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Rome For The Holidays: MaitaiTom's Eternal City Escapades & Christmas Caper

Rome For The Holidays: MaitaiTom's Eternal City Escapades & Christmas Caper

Old Jan 12th, 2010, 10:11 AM
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I am so enjoying your trip report & I'm keeping notes for our next trip to Rome!
Thanks for sharing!
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 10:50 AM
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I am truly enjoying your report! I can't wait for the next installment.
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 10:56 AM
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This is an edge of the seat story--thanks for posting the installments so quickly.
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 11:00 AM
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Tom seems to like that new camera an awful lot . . . foreboding?
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 11:32 AM
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The suspense is killing me.
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 11:46 AM
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I'm drooling, especially over the wine.
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 11:50 AM
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Galileo was right has a certain connotation.
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 11:58 AM
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Ellenem--agree--lots of camera foreshadowing.
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 01:32 PM
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still loving the report!

Glad you enjoyed the "Birdagedon" comment I now have a phobia of birds in the air....seriously!
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 04:26 PM
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I have to agree that pigeons are rats that fly but i also get a bit creeped out when thousands of starlings roost in our trees- thank you Alfred Hitchcock!
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 05:26 PM
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Next-to-the-last installment should be up tomorrow morning as long as I stay away away from the martinis (always a difficult task) tonight while writing.

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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 06:13 PM
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Good, we'll have the martinis for you, deal?
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 07:31 PM
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There are also some pretty nifty Caravaggios in Santa Maria del Popolo.

Between Raffaello's Chigi Chapel, Le Mani in Pasta and Colline Emiliane, the MaiTais hit all the spots that were under restoration/fully booked/closed for me last year.

It's interesting that all the nativity scenes are not visible until Christmas. That had never occurred to me before.
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 09:09 PM
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I believe that your "broccoli" vegetable that looked strange at your dinner was a "broccoflower", a green cauliflower, or "broccoflower" is a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower. It has the appearance of cauliflower with the greenish pigment of broccoli.

Still loving your report !!
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Old Jan 12th, 2010, 09:37 PM
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Your strange-looking broccoli was not broccoflower. It was a vegetable native to the area called broccolo romanesco:


It seems it's called fractal broccoli in English.
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 12:29 AM
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Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - a Digression. Mate, you should try Athens, it leaves Rome for dead.

Even the reception desk staff in our hotel smoked while working. The smoke drifted up to the free internet room - not sure if that was a tactic to drive guests away from the computers. We had two breakfast rooms - one for smokers and one for non. The only problem was that we had to walk through the smoking room to get to the non-smoking room. We didn't care - we were in Athens!!!

Crossing the road in Rome (or Athens - same rules apply). If you are lucky enough to find a little, old lady waiting to cross the road then stick with her, because the traffic will immediately come to a screeching halt. My hb worked this out and amused himself immensely trying to find little, old ladies waiting to cross the street.

BTW still loving this report. There are so many suggestions for our next trip, I don't thnk I'll need any other reference material.
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 04:56 AM
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We also enjoyed the map room and were amazed by their accuracy (although Vezuvius wasn't known about).

A great read, Tom!
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 05:32 AM
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Oh my goodness we saw the sperm things at the Pantheon in 2006. We had no idea what they were. Our 3 kids 16,19 and 21 kept calling them balls and asking us to take pictures of them with the balls. They really did look bad.
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 06:37 AM
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Act VIII: Pyramid Scheme, Spock’s Dad’s Head, Large Organ, Galileo Was Right, Goodbye To The Neighborhood Restaurant, A Walk Through The Hood, The Last Supper, Lady In Red And Did I Just See What I Just Saw

Christmas Eve! The beginning of the wonderful Christmas weekend was at hand. As Pope Benedict told me the previous afternoon at St. Peter’s, “What could possibly go wrong?” (dramatic license)

It was cloudy with slight sprinkles as Tracy and I departed the Hotel San Francesco after eating as much free food as we could (we had to make up for yesterday). Tracy said, “Let’s go a different way today. Why don’t we walk to the Pyramid?”

I answered sarcastically, “Hell, why don’t we just take a cab to the Taj Mahal?” Of course, she was one step ahead of me.

Less than a ½ hour walking time from the hotel was the Piramide metro stop, which is near the Pyramid of Caius Cestius. I was going to ask Tracy who the heck he was, but at the moment I was wishing I had eaten that last piece of cold pizza at the hotel buffet (hunger trumps history once again).

We took the metro to the Termini station because first on the list today was the Hall of Heads, otherwise known as the Museo Nazionale Romano Palazzo Massimo alle Terme (which is why I call it the Hall of Heads). We sauntered (whatever that is, but I’m tired of meandering, walking, strolling, etc.) up to the ticket office, showed our Roma Passes and (thought) we purchased two tickets with an audio guide. The woman at the ticket window was on the phone (from her looks, not a business call) and paid little attention to us.

We then went through security (I assume these guys were the same people who checked the Underwear Bomber in Amsterdam the following day), and, in between their singing and laughing, we could have smuggled in explosives and Uzis.

It was then time to enter through the little turnstyle, which, of course, did not open, because Miss Gabby Pants had not charged us for our tickets (we’d already used up our two freebies, which we had told her, but obviously the person on the other end of the phone had her ear). She had only charged us for the audio guides. Finally we got in, and I don’t believe the “security” guys ever noticed us.

I was really looking forward to this museum, but the audio guide tour leaves a lot to be desired. First of all, there are no numbers or letters that correspond to anything you want to look at here. Secondly, a few of the rooms that contained pieces we wanted to see were closed.

Similar to the Ara Pacis, many of the relics here had been dumped in the Tiber. However, we didn’t find any china from the Villa Farnesina.

Going upstairs, I saw a statue that looked vey familiar. Being a huge Star Trek fan, it could be only one man. Here before us was a statue of Spock’s dad. “Live long and prosper,” I whispered, but before I could try out a Vulcan mind meld, Tracy whisked me to the next rooms. I was hoping for a statue of Khan, but no such luck.

The rain was still falling as we left the Hall of Heads, and our next stop was one of the churches I did not want to miss on this trip, the Santa Maria degli Angeli, which was built above Diocletian’s baths and partly remodeled by Michelangelo.

From the church’s large entry, Tracy and I wandered into the enormous central hall. I don’t know what the priest was playing on the organ, but the sound reverberating throughout was quite fantastic. And, wow, what an organ it is!

I took a great picture of the priest who was going to town playing this incredibly large organ, which was built for the Jubilee Year in 2000. It was very Phantomesque. The priest was illuminated in a pool of light and the organ dominated the rest of the scene. It was really quite a sight to behold.

In another room, there was a video of Apollo 15 and astronaut David Scott conducting a Galileo experiment by dropping a hammer and a feather at the same time on the moon. When they both land at the same time, Collins says, “How about that, Mr. Galileo was correct in his findings!”

Back inside the main church, we found the little hole in the wall that acts as a sundial. Sadly, there was no sunshine on this day, so it was left to our imagination how it works. This was a great way to end our “Churches Of Roma” Tour.

With all the many restaurants to eat on our final day in Rome, we decided to try our favorite haunt one more time. A metro ride and walk later, we were sitting in the comfy confines of Cul de Sac. We shared a salami and cheese platter (fantastico).

I decided to go for the Taglietelle Ameriechino (red sauce), which was very good. Tracy was going to try the duck ravioli again, but instead went out on a limb for a different dish; a marinated eggplant she said was good (but she would have rather had the duck ravioli upon further review).

We thought about sharing the rabbit dish, but decided not to split hares.

Our meal, along with Prosecco and a glass of Piedmonte red wine was 36€. Cul de Sac, we shall miss you.

By this time, we had seen enough museums, churches and statues to last a lifetime, so we walked backed to Trastevere to look for a dinner place to spend Christmas Eve. On the way, we strayed through Campo de’ Fiore, bade farewell to the statue of Giordano Bruno (whose face never seems to get any sunlight in December) and took some pictures at a vegetable stand of the strange looking broccoli we had eaten the night before.

Since we had already spent our life’s savings on this trip (well, at least through mid-January anyway), we were not looking for a place that was overly fancy (or expensive). We wandered over to a cute little place called Vin Allegro: Eat and Drink. Since we like to eat and obviously like to drink, we made reservations for that evening at 8 p.m.

I then picked up another bottle of Brochenolo Tosse to bring home. I can hardly wait to get another cough and amaze my friends with its amazing healing powers.

Trastevere was definitely winding down for the holiday weekend.

Back at the hotel, we packed, paid our bill and made sure that there would be a driver awaiting us at the wonderful hour of 5 a.m. the following morning ready to transport us to the airport.

Although we had reservations at 8 p.m., by 7 p.m., we were starving. ”Didn’t we just eat?” I said. We had, but when we are on vacation we’re bottomless pits.

We got to Vin Allegro at 7:35, and it was nearly full. We asked if it was ok to eat earlier than our reservations, and the hardest working guy in the restaurant business (who appeared to be working the tables alone at this restaurant for about the first half hour we were there), said, “No problem.”

The music choices at the restaurant put me in the mood for home. It sounded like one of my iTunes’ mixes. There was classic rock, some golden oldies and even a Beatles mix.

Dinner was good, if not spectacular. My salad of pears, oranges and almonds along with Tracy’s salad with tomatoes and pine nuts was a good beginning. I had Ravioli with spinach in a sage butter sauce for dinner, while Tracy went with an interesting combo of lasagna with smoked cheese, zucchini and Tyrolian ham. I thought I heard a little yodel out of her after dinner, but it could have just been gas.

The restaurant was full at 7:45 and many people stopped by, but on this Christmas Eve, there was no room at the inn. Tracy and I shared a bottle of 2004 Antigniano Montefalco Rossa for 25€ that was very good.

Which of my dessert mistresses did I have for my last meal? On the menu, I saw an old love, and I couldn’t turn her down. Panna Cotta with Wild Berries and I shared just a few moments together on this night before Christmas, but they were quality minutes to be sure.

Tracy and I then toasted Christmas Eve with a final glass of Amarone. Dinner was 84€, and we slowly walked back to the hotel.

At about 10:30 or 11:00, we turned on the television as we did our last bit of packing, and there was the Pope sitting quietly during a prayer. We switched to CNN to see what the weather was like in Paris (where we would connect the following day) and, much to our amazement, there were grainy pictures of some crazy lady in red attacking the pope. Knowing that Tracy had worn red on this evening, I quickly looked over to see if she was with me or had quietly slipped out after dessert. I can tell you with 100% certainty that Tracy is innocent.

All the excitement of the trip was now over. The end of our eight wonderful days in Rome was coming to a conclusion. As I drifted off to sleep, my only wish for our Christmas Day travel was for it to be uneventful, and that the end of our Rome vacation would provide us with no problems, no delays, no hassles and no surprises. What could possibly go wrong? Well, as we were to find out (but not right away), when you least expect it and your guard is down, that’s when the trouble can start.

Coming Up: Is This A Hit, The Curious Christmas Caper At CDG, Home Sweet Home, Discovery, Denial, Disgust, Dejection and A Fodorite Sleuth In Paris
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 09:21 AM
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OMG! The suspense is killing me!

Tom, thanks for all the food recs. It is one thing I'm making note of for our trip. I think I'm going to try to make a google map of all the recommended eateries, so that we can just pick the closest one when we get hungry.

Please be expeditious with the finale. I'm on blood-pressure medication and can't take the strain!
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