We continue about out Italy/Switzerland trip this past summer, which started with Rome.
Rome is a city unlike all others. As both the capital of Ancient Roman civilization, a center of art in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and a thriving modern city, old and new are mixed together. It is everywhere you go. As you walk down the uneven cobblestone streets, you will suddenly encounter incredible ruins from an age long ago. The most prominent example of this is during a taxi ride in from the airport. You will see mostly modern buildings, then, BAM, there is the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Here is a picture John snapped on the drive:
Of course, you can take the metro instead, but you will miss out on this introduction to the city and will have to find it through other means. As your taxi driver weaves in and out, you will gain an appreciation for the chaotic craziness that defines Rome. For some, it is overwhelming, but once you embrace it, you just might like it.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
For this portion of our trip I traveled without Jeremy, but with both my parents and both my kids. In Rome, the airport train is 14 euro, while a taxi is about 50 euro, so if you have a group, a taxi usually is the best option. Especially with luggage. Normally, a taxi just takes 4 people, but we made an advance reservation for a larger vehicle to fit our group of 5.
After an early touchdown at the Rome Airport and clearing customs, we started looking for our taxi driver holding a sign with our name. We had made a reservation on Booking.com, but as it turns out, they had a permanent employee with a long list of names on her sign waiting for us. She informed us that with our early arrival and some bad traffic, our driver was not there yet. He showed up within 10 minutes, though.
I texted our apartment host to let him know that we were on our way and we were off for Piazza Barberini. The beginning of the drive was fairly calm, but then we came across the Colosseum and then the Roman Forum. Other impressive-looking buildings grabbed our interest.
By 12:15pm, we were at the apartment. It continued the theme of old and new. It was clearly an old building that had been retrofitted with somewhat more modern features. While definitely not a luxury apartment, it was large, comfortable, and met our needs. Add in the location and we were quite happy.
After getting settled, we all felt famished and went to find some lunch. After looking at the first two restaurants we encountered, we picked one. The food was overpriced, and the quality just okay, but we were too tired to seek something better.
One observation that caught my parents off-guard was the [normal] slowness of the restaurant service. I told them that in reality the service was quite good by Italian standards, but they were unconvinced until we had been there a few more days and they were able to see the pattern for themselves. In Italy, it is considered very rude for a waiter to rush your meal, which is simply very different than the American restaurant culture where the waiters want to keep moving the tables.
Feeling better after eating, we also picked up some cereal, milk, and some bottled water. Rome water is supposed to be safe, but it really doesn’t taste all that great.
We returned back to the apartment tired and cranky. Pesky jet-lag. John fell asleep and was a bit of a bear when I tried to get him up. But our rule is to avoid napping on the first day, so I forced the issue and dealt with his reluctance.
As I walked ahead to figure out the metro tickets, to my shock, the entrance was chained closed! The toy shop clerk overheard our conversation and filled in the details. We discovered that it had been closed for the past six months and was not going to re-open during our stay. Apparently the escalator collapsed and they needed to do some “maintenance” repairs. Yeah.
Fortunately, the bus turned out to be even more convenient, since our location was well-served by bus, and the buses avoid all the cavernous stairs of the metro station. It was a tricky to figure out where to get bus tickets, but then I discovered that tobacco (tabacchi) shops sell them. So, I stopped at a tabacchi in Piazza Barberini and bought a small stack of bus tickets to keep in my purse.
Heart of Rome Walk
Deciding that we would have a much better second day if we got some sunshine and explored, we decided to walk from our apartment to the Trevi Fountain, then see how far we could get on Rick Steves’ “Heart of Rome Walk.”
The Trevi Fountain was just a 5 minute walk away and mostly on very pleasant pedestrian streets. A great introduction to Rome!
John was thrilled to see the Trevi Fountain. In 1st grade, he had done a school project on Italy and had his heart set on seeing this fountain in 2015. Unfortunately it was under construction then and was mostly covered. This time, it was in full glory.
We tried to duck into the church next to the fountain, but there was a concert in progress, so all we could do was take a quick peek in the doorway. Really, there was nothing to see from that vantage point.
We were able to visit another church along the walk and stopped to admire the ceilings.
We continued on, passing through several cute squares and enjoying the ambiance of the pedestrian streets.
Eventually, we reached the Pantheon. Amazing! How did the Ancient Romans build something so perfectly without modern tools?
Jet lag and the heat was taking its toll, particularly on my dad. Fortunately, I had a pack of rehydration tablets in my purse, so we dropped one into his water bottle and improved the situation. The Pantheon is one of the few places in Rome with benches, so we took full advantage of the situation and rested a bit as we admired the perfectly round ceiling.
Trying to figure out how buses worked to get back was a bit nerve-wracking when considering different factors, so we ended up deciding to walk. At the time, I was using a paper map, which showed that the bus stop was quite far away. What I should have done was pull out my phone, type in the apartment address, and follow the super easy directions. But, we wouldn’t figure this out until day 2.
By the time we got back to the apartment, I thought that I had pushed both my parents too far, although they claimed they had fun. Fortunately it was just jet-lag related exhaustion, but if you are traveling multi-generationally, you want to be careful to avoid this type of situation.
We had made it to an appropriate bedtime for our new time zone! While hard, we went to bed with the knowledge that the coming days were going to be much easier.