Rome trip and photos: oh solo mio

Mar 24th, 2006, 10:43 AM
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Rome trip and photos: oh solo mio

Hi, I recently returned from a solo trip to Rome.

I did the usual things most tourists do, but wanted to point out a few things that I discovered this time. It got dark early and it was cold and windy so I didn't stay out walking much after my dinners, I just hunkered down in a nice warm restaurant and let them bring on the food and wine!!

I stayed on via dei Coronair near P. Navona and dined mostly in the area this trip.

*Osteria de Pegno, on vicolo di Montevecchio. This place is so warm and romantic! Warmly decorated and they serve delicious specials every night. Excellent bacala. They are somewhat stern on reservations and I watched them turn away alot of people without reservations even though there were empty tables. You sort of book your table for the evening. The owner is very professional and has an interesting personality to say the least.

*Osteria del Antiquario, on via Coronari, very good food in a lovely setting.

*Le Streghe (The Witches), on viccolo del curato 13 at via coronari. Family owned, excellent food. Some more interesting owners. The man of the family didn't flinch when I entered in a freezing whirlwind one evening and, while dabbing my teary eyes (from the cold wind), told him, in my Italian, that I was a woman alone. After a moment's hesitation, he graciously seated me at a table for one. The sweet lone candle outside their door lured me inside that cold night. They have creative special Roman dishes and I highly recommend it.

*Ristaurante Tre Archi, on via dei Coronari 233. Here is a local place even though it is very near P. Navona. Businessmen come in and silently dine alone, night after night. Local couples come in and quietly dine on the good simple food. Not much on atmosphere, but with the good food and professional service, it is a good place to dine alone if you feel squeemish about that. Really excellent minestrone soup, roasted vegetables, fresh fish.

All of these restaurants have someone serving you who can speak English.

I went on a few day tours set up by EnjoyRome Tours. They book you through Vastours which doesn't have a website yet. I wanted to see some sites outside of Rome and it was the easiest way. I was not about to take public transportation, too confusing and time consuming. Vastours has mini vans and the tour groups are limited to about 8 people (for the tours I took). They also offer other day tours, walking tours, extended tours and excursions to places such as Venice, Ostia Antica, Assisi, Pisa, Florence, Sorrento, Pompeii, from overnights to up to about three day trips. They are very professional and I trust them.

I walked over to the offices of Enjoy Rome, near the train station and was met by a lovely girl who went over my different options carefully with me (you pay Vastours at the beginning of the tour, in their office). She was really very helpful and made me feel womcome. After my first tour I just called Vastours directly for the next day's tour (English spoken, phone (+39) 06.48.14.309) ([email protected])
They will pick you up at your own hotel and drop you back off there later.

The first tour I booked was the Christian Rome tour. I was met at my hotel in the afternoon and for about 38 euro, I spent the rest of the day visiting various basilicas, the Old Appian Way, Quo Vadis Chapel and catacombs. All so very interesting and I had always wanted to see the Holy Stairs where pilgrims ascend on their knees.

This tour drove us outside the original Roman walls of the city to the catacombs. The Romans could and would not bury any body inside the walls so, at the time, the catacombs were far away from the public. I never thought I would visit them, I am not much into dead bodies or anything to do with the subject so it never occurred to me to go to an underground burial site of all things.

But it was part of an excellent tour, so why not. In the van on the way there, my cell phone rang, it was my Italian friend, S, who asked where I was going that afternoon. I told him the catacombs and there was "dead" silence then,

"Why are you going there?"
"It is part of my tour"
"It is not good, the air is not good down there"
"underground?"
"si, si, there are spores down there you should not breathe"

I thanked him and told him for his concern and our little tour group walked over to the chapel which itself is underground, having only high windows which on the outside are ground level. After an introductory talk and just before we descended to the four or five levels of hewn out graves, I remembered the spores. I wondered if he had heard something on the news that I had just brushed off, what if there are spores and people who have lived through the tours come down with some strange catacomb disease? I asked the guide how long we were be down there and she gave me a look (more about why the look, later) and said 25 minutes.

Oh, I went along with the group down the tiny narrow stairs. We were told to follow right behind the person in front of us and not to take any photographs or deviate in any way from the group. I noticed the guide had a tiny flashlight that she would use in case of a blackout, comforting.
We had a little group meeting in one of the larger rooms where the guide mentioned that we would be going through passages and rooms where only one or two people could fit at a time and up to four levels underground.

Suddenly, I didn't want to go through this, like I said, I do not like anything morbid.
I let the group go ahead of me and I thought I could backtrack up to the chapel. The last of my group went through the narrow passage and left me in the chamber. I looked back at the way we had come. It was now alot darker to me and with the dim little hanging lights overhead I could see two passages whichled in different directions. I knew we came in on the one on the left, but when I looked arond the corner it didn't look the same. I looked at the passage on the right and it veered off and I couldn't see very far down it in the dimness. It felt a little dank...spores? I thought "get a grip, it is better to breathe spores with the group and the guide than it is to probably go the wrong way and be doomed to a short life of wandering the catacombs until I die of starvation." "Think of future tourists who will hear your pitiful wailing". So I turned around and caught up to a couple who were lingering behind the group, I didn't want to be the last in line so they stepped aside and let me go in front of them. (Don't blame me too much, I got this way when I was a teen visiting a wax museum when all of a sudden one of the "wax" mummies came to life and chased me all over the museum and outside and down the boulevard, flailing at my head and shoulders with his shrouded fists. My luck of course that I happened to be standing there when he went berserk and deserted his job, such as it was! I ducked into a store and watched as he kept running until he was out of sight, a crazed bundle of gauze dashing into the night, but that was years ago....)

These catacombs are really very interesting, the tomb holes are like diagonal wedges hewn out of the sandstone, very tiny shelves really. The guide told us they shrank the bodies with lye so they would fit, ugh, just the things I didn't want to know. At the time they were being used there was the stench of hundreds of thousands of....well, you get the point. They had little oil lamps with fragrant oil to sniff, but that would hardly be enough! Talk about spores!

For info on the catacombs:http://tinyurl.com/jvy4d

I have my photos up on pbase, click on Roma 2006:
www.pbase.com/seaurchin


(Hundreds of miles of catacombs http://tinyurl.com/jvy4d)

SeaUrchin is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 10:55 AM
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Hi SeaUrchin

Welcome Back! Do you recall the price ranges of the restaurants you mention? They all sound so wonderful, just curious if they are in the 20€ per person, 30€ per person, etc. range.
Thanks!
TexasAggie is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 11:02 AM
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oh.. thank you for the great info on restaurants and tours... i will keep this valuable info for my trip in Sept. . creepy about the wax museum.. i can totally relate. and (lol) i'm glad you decided to go back to the group!!
could you tell me a little about the hotel where you stayed. (am i just assuming that it was a hotel?). we are still looking for a place for 6nights in Sept. thanks!
callalilli is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 11:05 AM
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Nice report--loved the pics !
bobthenavigator is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 11:10 AM
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Ditto- great pix-
laartista is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 11:11 AM
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Anytime someone says "Rome is so dirty, chaotic, etc.," in my mind I'm always thinking of the way the buildings, piazze and tiny streets look in your photos.

Your pictures show Rome just as I see it.

Thank you for the report and resto updates. Very helpful.

Glad you had a good time!
Leely is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 11:15 AM
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Back again...

WOW - what wonderful pictures!!!! How was the weather during your trip? Looks like you got a lot of sunshine
TexasAggie is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 11:33 AM
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Such great pictures! Beautiful! Love the sunset ones...

I Look forward to more report...

Don't you just LOVE going touring alone? ... I do.
SuzieC is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 11:52 AM
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SeaUrchin, again your photos are so gorgeous! I wish I had your talent.

BTW, my daughter also sort of freaked out when we took her to the catacombs. Two places she hated going to were the catacombs and the sulphur springs outside of Naples (have to admit I don't know why my DH came up with that idea). She never forgave us, LOL. So I will let her know she has company.
LoveItaly is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 01:39 PM
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Had to work for a bit there but I'm back. Thanks for the compliments!

Texas Aggie, the dinners all included a half carafe of wine and dessert and came to the high 20 to mid 30euros. I mostly had two courses and added some side dishes to the entree.

Callalilli, I stayed at the Res. Canali, very clean, good breakfast, excellent location (right on the antique shop/pedestrian street).
If you decide on that hotel, try to deal with Stefano at the desk, he is very helpful, intelligent and knows the meaning of customer service. I had a bit of a hard time with the young woman at the desk but I do think it was because I was traveling alone. If you are traveling as a couple you shouldn't have any problem with her.
All in all, though, I really would recommend the hotel.

Loveitaly, your daughter and I could have waited above ground sunning ourselves, sipping lemoncello!
SeaUrchin is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 02:34 PM
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Actually SeaUrchin, although I am not sorry I went into the catacombs I would have preferred being with you two in the sun and sipping limoncello also. But the smell of the sulphur springs, well the only way I can get by describing the stink here on Fodors is BTW, aren't some of the women in Italy sort of "uptight" LOL !
LoveItaly is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 02:38 PM
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Hi SeaUrchin

I stayed not far from you when I was in Rome in 2004. (an apartment on the corner of Panico and Coronari).

Osteria del Pegno and Le Streghe were two of my favorite restaurants. I will be back in may on a day trip, hopefully I can have lunch at one of those restaurants. Do you think I will need reservations for lunch?

Enjoyed your trip report and pictures.

Johanna
gracie04 is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 03:04 PM
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Loveitaly, I think some of the women there have a little problem with solo American women travelers, lol, oh well.

Gracie04, I am not sure if you would need res. for lunch, in fact I am not sure if either one is open for lunch! I'll try and check for websites that mention it.

A little more:

On the first part of this day tour, we were walking around Santa Maria Maggiori, which is so interesting in itself. I was calmly listening to our guide's description of one of the alter pieces when suddenly for the first and only time in my life I got a nose bleed. I guess it bled for a while before I noticed it, heck, my face was numb from the cold! At this point the guide stopped talking and just looked at me, then I felt the warm blood. Can you imagine?! I was too shocked to be embarrassed so I held up a tissue then I said the first thing that came to mind, "it is just a touch of stigmata". She just stared at me. Now I did feel ashamed, I don't know why I said that and I didn't mean to be sacreligious. Finally it stopped bleeding but I didn't trust my nose for a few days and kept checking it with my compact mirror. If anyone looked at me too long, I checked my nose!

Anyway, the next day I booked a Vastours to Tivoli, Hadrian's villa and Villa D' Este.

The van picked me up early in the morning and off we went to the Sabine Hills near Rome. Remember the Sabine Women? Nice hills they lived in. Hadrian's villa was truely interesting, I had been intrigued by his life ever since I saw a series on his life on the History Channel. Since then I have read about his escapades, of which there were many! Finally I saw a statue of Antinous. Hmmm, I could see the attraction.

Then we went over to Villa d'Este in Tivoli, nearby. It is the late Renaissance home of Lucretia Borgia's son, Cardinal Ippolito, that erudite devil. The fountains, of couse, are beautiful and magnificient. In the warmer months there is a dining terrace where you can see the lights of Rome in the distance as you sit amid splendor. At the top of the highest fountain there is a water organ that plays during the summer. We toured the house and gardens, on the far horizon you could see the faint outline of St. Peter's dome.

After this wonderful tiring day I went back to my hotel room to change for dinner. The hotel cleaning staff is very good, friendly and, well, intent on keeping the room heaters on night and day. I would turn them off and the next time I would come back they would be on again. Well, the day before I had purchased some aged cheese and placed it on the table by the heater. Tonight I opened the door and wondered what had died! My first thought, of course, was a rat. I shut the door and stood in the hall. I knew the woman who already didn't like me was on duty at the desk and didn't want to put myself through her hoops so I slowly reopened the door and looked around. I shut it again, I would just have to go down and tell her there was something dead in my room. Then I remembered the cheese! It had melted on the table, but on top of some plastic so it didn't stain too much. I wiped it around with a tissue and the oil actually brought out the grain in the wood, they should thank me! OK, off to dinner and the end of another day.
SeaUrchin is offline  
Mar 24th, 2006, 04:04 PM
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Wonderful stuff, I love the cheese bringing out the wood grain, as well as your touch of stigmata. Looking forward to more.
Nikki is offline  
Mar 25th, 2006, 09:09 AM
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Topping for Shirley, here is the info on Vastours, I am so glad I found them on this trip, I should have used them before.

More:

One of the days I decided just to window shop along the famous shopping streets, who am I kidding? Myself? I wanted some shoes.

On one of the Corsos I spotted a wonderful pair of soft brown leather boots in the window and they were on sale! OK, have to have them. I entered the store and sought out the least snooty looking saleswoman who spoke English. I told her I wanted to buy the boots in the window and she immediately went into the back room. I thought, odd, she didn't even ask my size. She came back with a box and put it on a chair, on the box it had a size 39 stamped on it and I know I am a 37 size in Italy. I told her I am sized 37 and she put her hands on her hips and gave me the look of disgust some of the salespeople have down to a science.

Now I wondered, why is this woman getting an attitude because she brought out the wrong size. I was standing there perplexed when the saleswoman told me to follow her outside, now what, she is going to escort me out of the whole store? I just can't understand it.

At the window she said,

"Madam, you see the numbers?"
"yes"
"you see 37?"
"no"
"so, 37 is finished"
"oh, those are the sizes!"
"Si, Madam, those are the sizes and there is number 39"
"oh, I am sorry, I didn't realize"
"so, Madam, now you relize, have a nice day, goodbye"

So, I was dismissed and crept submissively away from her store. The moral of the story is, when you see the little numbers above the price, those are the sizes. Now go forth and shop, Fodorites!

On the trip home:

I had the hotel call their own car service to get me to the airport for an early AM flight. The driver came for me at 5:50 and we were at the airport at 6:10, I swear! If the car would have had wings we would have been airborne.

I caught my Lufthansa flight and changed planes in Munich with not much time to spare. Security, passports, long lines and I was one of the last people on my plane to LAX. As I walked down the aisle past the privledged who were already sipping mimosas I saw my seat mate. She was in the window seat and had probably come to the conclusion that she would have both seats to herself, so she harumphed and clucked when I sat down and started my nesting routine, putting a pack of almonds and a book into the seat pocket, etc. She was German and spoke not a word of English. Oh, boy, this is going to be a loooong flight with her beside me!

Right after takeoff, I was suddenly starving, not having eaten since the night before. I reached into my bag and brought out a little packet of crackers and a little can of tuna salad that I still had with me from the trip over from LA. I was ready to open it when the Fodorite mantra came to me, don't open tuna cans in the airplane, the smell will upset people. Well, Ms. German was already upset with me just being in my seat so I thought I would be a nice seat person and ask her if the smell would bother her. I picked up the can and pointed to Charlie Tuna fish on the can and then pointed to her, raised my eyebrows and held my nose. I thought she would get the point of my good seatmately-ness of asking her approval, when the look of surprise and disgust spread across her entire face. In a split second I realized she thought I was telling her she smelled like Charlie Tuna fish!

Well, that was that, the deal was sealed, she turned her back to me, did not speak a word except to order drinks, and for the whole flight she never moved from her seat and looked out of the window for the next 12 hours.

I felt bad about it, but I couldn't explain, what a welcome to the USA she had. Sorry about that!

Talk about welcome to LA:

When we arrived at LAX, one of my bags did not slide down the ramp to me. It was lost. And it was the bag with all my new purchases in it! Dammit.

After about an hour of waiting, at the suggestion of the nice airport personnel, I found the area where you make lost luggage reports and approached the man at the counter.

I started to tell him the tale of woe, when he stopped me and said you are talking too fast and my English is terrible, I cannot write that fast and tell me what unusual is in the bag to tell them if they open it? So I slowed down, told him about my beige boots right on top of the clothes and then realized that it had been about and hour and a half since I landed and my friend who was picking me up would think I had missed the plane. I asked to use the phone to call his cell phone. He said yes, come and use mine, so I tried and it didn't work so after some confusion, a kind airport worker let me use his cell phone. OK, I left a message.

When my nice foreign lost baggage counter man finished, he handed me the form to sign. In bold letters were the words, BEG BOOKS. I asked him what that meant. He said bej books. I said, but what is bej books? He said you told me bej books. Then it dawned on me, beige boots!! I told him and he said, well, then you fill it out, come over here. So I went behind the counter, it was just him and I now in the whole area, and I started correcting my address, etc on the form.

When I finished I looked up and a line of polite Japanese tourists had formed in front of me. I said, I don't work here, go to another counter, but they didn't understand. I kept gesturing for them to go to another counter but they didn't budge. The man with the cell phone I had used came over from across the hall and said, this call is for you and handed me his phone. So here I was, completely jet lagged, behind the airline counter with a line of customers waiting for me to get off a personal phone call to help them! Thank goodness my friend gotten the message and was waiting for me outside.

My friend by now, the foreign form-man, came back and looked at my patient line of tourists, took my new form and told me they would call when the luggage came in, he went to his counter. I hated to leave my customers in the lurch, so I handed them some forms from the desk and told them to start filling them out. As they searched for their pens I closed up my gate and walked past them and out into the Los Angeles sunlight. I got my luggage the next evening at midnight.

So another trip to Italy was over!

SeaUrchin is offline  
Mar 25th, 2006, 09:37 AM
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Oh SeaUrchin, I didn't know your flight home was so interesting, LOL.
And you certainly have not helped the US/Germany relationship have you?
LoveItaly is offline  
Mar 25th, 2006, 09:42 AM
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Really funny Sea Urchin-LOL. I always wonder about snotty salespeople. What is it with them?I also like your tuna story Lol.
laartista is offline  
Mar 25th, 2006, 10:48 AM
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Oh very very funny trip report (not to mention most interesting and informative for my October visit to Rome).

Laughed out loud at the cheese, shoes, and tuna, also the Japanese tourists!

I really hope your lost luggage turns up.

When are you going away again?
julia_t is offline  
Mar 25th, 2006, 02:35 PM
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Ha,thanks. I will go to Italy maybe in the Fall, attached to a Switzerland trip I am planning right now.
SeaUrchin is offline  
Mar 27th, 2006, 11:52 AM
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ok, now that I've stopped laughing to the point of snorting, I have to thank you for brightening my gloomy Mon. morning. A new found use for cheese. Doesn't smell quite as good as Pledge, but hey, if it does the job. Don't you love Osteria de Pegno. And, yes, it is open for lunch. I go there every time I am in Rome - best pizza OMG. I always get the braesola/rocket. Missed not meeting up with you this trip, but hopefully we'll get together in Rome this fall. Simply luscious photos!!
Barb is offline  

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