|Legions before me have written of Legendary Roma--with far, far more knowledge than I will ever have. So, it is a very daunting task to try to provide
something new and different for my fellow travelers--those on the road and those in armchairs. Perhaps a few pictures and a few experiences and
observations will serve to whet appetites or give birth to an idea not already in the planning. If so, then the goal has been achieved.
|This was our third visit to Rome and, other than knowing where many of the main sites were, I felt as new, as
excited, as overwhelmed, as awestruck as I did the very first time we arrived in this city that is unlike any
other city in the world. Here is ground trod by Caesar, Paul, Peter, Mark Anthony, Pompey, Sulla, Cato,
ancient Etruscans and thousands of legions marching to conquer the known world. Here are monuments,
statues, grand staircases and visions left by Michelangelo. Here are hundreds of cats roaming the ruins left
by the greatest of civilizations, hiding in the crevices where assassins lay in wait for Julius Caesar--maybe on
the ides of March. Here is where every building hides buried treasure and underground windows into the
centuries and millenniums past. Here is the testimony to the fragility and vulnerabilities of great civilizations.
|After a prolonged arrivederci with Nico and family and lots of hugs between Sofia and Casey, we drove one
last time (for this trip) through the gates of Sant' Antonio. There is always a sense of sadness when we do
this--for leaving wonderful Sant' Antonio and for knowing the loveliness of Tuscany is once again behind
us--until we return.
|The drive to Rome was uneventful and, because we were arriving on Saturday, the excursion into the
city to return our car was easily accomplished--we have returned cars midday during the week, not a
fun thing to do--so, when driving, plan your arrival carefully!
We, then, had a taxi take us and our luggage to the apartment we had rented for the week. The
apartment was nice--not elegant but comfortable, Roman, well-equipped, well-located (right off Via Giulia
not too far from the Tiber) and quiet--even though a wine bar was on the ground floor next door to us.
Since the apartment was on the first and second floor, we had no problem with this.
|Vicolo delle Palle Apartment
|We rented through
and were pleased
with the company
and service. Stefano
and Isla, the agents,
work hard to meet
clients' needs and
are always available
for help and
are really very nice
and warm people!
|This was the first time we rented an apartment in Rome and we loved it. It was
exceedingly nice to have a "home" to return to after exhausting days of
exploration--food in the frig, space to move around, privacy, etc. We enjoyed it
much, much more than the hotels we stayed in previously--the Westin Excelsior
and the Hotel Internazionale. No more Rome hotels! Apartment life is the only way!
|After unpacking and settling in a little, we went walking--the only way to see Rome. Of course, we ended in Piazza Navona after
having lunch at one of the small restaurants ringing the Campo dei Fiori. This is a wonderful location for lunch as you can sit and
watch the frenzy of the daily market in the piazza. For us, it was immediate immersion into Roma--a great start for our week!
|Casey and Marc were thoroughly entranced and captivated, becoming immediately convinced that Rome has the best pizza in the known universe--and this
wasn't even a really good restaurant--but then, in Rome, it is hard to find a truly bad restaurant.
|PIAZZA NAVONA was what it always is--
wonderful! One of the great people watching
places of the world. Performers, vendors,
artists, flashbulbs, tourists, Romans --the
ballet of people leisurely strolling or rushing
through this most famous of baroque
piazzas. Is there a better place to stake out a
café table and enjoy a pick-me up espresso,
a wonderful gelato, hot chocolate as thick
and gooey as the richest pudding or an
overpriced but worth it lunch?
|Is it possible to come to Rome and leave without a picture of someone standing in front of
Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi? Have you ever wondered what a metallic robotic statue
makes in a day? Enough to give up a career? And the toy store at the far end?--a dangerous
place to enter with a 6 year old in tow! Can you see it all now? Are you transported? I am.
|Dinner at Pierluigi was a great
first night--maybe because our
waiter was so delightfully nice
and seemed to really enjoy
Casey (not an unusual
restaurant experience as he
makes friends with every
waiter, anywhere.) We had
excellent sole, meat and
pastas--well-prepared and very
|Dining in Rome is a very special part of
being in this city. Food is, basically, just
somewhat different from other Italian
regions. As are all things Roman, it is
unique, polished and different--It IS the
|The rest of our time in Rome, we did what tourists do: We came, we saw, we did not conquer. A life time could and is spent in this city of cities without really
ever knowing it fully. Because we had Casey and Marc, we did a lot of revisiting places we have been before, but, there is not a place in Rome that can not be
seen many times without learning and seeing new things with each exposure. This time I finally went up the Palatine Hill to view the forum and Colosseum. What
a new and different perspective to see the whole laid out before you. Save time to just wander around up here--trying to see the ghosts and dramas that played
out here. The decaying remains of the imperial residences give a sense of the megalomania of the later Caesars. This is the hill where tradition and now
archeology contend was the beginning of Rome in about the ninth century BC.
THE CAPITOLINE HILL
|We wandered Rome on foot, wearing poor little Casey out--as well as ourselves--but saw many things, far more than mentioned here. One day Marc took
Casey to the Museo dei Bambini which is a hands-on educational and science museum for children. Casey absolutely loved it--the highlight of Rome for him.
It's right by the Piazza del Popolo. As far as we are concerned, this is a must for children who deserve a break from monuments, cathedrals, lots of steps,
ruins, and museums. The web link gives more information--particularly about opening times and possible need for reservations. We did call and make
arrangements; however, Marc said that once they were there it seemed as if they weren't needed. Also, the site indicates the stay is 1 1/2 hours but there
was no problem with a longer stay--as long as you don't run up against closing times, which are enforced. The other place Casey truly enjoyed was Piazza
Navona which to him was one big circus.
|One day we took the Archeobus to VIA APPIA ANTICA and walked down the ancient road, past catacombs and tombs, imagining the road filled with
merchants, travelers, togas and wanderers 20 centuries ago. We visited the Basilica and Catacombe di San Sebastiano which was interesting; however, we
had previously visited the Catacombe di San Callisto and, if memory serves me right, we found those ones more interesting. That may be because this time
49 high school students were allowed to join what would have been a nice group of 10, making it difficult to hear and move from place to place.
As we continued walking, we took time to visit the Tomba di Cecilia Metella. The exterior had appeared so fascinating to us in the past that we thought the
interior would be interesting to explore, but it really wasn't much. Advice: Admire the outside, envision what it might have been two millennium ago, how
imposing it must have seemed and then keep on going. Its mystic lies in the unknown and the imagined.
As you walk this old, old road, ancient stones speak to you of a time when chariots raced, armies marched, persecuted fled and untold dramas played out
along the way. Again we find ourselves in awe of the sophisticated skills, perseverance, knowledge and corresponding ignorance of a civilization that, once
upon a time, owned the world. And--now we walk and wonder and are reminded that there is much to be learned from that story.
|Currently there are few places to eat along Via Appia Antica; however, there are plans to expand many park
services and so more will become available. We did find a small place that had a pleasant little garden area
in the back, complete with a litter of baby kittens. Casey was delighted, which was good as up to this point
he hadn't been overwhelmed with the day and the journey back in time. The restaurant doesn't look overly
inviting from the road but, we found it to be a relaxing and pleasant interlude-I believe it has giardino (garden)
in its name--but then, maybe not.
Be aware that there is much more to the Appia Antica Park than the road. These areas are currently being
developed into a protected area by the park and regional authorities. There is "the area of the aqueducts"
with remains of incredible Roman water systems (although not to be compared with the Pont du Gard in
Provence, France). There is a natural landscape and wildlife area, now protected, which goes back to the
Roman campagna (countryside) and there are a multitude of archaeological sites within the park
boundaries. In time, accessing these points of interest will become possible or easier.
|Tip: We would recommend avoiding the Archeobus as we
found it to be very unsatisfactory. Waits were very long when
wanting to "hop" back on and some of the guides were
exceedingly rude and non-communicative. But--we have
heard that other people have found it to work well--so, you
may want to take your chances.
Our last bus broke down and we waited an hour for the
company to send a new one--not a good thing when the
distance was not very great at all. In the future, we will hire a
private guide for this excursion and recommend this if your
wallet can afford it.
|We did not go to the BATHS of CARACALLA this time but, I do recommend that a traveler go there if never having been. These are right outside the beginning of
the Appia Antica Park and are quite phenomenal. Like many of the ruins left to us, these begin to make it possible to grasp the magnitude of the destructive
self-importance assumed by the later rulers of Rome. In 1990, the Baths of Caracalla were the location for the first and best of the Three Tenors-Carreras,
Domingo and Pavarotti--concerts.
|This trip we made arrangements to take the SCAVI TOUR (excavation) under the Basilica di San Pietro (St. Peter's). Many travelers never hear of this
opportunity. This is probably good as only a few more than a hundred people a day-in groups of 10-are allowed to take this tour and these groups are divided
among the world's languages. But--if you are interested and think you would like this, I urge you to follow through on your interest as it is an incredible
journey, unique to anything else you will do in Rome or all of Italy. This tour leads you down under St. Peter's Basilica to a time in history rarely experienced. As
you travel to the Christian dividing time line of BC/AD, you reach a narrow roadway lined with tombs from ancient Rome, 2000 and more years in the past. You
actually tred the same road (which to us is a pathway), peering into still colorful family crypts with their sculptured and painted walls, astoundingly bright and
vivid after all these years. You understand how the families would come and "picnic" as they spent time with the loved ones they had lost. It is awesome!
Vatican history, tracing back to before Constantine, places the apostle Peter's burial spot here where one can see parts of the monument built by Constantine
to hold Peter's bones. Encased in special boxes, one can get a glimpse of bones convincingly designated by the Catholic Church as being those of Peter. I am
typically a skeptic when it comes to relics and such; however, the probability of these being what they are purported to be is exceedingly high. It is a very
moving, extraordinary place to find yourself--one of those experiences which lingers with you for meditation and contemplation in quiet times. Picture taking
is not allowed so I only have words to give you.
|In order to take the Scavi Tour, you must contact the Vatican ahead of time to obtain tickets. Be sure to follow
the directions exactly as given or you will not hear back from the office. Realize that sometimes it takes a
while to get a response as this is not your typical ticket agency. I do suggest, however, if several weeks pass
without hearing back, resend your request--even though the site says not to. Another point to know is-don't
bother about arriving at the Swiss Guard station early as you will not be permitted to pass through to the
Vatican property until your appointed time. One of the extra benefits of this tour is that you will actually be in
the inner grounds of the Vatican, which under other circumstances are off limits to non-Vatican persons; thus,
they are very meticulous about how and when guests enter. The guides are extremely good as would be
expected of people representing Vatican City and the Roman Church. How to Obtain Tickets
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