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Postcards from Italy: Part II Roma, Day 4 We arr…

1 December 2005
Postcards from Italy: Part II

Roma, Day 4

We arrived in Rome via train at about 2 pm. The train pulled into Stazione Termini –a major hub. From there, we decided to take a cab to our hotel. Luckily, a “tourist assistant” helped us out and told us that a cab to the area we were staying at should only cost us about 10-12 Euros. Once outside, we went to the taxi queue and met up with a cab driver who told us it would be 25 Euros just to go to our hotel! The hubs and I told him “no way!” and ignored him. We found a cabbie who took us to our hotel for no more than 10 Euros. Central Rome is mapped out in 16 different areas. We initially stayed in the Via Veneto area –a quiet and relatively peaceful area that features a lot of the bigger hotels but is very near to some of the major sights. We stayed at the Excelsior Rome for 2 nights, and then moved to the Hotel Giuliana (which I picked out). The Hotel Giuliana is a budget hotel with very lovely proprietors (it’s family run and the lady of the house is so nice!) I only recommend it if you really need to watch your wallet but expect it to be one level down from a Motel 6! Hehehe… Okay, it wasn’t so bad, but I guess I was pampered by staying at a 5-star hotel! Notice the difference between the 2 hotel rooms:

Westin Excelsior Rome

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Our Room
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Hotel Giuliana

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That night, we walked around Rome and explored the sights near us. We went to the Fontana di Trevi –a beautiful fountain that was completed in 1762. Tradition has it that a coin thrown into the water guarantees a visitor’s return to Rome.

Trevi Fountain

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We also went to the Spanish Steps located in the Piazza di Spagna area. This is an area teaming with tourists; the steps overlook Via Condotti, a small street with all the high-end boutiques suchs as Gucci, Prada, Louis, Bulgari and more. The steps are also adjacent to the Keats-Shelley Memorial House where Keats stayed until his death. Afterwards, the hubs and I enjoyed a nice dinner near our hotel and then stayed in to relax.

Spanish Steps
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Piazza Barberini (by Via Veneto)
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Roma, Day 5

The hubs and I went to visit Santa Maria della Vittoria, a Baroque church near our hotel that contains one of Bernini’s most famous works: The Ecstasy of St. Teresa. The church was amazing and filled with beautiful works of art. I could just imagine going to church every Sunday in such a lavish setting –our church back home is quite plain compared to the churches in Italy!

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa

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Ceiling Fresco
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Afterwards, we went to meet up with Girlie & Luke and go on our organized tour of the “Highlights of the Eternal City.” We took the Metro (Rome’s version of subway system) and got to our destination with no problems. Our tour started at 2 pm by the Colosseum, and it was a long, tiring, yet very fun and informative tour. It was supposed to be a 3-hour walking tour, but we didn’t finish until 6 pm! Our tour took us all over Central Rome and we were able to see all the major must-sees of Rome: The Colosseum; The Arch of Constantine; The Forum and the Palatine; The Victor Emmanuel Monument (nicknamed “The Wedding Cake”); Hadrian’s Temple; The Pantheon; The Capitol; and The Trevi Fountain (which we checked out the day before). The tour ended at the Piazza Navona which features the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and an Egyptian obelisk designed by Bernini. We were very exhausted by the tour’s end yet still trekked back to our hotels which was a good 20-25 minute walk.

The Colosseum
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The hubs and I by the Colosseum
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Arch of Constantine
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At the Forum
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Temple of Julius Caesar
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The Pantheon
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Dome of the Pantheon
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The “Wedding Cake”
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We had dinner that
night at Giovanni’s, a quaint neighborhood restaurant in Via Veneto that is famous for its’ osso bucco and roast lamb. I was famished and certainly tried the osso bucco which was definitely yummy! Afterwards, we headed back to our hotels for a good night’s rest.

Roma, Day 6

Today was our tour day of the Vatican City. What an adventure! We were supposed to meet up with our tour guide at a Metro station by the Vatican by 10:30 am. When we got to the station, there was big sign saying that the workers were on strike and that the trains were closed from 9:30 am –3 pm! It was 9:45 am when we got there so we had no choice but to take a cab. The cab ride to the Vatican was fairly quick and cost us less than 10 Euros –not bad. The adventure started when we ended up waiting by the meeting point for 30 minutes with no one there. At first, we thought the tour was just running late because of the strike. Finally, I called the tour operator who said that our group had already left for the Vatican at 10:35 am! This was bullshit since we got to the meeting place by 10:25! In any case, we ended up running to the Vatican Museum (the first stop of our tour), getting in queue with everyone else (and the line wraps around the museum!), and me running to the payphone and frantically calling the tour folks asking to see if they could contact our tour guide who was already inside! Bottom line: after a lot of huffing and puffing, we got in the museum and miraculously saw the rest of our group right at the beginning of our tour. Yay! The rest of our tour proceeded without incident.

The Vatican Museum is full of beautiful artwork. It contains classic Greek and Roman art, early Christian and Medieval Art, the Sistine Chapel, and other great masterpieces designed by Raphael and others. I highly recommend using a tour guide when visiting this place since there’s so much information to digest when you go through. Furthermore, the place is packed with tourists! Mind you, November is considered an off-peak season and it was still very crowded! So I suggest going during this time rather that in the summer when everyone else goes!

Words can’t really describe the amazing artwork you’ll see inside the museum and it’s many rooms and halls. You’ll definitely have to see it for yourself! The Sistine Chapel was a little smaller than I had imagined, but still grand! Pictures are not allowed inside the Chapel itself, but the hubs was able to sneak in some pics (as most people did!). The Sistine Chapel is the very same room where voting of the new Pope takes place. After the chapel, you are ushered into another hallway that is connected to the Pope’s apartments and goes through to St. Peter’s Basilica and Square. We saw some Swiss Army guys along the way who were guarding the private rooms. They were hotties, I must say!

Michelangelo’s Fresco – Sistine Chapel
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Creation of Adam
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The last stop of our tour was St. Peter’s Basilica –a grandiose church full of lavish art and impressive works such as Michelangelo’s La Pieta. Saying it is huge is an understatement. Again, you have to see it for yourself. In the middle of basilica stands the Papal Altar (where only the pope may celebrate mass) with a canopy over it designed by Bernini. The Papal Altar is built upon St. Peter’s tomb which is directly beneath it. There is also a high altar designed by Bernini with a beautiful sculpture and stained window. After our guided tour was over, we went to the catacombs beneath St. Peter’s Basilica where we were able to see the final resting place of the Popes.
St. Peter’s Basilica
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Michelangelo’s ‘La Pieta’
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St. Peter’s Square
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Tomb of Pope John Paul II
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Tomb of St. Peter (as in the apostle!)
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Afterwards, we had a late lunch at La Rupe Tarpea, a restaurant in Via Veneto (near the Barberini train station). I had the best pasta dish there –spaghetti in cream sauce with porcini mushrooms, peas, and salciccia (sausage). I highly recommend it! And the prices there are quite reasonable as well!

Roma, Day 7

In the morning, the hubs and I went to the local supermercato to buy souvenirs. I always make it a point to go to a supermarket for good deals –especially edibles. I bought chocolates and biscottis for friends. Then we met up with Girlie & Luke to go visit the tomb of the Capuchin Friars. Underneath the Santa Maria della Concezione are a series of crypts where generations of Capuchin friars decorated the walls of five vaulted chapels with the bones and skulls of their departed brethren. In all, some 4,000 skeletons were used to create the displays. Very eerie. Unfortunately, picture-taking was not allowed as well.

After the quick visit, we went to Piazza di Spagna since Girlie & Luke have not seen the Spanish Steps yet. We strolled around, ate lunch, then attempted to go shopping on Via Nazionale –a major avenue with tons of stores. No luck for me since I couldn’t even try on clothes (which I guess is a good thing since I didn’t spend much!). That night, we ate at La Rupe Tarpea again and had our last meal in Rome. After the meal, the hubs and I walked back to our hotel and got caught in the rain and hail! Yes, hail. What a memorable last night!

Roma, Day 8 – Our Last Day

We got up early, packed up the rest of our stuff, then headed back to Stazione Termini to catch the “Leonardo Express” –a train that goes directly to Fiumicino Airport. We got there by 10 am, with plenty of time to spare for our 1 pm flight connecting flight to Milan. I don’t know why they detoured us to Milan, I guess that’s why our flight wasn’t too expensive. However, the flight they put us up did not leave enough time for the actual transfer! We landed in Milan at about 2:30 pm, which is the boarding time for the flight back to Newark Airport! So we booked it and ran out as quickly as we could. Alas, we couldn’t even look at the shops in the Milan airport! I saw some great purses as we ran towards our gate. We made it to our plane with only a few minutes to spare! Talk about a close call! The flight from Milan to Newark was more than 8 hours long and I was determined not to sleep so that I’d be right on schedule when I got back home. We arr
ived safely. Unfortunately, we couldn’t say the same thing about our luggage since it got lost along the way! So we had to file a claim with Alitalia and arrange for our luggage to be delivered when it finally arrived. We didn’t get our luggage until this morning –when a guy banged on our door in the pouring rain at about 1:30 am!

I also caught a bug on the flight back home. Perhaps it was the stale plane air that did it, but my throat was on fire the whole way home. That night, I could hardly breathe and had to put some Vicks on my nose! I even took a sick day on Monday to recuperate since I was sneezing and was severly congested. I got back to work on Tuesday with a foggy head, but with great memories of my Italian holiday!

For more pictures of our Italian holiday, click here (although the captions are still not up!)

SIDENOTE: So my band got a gig at guess where…..CBGB’s!! I’m very thrilled! Talk about a freaking kick-ass venue! We are playing tomorrow, Dec. 1 @ 10: 30 pm! Do check us out if you’re in the area! For more information, please visit our website! I can’t wait, although I do wish we had time to practice as a whole beforehand! We haven’t played as a group since our last gig on Nov. 10th! Wish us luck!

Song of the Day:
Plastic Passion by The Cure
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