EuroTrip 2006

10 August 2006

Viva Italia!

We arrive mid-morning at the Roma Termini. Time to get a map and add prepaid minutes to the mobile phone. Our hotel, the Hotel Sonya, is a short walk; it is across the street from the Opera house. We find it in no time and get settled in. This is the best hotel so far. You can actually fit three people with luggage in the elevator (unlike the one in France, where barely two pieces of luggage alone fit). The service during check-in is great, and the bellhop shows us how the key needs to be inserted into a slot in the wall for the lights to work. I guess that keeps the energy prices down and keeps the key close to the door so you don’t forget it. The rooms are beautiful. We get two rooms this time, each with a queen bed. We give Kaitlyn the choice where to sleep and she chooses to have her own room, of course.

After freshening up, we go for lunch. The desk clerk recommends this restaurant down the street, about a block past the opera house. I order pizza. It’s very disappointing. The pizza sauce tastes like plain bland tomato sauce, no flavor at all. It’s sad. I wrongly assumed that all the food would be tasty, so I didn’t write down any recommendations from the Italy travel guide (which I left at home because of weight).

We discover a new custom when ordering water. In France and England, when you order water, they ask if you want sparkling water or still water. The same is true in Italy, but when it is served, they bring you a whole liter bottle rather than just a glass. You order it by the bottle, in other words. At least that is our experience. It comes in handy, too, after dinner during our hike through town.

Anyway, we finish lunch and go to the ruins. I have a map and take us down some back streets. A little unsure, I ask directions, “Bonjourno.. scusi, Colosseo this way?” and point forward and to the left. I get a big smile, “Si, si. Diritto. A sinistra,” (or whatever he says).

I forget to tell mom that we’re walking through ruins today. She’s wearing high heels. These back road cobblestone streets must not be easy either. We take a left and lo, we see the Colosseum about 400 yards ahead. But first, we spot a Gelato shop! It’s gooood.

Foro Romano

Okay, so I don’t lead us right to it after all. We end up on a street that overlooks it. After we take shots of the Colosseum, we zig-zag down and around to tour the ruins of the Roman Forum. I think this is my favorite sight of the whole trip, since I’ve become very fond of early history. I’ve seen Roman ruins in Germany and France, but they are usually simple buildings crumbled down to the foundations. There is so much spectacular stuff still standing in Rome, it’s unbelievable!

It’s hot. We make it halfway up Capitol Hill and take a rest, look back towards Palatino over the ruins. Because some of the columns are still erect and there is much greenery covering today’s hills, it’s easy to imagine how beautiful it was 1900 years ago. We go through the capitol, past Romulus and Remus drinking their milk. We’re on our way to the Pantheon.

Unsure of our heading, we get directions from a nice tourist, French I think. She says we’re going the right way. About two blocks before reaching the Pantheon, we pass some caged-off sunken ruins. We look down and count at least 11 cats! It turns out that this area is a cat sanctuary. I’d guess they have plenty of mice to eat down there.

The Pantheon is truly amazing. Some of it has probably been renovated from time to time, but it is completely intact. The roof I know is the original concrete. I don’t realize until entering that this has been converted to a Christian shrine rather than one for the original Roman gods. I am a little sad, hoping to see 1900 year old statues. But it is still awesome, especially those huge doors. And, well, the 500-1200 year old Christian art is pretty cool, too.

Via del Corso

We find a cab driver because now it’s time to go shopping! Either he is trying to make a buck or there are only certain routes that cabs are allowed to take, because he takes us in a 3 mile spiral to get us a distance of about 1/4 mile. But it’s a nice rest and it is enjoyable to see the sights along the way, including the Tiber river. The ride was only €7 with tip, anyway.

At via del Corso, I expect the prices to be outrageous. I think the first store we go into is Prada, and yes, those prices are outrageous. But, along this street, Kaitlyn is able to find lots of clothes, probably 6 tops and 2 pants for under €100. I got myself an earring. It seems as though August is the time to go shopping in Europe. There are summer sale signs everywhere.

Dinner tastes a little better this evening, at a restaurant in the Piazza del Popolo. You can call me a spoiled American tourist, but I prefer the Olive Garden over this. People tell me later that we must have gone to tourist traps where the locals could care less about providing good food. Anyway, the waiter is nice and the food is definitely better than what we had for lunch. Mom’s tiramisu is kind of blah, though. After dessert, Kaitlyn stocks up on Gummis from their candy shop, and later that night we have some of it in the hotel room.

Gary Faircloth
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