

Then we headed over to Trevi Fountain hoping to get a view of it without the crowds swarming but the fountain wasnít on. There was a guy in fluorescent orange pants walking around in the fountain area and messing with stuff so we werenít sure of it was shut down for repairs or just wasnít on yet. It was just before 9:00 so we decided to wait to see if it turned on at 9:00. Luckily it did turn on a few minutes later, although the guy in the orange pants seemed intent on standing in the middle of the fountain.

Next we walked through the Piazza de Colonna with the 2nd century column to Marcus Aurelius and on to the Piazza Montecitori in front of the Italian Parliament. We were taking pictures of the obelisk and the Parliament building and trying to figure out the markings on the ground relating to the obelisk when my husband noticed that there were several secret service type guys watching us. He pointed them out so I took their pictures too ;-) There were a couple of sedans with men wearing sunglasses standing alongside the cars with the doors open. Then a guy walked out and got in the back seat and they drove off. Too bad I didnít get a picture of the mystery person.

We decided to head over to Ara Pacis Temple built by Augustus in 9 BC. I didnít think we were in the right place because the temple was enclosed in a very modern building. It didnít seem to fit in at all with itís surroundings. I read that many people were opposed to the modern design (by an American) but others felt that Rome needed to participate in modern architecture to and not just stuck in the past. Maybe but one modern building by itself, seemed very strange to me.

Across the street was the Mausoleum of Augustus which was overgrown with weeds. We also checked out the San Rocco Church across the street. There was a long vertical strip of white stone embedded into the south side of the church. It had a scale etched onto it with months and maybe years and arrows pointing to the scale at different heights. At the top it said IDROMETRO MDCCXXI. After doing an online search, my best guess is that is something to indicate the water level at various times but we couldnít imagine the river getting that high. Anybody else know what that was?

We then crossed the river and passed the Pallazio de Giustizia (Supreme Court) headed over to Castel Santí Angelo. It had great views of the city from the top.
Walking along the river, the trees drape over the sidewalk creating a covered bridge effect. There were various vendors set up on the bridges and along the river. On our way to St. Peterís the street vendors with the boom box dancing Mickeyís caught my husbandís eye. Another guy was looking at them and the con man said ďsee, turn off the music and they stopĒ at which point he turned off the music and it stopped dancing. Wayne couldnít figure out what trick they were using to make them work and it was just killing him. I told him to ask the guy how much they were and the next thing I knew he had one. LOLÖ he spent one whole Euro on it and then he was mad that he was ripped off. It was obvious that the thing had nothing to make it dance on itís own. It was just a paper cutout of Mickey Mouse with string legs and ľí flexi magnet feet and then some flexi magnet loop at the head. My husband festered over that for the rest of the trip and said ďI knew I should have told the guy to take mine out of the package and make it dance.Ē When we got home I did a Google search and confirmed that it was a hoax. The things are on a very fine wire that somehow is connected to the boom box making it move when it plays.

On to St Peterís. When we got there around 11:30, there was a long line running along the columns on the right side extending all the way to the front of the piazza for security for St. Peterís. Luckily, it moved along pretty fast and we got through it in about 15 minutes. Next line the Basilica. It didnít take long to get in but it was wall-to-wall people inching along the perimeter. I actually didnít like St Peterís as much as some other churches we had seen but the size is amazing. I also never realized that all the pictures in there were mosaics rather than paintings. I had to really look to see the individual tiles.

On to climb the dome. We got into the line for the cupola (which is at the front right corner outside of St Peterís) at 12:15 and finally made it to the ticket booth (right before the elevators) at 1:25. The line for the crypt parallels the line for the cupola and splits off right before the tickets for the cupola. A lot of people got tired of waiting in the dome line and went to the crypt instead. We were standing in line next to a couple from Michigan that had come on a cruise and only had 8 hours in Rome. The woman said she told her husband she was going to see the dome if nothing else. After about 45 minutes I realized that she just wanted to see St. Peterís Basilica, not go to the top of the dome. Here poor husband just shook his head when I told them they didnít have to wait in line to see the church.

The climb wasnít as difficult as the Duomo in Florence because there is an elevator for part of the way. It did not disappoint. There were great views of the city and St Peterís Square. This is the only place you can get a picture of ALL of St Peterís Square with a regular lens. Domes, domes everywhere! How many churches can one city have?

We finished at 2:15 and headed straight for the Vatican Museum where we waited in line for 30 minutes. Short on time and wanting to make sure we made it to the Sistine Chapel, we rushed through the museum but we did spend some extra time in the Egyptian section since that was different than the other art weíd seen on the trip. I loved the arched, illuminated ceiling in the map room too. The Sistine Chapel was awesome but it lost something with constant multilingual requests for quiet and warnings not to take pictures. I was amazed at how many people blatantly taking pictures despite repeated warnings not to do so.

We followed Rick Steveís advice to take the tour group exit at the back (right?) corner of the chapel. We were surprised to see it dropped us off at St Peterís right by the ticket area for the dome. I donít know when it closes but there was no line at all for the dome or the crypt when we went by at 4:00. We decided we might as well go to the crypt while we were right there. Pope John Paulís tomb was very simple as I expected. I had to laugh that a security guard had to tell a nun to stop taking photos.

When we finished we went out front looking for the bus stop for #62 to Largo Argentina. We saw a bunch of stops for various tour groups but couldnít find the city bus stop. We asked a street vendor and he directed us one block north to Borgo Corridorio S Angelo. From Largo Argentina we went to the Pantheon then Piazza Capranica and Giolittis for gelato before dinner. Then on to Piazza Navonna. The 4 Rivers Fountains was all covered up for restoration but they did have clear plastic windows in the corners so you could see parts f the fountain. I scoped out Tre Scalinis for a future visit but didnít dare get their Tarfuto after just having gelato at Giliottis then we went to Campo Fiore planning to have dinner there. While looking at a menu outside a restaurant a couple started up a conversation with us. It ended up that they owned my daughterís favorite restaurant back home. After talking to them we decided to try someplace off the beaten path and ended up at Il Copelle for dinner. Good family meal and service. After dinner we decided to ride bus #87 all the way to San Giovanni just to check out the sites and then take the subway back to our B&B. The church was impressive from the outside and there was a large city gate next to the Metro station. I think it may have been the Appian Way. It was 9:15 and someone on the bus said the Metro might close at 9:00 or 9:30 so we rushed to get to the station and didnít have time to look around much. When we got to the station they were closing some of the entrances but Iím not sure when it actually closed down. Our B&B was right near the subway and we could a faint rumble of the trains way past 10:00.

We woke up to pouring rain on our last full day in Rome. It was 7:15 andd the other couple was already in the bathroom and didnít come out until 8:00! When they finally did, the bathroom was totally steamed up. I still canít believe that someone would hog the bathroom for that long, especially first thing in the morning. Too bad we didnít know where the hot water heater was ;-).

We took the Metro to the Colloseum and were swarmed by umbrella vendors. My husband had rain gear but I didnít so we bought one for 5 EU (without bargaining). While we were paying the one guy, 2 others came up trying to get us to buy from them instead. After we walked away another guy offered his umbrellas for 3EU so my husband bought one for himself too. Armed with our umbrellas we headed for the Forum. It was supposed to open at 8:30 but there was a sign on the gate saying it was closed until 11:00 for a union meeting-great. So we walked back over to the Colloseum which, according to my notes, wasnít supposed to be open until 9 but ended up being open at 8:30. Just as well since we had more shelter from the rain there. The rain tapered during the morning and was starting to clear as we were finishing up at the Forum. On the way to Capital Hill we stopped at the Mamertine Prison. FYI, Itís the coral colored building on the right, just past the Arch at the back of the Forum before you go up the stairs to Capital Hill.

We climbed up the steps to Capital Hill and stopped to play with the drinking fountain half way up on the right. If you look at the faucet, youíll see a hole in the pipe at the top. When you take your fingers and plug the faucet, water sprays up and out of that top hole. On the left, further up the hill, youíll see a bronze statue of Romulus and Remus and a she-wolf on the top of a column. Just past that is the Capital Hill plaza but if you turn right and go up the wide stairs opposite the statue, you can take a shortcut to the top of the Victor Emmanuel II Monument (top columns under reno) . Go through the gate and turn right to go to #13 on the right. It is an entrance to the cafeteria and leads you to a terrace overlooking the city from the backside of the monument. There are even several displays with labeled pictures of the skyline identifying buildings and monuments. Too bad they donít have things like this at St Peterís or other places with sweeping views. Then you walk around the front and you are on top of the Monument. Unfortunately, we took this shortcut and climbed down the steps of the monument to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then I forgot to go around to look back up at the Capital Hill or the steps of Santa Maria dí Aracoeli.

From there we walked by Trajanís Column and then walked back to Palatine Hill. The sun had finally come out so we got some nice photos of the Forum from the top of Palatine Hill. There were lots of ruins and some very pretty gardens there but they donít give you anything to tell you where things are or where you are. No arrows to tell you where the exit is. I knew you could see Circus Maximus from there but we got all turned around in the various sections of Palatine and couldnít find it. We stumbled upon the Palatine Museum and someone there pointed us in the right direction but it was frustrating feeling like we were wandering around aimlessly. I was glad to get out of there. I found this map online after we got home I wish I would have had a map here because we had no idea where we were. I found this site after we got home: . Iíd highly recommend printing it out. FYI, there is bathroom hidden in the Palatine Museum. Coming in from the Forum side, it was on the bottom floor on the left side. When we were in there I noticed what looked like a male/female sign but there was no door. As we were passing back through I saw someone come out of there and noticed there was a sliding panel there that blocks the entrance to the bathrooms.

We had been doing well time wise and I was hoping to go to the catacombs. I had intended to just go to Palatine to get some pics of the Forum and to see Circus Maximus. But by the time we finally found our way to Circus Maximus and back out, I was tired and hungry and aggravated that we probably didnít have time to go to the catacombs. I wanted to find a quick bite to eat but we didnít see any quick cafes anywhere so we ended up at a pizza place. I told my husband to order anything but anchovy pizza and he looked at the menu and picked the second item. We got the pizza and I took a bite and it tasted like fish. Yep, it was anchovy. Luckily they only put about a tablespoon of anchovies right in the center so it wasnít too bad but what were the odds that heíd randomly pick the anchovy?

After getting some food, we decided to take a chance on going to the San Callista Catacombs. We took the subway from the Colloseum to Circus Maximus where we picked up bus #118 to San Callista (on the same side of the street as the subway station and to the left). The bus drops you off right in front of the entrance to San Callista Catacombs but it doesnít come very often. You buy your tickets at the catacombs and wait for them to call the tour in your language. The actual tour takes about 30 miutes. We made it back to Circus Maximus at 6:00.

We wanted to see an older church and San Clemente, at Via Labianca 95, was near the Colloseum and right on bus route #87 so we went there. The church is not obvious from Labianca because the entrance is around the back.

Our last mission was to get to Gianicolo Hill for our last view of the city. Someone posted a way to walk up there but the route didnít seem to fit the map and I had no desire to be walking aimlessly up steep hills so I checked out the bus routes. We took #87 to Largo Argentina, then we walked one block over to pick up the electric cars (either #3 or #8 will work). Got off at the Ministero della Pubblica Instruczione (a large government building on the right). Across the street from that building, you is a memorial wall with lots of plaques on it where we picked up bus #115 (Gianicolo Circular) to Piazza Garibaldi. There are two. You want the second one with the large statue of a Garibaldi on horse in the middle of the road. There are incredible views from both sides of the street. We saw the first plaza with a fountain and got off there by mistake. It has good views too but you want the top. While we were up there we had our last itís a small world encounter. We asked someone to take our picture and they ended up being from our town.

At Largo Argentina we picked up 87 again to Piazza Navonna. As we were walking around we asked someone how to get to Baffettos. It was on the NW corner of Via del Govern Vecchio and Via Sora. There was a line of about 10 people when we got there. They put us at table for 6 with two other couples, one Italian and the other Spanish. We didnít mind but they didnít give us a choice. The pizza was OK but I didnít think it was that special and it was almost an hour before we got anything to eat. Before heading home we stopped at Tre Scalina in Piazza Navonna for their Tarfuto (Death by Chocolate). It was 5EU if you went inside to order take out and 8EU if you sat down. Unfortunately it had liquor in it which I donít like so my husband offered to finish mine (what a guy) and I got some gelato. A fitting way to finish off our last day in Italy.
mdod is offline  
Jun 6th, 2007, 01:31 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,380
hi, mdod,

great report, made me remember so many things about our travels.

how did you miss the flying heads? - [only kidding] how could you miss all those cherubic faces with wings just behind their ears featuring towards the top of lots of renaissance poaintings? [i confess, I've been to loads of galleries and I've never spotted the ugly babies or the flying heads before my kids pointed them out].

i'm glad you saw the ugly babies- how did so many great artists miss the fact that the babies are the wrong size, shape, age, etc. etc. ?

we never found teh thumb and head of St. Catherine, but we did find the other cathedral in siena where they have the miraculously preserved communion wafers. Made in 17 something or other so more than 200 years old, and they've never gone off. They get taken out for high days and holidays and the last pope was apparently very impressed. we did not partake. [they only have about 300 left to last forever].

I'm pleased that spomeone else is blessed with a DH like mine. In his case, it's not climbing towers but eploring every little street in any town we are in. The narrower, darker and smellier the better. want to swap?


regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Jul 13th, 2007, 05:55 PM
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bookmarking to read soon
AmanteDelLimoncello is offline  
Nov 5th, 2007, 06:48 AM
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bookmarking this one too!
Phyllish is offline  
Nov 5th, 2007, 10:55 AM
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Marit77 is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 02:29 PM
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How did you know if people dressed like police are legitimate? Do police in Italy frequently stop people and ask for their passports? Apparenty there's one scam where fake police demand to examine your wallet for "fake" money. On the other hand, apparently real police might ask to see your receipt from a store.
aaauger is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2007, 11:41 AM
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Hi aauger,

In many years [51 to be precise] of living and travelling in europe i have never been stopped in the street by a police officer. NEVER.

the chances are that if you are stopped, it's by a fake. the real ones have better things to do.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2007, 08:52 PM
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Bookmarking - I have to go to bed!
morgiesmom is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2007, 03:00 AM
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Thanks for the report!
marigross is online now  
Jan 25th, 2008, 05:25 PM
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thanks for all the great details!
jabolla is offline  
Mar 18th, 2008, 09:37 PM
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bookmarking - thanks!
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