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"We are not in the States anymore, y'all." An Italian trip report.

"We are not in the States anymore, y'all." An Italian trip report.

Old Jun 13th, 2014, 08:55 AM
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KayTKay- A good plan on the finances. Too many friendships ruined by financial misunderstandings. Glad you had it all worked out before you left!
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Old Jun 13th, 2014, 10:57 AM
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What sarge56 says.
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Old Jun 13th, 2014, 11:23 AM
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This is such a beautifully written report - I am so enjoying it. Thank you
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Old Jun 13th, 2014, 03:05 PM
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Thanks again, everyone. Yes, one of my biggest concerns about traveling with friends in a foreign country for so many days was that it might damage a long time relationship. Obviously it didn't, but it is something to consider and money can be a sticky subject. I think a "test run" of a shorter trip not so far away might be a good thing to do. You learn a lot about people when you travel with them.

Da Giggetto - I know that this restaurant gets mixed reviews from the food bloggers of Rome. Minchilli loves it, some others not so much, but my daughters and I had a great meal here a year ago and the Ghetto area is one of my favorites so we went here for lunch after changing into dry clothes. We all enjoyed it.

The weather was gorgeous after the morning rain and we sat outside. Unfortunately, the Portico d'Ottavia was completely shrouded in scaffolding. That seems to have been a theme of our time in Rome, scaffolding, scaffolding, and more scaffolding.

Service was fine, a bit indifferent. Of course we had to have carciofi alla Giudia. It was delicious and not at all greasy. We also had some prosciutto with melon. P and I had gnocchi al pomodoro, my husband had bucatini all'amatriciana and D had spaghetti con vongole. Everything was good. I just love the gnocchi in Italy. So much lighter than any I ever can find here. None of us had a second course.

Mondo di Laura - After lunch we walked over to Mondo di Laura for some cookies. A pretty little shop with great service. We got an assortmant of all kinds of cookies and they were all delicious. I highly recommend a stop here.
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Old Jun 13th, 2014, 05:36 PM
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Enjoying your wonderful trip report. We leave for our first trip to Rome in a couple of months. Have reservations at Albergo del Senato. Also have walks of Italy Tours reserved of The Vatican and Colosseum.. Love reading your opinions of these. Can't wait to read more. We are also going to Venice so anxiously awaiting that report!
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 10:26 AM
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<<<The Roman Guy - Vatican Tour: This was our day for the early morning Vatican tour with The Roman Guy. Again this was my third tour of the Vatican with a third tour company. Every thing I said regarding the Colosseum tours with these three groups still stands as far as who should take which tour.

For me personally, I'm going to give the edge to Walks of Italy on this one.>>>

And you gave an excellent comparisons of the 3 tour companies (Context, Walks of Italy, Roman Guy) on your Jun 4 11:49am post.

It is very rare for anyone to be able to compare 2 different tour companies on the same tours let alone 3, you gave very valuable advice for anyone trying to decide on which tour company too choose. Thank-You
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 10:56 AM
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I continue to enjoy your trip report and it takes me back to many places I have already been, and more than once. We never tire of Italy !!!

I read with interest (and envy) your take on how you split restaurant bills, etc. We were with another couple almost three years ago, a couple that we knew very well but had never traveled with before. At first we did the "bill split 50/50 down the middle" route - only we began to realize that they were consistantly ringing up more on the bill than we, and not by just a few Euros. It was an awful feeling and after some time where we just could not deal anymore, I always discreetly asked the waiters where we ate for separate bills, showing them who is with me and who are the other couple. It worked like a charm and they never knew what hit them. You REALLY need to know who your travel partners are, and you really need to discuss beforehand.
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 10:57 AM
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Kay - following what Rostra pointed out about your very welcome reviews of the different tour companies, I had a read up thread and noted particularly what you said about the crowds in the Vatican museums [and the Chapel] when you have been. I wonder what time of year you went before? our first trip to Rome was one Easter and of course the queues and the crowds, including at the museum, were horrendous, so much so that on our second visit, which was in February, we didn't even bother with them, though we did go to St. Peter's of course.

The third time was again in February, and ironically, though we had pre-booked tickets, there were no queues at all, and barely any crowds in the museum. Even the sistine chapel was bearable.

of course, this is just anecdotal, but so far as crowds are concerned, a February visit might be recommended.
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 12:47 PM
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Oh my word. I was typing away yesterday, determined to complete the Rome portion of this report when I got a call from my 19 year old daughter. Her first words were, "I'm ok." That's a wonderful opening line that somehow harbinges bad news to come. She was in a car accident. Not her fault, T-boned by another car. Poor thing. Thankfully she and the other driver were totally unharmed, but my daughter's old 'stang that she purchased with her own money is probably totalled.

Anyway, I'm going to try again. Hopefully no one calls telling me that they are "ok."

Grammyx8 - I think you will love Walks of Italy for your tours.

Rostra - thanks! I do hope it helps someone.

Flame - Oh, that would be uncomfortable and hard to deal with. I know that we were very fortunate in that we tend to eat and drink similar amounts as these particular traveling companions. Sounds like you handled the situation very well.

Annhig - the crowded tour at the Vatican was in late May. However, it was also on a Saturday. I think perhaps the day was the problem even more than the time of year? I would love to try a February visit to Rome. We almost always travel in the spring because it is the best time for my husband to take off work, but winter travel always appeals to me because I don't like crowds.
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 01:37 PM
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After lunch and cookies we spent a while wandering through the Jewish Ghetto area. Once again, we consulted Rick Steves and did his walk through the area. So, yes, we were *those* American tourists.

D had the book on his IPad so perhaps we weren't too obvious, although we did take turns reading aloud about what we were seeing. We all enjoyed our personal tour and learned a lot. I highly recommend a visit to this part of Rome. Very little traffic, fewer tourists, ancient ruins, great food, unexpected spaces, the turtle fountain, beautiful colors, interesting (although sad) history. Really one of my favorites.

We stopped in Sora Margherita as we passed by to see if we could make a dinnner reservation for that evening. Unfortunately we discovered that they are closed on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday evenings. Keep that in mind if you want to eat dinner at this highly recommended restaurant.

We also stopped in Beppe e i suoi Formaggi. This is a beautiful shop/restaurant/cheese tasting place. On the right side as you enter is a long counter chock full of cheeses. On the back wall there are huge wheels of cheese artistically piled up. The smell is heavenly. Through a door on the left there is a narrow room with tables and wall full of wine bottles - a wall full of wine bottles is always a good thing in my book. You can order salads, cheese tasting plates with all different numbers of choices, cheese and meat plates, and wine. We were still too full to do a full tasting, but would absolutely love to return here.

I'll do it next time - on my "food is all that matters" tour of Rome.

We visited Santa Maria Sopra Minerva on the walk back to our hotel. I love this church. The plain Gothic outside, Michelangelo's muscular statue of Christ, the shade of blue on the ceiling, the way the gold stars gold seem twinkly, it is all so unexpected. I also enjoy the oddly cheerful elephant on the square in front of the church with his weirdly long nose. All very appealing to something in me.

D and P went off to do some shopping for the rest of the afternoon while my husband and I took a little rest and had a pick me up coffee at Tazza D'Oro.

That evening we simply wandered around in the dusk of Rome and ended up eating pizza and salads...somewhere. I can't remember the name and didn't write it down. It was a modern looking place, possibly a local chain? Nothing I would particularly recommend. I ate only a salad and I will say that it was a really great combination that I have recreated since I've been home. It was baby spinach, golden raisins, pine nuts, green pears, and speck ham with balsamic vinegar and oil for dressing. Everyone else had pizza which they gladly ate, but said it was nothing to write home about.

More wandering and an early turn in. That was our last night in Rome!
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 02:35 PM
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Walks of Italy - Crypts, Bones, and Catacombs Tour:

We had one more tour scheduled before we left Rome for Tuscany. The Crypts, Bones, and Catacombs tour was my husband's choice. It was extremely important to him so we squeezed it in. We are SO glad we did.

Part of this tour involves a driver and we made a last minute mutual decision to pay extra to keep the driver the entire time. Totally unnecessary if you are just taking the tour, but it enabled us to bring our bags with us and to be dropped off at Termini at the end. We paid a pretty penny for this convenience.

The driver showed up right on time at our hotel. We loaded up the bags, waved goodbye to the Pantheon, and went off to pick up our tour guide. She was an attractive, young, American woman named Jeanette who came to Italy to go to college and never went home. She had a dry, wry sense of humor and really knew the information. We all enjoyed her tremendously.

Our first stop on this tour were the Catacombs of Priscilla. I believe that we may have been the only ones there. At least we didn't see anyone else while we were walking those subterranean paths with tombs on either side of us. It was eerie, yet compelling and enthralling. You can't really understand an ancient culture until you understand how they buried their dead. These catacombs also contain what is possibly the oldest depiction of the Virgin Mary. It was all absolutely fascinating.

From there we went to the Capuchin Crypt. Honestly? Creepy. I kept it to myself, but I had a bit of a hard time with the whole thing. It was interesting, but...I couldn't seem to disassociate. The whole time I was thinking - these bones used to be real people, more than 4,000 real people, these are real bones, art with bones, seriously?

Jeanette did a great job of explaining the lessons that each room was trying to teach those who came to view them. I can see how it would be effective as a reminder to act now because you will soon be gone. Certainly made me think a bit about my own mortality.

Our last stop was the Basilica of San Clemente. Unbelievable. Why had I not visited here before? Again those layers and layers of history. You walk not only down, but seemingly, back in time. I especially loved seeing the apartments and the Mithraic temple.

Highly, highly recommend this tour! We just loved it. If not the tour you must at least go to the catcombs and the Basilica of San Clemente.

We said goodbye to Jeanette and our driver headed toward Termini. On the way we passed a Lamborghini police car which was so thrilling to the men in our vehicle that they asked the driver if he would go around the block so that they could see it again. He seemed pleased to oblige.

We arrived at Termini about 1:00 and picked up the keys to our Hertz rental car. We decided to go ahead and grab a sandwich for lunch at the train station. In retrospect, this was one of the wisest decisions of the trip. We were about to truly discover that we were no longer in the States.
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 02:58 PM
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I have so loved this report! we obviously are interested in the same things - Caravaggio, Armando al Pantheon and a shared appreciation of Low Country Islander's trip reports. What clinched it for me were your thoughts on the Capuchin Crypt - they echoed mine exactly. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this.
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 07:08 PM
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Kay,
I am so glad I was not the only one to think that about the Capuchin Crypt. We did not have a guide to explain anything, but honestly, I don’t think it mattered. I just don’t get it.
Why did we visit it? Because friends who visited Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic said that was the highlight of their trip. I cannot compare, but I have to wonder about what else my friends saw on their Czech Rep trip…

San Clemente…oh yes, that’s totally different. That is true history, and I am so glad we saw it. We had originally planned to see it before the Colosseum tour, but we spent so much time in San Giovanni in Laterano, that we had no more time for it that day. We returned a couple days later, and although it was not an easy decision (there was nothing else in the area that we “had to” see), it was a great one. Sites like it are rare.

I am so ready to go back to Rome. A “food is all that matters” tour sounds great.
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Old Jun 15th, 2014, 06:20 AM
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so glad that your DD is fine, Kay. those phone calls are the worst, aren't they?

thanks for your review of your tour of underground places. looks as if the Capuchin crypt is one to miss, though the catacombs sound interesting. on our first visit to Rome as well as seeing San Clemente [thanks to R. Steves!] we also went to St Cecilia's in Trastevere, where there is also an underground area, by no-means as extensive, but featuring a lovely mosaic chapel which is well worth seeing. Another to add to your list is also the Scavi underneath St. Peter's, of which you can do a tour arranged through the Vatican website - a most interesting hour or so, but not suited to those who suffer from claustrophobia!
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Old Jun 15th, 2014, 06:43 AM
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Caenis and xyz - I knew I couldn't be the only one! I wondered a bit about the sanity of the one who had the original concept.

xyz99 - I wonder again if we were crossing paths?!

annhig - thanks, yes, those and late night phone calls are the ones we dread as a parent. I am definitely going to plan to do the Scavi tour on our next trip to Rome.
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Old Jun 15th, 2014, 07:12 AM
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Just remembered something while going through my photos.

One day while we were walking around Rome we passed the Parliment building and came upon a crowd of people and camera crews. There was also a sizeable police presence. We asked what was happening and were told that Renzi was about to arrive.

So, duh, we joined the bystanders.

Within about 5 minutes he exited the building. At first I didn't think it could possibly be the prime minister. He was dressed in jeans and sneakers (nice Italian sneakers, but still sneakers) and a black leather jacket. He looks very, very young in person. P and I joined the throngs holding cameras above their heads to try to get a shot. It was exciting to become part of the paparazzi for a few seconds.

The security people whisked Renzi quickly away, but it was one of those fun, serendipitous moments.
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Old Jun 15th, 2014, 07:19 AM
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I'm going to try to post a link to our Rome photos. Warning: There are a lot of them and a lot of them are of the four of us which is completely unhelpful to all of you. Sorry for being too lazy to put together a new set just for the purposes of this report.

http://www.smugmug.com/gallery/41245764_fPXv2F
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Old Jun 15th, 2014, 08:21 AM
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Kay - it was certainly Renzi's youth, and his reputation for being a "clean" politician that endeared him to our italian landlady when I was staying in Sorrento at the time of the last elections in February. She told us that he was "giovane, pulito e bravo" - young, clean and great!
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Old Jun 15th, 2014, 08:30 AM
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Annhig - every italian we spoke with liked him. They seemed very hopeful.
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Old Jun 15th, 2014, 08:31 AM
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Kay, that's good to know. the honeymoon period isn't over yet then!
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