We slept until the alarm went off…the first snooze, actually, which was 6:40am. That clocked me in at about 7.5 hours, Dan at about 6. Pretty good. And my cold is just about gone so happy about that.
We had breakfast in the restaurant instead of the lounge; about the same, a few more choices. We caught an 8am shuttle to the airport and had hung out for awhile until we boarded our train about 9:40. As we were walking into the train station we saw this:
I didn’t think any of these were around anymore: a coal powered train. That smoke was hitting the roof of the walkway and drifting right into the train station.
We got into Rome about 11:30, about 20 minutes late, and to our hotel about Noon by bus.
Rome! Talk about surreal. With a founding date somewhere about 800 BC, this is the oldest city we’ve been in by about 400 years, with Trier, Germany (referred to as “the Rome of the north”), the oldest prior to today. Everywhere you look there’s a photo opportunity: lots of old, majestic buildings, and some others you’re not sure how they’re still standing. But definitely a live city. With over 4 million people, it’s the 4th largest in Europe (by city limits). We’re excited to be here and a little disappointed that we have to cover so much ground in so little time. But oh well. We’ve been known to cover a lot of ground in the past so we’ll see what we can do here.
The bus ticket we purchased from the train station was good for 100 minutes so we knew we could use that to get to St. Peter’s Square where we would pick up the museum and transit passes we’d prepaid for from Omni, a travel company. We freshened up a bit and made our way out.
The bus/tram stop is a few hundred feet away from our hotel. This is the closest we’ve ever been to a good stop – you can see it from our balcony window. It was only about a 20 minute ride to the Vatican.
One of the reasons we went with this travel pass is it combines the Roma Pass – which is transit and a bunch of attractions – with St. Peter’s, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel. We made appointments for tomorrow to do all of that so will be back for more. We were hoping to do it today but the Sistine Chapel was closed to the public (January 6 = Epiphany) and it didn’t make sense to split them up. But we had a take at least one photo while we were there, right?
This is Castel Sant’Angelo, essentially next door to the Vatican. It was started in 139 BC as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, was turned into a fortress in the 400’s, and a castle – fortress and living quarters – for popes in the 1400’s. We came here at night to tour so more on this later.
One of many pictures we took today just because we thought it looked cool. We ended up only including a few of them because we weren’t really sure what we were seeing.
Our plan was to do the Coliseum next. We took a bus to get there and snapped a few photos along the way.
All this time later, archeological digs are still happening – just like in Trier. This photo and the next are the same site. The was from one direction the bus turned left and I got it from the next side.
Pretty sure this was one of the museums but don’t remember now which one. Stunning building, both in size and beauty.
We got off the bus a little before the Coliseum and stopped for lunch. It was now about 2:30 and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We found a place that had a salad/pasta/dessert special for €15. The salad and the pasta was good, the panna cotta was amazing. We both agreed it was the best part of that meal.
You know what this is. Guess what? Entrance closes at 3:30. What time did we get there? 3:31. No kidding. This will get pushed to Friday.
The Omni Pass also gave us access to a hop-on-hop-off tour bus. All the traveling we’ve done, we’ve never done one of these. So we figured why not. It was about an hour ride around the city. It started to rain again so it kept us dry, but didn’t make for great photo-taking opportunities. The audio that went with it (they give you a set of earbuds to plug into their system and select your language) was actually decent (when it worked! we had to change seats a couple of times to get a good connection), and we learned some things. We took it from the Coliseum, all the way around once, and then again about 1/4 of the way to get off at St. Peter’s again. The plan was to go to Castel Sant’Angelo, because it was the one thing we could find on the pass that was open into the early evening.
We’ve only been in a few other castles; this is definitely the biggest. And it fit the distinctions we discovered from our first trip: a fortified residence, as opposed to a fortress which is just fortification, or a palace which is a residence but has no fortification.
A statue of the Archangel Michael. There’s a story about him appearing above the fortress around 600AD, and that’s where the name comes from: Castle of the Holy Angel.
We went up and down a lot.
One of two courtyards. That’s the original sculpture of the Archangel Michael that used to be on top. There was a long story about how many times one statue or another of Michael had been messed with somehow, including being struck by lightning, that Dan was quite amused by.
One thing we found odd is the rooms were all decorated in themes around mythology, which didn’t seem to make sense since they were all commissioned by Popes. Why would popes decorate there residences in art depicting stories about mythic, pagan gods?
Dan was able to get a nice shot of St. Peter’s from the top.
And a cool one from a barred window.
This is the bridge leading into St. Peter’s Square. There’s a lot of stopped traffic there and down the right because of an emergency vehicle that was going through.
A pedestrian only bridge that leads into and out of the castle. You saw it in the earlier pictures from the ground.
Same bridge from higher up. I liked the frame the columns provided.
The current Archangel Michael at the top.
Cannon balls from the fortress days.
Making our way down.
Final look back as we were leaving.
We walked along this pedestrian only street for awhile on our way to the next stop. There were lots of shops and restaurants along the way so we figured we could find dinner somewhere.
And we did. We came across a place that was doing an 8 course tasting menu for €48. We love doing tasting menus, have done several, and that’s a steal even if the food is just mediocre. But usually it’s not, so either way we figured it was worth it. And that price even included 3 glasses of wine, which would be wasted on us. But we did it anyway.
The first four courses were all small starters: this really interesting ricotta & pesto thing, smoked salmon on arugula, a Russian salad (which was really a twist on tuna salad) with shrimp, and a sort of vegetable quiche only without the crust. The above pasta dishes were 5 and 6: salmon with pesto, and fresh artichoke with smoked Gouda cheese. Both of the pastas were homemade and cooked perfectly al dente. I’ve never seen anyone serve fresh artichoke like that before.
This cod dish was amazing. Almost like a stew, it had olives, tomatoes, other stuff we couldn’t quite decipher. Neither this nor any of the dishes were over salty, something we’ve experienced quite a bit since we’ve been on this trip.
Course 8: a flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream, and panna cotta. Again. But this one was even better than the one we had at lunch. And that cake was so rich it was like eating peanut butter – stuck to the roof of your mouth. Both were excellent. And would have been so good with coffee but it was after 8pm and I didn’t want to chance it. (And I just can’t do decaf, sorry!) Dan had a dessert wine since it was included in the price.
It was a cute place. Il Ritrovo del Gusto. “The Meeting of Taste” according to Google Translate. I keep wondering if that should be Meaning? Anyway, the owner, Daniela, chatted with us a bit at the end. Everyone was very friendly. Our waiter – at the table behind us pouring wine – was Romanian. He took a picture of us with the starting courses but it didn’t turn out great so we deleted it. We made up for it later.
This was our destination: Trevi Fountain. Trevi is the name of the neighborhood it’s in. It was built in 1762. And it’s beautiful. We were really glad we came here at night, I don’t think we could have gotten the same effect during the day. It was under restoration from June, 2014 through November, 2015, so it’s all freshened up just for us. The work cost 2.2 million euros. It’s tradition to thrown coins in it because of the 1954 movie “Three Coins in the Fountain.” (We did.) About 3000 euros are thrown each day. The money is used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome’s needy.
There was another American standing next to us trying to take selfies so Dan took some photos for him and he returned the favor.
We took a bus back to our room, and got here around 10pm. That’s the latest we’ve been out for awhile, and certainly on this trip. So that’s a wrap for day one in Rome. Tomorrow will be Vatican stuff and whatever else we can squeeze in during the late afternoon and evening.