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Mozzarella, Museums, and Macchiato; Four Friends Spend Another Week in Rome

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Oct 25th, 2009, 01:15 PM
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Mozzarella, Museums, and Macchiato; Four Friends Spend Another Week in Rome

I spent a week in Rome with my mother and two friends, October 11-17, 2009. If you've read my reports before, you know they can be lengthy and detailed and this report will most likely be no exception.

Rome Trip 2009
Back in April, my mother told me she was considering going to Portugal by herself. I thought Portugal might not be the best trip to do alone, but suggested a trip to a single city like Rome or Paris. We had been to Paris the previous fall and I had been to Rome with my husband and friends the spring of 2008. I thought she should she seriously consider Rome as I had already done the research for her and she agreed.

Airfare:
We searched for airfare on United where my mom has Premier status and kept coming up with airfares in the $1200 range for our dates. Then one day in June I was on Twitter and came across a mention of an airfare sale to Europe on Delta with flights from the US starting at under $300 R/T!
I checked and sure enough, found tickets for LAX to Rome with a layover at JFK for $435 all in. It was crazy and after a flurry of phone calls and texts, not only did we have 2 tickets to Rome but my friends Jessica and Tris (who had gone to Rome with my husband and me last year), were coming too.
Within 24 hours the "sale" was gone and tickets were $860+, the low fares never to be seen again.

The Apartment:
With the tickets out of the way, the next thing to do was search for an apartment. We had rented with www.rentalinrome.com last time and very much liked the apartment we had. However, for this trip it was still a bit expensive and it didn't have WiFi access which was important to my mom because of her job.
After looking at what felt like hundreds of apartments, we settled on one with www.sleepinitaly.com It is located in Trastevere and on their website called "Vicolo del 5 Angel" http://www.sleepinitaly.com/appartam...d_appartam=368

The photos on the website are very accurate. When we booked it the price was 150 € a night for 4 people. It has since gone up to 180 € per night. It has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and is very spacious and beautifully decorated. The kitchen is decent and has both a dishwasher and a washing machine (we used both). The beds were comfortable and had nice linens. The owner was very nice and clearly cared about the apartment and if the guests were happy (as evidenced by a small problem we had later on).

The bathrooms were fine, though the one my mom and I used off the kitchen had hot water issues (just not hot enough all the time). The owner said they are going to call a plumber to fix this and I believe them. This is a new vacation rental and they are still trying to work out all the kinks.

As it turned out, the apartment did not have "wireless" access. What it had was a router with a cable one could plug into the back of the laptop, but you had to be sitting in the living room for this. You would need the WEP key to gain access to the WiFi and I didn't feel like trying to get that info or explain it to the owner, but I'm sure it could be had. Fortunately, in the bedrooms which fronted the street, there was unprotected WiFi access coming from somewhere which worked just fine (though not in the center or back of the apartment). I liked having this because I was able to Skype call with my husband every morning, plus check email, and post to Facebook and Twitter.

The only real negative was the noise. I'd read that Trastevere was "party central" for Roman and tourist twenty-somethings but I had no idea to what extent and that our little street was the epicenter. During the day it was fairly quiet, but the evenings and into the wee hours of the morning it was bedlam right below our windows. Then, at about 4am the trash and bottle collectors would start, along with the street cleaners. Seriously. It was quietest between 7 and 9 am.

We all really liked the apartment and honestly, the noise was the only issue. If you are a heavy sleeper then it might not be a problem at all. The double bedroom with en suite bath was very quiet, just the 2 bedrooms at the front were noisy. Personally, it didn't keep me awake, but it did wake me up for a few minutes several times a night.
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Oct 25th, 2009, 01:23 PM
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Planning:
To be honest, I didn't do my usual obsessive-compulsive planning for this trip. First, we had spent a week in Rome only 18 months prior so most of the research was done. Second, I had a 2 week trip to Vietnam in July which took up most of my planning time. And thirdly, we just wanted to make this a more relaxing trip.

For our last trip I had scheduled one "event" (museum, tour, or day trip) for each day. For this one, the only thing I booked in advance was a private tour of "Underground Rome" with Katie Parla (www.katieparla.com) and tried to figure out what to see in a 3 day time span to make the best use of the Roma Passes we intended to buy.
I researched going out to Tivoli on our own (included in the Roma e Piu Pass) but we ended up not going after we determined that it was just too much effort. Also, when we went to buy the Roma e Piu Pass from the information kiosk in Trastevere we were told they had to be reserved in advance and we would not be able to buy them anywhere. This is a little fact I did not see anywhere on the Roma Pass website.
So, other than the 1/2 day tour with Katie, and a loose list of museums, we had nothing concrete planned going into our week in Rome.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to a great website which is loaded with practical information on Rome called www.roninrome.com Ron gave me some great advice about getting to Tivoli, though unfortunately I wasn't able to use it on this trip.

Packing:
I usually travel carry-on only. However, my friends would be checking their bags, so my mother and I decided to do the same. I was able to check my usual carry-on 22" roll-aboard, and carry on a smaller rolling bag along with a day bag which held my camera.
My packing lists can be found here http://www.wired2theworld.com/BasicPacklist.html

Photography
I took 1010 photos in 7 days. I use a Nikon D40x DSLR and will be posting links to photos on my website as I go. I process all the photos through Photoshop Elements before putting them on my website and this takes more time than the writing (so please be patient with me!)

Technology
I travel with an old Toshiba 2 lb laptop. As I said above, I like having it with me to keep in touch and I was happy I was able to see my husband face to face via webcam on Skype every day. I also tried to download my photos to the laptop every day as a backup.
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Oct 25th, 2009, 01:28 PM
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Personal Guidebook
From the information I put on a Google Map I made of Rome (restaurants and sightseeing) and information cut and pasted from various trip reports here (thanks to all of you who posted here before me), I created my own "guidebook" for Rome when we went last year.
This time, I updated it with our prior trip experiences and added new restaurant info on Trastevere and other neighborhoods we planned to explore. I arranged it by area or neighborhood, so if we were in some place and want to stop for a meal, it would be easy to find something.

This trip I took my Travel OCD one step further and printed out 7 pages of my Google maps to go along with each neighborhood. Then I manually numbered every item (all 115 of them!) on the maps so we could easily find each place.

The organization took a lot of time, but was really useful in the end. We rarely planned to go to a specific place to eat, but rather, would pull out my notes and walk to the closest place which looked good. Most of the time this worked well; there were a few times we got lost (Google is not perfect) or found four places in a row closed for lunch (opening hours tended to be missing from my notes). You can see my map at
http://www.wired2theworld.com/Rome2009.html

Flying Delta
I admit I've been spoiled in the last few years. Almost every time I've flown it's been either in Business Class (tickets or upgrades gained with FF Miles) or at minimum in Economy Plus which offers extra legroom.

I was not prepared for the bone-crunching, soul-sucking experience of Delta's "Economy" (read, "Cattle") Class. I'm just shy of 5', 4" tall and I have no idea how anyone taller can withstand it. The seats only recline about 2" and when the person in front of you reclines it is impossible to reach the bag under the seat in front of you. The food is barely edible. I recommend bringing snacks along.

The only positive is that the interior of the planes have recently been renovated and the seats, while tiny and close together, have new blue leather upholstery and individual seat back screens with video-on-demand. This meant that though I could not sleep, I was able to watch over 10 movies and shows (with the ability to start and pause on demand) during our trip there and back.

If you are interested in my trip from last year where we hit a lot of the major tourist highlights not covered on this trip (Vatican Museum, Scavi Tour, Orvieto, Ostia Antica, etc.), you can check it out here on Fodor’s, or with photos on my website at http://www.wired2theworld.com/ROME2008.html

Now, on to the trip…
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Oct 25th, 2009, 02:26 PM
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hi kristina,

I've been so impressed by your website, which I've referred to a lot planning our Feb trip to Rome, so I'm really looking to your trip report.

thanks,

ann
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Oct 25th, 2009, 02:36 PM
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Can't wait for more! Rome is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I love reading trip reports.
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Oct 25th, 2009, 02:41 PM
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Kristina,
Looking forward to your trip report and photos. I would love to take the Underground Rome tour when we are there in May.
Judy
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Oct 25th, 2009, 04:37 PM
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Sunday, October 11, 2009

The day had begun almost 36 hours earlier with the alarm going off at 2:45 am on the 10th of October. What followed was a haze of airports, airplanes, bad food, a ride into the city worthy of Mario Andretti, and a near-fainting. Fortunately, the day ended with the surprise of a catholic procession through our neighborhood and a lovely meal filled with laughter and hearty discussion among friends.

LAX-JFK-FCO
Because our flight is scheduled to leave at 6:10 am, I am up at 2:45 (yes, ouch!) for a 3:30am departure from my house. We arrive at the airport at 4:15 and because we've checked in online the day before, we are able to get in a different line to just check our bags.

Going through security still feels like undressing; Coat, scarf, shoes, belt, liquids, laptop, bag, purse, all come off and go through the x-ray machine.
Hold on to that boarding pass!
Put it all back together on the other side.
Careful, don't forget anything!

At LAX, there is only one place open in Terminal 5 before 5am, and oddly, it's not a Starbucks. My mom buys us coffee and I pass out the bagels and cream cheese I have brought for our breakfast.
The flight from LAX to JFK is 100% full and I am thankful I have an aisle seat. At JFK we have a couple of hours and walk around the terminal in search of someplace we can sit down to eat. Unfortunately, the only place is Chili’s. We sit and eat. 'Nuf said.
The flight to Rome is also full and I end up watching movies to pass the time, unable to sleep.

We arrive in Rome almost an hour ahead of schedule and have no problem going through immigration, getting our bags and clearing customs. The driver from Rome Cabs (www.romecabs.com) is there and waiting for us. He's not familiar with the street our apartment is on, but I'm able to show it to him on a map.
Zoooooom! Off we go!
It's a whirlwind ride into the city. We arrive at our apartment at 8:30 am, a full hour and a half before the scheduled time we are supposed to meet the owner.
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Oct 25th, 2009, 04:50 PM
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Yay! Your trip reports are among my favorites! Look forward to all the details.
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Oct 25th, 2009, 04:59 PM
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Oh goody, this is great! Thanks so much for posting.
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Oct 25th, 2009, 06:15 PM
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Thanks everyone for the nice comments and encouragement.

Day 1, continued...
My mom and I take a wander around the neighborhood and can't find anything open where we can sit with our luggage for an hour or so. It's a Sunday morning and other than one small bakery (with no tables), nothing is open. We decide I will call the apartment owner at 9am.
At about that time, a car comes down our street and I say to Jess, "I want that car to stop and have it be the people to let us in." The car stops. It's the owners. The owner, S., says to me, "the agency didn't tell me what time you were arriving!"
Hmmm....I only confirmed this with the agency twice.

There are people upstairs in the apartment, but S. and her husband graciously allow us to go upstairs and drop our bags after the other renters leave. S. is dismayed we have to see the apartment messy. I'm just happy we can ditch our bags.

While we are there, we deal with the payment and discover I am 45 euros short. I had calculated the rate at 150 euros per day but somehow the agency had added on 45 euros and not detailed this in the email to me (though to be fair, their total included the 45 euros, I just hadn’t noticed it). I think it was for a "cleaning fee", but honestly, I'm too tired to argue. We scrounge for extra money and get that all settled, along with $450 in US dollars (300 euro) as a security deposit we will get back at departure.

Then S. starts explaining to me the details of the apartment, specifically the 4 separate bins for different types of trash and recycling and suddenly, I feel like I am about to faint.
I’m dizzy and my heart starts to race wildly and it's all I can do not to pass out on the floor. She must have thought I was crazy. I sit down for a moment, catch my breath, and we gather our things to leave for a few hours so she can finish cleaning.
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Oct 25th, 2009, 06:43 PM
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Wow!!! I am in total admiration that you have started your trip report so soon. I'm still shifting through my photos...you know me, I have issues with deleting!

Really looking forward to your report and how you liked Katie Parla's tour. I'm hoping to get my trip report going soon...maybe late next week.
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Oct 25th, 2009, 07:03 PM
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yay! Kristina's report!
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Oct 25th, 2009, 08:07 PM
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Hi Kristina, I'm enjoying your new report. My trip to Rome next week is courtesy of the cheap Delta fare too. I hadn't been planning on Rome this year, but when I saw the cheap, cheap fare, I had to jump. My fare was $369 total RT!

I look forward to your next installment.
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Oct 25th, 2009, 08:22 PM
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yk
 
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Kristina, you've been busy traveling! That is an unbelievable airfare. I would have done the same as you too!
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Oct 25th, 2009, 08:34 PM
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Kristina: You are the rock star of OCD planning, and we are all the better for it. You have become the "go-to" gal for all things like packing, and preparation! You have probably saved many marriages, and cured other OCD'ers like me.
DH is eternally grateful.

I showed him your packing photos, and he now thinks I'm lobotomized.

I love every minute of every trip you do, and can't wait for more. I'll be needing it all for next trip to Italy in June, 2010, and only wish you could come along!
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Oct 25th, 2009, 08:39 PM
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aggiegirl-Good for you for getting the good fare too! Just don't expect a lot from Delta. We kept repeating to ourselves "Four Hundred and Thirty Five Dollars" like a mantra instead of complaining about how much the seats sucked.

yk-Yes, I have. I finished my Vietnam report only a week before we left for Rome. Now, unbelievably, I have NO future trips on the books. At least now I can get caught up on my web site, food blog and oh yeah, the holidays are coming!

LCI- Get to it! You don't need the photos done to start the trip report. ;-) You got home before I did too! I hear you about the photos though; it took me almost all day today to do the photos for day 1 (not posted yet).
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Oct 25th, 2009, 08:49 PM
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taconictraveler- Aw, thanks! Glad to help.
I wish I could go back to Italy in June 2010 too! It really is a toss up for me as to where I enjoy more; Italy or South East Asia. Each offers something different and I never tire of returning. OTOH, I think I need to go somewhere new next year.

To Continue...

"I've never seen you that particular shade of green."

The apartment is only about a block from the Ponte Sisto, so we walk across and into the historical center. We find a cafe in a little piazza about a block from the Campo di Fiori and everyone (but me) has a coffee and a snack.
I'm trying hard to hold it together, but I realize that if I don't get horizontal asap, I may truly pass out. It's a bit scary, and I'm having moments where I'm certain I'm going to die in Rome, but really, it's only lack of sleep. I just can't go 24 hours without sleeping any more. I'm too old for this.
We decide Jessica will walk with me back to the apartment and mom and Tris will stop at a grocery store we've passed and pick up some supplies.

We are waiting to cross over to the Piazza Trilussa and Jessica looks at me and says, "I've never seen you that particular shade of green." I now know this is not just in my head. I am praying they are done at the apartment, but they aren't. Fortunately, one bedroom is clean and S. graciously allows me to lie down. As soon as my head hits the pillow I am instantly out.
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Oct 25th, 2009, 11:03 PM
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Kristina

Those maps are AMAZING.. I have made one for each city for my next trip but the day by day thing... LOVE IT
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Oct 26th, 2009, 03:09 AM
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Then S. starts explaining to me the details of the apartment, specifically the 4 separate bins for different types of trash and recycling and suddenly, I feel like I am about to faint.>>

i have a similar problem when apartment owners start to tell me about how the dishwasher works, or how to operate the heating. my eyes glaze and my brain becomes mush, even when I'm not ill.

< Hmmm....I only confirmed this with the agency twice.>>

For our February trip we are renting directly from the owner, using the driver she recommends. as we are arriving at night, I don't want to be worried that we won't be able to get in. I've learnt from our experience in Venice last year when the flight was delayed by 2 hours and we landed at about midnight; it was OK because I had the cell no of the owner and was able to warn him in advance that we were going to be delayed.

I am in awe of your planning and have started to adapt your googlemap of restaurants. [hope it's not copyright, lol].

looking forward to more of your report, when you feel better, I hope.

regards, ann
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Oct 26th, 2009, 06:40 AM
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Nothing signals one has arrived in Rome quite like the smell of incense wafting from a Catholic Procession.

Mom and the girls go have drinks at a cafe in the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. They come back after an hour or so for a rest along with a story about how they'd seen some sort of religious gathering in the Piazza.

Suddenly, we hear noise outside and look out the bedroom window and down onto the street. It's the gathering they saw in the piazza, turned into a procession complete with priest, penitents carrying a heavy church idol on a platform (in this case a sacred painting), women carrying incense with their heads covered in white lace, and a marching band. It takes almost half an hour to move down our street and at one point the men carrying the idol stop for a rest right below my widow. The place and time could not have been more perfect. The smell of frankincense and myrrh lingers in my room for hours.

At 3pm Jessica leaves to meet up with her college roommate M., who now lives in Milan and has come down to Rome for the day. By 6pm I am feeling normal again and we all meet up to go out for a walk and dinner.

First we walk over the the historical center and to our favorite gelateria, Frigidarium (112 via Governo Vecchio). But wait! Where is our guy Fabrizio (the owner)? He's not there!

Note: We discovered Frigidaruim when we were here last year and visited almost every day. We got to know it's friendly owner, Fabrizio and have kept in contact with him via email. When I let him know we were coming back he seemed genuinely pleased. He also told me my web site had brought him a lot of business. So I guess people do read this stuff...

M. speaks to an older woman behind the counter in Italian and asks when he will be back. The woman eyes us all suspiciously and is deliberately vague as to when he will return.
Days? Who knows?
Only when M. tells her I have written about Frigidarium on the web and that Frabrizio knows us, does she loosen up. I leave my card for Fabrizio. My guess is that this woman is the over-protective mother-in-law. Everyone agrees.

We wander a bit more and pull out my restaurant list and map to select Osteria al Pegno. We get lost trying to find it and when we finally do, discover they are full unless we have a reservation.
One thing to keep in mind about dining in Italy, the restaurant may look empty, but many times they are holding tables for specific reservations. Things are different here than in the US where many places will seat until they are full and make their reservations wait. Mary calls another place on my list, Il Fico, and they say they can take our party of 5.
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