Buon Giorgno Italia! (Rome – Days 1 and 2)

By Bev, photos by Carl

First light on The Basilica of St. Peter, the largest church in Christendom. © Carl Amoth

Destination Italy, first stop Rome! Although hoping to get at least a couple of hours of sleep (actually I was hoping for 4-5), that is just much harder than I thought it would be. I think Carl might have gotten slightly more sleep than I did, but I’m sure he didn’t get more than an hour. However, the key to traveling Europe is to immediately jump to the time zone and stay up no matter how hard that is to do.

Morning view of Rome from the park Villa Gloria. © Carl Amoth

Other than lack of sleep, the flight was uneventful with amazing service and an on-time arrival. We landed in Rome about 9:00 a.m. (we are on a 9 hour time change from Arizona). Our hotel room was not ready yet so we ventured out for a walk, which was probably one of the best things we could do after so many hours on a plane. We walked about 20 minutes to the Spanish Steps, and then walked down Via Condotti—home of all the high-end designer shops (no “deal shoes” yet). After a bit more strolling we headed back to the hotel and were finally able to shower. Our room at the Marriott Grand Hotel Flora was very nice and in a great location.

By the time we cleaned up we were both hungry and headed out to an outdoor café (Stregga) for a bowl of pasta and a pizza and, of course, a carafe of wine. That very first meal reminded me so very acutely why Italy is my very favorite European country. It was fantastico!

Scooters, scooters everywhere! © CA

In addition to great food and wine, there are several other “constants” in Italy. Excessive cell phone usage (including use in or on every mode of transportation), lots of smoking and thousands and thousands of scooters. Everywhere scooters and motorcycles. It is imperative that you watch your back (literally) or you could find yourself in the path of a deadly motorized weapon.

After lunch we made our way to the Pantheon. This magnificent 1900 year old structure was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic church.

Pantheon dome

Pantheon corinthian column and mosaic detail

From there we headed to Piazza Novanna and then randomly (and pleasantly) came across St. Ignazio Church. What an amazing church. It is named after Saint Ignatius, who was the founder of the Jesuits.

Ceiling of St. Ignazio Church. © Carl Amoth

The frescoes on the ceiling, painted by Andrea Pozzo between 1685 and 1694, are simply stunning. They are crafted to fool an observer into thinking they are looking at a lofty vaulted roof decorated by statues, and a large gilded dome. The ceiling is, in fact, flat. The painting features vibrant, ornate rays of light beaming off of Saint Ignatius’ chest to the four corners of the earth with America shown as a bare-breasted Native American women spearing naked men. They still hold mass here every day at 6:00 p.m.

Frescoes on the ceiling painted by Andrea Pozz. . © Carl Amoth

St. Ignazio Church. © Carl Amoth

Roman street near Piazza Navonna. © Carl Amoth

We started making our way to Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain) and had both an urgent need of water and a toilette. Carl located what he thought was a McDonalds, but was actually a Mr. Panino. Regardless, it was hot and not particularly clean looking, but when you are in need… I let Carl use the restroom first, and then when he came out I asked him if it was clean enough for me to use. He said “yes, it is actually pretty clean”. Although he was right, it was fairly clean, what he failed to notice, even though he was standing in front of the toilet looking down, is that there was NO TOILET SEAT. Fabulous. That is one heck of a balancing act, let me tell you.

At Trevi Fountain.

Trevi is as magnificent as I remember and just as busy. It is really a terrific place to just sit for a while and people watch. These huge tour groups would show up and scuttle down to the fountain, toss one to three coins over their shoulder, and then hold the pose, hold it now, for the picture. If you’re not aware, legend holds that visitors throwing a coin with their right hand over their left shoulder—facing away from the fountain—ensure they’ll return to Rome. An alternative interpretation is that two coins will lead to a new romance, and three will ensure either a marriage or divorce. Not surprisingly, we saw several variations of this tradition, which was repeated over and over. (Incidentally, an estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day, which are given to the needy.) We stayed until dark so Carl could take some evening photos with the beautiful pools of light, which turned out great.

Trevi Fountain. © Carl Amoth

Earlier, Carl had been taking pictures from behind all of the crowds with his tripod, however, apparently the Polizia prefer that he not do that. He was kindly (really nicely) told that he cannot use a tripod to take pictures. He had already been “fussed at” by three people in the Pantheon about using his tripod inside. Apparently, it is not allowed. Let’s hope that is just in Rome since that tripod took up about ¼ of his luggage space…

Trattoria Scavolino. © Carl Amoth

By now it is almost 7:30 and I am fading fast. We have been up over 24 hours and have logged over 4 hours of walking. I was ready to head back to the hotel and stop to eat on the way. Carl wanted to take more pictures of evening nightlife in Rome. We compromised. I agreed that he should take more pictures, and in fact one of the first sights I saw was the great Trattoria sign illuminating the side of a building with amazing structure. The combination of that with the diners sitting outside being serenaded by an accordion player was the epitome of Rome at night.

I then found another lovely restaurant nearby—Taberna Ristorante—and promptly settled into an outdoor table. The structure and frescoes on the ceiling were so unusual I was instantly drawn to dine here. I told Carl I would stay there if he wanted to go take more photos. We shared Lasagna and a carafe of wine (do we see a theme here?) and I was thrilled to be off of my feet.

Enjoying Taberna Ristorante

Before Carl had a chance to take more pictures a lovely German couple sat down next to us. What transpired next was an engaging, educational interaction with the incredibly well read (and learned) husband of the couple. He was a walking history book on European development, wars, churches, etc. It was fascinating and we enjoyed their company for more than 2 hours! They are planning a 4 week trip to the States for their next vacation so we enlightened them to some “not to miss” locations and Carl gave him a business card so they can follow up with us for more details.

It is really these moments that make traveling so inspiring and delightful. It’s the places, the people and the experiences that make it so rich.

Taberna Ristorante. © Carl Amoth

Waiting for us back in our room was another lovely surprise: a fine bottle of Montepulciano red wine and sweets—compliments of the Marriott.

Carl was up at 6:30 and too restless to continue sleep so he gathered his gear and headed out for some morning photos of the city. After his return two hours later we cleaned up, ate a fantastic breakfast on the rooftop restaurant and then were off to the train station and Milano. We are blogging on the train (although it won’t be posted until later when we get to the hotel). The train ride is relaxing and comfortable and has been a real joy up until the time the guy sitting across from us (not an Italian) decides to get out his ear cleaning tool and clean his ears, flicking the residue on the floor. DISGUSTING.

Roam in the morning. © Carl Amoth

Tonight – Andrea Bocelli.

Until later, arrivederci!

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8 Comments

  1. Beverly Chase
    Posted September 30, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink | Reply

    I am so happy to see and read your first blog! Carl the pictures are just so special. I am sure that you are really enjoying taking them. Bev as always, I love your blog. You two look like you are having a wonderful time. Enjoy! Love, Mom

    • Posted October 5, 2010 at 12:10 am | Permalink | Reply

      We ARE having a wonderful time indeed. Thanks so much. Carl is getting some great pictures and we have developed a very nice vacation rhythm.

  2. Dad
    Posted September 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Beats Venice.

    • Posted October 5, 2010 at 12:12 am | Permalink | Reply

      I tend to agree with you Pete, this trip has been a lot of new spots for both of us (other than Rome) and so far, it is my favorite European location.

      Thanks for following along!

  3. Kathi Murr
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    What beautiful photos and wonderfully descriptive blog posts! (can you say “Blog Bling”?)
    I had such a wonderful time in Arizona, thank you both very much!
    Enjoy the rest of your vacation!
    Love,
    Kathi

    • Posted October 5, 2010 at 12:13 am | Permalink | Reply

      Kathi – thanks so much for the comments and for following the journey. Yes, I’ve been eyeing a couple of items and looks like I might have a shopping day today while Carl is out on a photo adventure. You will see that bling picture for sure!

  4. Dieter Steffentorweihen
    Posted December 28, 2010 at 1:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    We are very pleased to have met you in “Roma”.
    Seeing feeling the whole day unique, up to 2700 years old culture
    and human history and then to find in the evening
    very nice acquaintance was really great.
    Thanks
    Dieter Bettina

    • Posted January 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Likewise, Dieter. Excellent visit. I hope we all can reconnect some day!

      Carl & Bev

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