ITALY – Part 3

ROMA

After our gracious Airbnb host, Paolo, came to the flat, and grabbed our suitcases, we once again boarded a very nice bus for the short trip from Siena to Rome.

Rome – what can I say? Over-crowded with tourists? That probably is the understatement of this blog! Just getting a taxi from the bus station to our Airbnb was only by chance, as we managed to grab one only when someone got out!

Our taxi driver found Domus Piazza del Popolo in an alleyway that was filled with restaurants and shops and no cars allowed. Our host, Simone was there to meet us and show us how to use the ancient elevator that would take us up to the the flat on the 2nd floor.

This was a B&B. The huge dining room was a shared space where a not very good continental breakfast was available each morning. If we had decided to share a bedroom instead of taking both bedrooms, we would have had to also share the bathroom. There was only a couple in the other bedroom on the our arrival and they checked early the next morning. No one else checked in during the rest of our stay so we really did have the entire place to ourselves – just no cooking facilities.

Once settled, we needed food as we hadn’t eaten much since early morning in Siena. Simone suggested a neighborhood pizzeria that used real buffalo mozzarella from Naples on their pizza and was only a block away. We are always up for pizza and beer, and, when I saw the name, well, it just seemed the perfect place to eat!

Joyce chose Rome as part of our Italian adventure because neither of us had ever been here and we wanted to see the ‘biggies’ – The Vatican and The Coliseum. We were just one of thousands who wanted to see the same thing. (Hint: Travel to Europe’s big cities in the late Fall and Winter – not in the summer!)

Once again, the first thing we like to do when we arrive in a new city is take a free walking tour. This time we found a 6:00 pm tour through a company called Head Out. The problem was finding the meet-up location as their directions were totally confusing. Once we found our very soft-spoken tour guide and joined our large group, we began our tour at the fountain which Sophia Loren had jumped in as part of a movie. It was horribly hot and sticky, and we couldn’t hear the guide – so I just followed along and took photos.

The Roman’s liked BIG. Everything is BIG. Their monuments, their fountains, their palaces, their cathedrals, even their advertisements cover the sides of buildings!

We were hoping to see the Pantheon, but we only got to see the outside as it was closed for the day. But we got to join the throng at the Trevi Fountain. Couldn’t begin to get close enough to toss the proverbial coin in, so we probably won’t be able to return.

Next we were off to the Spanish Steps which is surrounded by very high-end couture shops such as Dior, Chanel, and Yves St. Laurent . The Steps were crowded, the shops were not.

We were told the only time to come when it wasn’t crowded was after midnight!

I loved the way this shoe store displayed its shoes on branches hanging off the walls. Also, thrilled to see that Pucci is still in business as I have always loved their choices of colors and patterns.

The next morning we were up early to tour The Vatican, its museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. We purchased a rather expensive ‘Skip The Line’ guided tour and faced our biggest mob yet! We seriously thought that if someone had yelled ‘fire’ while we were in the Vatican, hundreds, if not thousands, would have been injured or killed. It was horribly hot, everyone was sweating and not all knew how to use deodorant!

You are packed like sardines in a can. You listen to your guide through a walkie-talkie dangling from your neck with earphones you hope will work. You are rushed through the outside areas and then into the museum with its dozens and dozens of galleries. There is no stopping to actually look at the art or sculpture – this is a tour-on-the-move! Guide talks, you look and you walk – quickly.

I haven’t cropped the photos so you can see the heads of the people surrounding us. It got rather scary and I’m a bit claustrophobic especially when we had to go up and down tight flights of stairs with all these people. And just look at this opulence! Everything is gold-encrusted, carved from marble and inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones. Massive wall tapestries and ceilings hand-painted by The Masters. It’s really an overwhelming the display of the wealth, power and influence of the Catholic Church – even when moving through it at warp-speed.

We were allowed 10-minutes in the Sistine Chapel and you could either fight for a seat along the walls to sit and look up or were herded into a marked-off center section where you stood and looked up. No photos were allowed – but by then I was so upset with the whole thing that I turned my phone on and took this photo – just ignore my forehead as I was hiding the phone in my lap and photographing upside down!


We stumbled out of the Sistine Chapel and into the massive St. Peter’s Basilica which was so big it didn’t seem crowded and it was so much cooler! Once again, ornate is a word that doesn’t come close to describing the walls, fixtures, ceilings or altars. But we could get close enough to take a good photo of Michelangelo’s Pieta. He was just 24 years old when he completed this amazing marble sculpture.

Mary holding her crucified son.

We walked out of the Basilica and were in the middle of St. Peter’s Square – the square that is filled with thousands whenever the Pope speaks. The chairs, I think, are for all the bishops and cardinals to sit while everyone else stands. And, just as we were leaving, we looked left and there were the Swiss Guards keeping watch over the private entrance for those who live in the Vatican.

The next day we were once again up early to tour The Colosseum. We were old hands at using the metro system by now and got to our meet-up location with time to spare – only to once again have terrible directions on where to meet and ended up missing our scheduled 8:30 am tour.

The tour company were kind enough to squeeze us into a tour leaving in 45 minutes so the day was not a loss. And while wandering around we ran into a wedding party having their photos taken with the Colosseum as a backdrop – how cool!

I could not get Russell Crowe and the movie Gladiator out of mind the entire time we walked through The Colosseum. This arena was built by the Caesars for their entertainment pleasure – including men fighting each other and wild animals to their death. Archaeologists continue to uncover more and more artifacts as there were at least 5 lower levels below the original floor. What was also nice was even though there were the same crowds of tourists, we were outside and the spaces were large enough to accomodate everyone without being crushed.

After leaving The Colosseum, we walked through the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, which was the site for all Roman civic business, several palaces, and today, ruins everywhere, some massive like this temple. Julius Caesar is also buried here.

Of course, by the time this tour concluded, 3 hot hours later, we were once again hungry . We were told by friends that we needed to eat in the Jewish Ghetto at a restaurant that serves fried artichokes.

On our walk to our restaurant of choice, Giggetto Al Portico d’Octavio (they have their very own ruins outside their front door!) we walked past another really massive building which I haven’t a clue what it is – just big!

Giggetto’s was a fun place for lunch but we both decided that fried artichokes were a one-time thing.

No matter how you cook them, artichokes are a lot of work for not much edible food. But we can say we did it!

For our main course we had a lovely mixed salad and a greasy, delicious, cheesy eggplant parmigiana with fresh bread to dip in the sauce. We had a fresh limon sorbet for dessert. You know we were tired as we didn’ take any photos of our food!

On the walk back to our B&B, we spotted a group waiting at the stop light that in my mind still says Roma….

After a much later dinner at ‘my Re restaurant’ we packed and were ready to head early the next morning to our last stop in Italy, Sorrento.

I can’t say I was sorry to leave Rome. I have read several articles on the numerous problems that popular cities are having with huge, uncontrolled numbers of tourists visiting their cities. SmarterLiving.com had this linked article on their website just yesterday about the most ‘over-loved’ cities in Europe and what ideas some of their tourist boards are considering.

Me, I’m looking forward to returning to a city by the sea.

Until next time…..

PS: Hello to all the new MyHomeOnTheRoam followers who found me thanks to good friend Debbie Campbell’s shout-out on her and hubby Michael’s great blog, SeniorNormads. Hope you enjoy the journey.

3 Replies to “ITALY – Part 3”

  1. ReAnn – loved your blog about the overrun Rome – I was in Rome on honeymoon 51 years ago – it was my all time the favorite city in the world then and no tourists – this was in the first two weeks of June ! I still would like to live there in the offseason for about three months – but not going to happen anymore – Switzerland will be my home for a while now. Enjoy your adventures – Margarethe

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  2. OMG the crowds! No way. Nor the heat. Could. Not. Do. I remember visiting the Sistine Chapel in the ’70’s and it was so empty I lay on the floor and just stared up, for what seemed a very long time. I was so enchanted and wanted to study it, as The Agony and Ecstasy has remained one of my all-time favorite books, and Michelangelo my favorite artist. I do want to return to Rome only to visit the Protestant Cemetery, to visit grave where the statue was carved by the deceased husband. The moment I saw a photo I was smitten, and must visit it in person. But never will I return when most crowded, or hot.

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