UNTOUR- Rome - 2009
After leaving Paris for our second Untour week, we arrived in Rome having flown Alitalia (a very pleasant experience). We were met at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport by our driver holding a sign with our name on it. He was very quiet on our drive into the city, just pointing out one or two things to us. When we reached our apartment at Via dei Santissimi Quattro we were greeted by Marilina and her helper. They educated us on the apartment and Marilina gave us preliminary information (a wonderful, comprehensive packet tailored to our apartment) on the area and how to get to the orientation the next day. Our daughter had given us an Italian phrase book and a Streetwise Map. We would not have wanted to be without either of these.
After they left, we took a walk around the Colosseum and then in the other direction to find our bus stop in preparation for the next day. Our welcome supplies came in handy as we made a light meal from them. This apartment is wonderful, large, light-filled, and if you stick your head out the window and look down the street you have a great view of the Colosseum.
We navigated the buses and arrived at our orientation at the Squisito Pizza and Grill. Mairlina was a wealth of information and helpfulness. She answered all questions professionally and accurately as some of us had unusual questions such as ours asking how to go to Anzio on the train. We had espressos, tea, water (gas and no-gas, meaning bubbly or non-bubbly). After the orientation we stayed for lunch although many of the Untourists left to start their tours.
From here we walked to the Spanish Steps, went into the church there, walked down the steps to the fountain with a sculpture by Bernini (who you will find has sculptures all over town). Then we located the Trevi Fountain and tossed our coins hoping for a return visit. We stopped in many churches on our way back to our apartment, and spent some considerable time at Trajan’s Column.
We had not made reservations for the Borghese but, luckily, when we called we could get them for the next day.
Since our reservations for the Borghese Museum weren’t until 3:00 p.m. we toured the San Clemente Church just around the corner from the apartment. It is an 11th century church, built atop a 4th century church, built atop a pagan temple to the god Mythra. You can climb down into the old church and temple. It is very gloomy and dim but very interesting. They close at noon so go early to spend enough time.
We took the bus to the Borghese Museum. Since we were a little early, we had a picnic lunch in the gardens with sandwiches we had bought near the apartment that morning. The crowds were not too bad, and we were able to see the many Bernini sculptures and other mostly religious works of art. (Here our Rick Steves’ download was good.) We took the bus back. Just for informational purposes, the bus lets you off right in front of the museum, but you catch the return bus on the left as you exit the gates about a block down.
We had dinner at Pasqualino Colosseo Restaurant on Via S. Quattro, but I suggest you avoid it as they pulled the scam of bringing items you didn’t order and insisting that you had.
We met some old friends of ours at their hotel in Rome. We had not seen them for 30 years, and it was great visit.
After our time with them we went to Santa Maria Maggiore. It is an absolutely gorgeous church with gold leaf everywhere.
Then, taking a suggestion from Marilina’s information package, we did a walking tour of the old Jewish Quarter and across the Tiber River to the Isola Tiberina and on to the Trastevere district. We had a very nice lunch at Il Giardino Romana in the Jewish Quarter and walked back to our apartment through the Circus Maximus and through an interesting area of cobbled streets.
Since the tickets to the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill are for two days, we went early on Sunday thinking we could take Sunday and Monday. Fortunately for us, we went when the Colosseum opened, walked right in and had explored it before the crowds arrived. We then did the Forum and Palatine Hill. It took us six hours of walking, but we did accomplish it in one day.
We attended mass at San Clemente and had dinner at Bar San Clemente, a little pizza place across from the church.
Since we finished all that we did yesterday, we decided to take the train to Anzio where Debby’s father was wounded at the landing there during WWII. The day started out cloudy. We walked to the Metro, rode it to the Termini Station. After inquiring at the information booth, we bought our tickets at the news stand and went to our platform. We boarded the train which was supposed to leave at 12:07 p.m. and it did. Arrival at Anzio was approximately 1:30 p.m. We wandered through some of the streets after getting a gratis map from the news shop in the train station there. That is also where you buy tickets for train as there were no other attendants just a security guard who helped us with the proper train to return to Rome. We walked to the Anzio Beachhead Museum which was not open on Mondays. We found our way to the harbor and had lunch at La Tavernetta del Por Anzio consisting of wine (Gladium Bianco-Frederci); Debby had green gnocchi with prawns; Don had spaghetti with claims; we shared a fried calamari and fried potatoes. It was our best meal in this part of Italy.
Today was our tour of the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s with the Untours representative, Marilina. We walked to the bus stop at Labianca, took the #87 to Piazza Cavore and then the #49 to the entrance to the Vatican Museums where we met Marilina and the rest of the Untours group. Marilina walked us through the Vatican Museum giving us information about different sculptures and paintings. We then went on to the Sistine Chapel alone where our Rick Steves’ MP-3 download was very helpful. We walked through St. Peter’s Square and through some of the neighborhoods before taking the subway back to our apartment to rest before dinner. We ate a lovely meal of lasagna with meat sauce and rice with prawns at Trattoria Pizzeria Luzzi near San Clemente Church. They had grilled calamari which we have never had, but it was delicious.
Today we leave for Florence. We were picked up from our apartment at 10:00 a.m. for transport to Termini Station to catch our train to Florence. According to the board, our train left from platform 3. When we arrived there was no train and none came. So about 25 minutes before departure we asked at a portable information booth. Our train was departing from platform 7. We almost had to run to catch our train. We were in carriage 1 (at the front). We found out we could have boarded in the back and walked through the train. That might have been a little difficult pulling suitcases but doable. The train ride itself was very relaxing and enjoyable. They served espresso, water and little fruit candies. It was only about a 1 ½ hour trip. Continued in Florence triplog.