Friday was the first official touring day in Rome on our "Viva Italia" tour and it promised to be a strenuous day. We were scheduled to start out at the Colosseum, then work our way around to the Roman Forum. We would then have lunch at a small family-owned pizzaria, visit the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and finish up at the Pantheon.
Visiting the Colosseum, Forum and Pantheon is sometimes referred to as the Caesar Shuffle, and with good reason… you do A LOT of walking. The bus dropped us off across the (busy) street from the Colosseum. We eventually got across by essentially playing a game of “chicken” with traffic. I found that it’s usually desirable to walk in the shadow of a local… they got this street-crossing thing down pat!
One more thing before I get into the days events: Something I noticed about the Adventures By Disney tour after a few days, but that I’ll share with you now, is that they took all of the stress of sight-seeing out of the equation. They always had our admission tickets ready, they always had someone waiting for us with the “Whisper” headsets, the bus was always where it was expected to be, the art/history tour guides were always on time. In short, everything that would normally be a headache when touring by yourself were non-existent. Everything just went smooooooth.
We met Christina, our art/history tour guide in front of the Colosseum.
She walked us right in past other tour groups that were waiting, and she began telling us the history of the Coliseum.
The Colosseum was originally used for battles between Gladiators, and other public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on classical mythology. We were shown a small model of the mechanism that was used to hoist the wild animals up the floor of the Colosseum from the passageways under the sand-covered wooden floor.
We were then escorted onto a mezzanine where we could look down onto the floor of the Colosseum.
One portion of the floor had been restored which allowed visitors to get an idea of what it looked like in days of yore.
We got about 20 minutes to explore on our own...
Looking west towards the Forum.
The Arch of Constantine
Tina- One of our Disney tour guides.
....and then we were escorted out of the Colossem and walked west to visit the Roman Forum.
The oldest and most important structures of the ancient city are located in the Forum, including its ancient former royal residency, and the surrounding complex of the Vestal virgins.
The Forum is where the Senate and the Republic government began. It was the city square where the people of Rome gathered, and it was also the economic hub of the city. The Forum was considered to be the center of the Republic and Empire.
Seeing this amazing area was incredible. I was really surprised at how well much of it was preserved considering all of the world events that have transpired since the forum was built before the time of Christ.
Something that I was very appreciative of was that having a well-educated art/history guide made all the difference from seeing the same ruins the day before. Christina was an amazing guide who didn't just know the things she was pointing out to us... she knew EVERYTHING about Roman history and art.
You could ask her anything and she had an answer. She took real pride in being a Roman too. Disney did a fabulous job in finding super-qualified guides.
The weather was warm that day, and it was a welcome break to get on the air-conditioned bus that was going to take us to lunch in another part of Rome. We were taken to a small, family-owned pizzaria not far from the Spanish Steps. The pizzaria, like quite a few of the restaurants that we visited in Italy, was in a building basement. After walking inside, we walked down a flight of stairs and into a large banquet room.
We had four types of pizza. A traditional tomato sauce and mozzarella pizza, a 4-cheese pizza, a “meat” pizza with sausage, and a vegetable pizza. All four were very good, and it was great to relax in the cool underground banquet room.
After lunch, we started out for the Spanish Steps. On the way we passed what could have been mistaken for Romes version of Club 33...
They even have the little intercom inside the doorway...
After being refused entrance yet again, we moved onto the Spanish Steps...
Having been there already, we weren’t so enamored with it during the day. They gave us 15 minutes to look around so Darlene and I walked west of the main area just so we could get away from the large crowds that gather at the fountain at the bottom of the Steps. We saw this guy waiting to give someone a ride...
One of the folks that we’d had dinner with the night before said he was going to go make some dinner reservations nearby and would we like to join him and his wife for dinner. I enthusiastically responded in the affirmative.
We rejoined the group, and then essentially retraced our steps from two days earlier that took us from the Spanish Steps to the Trevi Fountain.
What a pretty fountain...
The Trevi Fountain is a very popular tourist destination in Rome, and today was no exception.
...what an oppressive crowd!
When visiting the Trevi Fountain, you’re supposed to toss a coin over your shoulder into the Fountain. Legend has it that by doing so, you’ll come back to Rome. Weeeeeeeell, I guess we’re not going back to Rome, because I opted for not going down to the bottom of the terraced fountain, but stepped into a nearby shop and bought an icy lemon gelato instead. Whatever… I don’t go in for that legend stuff anyways!
We continued on our “Caesar Shuffle” with a trip to the Pantheon.
The Pantheon , which means “Temple of all the gods“ was built around 25 BC. It is the best preserved of all Roman buildings, and perhaps the best preserved building of its age in the world. The Pantheon has served as a church and a tomb, and it is the oldest domed building in Rome. Walking inside, it’s difficult to understand how it was possible to build structures such as this before world mechanization began. It’s truly an engineering marvel.
After leaving the Pantheon we walked back to our hotel for a much-needed rest. It had been an amazing day of discovery. But it was also a long day, and it was good to slip out of the walking shoes and take a nice cool shower.
The next portion of todays trip report is about our dinner that night. If you get bored with stories about food, this would be a good time to move on.
We rested for a couple of hours and then we met our dinner companions down in the hotel bar for a drink before heading out to dinner. It was a great opportunity to get to know our new friends a little better.
After we finished our drinks we walked a few blocks to our dining destination, Ristarante 34.
Ristorante 34 is one of Rome's famous, long established restaurants. Our friends had dined there before, and they were familiar with the owner, Nicola. We were seated and our server, Lorenzo, came to our table with menus. He asked what we liked and we suggested that he bring us what he liked. This was a wise choice.
Lorenzos eyes lit up as he gathered up our menus. He rushed off to the kitchen, and so began a sojourn into gastronomic heaven!
Lorenzo promptly came back with four small glasses of prosecco, Italy’s version of sparkling wine. Each glass had a small strawberry in it. Such a pleasant way to begin our dinner!
We then moved onto a bottle of white wine, and a bottle of the house red. Now when you ask for house red in the US, you get something that tastes like crap. But we found in Italy that the restaurants we visited took much pride in serving a very good house red. We never asked what we were drinking… we just drank it. And we liked it!
I want to aploogize in advance for not taking many pictures at dinner. This was not the kind of restaurant where you photograph every dish that comes to the table. I'm sure you understand.
The antipasti course arrived first. We started with marinated mozzarella balls with grape tomatos, deep fried calamari, and a homemade bean and escarole soup. We passed the food around so everyone could get a taste of the various offerings. This is the only way to eat when visiting a restaurant like Ristarante 34. It gives you an opportunity to try many different things on the menu without committing to an entire plate of any one item. Luckily for us, our dinner partners were of the same mind when it came to dining out in Italy!
Next up was the primi, or pasta, course. Lorenzo brought out 3 plates which we all shared. One was a spinach ravioli in an alfredo sauce. Next was a hollow dungenous crab shell filled with vermicelli red sauce with fresh crab meat. Lastly we had a flat pasta with a in-season porcini mushrooms in a white wine sauce. Porcini mushrooms were in season when we visited in early October, and we tried to order as many porcini dishes as we could on our trip. We were not disappointed!
After the primi course, comes the secondi, or meat course. We had ossobuco, which is braised veal shank. I had to get a picture of this...
It was served with roasted potatoes in olive oil with garlic and rosemary, along with a plate of roasted eggplant, peppers and mushroom caps. This was the first time I’d ever had ossobucco and it was very, very good.
For dessert we had vanilla gelato with chocolate sauce, sprinkled with hazel nuts. Lorenzo then surprised us with limoncello, a lemon liqueur produced in southern Italy. It is made from lemon rinds, alcohol, sugar and water. It has about 34% alcohol, so sipping this libation is recommended.
With full stomachs and glad hearts we said our farewells to Nicola and Lorenzo. We strolled the few blocks with our friends back to the hotel with sweet memories of an unforgettable night in Rome.
Tomorrow: We visit the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peters Basilica.
CLICK HERE FOR DAY 4 OF OUR ADVENTURE!