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  1. #1

    • Joe Flowers
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    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Redondo Beach, CA

    Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    Well it has certainly been a while since I've posted a trip report. Those who follow my blog will understand why.
    Theresa and I had a beautiful baby boy back in November and my free time disappeared.
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    I do have a trip from the summer though that I never did get a chance to post.

    In June, Theresa and I headed out to Italy for a week and then joined up with Jacob and Ruston in Paris for another week. It's taken me a while to go through all the photos, but I'm almost done so I figured I'd go ahead and start posting my trip report. I'm thinking I'll be breaking it up into 3 different reports. This one for Rome, a second one for Florence, then a third for Disneyland Paris and the rest of Paris. On to the report!

    Ready for another adventure?
    Every year we try to take a big vacation around July 4th. Previous trips have included Tahiti and Bora Bora. This year instead of a relaxing vacation, we're going back to some places we've visited before but didn't spend enough time.
    Follow along as we go to Rome, Florence, Disneyland Paris, and Paris!

    We're flying on free airline tickets (that's a whole other post) on Air Berlin. The way we're routed, we're leaving Los Angeles at 6pm and taking an 11 hour flight to Dusseldorf Germany. The next morning, we'll catch a flight to Rome. We left work just a little early on Thursday to head to the airport and have dinner.
    Even though we'll be gone for a little over 2 weeks, we still only do carry-on bags. Each of us got our tickets from the Air Berlin counter and they actually weighed our carry-on bag. There's a limit of 10kg (22 pounds) and each of our bags was right on. I'm really glad they didn't ask to weigh my camera bag! With all my lenses, the laptop, etc, it might look small but I bet it's over 10kg.

    We were supposed to leave at 6pm, but that came and went and our plane wasn’t even here. Around 6:15 the plane showed up and we were given the announcement that we’d start boarding in a few minutes. A few minutes turned into quite a few minutes and they finally opened the gate at 6:45pm and that was just to let the handicapped and young kids on.
    Finally by 7:20 we were allowed to board. There was still plenty of room in the overhead bins for our bags and we had good seats. This plane is configured in a 2-4-2 and we’ve got the window and aisle which is fantastic. The seats themselves are normal size, but the space between them is smaller than any other plane I've been on. My knees are touching the seat in front of me unless I’m sitting straight up. We’re off the ground by 7:40pm, so we were about 2 hours delayed.

    Goodbye lovely Los Angeles.

    As soon as the wheels left the ground, the guy in front of Theresa throws his seat back. Unless you put your seat back as well, that seat is just about in your lap. I haven’t figured out how to deal with the time difference yet. It's 8pm now. When we land it’ll be about 5pm in Germany. Do I stay awake the entire time and go to bed early when we arrive? I always have problems sleeping on planes, so I didn’t think I’m be able to nap well, but surprisingly, despite the cramped conditions, I was able to. I think the combination of the Bose headphones, sleep mask, and blanket just let me finally nod off. I fell asleep over Wyoming and when I woke up we were already through Canada. I’m guessing about 3-4 hours sleep. Not bad. Theresa is doing pretty well too. She’s gotten up a few times to stretch her legs. I rub her legs and back for a bit and she falls asleep, and again surprisingly I’m able to fall asleep for another hour.

    Welcome to Dusseldorf! Our landing goes smoothly and we taxi right up to the gate. We breeze through immigration and customs and find a sign directing us to our hotel.

    T booked the Sheraton right by the airport and we walk right over. The hotel staff is nice and we get a decent room overlooking the runway. It's a good size and not the mini European room we've had in the past.

    Our original plan was to head into Dusseldorf for the evening and explore the city and have a nice meal somewhere, but because we’re arriving 2 hours late, we decided to chill here. We wander back over to the airport, which also seems like a shopping mall with all the stores and restaurants inside. We grab cash from an ATM and look around for something to eat. The first level has nothing that interests us. We grab a frozen coffee from the McDonalds on the ground level and continue looking for decent food.

    At the very end of the level is what looks like a small grocery store. Score! T’s looking very happy now. She found fruit and a salad. We bought a bunch of stuff including water, Mezzo Mix (my favorite German soda that you can also find in Epcot or at least you used to be able to), Lift (an apple drink T likes), a salad, strawberries, pineapple, chocolate and gummy colas for 11 Euro.

    Add in a pretzel and sausage link in a cheese bun from another store for 5 Euro and we’re eating a tasty dinner for 16 Euro. On the ride back up the elevator, we notice the hotel restaurant is serving a wienerschnitzel and potatoes for 22 Euro, or tomato soup for 8 Euro. I think we did pretty well.

    Our German food tonight. A sausage in a roll and a pretzel.

    Theresa didn’t have fork for her salad, so she used my tiny fork I got with my pineapple.

    It’s 8:30pm and we’re about ready to call it a day. Our flight leaves at 7am, so we’re getting up pretty early. Tomorrow we’re off to Rome! It's going to be fun!

  2. #2

    • Joe Flowers
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    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Redondo Beach, CA

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    Today is going to be an interesting day… We’ll get to those fun stories in a bit. We turned the lights out early last night and by 9pm I was fast asleep. I barely stirred the entire night. Unfortunately at 1:10am, I woke up and was wide awake. I laid in bed until 1:30am but couldn’t fall back asleep. This seems to be typical when we cross a few time zones. I read my book until Theresa woke up around 3:30am.

    We got all our bags packed up and left the room around 5am. The airport is literally right next door so we walked over there for breakfast. The only thing open at that time was the McDonalds so we ordered off an automated touch-screen and soon picked up our food.

    T got an egg mcmuffin with bacon. I got a sausage mcmuffin and a ham and cheese croissant because I'd never seen one before and like to try new things. The croissant wasn’t very good, but I’m glad I tried it anyway.

    We breezed straight through security. They only checked our boarding pass and no IDs or even passports. One of my many nicknames from T is Chupa Chup, so of course after seeing a giant one, a picture is required.

    We boarded our flight right on time. We took a bus over to the plane, climbed the jet bridge and flew to Rome. There wasn’t anything special about the flight. Just 1:45 minutes later, we landed.

    With no checked bags, we got off the plane and headed straight to the Leonardo Express train into the Termini station in the middle of Rome. The airport is 15 miles from city so it's either the train or a taxi. When we got to the station, there was a train there and leaving in 6 minutes. We grabbed our tickets from the green and white automated machine with no problems. The guard manning the gate validated our ticket and we jumped on the train. Within 3 minutes, the train took off and we were on our way into Rome.

    We started in the beautiful country.

    But before too long we were into the city. The thing we noticed here was the ridiculous amount of graffiti everywhere.

    T booked us a great hotel right in the middle of the city. The Vatican is to the West, Pantheon is a couple blocks South, Coliseum is South East, Trevi Fountain a couple blocks East. We're really right in the middle of Rome.

    At Termini, we got off the train and walked to the taxi stand. Of course we were approached by the unofficial taxi drivers, but we kept a straight face and ignored them and they didn’t bother us. After just a few minutes we were at the front of the taxi line. A guy whipped his taxi up, T asked if he knew where the Hotel Nazionale was, and he said he did. We jumped in the taxi and took off. This guy was yelling and motioning with his hands at everyone on the road. When a scooter wasn’t fast enough at a light, he sped around him and jerked right back in front of him. I don’t even know why they put lane lines on the roads because we were all over the place. T of course got quite a headache and vowed that we'd no longer be using taxis while in Rome. After a few minutes, the driver pulled over and said he wasn’t exactly sure where the hotel was, so Theresa showed him the paper with the name and the address. The address on T's paper just confused him and he said in broken English that it wasn’t here (whatever that meant). I found the hotel in the Rick Steves’ travel guide and showed him, and then he knew where we wanted to go.

    We wind through quite a few small back roads then pulled up to an obelisk and he said it was right around the corner. Theresa was so sick and had such a headache, that even though we couldn’t see our hotel she was ready to get out of that car. We walked around the corner. There it was! The Hotel Nazionale!

    We walked inside and were greeted at the front desk. They asked our name, but couldn’t find our reservation. Hmm. Theresa had the confirmation number written down, but they didn’t recognize it either. After a few minutes of trying to figure out why our reservation wasn't showing up, I put 2 and 2 together with what the taxi driver said about the address and showed that to Roberta, the receptionist. With that, everything was clear. The Hotel Nazionale we had booked was in the far north of Italy and no-where near Rome. Uh-oh.

    See Rome down there at the bottom? Apparently there is another Hotel Nazionale 350 miles North and that's the one we booked...

    Roberta was absolutely fantastic though. Once she figured out what had happened she went to work. We made small talk and she asked if we were celebrating our honeymoon. We said no, but I rubbed Theresa’s belly saying that we were celebrating. She was excited for us and said “Oh, so there’s three of you staying here.” She suggested we go sit down while she made some phone calls. Theresa had the price of the other hotel written down, and Roberta said she didn’t think she’d be able to match the 690 Euro we had paid. We totally understood that because it was off in a much smaller city, and this was in the middle of Rome. After 20 minutes or so, she told us she called the manager of the other hotel and actually was friends with him. He said the city was very busy and he would be able to resell our room and would refund us our money. Wonderful!

    Theresa and I had looked up how much it would be to book a room with this hotel directly and saw the cheapest room for four nights was 1090 Euro. Ouch. Roberta was on top of that one too for us. She looked through all their discounted rates and was able to book us in a room for 960 Euro. Of course we were thrilled with that.

    When we walked up to our room and went inside, we were even more amazed. Roberta had done us one even better than that. Instead of the standard room, she put us in the Executive room for a much cheaper price than we would have paid. The room is huge, the ceilings are 18 feet high, and we’ve got a soft king sized bed. Amazing!

    It's a beautiful room.

    With a nice bathroom.

    And we even have a great view of Piazza di Monte Citorio.

    Theresa decided she wanted to take a nap to sleep off her headache. She laid down at 12:15 and said she only wanted to sleep for an hour or so. I rubbed her head for 15 minutes and by then she was out cold. I was reading my Angels & Demons book (because it’s set in Rome), and around 12:45 I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I took a nap, which I never do, and at 3:00pm Theresa was waking me up, saying we had slept a lot longer than an hour.

    We got ready to go explore the city and stopped by the front desk for some suggestions. They told us a restaurant just around the corner that was pretty good. Theresa was really hungry at this point, and when we found the street the place they suggested was on, she decided to stop at the very first restaurant she saw, completely forgetting it wasn’t the one that was suggested. We ordered plain spaghetti plus lasagna, because the last time we were in Italy that was the best lasagna we’d ever tasted. We asked for tap water, but were given bottled anyway. According to Rick Steves’ that’s pretty typical and they pretend not to understand. They asked if we’d like bruschetta and since it’s a favorite of Theresa’s she said yes. They brought out two portions, one for each of us I guess. Now it really feels like a tourist trap. I tried the bruschetta with some balsamic vinegar and it was actually pretty tasty, which surprised me!

    Then the meal came. Neither of us were impressed. The lasagna was just a huge mess plopped onto a plate, and the spaghetti wasn’t much better. After 5 bites, Theresa was done, declaring it the worst spaghetti she’d ever had. We paid 30 Euro for our meal and left feeling unsatisfied.

    Just down the street was the Pantheon. It was the typical zoo we were expecting to see, and we couldn’t go inside because it was 4:30pm and time for mass. We better make it inside during this trip because on our last visit we never saw it.

    The Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola is just down the street and it's still open, so we go explore the first of many churches on this trip.

    As we entered, there was an organ playing music. I told Theresa I was enjoying the organ, and she paraphrased one of her favorite movies, Chocolat. “The organ is not intended as an entertainment. It is a solemn call to worship.“ We learned that it was playing because at the front of the church was a couple getting married. Pretty huge place to get married!

    We wandered the church, marveling at all the statues and paintings. It impresses me when they make stone look completely like something soft, like cloth or drapery.

    We crossed back in front of the Pantheon to find a grocery store.

    It wasn’t a huge place, and the prices are expensive, but we got some necessities. Being pregnant, T's only real craving has been fruits and vegetables, so we stock up.

    A short walk and we were back at the hotel to drop everything off. At 6:30, we got recommendations from the front desk on where to eat dinner, and started half of the Rick Steves Heart of Rome walking tour. Our first stop was the Trevi fountain. It was crazy busy of course, but we made our way down to the front.

    We asked a couple to take our picture, and then we took theirs. Theresa must look very trustworthy because lots of people were asking her to take their picture. There were plenty of guys who would take your picture then ask to take one of you with their polaroid camera to sell to you. They were all over the place and constantly asking. As is tradition, we each tossed a coin in the fountain, ensuring we'd someday return to Rome. Our next stop is the Spanish Steps.

    It was just a short walk away and of course, very crowded. There are 135 steps connecting the Spanish Embassy and church at the top to Piazza di Spanga below. There are lots of guys here handing ladies roses then letting you walk with them for a minute or so, then come back and ask you for money. Having seen this before, Theresa held up her hand to wave off the first guy and he still stuck a rose in between her fingers on her hand with the brace on it. She wasn’t having any of that though and he took them back. For the many many times after that, Theresa just kept her hands by her sides.

    We sat at the bottom of the steps by the Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Old Boat) and watched as the police patrolled the area and all the illegal vendors ran in the opposite direction. This fountain was actually designed in 1627 by Pietro Bernini and his famous son Lorenzo Bernini. We'll see a lot more of his work later.

    When I think fountain, I usually think chlorinated recirculated water. Here in Rome though, they were so proud of their abundance of fresh water, that there are multiple free public fountains where you can drink and fill up water bottles. I just take a sip and then we continue up the steps.

    Lots of people enjoying a picnic dinner here on the steps.

    The church and obelisk at the top of the steps.

    There's a good view over the city. Doesn't Theresa look beautiful with these lovely roses?

    Yeah, here's the zoomed out view of the same picture. T had to get quite stern with this guy to get out of her face.

    At the top, we explored the church Trinità dei Monti. Theresa did warn me though not to take her into too many churches because it was entirely possible to get burnt out on seeing so many of them. That happened in Japan after seeing shrines and temples multiple times a day for many days in a row.

    As we exited, there was a beautiful sunset over the city. We enjoyed that for a little bit then continued our walk.

    Back down the steps we went, and just to left was one of the nicest McDonald’s I’ve ever been to. You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but inside there was tons of seating in nice chairs and sofas, touch screen menus, and best of all, public toilets.

    It's a beautiful sky tonight.

    T was pretty hungry after not eating much for lunch. On the recommendation of the hotel, we stopped at a high end restaurant. It looked a bit expensive and they required you to wear pants, not shorts, so we decided to give it a go. Without an English menu, we went with the recommendation of our server. Theresa got spaghetti again and I got a spaghetti carbonara. I enjoyed mine. It had cheese, bacon, a cream sauce, plus a zesty kick to it.

    Theresa wasn’t thrilled with hers though and suggested stopping by a grocery store on the way home for a salad. That girl and salads right now… We were both disappointed by the breadbasket that was so completely burnt we actually sent it back to the kitchen. 50 Euros ($66) for two plates of simple pasta, a bread basket and a liter of bottled water. We're still waiting for a restaurant to wow us like before.

    The Trevi fountain is supposed to look even better at night, and since it’s just around the corner, we stopped by. If anything at 10pm it was even busier than before. We’re so happy our hotel is so central to everything.

    Within a few minutes we were back, but not quite ready to go in for the night. Just around the corner is a place that Roberta and Rick Steves said is the best gelato anywhere. We’d passed it earlier today and the line was out the door and insane. At 10:30 at night, it was only barely out the door. Here you pay for what you want as soon as you enter and then get in line for the gelato at the back of the store. It’s unorganized chaos back there. The one line goes to two counters, and the guys scooping the gelato keep telling people to move forward, trying to keep up with the demand. Theresa told me she didn’t think any ice cream was worth this.

    After just a little pushing and shuffling, we both got up to the counter and got our cones. T got a strawberry cone that she really enjoyed. Maybe she'll rethink her position that it's not worth waiting in line.

    I got a super rich chocolate and coconut, and they topped it off with fresh whipped cream. Mine was very tasty too. It's so hard to eat though before it drips all over your hand.

    When we left our room earlier, we noticed the ceiling had started to drip. I put a towel down to catch the water, and by the time we got back, the towel was soaked and yellow. After telling the front desk, they sent someone up to look at it, and then suggested we move to a different room. It was still an Executive room and still overlooking the square. Does this room look even bigger?

    Check out this floor plan I found. Our bathroom takes over 1/4 of the room beside us. To me it looks like the biggest room on the floor. Who'd have guessed after the debacle this morning, we'd be in a room this nice.

    It’s getting close to 1:15am and I’m hoping my sleep schedule is going to be good tonight. We’ll see what happens! Tomorrow the Coliseum!

  3. #3

    • aka 'KiMcHeE'
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    Join Date
    Mar 2011

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    Wow, this report has been amazing so far! I've never been out of the U.S. before (except Hawaii but that doesn't count), so it's quite interesting to see what it's like being in another country. I'm learning quite a lot! I can't wait to see the rest of your Euro Trip! Also, congratulations once again! Ian is just so dang adorable D:

  4. #4

    • Joe Flowers
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    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Redondo Beach, CA

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    There's lots of fun stuff to see today.

    I thought this might be a fun way to keep track of all the places we ended up going. Our hotel is at #1 and we continue from there.

    Well we still haven’t adjusted to the time yet. This time though, we overshot it on the other side. We had intended to wake up early to go see the Coliseum and other things before heading over to the Borghese gallery for our reservations at 1pm. We set the alarm for 9am, looked at each other then decided to fall back asleep. 2 hours later we wake up again and by the time we rolled out of bed, it was 11:30am and too late to go see the Coliseum.

    Leaving the hotel, we stopped at a paper shop and bought our Roma Pass. For 34 Euro each, it gets us into two attractions for free, reserved entrance lines when we get there, plus a 3 day metro pass. We jumped on the bus that would take us up to the Borghese museum, made really good time up to the museum and got off the bus at 12:10pm, plenty of time before our 1pm reservation. The only trade-off for making good time, was a headache for Theresa. She doesn't like the cabs and she doesn't like the bus. This was actually the only time we used the metro for our entire stay in Rome.

    It was lunchtime and we still hadn’t eaten anything, so we wandered a few side roads. Theresa saw this place had a few locals out front and decide if they're eating there we should too.

    Inside was a small counter with pre-made sandwiches and pizzas. I wasn’t too impressed and was ready to leave, but the older gentleman behind the counter started talking to Theresa telling her to wait right there as he brought out more items. I think she was tempted to leave too, but she waited to see what he brought out.

    Every time he came from the kitchen, he’d say what he was bringing then show it to Theresa. Fresh fish! Potatoes! Meatloaf! Rotisserie chicken! That one got Theresa’s attention. Lasagna! Green beans! That sold Theresa. I think we had caught them just before lunchtime and their tiny selection didn’t represent all the foods they offered. We’re glad we waited around to see the rest.

    Theresa ordered chicken “from the top of the chicken” (breast meat), plus a side of green beans. I have been a fan of the pizza so far, so I ordered a mozzarella pizza. We split a bottle of strawberry kiwi Fanta, and everything was delicious. We both decided it was the best meal we had had so far in Italy. That and the way the owner was doting on us made us smile. Here was a guy who really enjoyed the food that was made, wanted to you try it, and had fun serving it. He was even singing while he was working. It ended up being 20 Euro for the meal, which wasn’t too bad for the food and the experience.

    Leaving there, it was just a short walk to the Borghese gallery just outside the city walls. At least it was a short walk to the garden entrance.

    It was still 600 meters or so to reach the museum itself.

    At this museum, they don’t just let people in because it would be too crowded and ruin the experience. Instead, only 200 people at a time are let in for a period of 2 hours. When your time is up, out you go, and the next 200 people can come in. We made reservations the Wednesday before coming here, and picked 1pm. When we arrived at the line, there were lots of people waiting hoping some people wouldn’t show up for their reservation and they’ve be let in in their place. It’s a Sunday, and they were fully booked for reservations until Wednesday.

    We made our way to the front of the line and picked up our tickets with no problem. They don’t allow any cameras or bags at all inside the gallery, so we checked our bag with the attendant. An audio guide was available for 5 Euro and Theresa and I held it up to both our ears to listen in.

    Like I mentioned above, no bags and no cameras were allowed. All these images were found online after we got back. The audio-guide here was wonderful. It's one thing to walk around and see a large painting, but quite another to know the story behind it and what the artist was thinking.

    In the first room we see a ceiling painted with a scene depicting the Judgement of Paris. It's not the painting below, but I couldn't find the exact one that's there.

    The story is as follows: Zeus was holding a banquet to celebrate a wedding of two gods. Eris the goddess of discord was not invited and angered by the snub, threw a golden apple into the banquet with the words "for the fairest one" written on it. Three goddess stepped forward to claim the apple, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, asking Zeus to declare who was the fairest. Not wanting to take that on himself, he deferred to a mortal man named Paris. Each goddess offers him a bribe, but eventually he chooses Aphrodite.

    Dominating the room below the painting on the ceiling is a statue of Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister and wife of Camillo Borghese. Created in 1805 by Antonio Canova, this statue caused controversy because while it was typical to depict a goddess nude, it was not common to show royalty naked. An even more bold statement is the apple in her hand, showing that even above the goddesses, Pauline is the fairest of all.

    The detail of the sculpture was incredible too. The cushion even had wrinkles in it where you’d expect, plus there was an intricate pattern seemingly woven into the stone.

    In the next room we see David by the famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini. He chose quite a different pose than Michelangelo’s David. David is in motion, winding up to swing his sling. His face is contorted with determination.

    Entering the next room, we see a statue that amazes both of us. Apollo chasing Daphne also by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Bernini was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese to create multiple sculptures for the Medici household, and this was one of the last.

    Apollo, having been struck by Cupid's arrow, sees Daphne, the daughter of the river god Peneus. He chases after her, but Daphne has been struck by Cupid's love-repelling arrow and runs away. Just as Apollo catches her, Daphne prays to her father to change her body so Apollo can't have her. Peneus changes her into a laurel tree, and that's the exact moment this statue captures.

    You can see Daphne's skin turning into the bark of a tree. From her fingers, branches and leaves are suddenly sprouting.

    The most amazing and intricate work was done on the leaves in between the two of them. I'm amazed by how much stone was actually cut away, creating such a perfectly natural looking bunch of leaves. The angles and positions they must have used to carve away everything that wasn't a leaf just boggled my mind.

    Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius is another sculpture by Bernini. Only 20 years old when this work was completed, it shows the story of Aeneas (the progenitor of Rome) leaving his city after it had been attacked by the Greeks. He carries his father and his son follows him. It's been said that Bernini drew inspiration from one of Michelangelo's sculptures called Christ Bearing the Cross. We'll try to see that one later today.

    Bernini certainly has quite a few statues here. The last one we'll look at before we go upstairs is The Rape of Proserpina (Persephone). In it, Persephone is abducted by Hades and carried down to the underworld.

    We can see Hades' fingers digging into Persephone's thigh and side. It really looks like skin transformed into stone.

    We also get a peek at Cerberus, Hades' three-headed dog.

    Many of the works here were acquired by the Borghese family themselves. Cardinal Scipioni Borghese was nephew to the Pope and one of the wealthiest men in Rome.

    While the first floor houses mostly statues, the second floor has multiple paintings.

    This work by Titian titled Sacred and Profane Love measures 3.8 x 9.2 feet, was commissioned by Niccolò Aurelio to celebrate his marriage to Laura Bagarotto. It depicts the bride dressed in white, sitting beside Cupid and Venus. But who represents Sacred Love and who represents Profane Love? In 1899 an offer was made to purchase the painting for 4 million lira, when the entire Borghese estate and all the artwork there was only valued at 3.6 million lira. That offer was refused though and now this painting has become the symbol of the Borghese Gallery.

    I think this is the first Raphael painting we've seen on this trip. Check off our first Ninja Turtle. This 6 x 6 foot painting titled Desposition was kept in the church of S.Francesco in Perugia in 1507. The Borghese's wanted the painting for themselves and 101 years later the painting was taken overnight by a priest and sent to Pope Paul V, Scipione Borghases's uncle. He then gave it to his nephew and it thus became the property of the Borghese family.

    Boy with a Basket of Fruit was a painting by Caravaggio in 1593. The work remained in the collection of Giuseppe Cesari, one of Caravaggio's teachers, until 1607. Cardinal Borghese became obsessed with the painting and used his power and influence with the Pope to throw Cesari in prison and seize the painting. This has to be the 5th or 6th painting we've heard the same type of story of how it came to be in the collection of the Borghese's. He's want a painting, has the person accused of something and thrown in prison, then offer to get them out if they give up what he wants. He sounds like a bit of a jerk when it comes to collecting art.

    Diana is the goddess of the hunt, and in this painting of Diana and her Nymphs by Domenichino, we peek into their secret world and see them at play. There is an archery contest going on, two women returning from the hunt with a deer, and even a wrestling contest in the distance.

    For men to be caught spying on these women would mean death, but to the far right of the scene, we see two men risking it. One holds his finger to his lips, imploring us to stay quiet, as we too are gazing upon them unawares.

    But it's too late! The nymph bathing at the bottom has certainly caught us spying on them.

    At 2:50, we were through all the exhibits, and would be escorted out anyway in 10 minutes, so we moseyed out. We walked back to the bus stop and waited a few minutes for the bus, but then just decided to walk through Rome and back to the hotel.

    On the way, we swung by the supermarket and picked up a late lunch.

    Once we got back to our room there was another surprise waiting for us. A fruit tray! That was very thoughtful of the hotel.

    Here's all the stuff we picked up from the grocery store. I got bread and butter, plus a prosciutto and cheese tray. T got salad, chips, cookies, etc. Strangely, our whole time here and even at the multiple grocery stores we went to, no one had salad dressing. Everywhere only offered olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

    After reading, snacking and chilling for a while, we left the hotel and headed out to the Pantheon. This will now be the third time ever going to see it and we still haven’t been inside. The first was 6 years ago, and it was too late and closed. Earlier this week we went and it was closed for mass. Today though, it was open for visitors and we walked right in.

    The dome on the inside is pretty impressive. The room inside is exactly as wide as it is tall. A sphere 142 ft tall would fit inside perfectly. This dome was the model for another dome inside the Duomo that we'll see in Florence later, the dome on top of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, and even the US Capital Building dome.

    Also impressive is that this building has been continuously used as a church for the past 1400 years. It was originally built as a tribute to all the gods: Pan – All, Theos – gods. Once the Catholic church took it over though, it became a tribute to one God. It was around 5:30 when we arrived and would be closing at 6pm.

    It was fairly busy when we first arrived. We took a seat on the benches up front and listened to the Rick Steves' audio-guide.

    In the niches are tombs of famous Italians. Raphael is buried here. Also buried close by are the tombs of two of Italy's kings, the Savoys, along with their queens. One of those is Margherita di Savoia, for whom the margherita pizza was named, with green basil, white mozzarella and red tomato sauce, the colors of the Italian flag.

    Around 6pm, we were told that the Pantheon was closing and it was time to leave.

    The trick to getting these shots and not being asked to leave by the attendants was to always get a little closer to the entrance than 1-2 other people. That way they are the ones getting asked to hurry up, and you can stick around just a little longer.

    We hung back, so as to be one of the last ones out, so we could enjoy and appreciate it with no people crowding it and it was almost quiet inside. It was awesome!

    The heat just doesn’t agree with T right now, so we sat beside the Pantheon for 10 minutes or so to chill and drink water. Here's what she looks like when she saw I'm taking a picture.

    And this is what she's really feeling like.

    So this is the back of the Pantheon. Not quite as impressive as the front of the building, and you can see that it's made of brick and cement instead of marble like some other famous sites. The base of the walls surrounding the Pantheon are over 20 feet thick to support the weight of the huge dome atop it.

    The very back of the Pantheon has alcoves that look to have once housed statues. Now though, all the attention is at the front, and we saw hardly anybody back here.

    Just down the corner from the Pantheon is Santa Maria sopra Minerva, which houses a Michelangelo sculpture called Christ bearing the Cross. The statue I showed earlier of Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius by Bernini was supposed to have been inspired by the pose of Christ. It may not look like much from the outside...

    ...but inside it looks pretty amazing.

    Our timing was poor though. Mass was being held and the entire front half of the church was closed to visitors. We'll have to try again later. Good thing our hotel is so close.

    Our last site of the day is Piazza Navona, home of the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Designed by Bernini, yes that same Bernini was saw earlier at the Borghese Gallery. Surrounding the Egyptian obelisk are four river gods: the Nile representing Africa, the Danube representing Europe, the Ganges representing Asia, and the Río de la Plata representing the Americas.

    This fountain is also the fourth stop on the Path of Illumination from the Dan Brown book Angels & Demons. This fourth altar of science of course represents Water.

    I remember when we were here 6 years ago, Theresa had what she described as the best strawberry gelato ever at a shop just behind here. We've got to eat dinner first though, so we walk back to the hotel.

    But first we see Fountain of Neptune, showing Neptune battling an octopus.

    A quick stop at the hotel, then we were ready to head out to dinner. The front desk again recommended the place around the corner for pizza, so we went there. This time, it was an enjoyable experience. We sat outside by the walkway watching people walking up and down the street. The sun was just setting and the sky was a magical blue. Our table was lit by candlelight and just a few yards away was an accordion player playing classic Italian love songs. I demanded Theresa hold my hand and make this romantic.

    Seeing as how two different people recommended it, we both ordered pizza. Mine was smoked beef, Parmesan plus one other cheese. I couldn’t tell from the menu, but mine had no tomato sauce. It was good pizza but not great. T’s had tomato sauce, plus green olives, asparagus, boiled egg slices, and prosciutto. Her favorite part was the egg slices, and she picked off the prosciutto and gave it to me. That improved the taste of mine, and it was much better. She followed that up with an even better idea. On the table was olive oil and balsamic vinegar. She poured the balsamic on her plate and dipped her crust in it. Oh yes, now that’s how to really make this tasty.

    It was a beautiful night and we both really enjoyed ourselves. We commented on the people walking up and down the street, wondering why some of the women would wear stiletto heels in the cobblestone streets. All the people stopping by our table selling roses, or light up gadgets, or picture prints were successfully ignored without much trouble. T’s getting pretty good at sending off the “Don’t bother me, there’s no way I’m buying anything” vibe. Our bill was 24.50 Euro for the two pizzas and bottled water, including the 2 Euro table charge. Much better than dinner last night and half the price.

    Just around the corner, once again we stopped for gelato. It wasn’t as crazy as it was last night, but it was still pretty crazy. There was still pushing and shoving to get to the counter to get your gelato. The guy scooping seemed to be making fun of some people’s orders. You can get 2-3 flavors on each cone, and some people were getting things like nutella and melon, or white chocolate and lemon. He’d shake his head and tell the other guy scooping and he’d shake his head too. When he offered whipped cream on top and they said yes, he’d be like “Sure, why not. It’s already a mess, why not put whipped cream on it.”

    I got nutella, chocolate and crème and before I even got out the door, it was finding its way down my hand. T decided on a coconut and chocolate chip, but didn’t think the coconut was as good as last night, too sweet, and scooped it onto the top of mine. Wow, four flavors for me tonight.

    After finishing mine without spilling any on my clothes, which Theresa can’t claim, we walked back to the hotel.

    Neither of us were tired, so we decided to watch the movie Angels & Demons since tomorrow we’re going to see the Vatican. It’s now 3:30am and Theresa’s still awake beside me reading. Our sleep schedule is really going to be off now. We set the alarm for noon tomorrow. We’ll see if we wake up before then or not.

  5. #5

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    Tacoma, Washington, United States

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    I am loving this trip report! My husband and I are going to Europe for the first time in May, and I need all the info I can get! You two are adorable! Thank you for spending the time to write it!

  6. #6

    • Joe Flowers
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    Dec 2009
    Redondo Beach, CA

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    Today we're spending most of our time at the smallest country in the world, the Vatican, population 770.

    Here's all the places we went so you can follow along below.

    Last night didn’t go exactly as planned. T still didn’t go to sleep for a while, and I was just about finished with my Angels & Demons book. I finished it and turned the lights out at 4:50am. Tomorrow morning is going to come quick.

    Theresa shook me awake after the alarm went off at noon. We’re never going to be awake early enough for breakfast here. We got ready, had some fruit, then left for the Vatican. We had researched taking a bus, but T seems to be getting sick from them, so instead I convinced her to walk it. The walk wasn’t bad at all. Maybe a mile or so, and it was overcast, so we didn’t even get that hot. We walked along the river and crossed at a bridge to see the long road leading up to the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.

    Along the river were fun art and book stands.

    We could have done a bicycle tour?!?

    Our reservation was for 2:30pm for the museum, so we stopped at a total tourist trap for lunch. I wasn't impressed with their offerings, but they had what Theresa was feeling like, so that’s where we ate. I got hot dogs (2 links with no buns) and a small plate of fries for 10 Euro. Theresa got a plate of cold pasta salad for 12 Euro then two tiny pieces of salmon with no sides for 15 Euro. Add a 1 Euro table fee and our quick lunch stop was 38 Euro! She's an expensive date!

    After lunch, we continued around the walls of the Vatican to the entrance. It was really busy and crowded with lots of people selling things on the sidewalk. Yes, it’s illegal here so everyone has their items on a small bed sheet. If they see a policeman coming, they grab the corners and start walking the other way. It was interesting to see a policeman walk by because one vendor starts wrapping everything up, and the rest follow. But as soon as the policeman passes, right behind their backs, sometime just 20 feet away, they are setting up shop again.

    The other thing people were hawking was guided tours of the Vatican. We got stuck at a crosswalk and heard someone’s entire spiel about super long lines, needing to buy tickets too, secret entrances, and more. We already made reservations online and get to use the same line as them, so we weren’t too interested.

    Arriving at the museum entrance, there were two lines open. One for people waiting for regular tickets (which was really long and stretched a few hundred yards), the other for group reservations. There was a third line that was for individuals who made reservations online but closed off, but we were able to go in the group reservation line and save quite a bit of time. Actually there wasn’t anyone checking to make sure you were with a group or had online reservations, and anyone could have just walked in that shorter line with a tour group.

    We got through security and picked up our online tickets without any problems. I jumped in the line to get an audio guide (7 Euro here), and we continued into the first courtyard. There wasn’t much written about the courtyard and the audio guide didn’t say anything, so we spent a few minutes orienting ourselves to the map, then continued.

    The first hall we saw had a bunch of marble busts. I don’t remember anything particularly remarkable about them. One thing we did notice though was that it was really starting to feel crowded.

    The windows were open and we had a good view into the city.

    This was a giant bath carved from a single piece of stone that was used by Emperor Nero. The floor also had an interesting mosaic.

    Surrounding the room were statues of various gods and heroes.

    Including my favorite, Heracles.

    We continued through an Egyptian section, seeing various sarcophagus and temple decorations.

    Some interesting statues here.

    In the back of this next room is a copy of the greek discus thrower.

    At this point, we were really feeling like cattle. Everyone is just shuffling along and no one can really stop to look at anything because they’d cause a traffic jam behind them. Think the section of Adventureland at Disneyland but much much worse. T likened it to being at Disney World on New Years Eve. This part of the museum was not enjoyable. Even worse was when the entire hall funneled down into two small doors that people had to squeeze through.

    The map room.

    Like everyone else, we came to a halt while we waited to get inside the Sistene chapel.

    Looking out the window towards the basilica dome.

    After 15 minutes or so, we were at the bottom of the staircase and ready to enter the chapel, both dressed appropriately of course. No short shorts or bare shoulders here. Photos and video are specifically forbidden inside here, so I didn’t take any. They actually had guards walking up and down the chapel, winding in and out of people trying to stop them. Of course they didn’t catch everyone. I remember seeing a guy with his ipad at waist level just pointing it up and all around, while the glow of the screen on his shirt totally gave away what he was doing. None of these photos inside the chapel are mine.

    As we entered, we hugged the left wall and as luck would have it, someone got up from a bench just as we got there. There was only enough room for Theresa though, so she sat while I prepared our Rick Steves’ audio guide. After 5-10 minutes or so, one of the groups beside T stood up and I had a place to sit. We listened to the full thirty minute guide to the room and learned lots of interesting things, like Michelangelo didn’t really want to work on the chapel, but was finally convinced by the pope. Other artists did the lower section of the walls before Michelangelo started. It took him 3 years on a 6 story structure to paint the ceiling, and he wasn’t lying on his back, he was standing up. He painted on wet plaster, so the paints would be affixed inside the plaster and not just on top. If he worked a section and didn’t like it, his assistants would scrape it off and he’d start again.

    The ceiling tells of the creation of man and leads up to the flood. From the left to the right, we see in panel 1, Separating the light from the darkness, Creation of Sun Moon Stars, Separation of Land and Water, and the Creation of Adam.

    The creation of Adam is the centerpiece of the ceiling.

    Continuing across the ceiling is the Creation of Eve, Temptation and Expulsion from the Garden, Sacrifice of Noah, The Great Flood, Drunkenness of Noah. Kind of a strange way to end the ceiling with Noah being drunk.

    The huge image behind the altar was also painted by Michelangelo, but it was done 30 years later when he was in his 60s. I can’t imagine someone from the 1500s in their 60s climbing a 6 story wooden structure and taking on a project like this. Also we learned that in order to paint this massive wall, they destroyed the symmetry of the original chapel. Before, there were windows on all four walls of the chapel. You can see them on the wall opposite the altar in a photo above. You can see the windows, though they’ve been covered. On the altar side though, they’re completely bricked up and plastered over, to create the huge smooth surface for this masterpiece.

    We heard all sort of interesting points about the giant painting. Christ is at the top at the last judgement. Those on his right are ascending to heaven. At the bottom, the dead in Christ are rising up, though some angels are having to wrestle with underground monsters to get their bodies. Also included are various saints, who bear marks on their body from how they were killed. On Christ’s left though is much more drama. These are the people being cast into Hell. Christ has his right arm raised in a threatening way, and the people are cowering in fear. Demons are dragging people down to a fiery pit, and Chiron (from greek mythology) is ferrying people to Hades.

    After listening to the Rick Steves’ guide, we then listened to the Vatican audio guide. Since we’ve got a nice comfortable seat, we might as well, right? In all, we probably spent about an hour or so inside the Sistene chapel, and it was very enjoyable. On the way out, we saw a couple people who were caught taking pictures inside. They actually have a section roped off just for them, where they go stand beside one of the guards who then leads them outside. I’ve heard they take your phone/camera and delete the photos from it and you’re done with the tour. They seem to take this pretty seriously. The only person I did see get away with it even after they were caught was an older Asian man who the guard saw taking photos, but the tour guide saw as well. She caught up with the guy before the guard could and told him to put it away. I guess the guided tour groups might get a little more leeway, but not much.

    Here's what the chapel looks like from the outside.

    The rest of the exhibits after the chapel were just a blur. They weren’t crowded at all, but having seen the chapel, we weren’t interested in much more. There was a giant tribal headdress.

    So you've got to pose in front of it.

    Exiting the museum there was a cool staircase, which looks awesome from the top.

    And even better from the bottom.

    Even though it was a zoo, it was a fun time at the museum. We've got to get over to St Peter's Basilica pretty quick before it closes. We spent a lot more time here than we were planning inside the Sistine chapel.

    In the square, we were greeted by a ton of chairs, and the whole center is blocked off. Guess I won't be able to make my way to the obelisk at the center and find the 2nd clue leading to the Path of Illumination from the Dan Brown book Angels & Demons.

    Our first stop of course was "security". The line wasn’t too bad, only 10 minutes or so, but of course there were still people who felt they needed to cut the line and walk right up in front of everyone. No problems getting through security because they were looking more at people instead of the xray screens.

    Posing in front of the largest church in the world.

    A giant sea of chairs.

    After a quick look-over by the guys in front making sure we weren’t wearing shorts, short skirts or bared shoulders, we were at the entrance. We fired up the Rick Steves audio guide, pulled out our headphones and the splitter and walked inside.

    These bronze doors are huge!

    The Pieta. This statue has always impressed me. The pose, the detail, everything just wows me. I had just seen a copy at Forest Lawn 8 days ago, but this one combined with the setting just overwhelms you.

    This place is massive! The largest church in the entire world. They even have lines on the floor showing other large churches and where they’d measure up in relation to St. Peters.

    We marveled at the statues lining the long hallway leading up to the altar. We admired the 7 story altar piece designed by Michelangelo and listened how he even designed the basilica.
    The last time we were here, I remember being able to walk all the way up to the altar piece. Today though, we are stopped behind the statue of St Peter, and can’t even touch his toe. We’re also blocked from the North section.

    Like the bronze gilding the altar piece? The Pantheon ceiling was previously covered with bronze, but in the 1600s, Pope Urban VIII took it and used it for the altar piece.

    Here's a 360 view of the main altar area.

    After being an accomplished sculptor and painter, Michelangelo even became an architect. Wow! He only had a few requests when asked to re-design the dome in 1547. First that he wasn’t paid, second that he’d get a bunch of laborers to do the work so he could see most of it finished in his lifetime, and third that the church would keep his original design. His design was a greek cross, with four equal arms leading from the center. The very center would be the burial place of St. Peter and to the left of it would be where St. Peter was crucified. Four equal sections such that if you drew a perfect circle around the church, it would touch all four sides. But after his death, the church decided they wanted a more traditional cross and doubled the nave side, effectively doubling the capacity of the church to 60,000 standing members.

    Here's a 360 view of the nave.

    We took a few pictures near the entrance and then were told they were closing.

    Can't forget the baby in these photos.

    Just as we exited, they shut the main entrance gate.

    Outside we saw the Swiss Guards, who’s uniforms were also designed by Michelangelo (not his best work).

    We passed in front of the Castle of the Angels, featured in Angels & Demons, but more famous for being the burial site of the roman emperor Hadrian. We didn't get to go inside
    Here we saw a policeman who was actually chasing after some of the sidewalk vendors. There was one vendor who was in the middle of a transaction with a customer who was really lagging behind. The customer had received his item but was fumbling with his money. The vendor was torn between waiting for the money and booking it with the rest of the vendors from the policeman. Eventually he chose the later. We couldn’t see if anyone got caught.

    Another over mile long walk back to the hotel where we hung out until 8:30pm then went out to dinner.

    We asked the front desk if there was a place close that served lasagna. We’re still looking for that perfect lasagna we had when we were here 6 years ago. They recommended a place a little off the beaten path near the Pantheon, and called ahead to the restaurant to make sure they were serving it tonight. We arrived and when we placed our order, the waiter asked if we had come from the Hotel Nazionale. We said yes, and he flipped his pad to a new page and wrote something else down. I wonder if they give commissions to places who recommend them.

    Theresa ordered bruschetta and lasagna, while I got a balsamic filet and potatoes. The bruschetta had tomatoes that were too green, but I tried a few bites anyway. I guess I don’t mind tomatoes so much anymore. They did bring out balsamic with the bruschetta, which made the bread basket they brought so much better. When I was asked how I liked my steak, I said “Rare”. The waiter replied “Red?” Sure, red sounds good to me. And when it did come, it was exactly how I like it. Barely brown on the outside, and red almost the entire way though. Theresa didn’t enjoy the lasagna though. It was entirely too cheesy and tomatoey for her liking. She ended up scraping off half the good stuff and just eating the pasta with the barest amount of sauce. Dinner was pretty good tonight for me though.

    On the way back, we swung by the Pantheon. It’s great being so close to all these cool sites.

    We got a few nighttime shots of it, plus a couple of us together.

    The Gelatari is on the way home, so you know we’re going to stop.

    The guys here have really got their craft down. Once they scoop gelato or whipped cream, they sling the scoop back into the ice cream. Here he's tossing the whipped cream scoop into the bowl from a few feet away.

    Getting my tasty cone.

    Theresa didn’t get anything, and I just got a small chocolate and caramel.

    Back up at the hotel we chilled for a while and got to bed by 1am. Here's the view looking out our window to the square in front of Parliament.

    We’re really going to try hard to get up early tomorrow to see the Coliseum and a few other places. Let's see what happens.

  7. #7

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    Auburn, WA

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    I am glad you enjoyed Rome. I was in Rome, Florence and Venice in March if 2010. I also went to the Vatican, London, Munich, Fussen, Oberamergau, Triberg, Salzburg, Zurich

  8. #8

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    About 350 miles away from Disneyland Resort Paris and 6000 miles away from Disneyland California

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    I was browsing through your pictures and was wondering that they have pretzels in Rome! Until I saw that this was Düsseldorf, how sad you didn't get to see anything from the city. Great trip report and congratulations on your son. Greetings from Germany!
    Disneyland Resort Paris: | 1999 | 2001 | 2002 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 (2 visits) | 2008 | 2009 (2 visits) | 2010 | 2012 | 2013 |
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    Disney Cruise Line: | 2012 |

  9. #9

    • Joe Flowers
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    Dec 2009
    Redondo Beach, CA

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    Quote Originally Posted by KiMcHeEfOrLiFe View Post
    Wow, this report has been amazing so far! I've never been out of the U.S. before (except Hawaii but that doesn't count), so it's quite interesting to see what it's like being in another country. I'm learning quite a lot! I can't wait to see the rest of your Euro Trip! Also, congratulations once again! Ian is just so dang adorable D:
    And he just keeps getting cuter and cuter! He's started smiling really big now when he sees you and you just have to go "awwww".

    Quote Originally Posted by Kateyandstitch View Post
    I am loving this trip report! My husband and I are going to Europe for the first time in May, and I need all the info I can get! You two are adorable! Thank you for spending the time to write it!
    I hope you have a great time! My biggest tip is get the international data plan for your phone. Having GPS and internet capability when you're in the middle of a foreign place gives you so much more confidence that you can go anywhere and find your way back.

    Quote Originally Posted by brendonb28 View Post
    I am glad you enjoyed Rome. I was in Rome, Florence and Venice in March if 2010. I also went to the Vatican, London, Munich, Fussen, Oberamergau, Triberg, Salzburg, Zurich
    Theresa and I did something similar back in 2007. We took an 18 day bus trip all over and went to London, Holland, Germany, Austria, Venice, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Switzerland, and Paris (I know, I know, mixing cities and countries). For our first trip there, I wouldn't have done it any other way. We got to see the highlights of a bunch of cities with a guide who figured out the transportation, lodging, and tickets to all the cool things. After that 18 day trip, we could then decide where we wanted to spend a lot longer the next time we went.

    Quote Originally Posted by Camthalio View Post
    I was browsing through your pictures and was wondering that they have pretzels in Rome! Until I saw that this was Düsseldorf, how sad you didn't get to see anything from the city. Great trip report and congratulations on your son. Greetings from Germany!
    You are correct in that I don't think I ever saw a pretzel in Rome.
    I really was wishing we could have explored Germany. And not just the sights but also the food! The last time we were there in 2007 I found this amazing chocolate bar with bits of honey in it. I haven't been able to find it anywhere since and I was really hoping to locate it again. Maybe on our next trip we'll have better luck!

    Time for our last full day in Rome!

  10. #10

    • Joe Flowers
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    Dec 2009
    Redondo Beach, CA

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    Today we're going to the Colosseum and anything else we happen to squeeze in.

    Here's a look at the places we'll be visiting.

    Surprise! We woke up at a decent time today! Well, decent meaning we set the alarm for 10am, then rolled out of bed at 10:45am. Not a bad start to the morning. A quick banana for me and nectarine for T and we’re out the door.

    Today we’re going to the Colosseum plus whatever else we might be able to squeeze in. We’ve had these Roma passes for the past two days and only used them for one 1 mile bus ride. We could take a bus down to the Colosseum, but given how they’ve made Theresa feel so far, we’re going to walk it. I looked it up later and it turns out it was a 1.1 mile walk. It was fun seeing the interesting sites along the way.

    We did try to keep to the shade and took a few stops for water breaks, but eventually we made it.

    The line at the Colosseum was ridiculous. Imagine the line stretching ¼ of the way around the Colosseum, and snaking on itself in a few more places. It was at least 6 people wide, so I won’t even guess how long of a wait it was. Luckily because of the Roma pass, we get to bypass that line and go in a special entrance! It’s totally worth it to us just for that! In less than 5 minutes we were inside and starting up the Rick Steves’ audio guide.

    The view from the Emperor's Box inside the Colosseum. It was hard to believe that this whole place was built in only 8 years back in 72 A.D.

    Can you imagine 50,000 screaming fans here and all the battles they witnessed? It was written that 9000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games.

    From here, you can get a good look at the floor of the Colosseum. Now it’s not covered and you can see into the holding pits that were underneath the floor. In its day, this was covered with wood and 8 inches of sand

    Circling the lowest level, we arrived in the center at the Vestal Virgin's box, looking back towards the Emperor's box. I took a 360 view of the entire Colosseum from this box. Click here or on the photo below to see it.

    We climbed some very steep steps on the west side up to the 2nd level and the cheap seats. Again we paused in the shade to listen to the audio guide, then continued out to see the center. T isn’t enjoying this Italian sunshine, so we stayed in the shade as much as possible. When the guide suggested we walk around the 2nd level, T found a place to sit, while I walked it and took a few photos.

    Originally called the Amphitheatrum Flavium, because it was built by the emperors from the Flavian dynasty.

    Looking over to the Arch of Constantine, erected to celebrate a battle won in 312 A.D.

    And looking towards the Temple of Venus and Roma.

    Looking over the Colosseum from the highest point you can climb.

    I joined back up with Theresa a short time later. Our entrance ticket gets us into the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palantine Hill, but since we only had a light breakfast, T needed to eat something. On the way down, I saw this pedestal and had to get a classic photo on top of it.

    We had a fun time at the Colosseum this time. It was great to explore at our own pace. Maybe next time we'll upgrade and get the tour that takes you to the floor level.

    The Rick Steves’ guidebook suggests two different places for dining near the Colosseum, both near our next stop, the St. Peter in Chains church. We selected the sit down place for lunch. Theresa was really feeling like vegetables (why I don’t know, they’re yucky), so she asked for minestrone soup. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available today, but our waiter suggested the other soup and Theresa agreed to that plus a side of potatoes.
    T didn’t like her soup. It was a chick-pea soup with tons of chick-peas, some noodles, and no vegetables at all. She started picking the chick-peas out and eating just the noodles, but gave up after a while.

    I ordered the spaghetti carbanara, which is pig cheek, eggs, and cheese. I have to say it was probably tastier than the carbanara I had a couple nights ago for dinner.

    Our next stop is the St Peter in Chains church. I’d wanted to go here after learning that it housed Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. We just saw a copy at Forest Lawn a little over a week before, but why see a copy when you can see the original! The map we have from the hotel isn’t that detailed and we actually walked past it a block or so before realizing it then turning around. No wonder either. Look at the front of this place. It doesn’t look much like a church to me..

    We walked up to the doors and saw they weren’t going to open until 3pm today. It’s 2:30 now, but there’s benches and shade, so we decided to wait it out. While waiting, we looked over our all the places we can go at our next stop in Florence and looked at ideas for dinner tonight.

    2:55 rolls around and there’s starting to be a bit of a line in front of the doors. People start leaving the benches to stand in the line, but we’re in no rush. As it turns out, that 3pm was not quite correct. It came and went and people started getting more ansy. Finally at 3:15pm the doors open and the masses enter. We wait a couple more minutes to avoid the rush then head inside.

    The inside looks quite a bit different from the outside.

    This church has some darker themes. A grim reaper.

    And skeletons supporting a bust.

    Inside the reliquary are what the church is named after, the chains of St. Peter. Supposedly, these were the chains that bound Peter when he was imprisoned in Rome. Hard to believe, but maybe it’s one of those things you have to take on faith.

    Exploring further, we figured out why they were 15 minutes late opening. Turns out, there is a film crew from the Discovery Channel shooting a show about Michelangelo. They’ve got their lights and cameras all over the place surrounding Moses.

    They’re trying to film sweeping shots, but now that they’ve let the tourists in, people keep taking pictures and using flash, which messes up their video shots of it. They keep repeating No Flash, Please No Flash, but people either don’t know how to use their cameras or don’t care. They’re also in the way of everyone’s shot with their equipment, so I don’t think they were getting much sympathy.

    I was able to shoot around them by having a little patience, and got some decent shots with no one in them. Now I’ll have to look out for the Discovery Channel Michelangelo special to see what they have to say about him.

    Not as impressive as Michelangelo's David, but still interesting.

    After the church, we walked north to the National Museum of Rome. This was a stop Theresa picked out because of what they have in their basement. Here we used the second “free” entry of our Roma Pass. Compared to the Vatican yesterday, this place is dead. It’s awesome!

    We grabbed a museum map and headed downstairs to one of the finest Roman coin collections around. Seriously, they have coins all the way back to the beginning of Rome and almost every year up to the present. We start in early Rome with a non standard coin of bronze that was only valued on the weight. Everyone had scales to see how much it was worth. Also these things were pretty large, so just a few would fill your pockets.

    There were at least 60 such display cases containing coins like this. Each had a write-up about the coins from that period.

    We learned how the various emperors introduced silver then gold, then different denominations, purities, etc to control the market of coins. It was quite an in depth guide speaking about each of the coins from the times. The stamps on the coins were interesting too. T liked the horses and chariots.

    She found one of Hercules for me from 80 A.D.

    I really enjoyed seeing these coins showing old buildings. I recognize the Colosseum in there.

    So where did this huge collection of coins come from? Quite a few came from Castle Vicarello 23 miles north. While renovating the bath complex there in 1852, the well leading to the hot springs was discovered to be filled with metal coins. The deepest layers contained bronze coins dating back to 800 B.C. Progressing upward, newer coins were found.

    The Vatican also had it's own minted coins.

    Finding a little bit of Disney in everything, Theresa suggested this pope looked a bit like Buzz Lightyear.

    Simba and Nala?

    We kept seeing a progression in the design and symmetry of the coin. The first coins were bits of metal with a stamp somewhere on the face, usually off center. These later ones were more detailed images and better symmetry. I joked with Theresa that the final panel would say something like “These reproductions give you an idea of the coins used…..” We had that trick played on us in a castle in Germany on a previous trip. We walked around a whole castle, amazed at the beauty and opulence, and then in the final room it showed pictures of the castle after it had been bombed to pieces in the war and then restored in the 60s to what you see today.

    We walked quickly through the rest of the levels of the museum. There were lots of statues here of various gods, heroes, and nobles. A statue of a modest Aphrodite.

    Theresa in front of a very old calendar and rules of what you were allowed to do on each day.

    Again finding Disney everywhere, The Lion King.

    And this girl with the long hair must be Rapunzel.

    I liked this guy's armor.

    One of the best early Roman copies of the Greek Discuss thrower.

    One of the most detailed sarcophagus I've seen.

    There were two other things I was hoping to see, but I knew I’d probably only get a chance to see one. Either the Ecstasy of St Teresa by Bernini or Christ Bearing the Cross by Michelangelo. Checking the guide book, the St Teresa church closes at 6pm and it’s 5:55pm now. No chance of making that one, so we need to walk back to a church near the Pantheon.

    Having not eaten much at lunch, again (it’s becoming a theme with her), we saw a McDonalds while we were walking and stopped in. They had a 1 Euro menu that includes a cheeseburger. We each got a cheeseburger, and I got a 1 Euro milkshake. They serve some interesting things here like shrimp and pizza. I was tempted to try the pizza, but we’ll be doing something else for dinner I’m sure.

    Theresa saying "This is not all for me!"

    After the snack, we continued our walk to the church.
    Now we’re starting to get a little tighter on time. The church closes at 7pm. T was speed walking to get us there, and she felt the baby flip a few times. We ended up getting there at 6:50pm, just in time to go inside.

    Again, not that detailed from the front.

    Though inside it looks very different.

    Up near the altar.

    It was an interesting statue I guess. Like the audio guide said, the statue by Bernini in the Borghese museum of Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius fleeing Rome was posed in a similar way.

    We looked around the rest of the church for a bit then headed to the other supermarket for some more snacks. T got some fruit and drinks, while I got cheese and salami and bread. We snacked and read just a little bit when we got back to the room, and then by 9pm we left for dinner. We’ve adjusted to that part pretty well I guess of eating super late.

    Just behind the Pantheon is a restaurant recommended by Rick Steves called Miscellania. Their prices were pretty decent, and they have a fantastic location. I asked for a polenta with sausages, but they were out. Instead I had Ravioli, which was just okay.

    T saw they had a make-your-own salad, and tried to tell the waiter what she wanted. Eventually though it just turned into pointing at the ingredient somewhere else on the menu since she didn’t know the Italian name for certain things. She wanted a salad with lettuce, red lettuce, carrots, corn, egg, avocado and black olives, but they were out of avocado and gave her walnuts instead of olives. Guess she wasn’t pointing good enough.
    A few musicians came by to play for the tables and ask for tips. One guy had his guitar and played Beatles music, another couple had a guy screeching away on a violin while she sang. Theresa said neither of them improved upon the silence. The servers did a pretty good job of keeping them from bugging the tables, and shooed them away when they were done. They were free to get people to come give them tips voluntarily, but not to go table to table asking for money.

    After dinner, I suggested walking to Piazza Navona to the four rivers fountain to end our night with some gelato.

    It was here that T had the “best strawberry gelato ever” about 6 years ago. I was hoping it would still be as good. I ordered one scoop in a cup, and we walked to a bench to try it. T had one bite and said it just tasted like sugar. Either they changed the recipe or her tastes have changed since the last time we were here. Either way, I ate a little more and then tossed it.

    We walked around the two fountains, taking pictures and thinking of the fun time we had in Rome.

    On the walk back to the hotel Theresa asked me how I liked the first part of our trip. I told her I had more fun that I thought I would. I wasn’t sure how she’d do with all the walking and heat and didn't know how much we'd get to see. But she was a trooper and we were able to get through quite a bit. I think we saw just about everything we intended to see, so I’m leaving here satisfied.

    Tomorrow we board a train to Florence!

  11. #11

    • Boat shoes all day long
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Santa Cruz, California, United States

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    Great album - I am stoked for our trip this coming May!
    Ah, how strange! The molecules are so active now!

  12. #12

    • Joe Flowers
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Redondo Beach, CA

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    The next day, Theresa and I headed up to Florence Italy.
    I've started another MC thread and you can read all about it here: Joe's summer trip to Florence Italy

  13. #13

    • World Traveler
    • Offline

    Join Date
    May 2005
    Aventura, FL

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    Great trip report! It reminded me of my own trip to Italy, but you saw so much more.

  14. #14

    • Joe Flowers
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Redondo Beach, CA

    Re: Joe's summer trip to Rome Italy

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeland View Post
    Great trip report! It reminded me of my own trip to Italy, but you saw so much more.
    Thanks mikeland!
    Sometimes I wish we'd take it slower, but then who knows when we'd come back again. Might as well cram as much in as possible.
    Now those tropical island vacations, those are the best ones to relax at.

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