Untours Cafe

When we heard Untours was adding Rome to its list of programs, we couldn't wait to go. We had visited the Eternal City twice before, but the opportunity to live there Idyll-style was just irresistible! October 2005 found us and our adult daughter Cindy settled into an large apartment overlooking via Ottaviano in the Prati district. We were delighted to be just a four-block walk from Vatican City. (That became a regular after-dinner walk for us).

The apartment had a few quirks, but many more advantages. This included a full kitchen with room for two to move around in, a Metro stop on the corner, and just two blocks walk to the major bus plaza with links to all of Rome. Best of all was the proximity of the enormous Mercato Andrea Doria outdoor market. Any fruit, vegetable, meat, cheese, pasta, baked good or anything else edible and mouth-watering could be found here. We loved buying ingredients for Italian feasts, but also just wandering around soaking up the sights. We especially loved watching the feisty little nonne (grandmas) piloting their wheeled shopping baskets from stall to stall with great abandon.

The best part of any Untour to us is the ability to really explore in depth. And there is so very much to explore in Rome. No one could do justice in a lifetime, let alone two weeks, but we gave it our best shot! Rome was having an unusually rainy Fall that year, so our first stop was the Pantheon to experience the rain falling inside. ( Guards cordon off the wet part of the marble floor so visitors don't slide and glide).

After a good night's sleep, we were ready for our first adventure, an Angels & Demons tour. We had seen the sights described in the novel on previous visits, but it was our daughter's first time in Rome, and we thought it would be fun to see the sights all at once, by minibus yet! Our guide was an ex-pat journalist from Germany who'd lived in Rome 17 years, so instead of art history narration, we got "dish". It was great fun.

Habbakuk and the Angel,
Chigi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo (left)

St. Theresa in Ecstasy, Santa Maria delle Vittoria (below)

It was sunny as we wandered through the Borghese Gardens and arrived at the Gallery in time for our visit, necessarily reserved in advance. (This is my very favorite art museum in Rome.) The building itself is a fabulous marble palace, dating from 1605, and it is chock-full of the most astonishing sculpture imaginable, plus fine paintings

We walked back to the city by way of the Spanish Steps. There was a wedding in progress at the church of Trinita dei Monti, with the bride arriving in a horse-drawn coach bedecked with red roses. How romantic!

Every visitor to Rome must see the Colisseum, and this was our Untours outing, guided by Marilena. We could hear the roar of the lions and the cheers of the crowd in this amazing structure. The entrance/exits to the stadium seemed modern, not 2000+ years old.

After our visit, we walked through the Forum, a walk through time itself.

It's been our great privilege to visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel twice before, with guided tours (one basic and one in depth). However, thanks to Untours, we took our guidebooks and spent the day visiting this incredible treasure house. We actually saw the famous Egyptian collection (fabulous) and the Etruscan collection (likewise) instead of just having the rooms pointed out by our guide!

Another day, we toured St. Peter's itself, from bottom (a reserved-ahead tour of the excavations underneath) to top (the dome and then the rooftop, via elevator and stairs) plus the magnificent basilica itself. A highlight of the trip, and we are not even Catholic!

[Cindy descends from the dome].

We enjoyed so many great days in Rome, and several day trip adventures (subject of a future blog). One of our best discoveries was the most awesome gelato in Rome, at Sora Leila on Tiber Island. My favorite flavor was the bittersweet chocolate with chile pepper, but I had to test many others (all delectable) to arrive at my decision. You couldn't miss this gelateria... the lines of gelato-lovers extended to the pedestrian bridge!

I wish we had a picture of the Metro at rush hour. Now we know what it must be like to be a sardine at the cannery. It was one of our fondest memories of Roman life! A terrific local discovery was the bakery near our apartment. We never learned the name, because there was no sign, and it was always so busy I didn't have a chance to ask. It was in a basement, and the line of people (you guessed it) went from the sidewalk down. Not only did they have superb sweet goods, they sold delicious foccacia and savory buns. Yum.

All to soon, it was time to say "ciao, Roma". We made the pilgrimage to the Trevi Fountain to throw in coins, and wish to return. Well, it's worked for us

twice before!!

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Comment by Marilee Taussig on August 14, 2007 at 7:16am
Great blog! Makes me want to go. If you could, would you be able to point out the great bakery and gelateria on a map of Rome.?

I am thinking of devising a way that we can all put our "finds" on a map that other Untourists can access.

Also the Angels and Demons tour sounds intruiguing...how did you decide and arrange that?
Comment by Sue PVE on August 15, 2007 at 11:20pm
Thanks! We all 3 loved our Rome Untour... one of our very favorites! I will hunt up my Rome folder, and see if I've got any addresses...but I'm sure I could pinpoint for sure the gelateria, and probably the bakery on a map.

The Angels&Demons tour was a lucky Website pick, but I'll see if I still have the URL.

That map idea sounds great, and I'd be happy to help any way I can.
Comment by Sallymp on August 17, 2007 at 7:33pm
Loved reading about your time in Rome. I have been there twice and may get a chance at a quick trip back in November. I found a website that I found really interesting. The University of Virginia has put together a digital model of Rome, supposed to be the largest computer model to date. I find the "before/after" still photos to be more interesting than the videos, but it is a fascinating site. Go to www.romereborn.virginia.edu Enjoy.


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