Up too early, but no problems getting to the airport and onto the first leg of our trip. J. and I are packing one carryon and a messenger bag. We’ve got a duffle bag for ‘just in case,’ travel size pillows (from Biosense), the big camera, and all of our swanky new electronics (Surface and Kindle).
For the trip we each packed with care:
- 8 shirts, incl the one I’m wearing to travel and a ‘nice’ blouse (for going out to dinner)
- 8 sets of underwear
- 4 prs socks (Smartwool), incl one pair that are very low and will do instead of pantyhose for going out
- 6 pr pantyhose
- Cross body leather purse (for when I won’t be bringing my camera – mostly dinners)
- 3 pr pants
- 1 long skirt
- 1 scarf
- Makeup bag
- Toiletries (2 bags, one with liquids)
- 2nd pr shoes (dressier)
- Tshirt for ‘night gown’
- (5) books
- 5 shirts (incl travel)
- 3 pants
- 2nd pr shoes
- 6 undershirts and shorts
- ‘jammies’ (tshirt and loose pants for lounging around in)
- 3 pr socks
- Toiletries (liquids)
And that is it! We deliberately pack light, ever since our early days of traveling when we tried to pack for the entire trip, and had such a difficult time with our luggage that most of the fun went away. Now we pack the minimum, and even then my books are an extravagance. I discard them as we go, so I end up with more room at the end (souvenirs!) but the Kindle may replace them.
*shrug* what can I say, I like books and I really don’t like the idea of paying retail for books I already own, just so I can get them electronically. I’ve looked, and most of the books I would want are $7-$9 for the e version – and that just seems like a rip-off. So maybe the library will come through for me.
Our flight was no problem, same for the change in IAD. Nine hours is a long time, and if you can, upgrade to Business Class. We save our miles to be able to do so, and have nothing but good things to say about United’s international service. The seats go flat, have power, lots of entertainment, and they serve real food. Sadly, I didn’t really sleep more than a few hours, so I was running on fumes when we landed.
Now, let me tell you that the passport control line at FCO was the worst I have ever seen. We waited nearly an hour just to get our passports stamped. And were clearly one of the few planes that had landed. so, be warned. Having no luggage, we just walked through customs, and then past baggage claim, where we were met by our driver, Gustaf. It was a bit of an indulgence, but for 50 euros we were driven into the city and directly to our lodging. Less than a taxi, much more than a train.
I booked the driver when I booked our lodging, btw. And the lodging came through Cross-Pollinate (www.cross-pollinate.com). We’re staying at Casa Gigli (http://www.cross-pollinate.com/rome/bed-and-breakfast/2148/Casa-Gigli) and it is GREAT for the price (85 euro/night). That said, there is no place to sit and read a book other than our bed, the shower is miniscule, and our bed is not great. (We’ve had worse, but this is no compliment.) The location is fantastic, and its very, very quiet. We wouldn’t stay here again, but I would recommend it in general, if that makes sense? I would say that the description is very accurate, so that is important.
We both were tired when we finally got in, so J. went out for provisions (cheese, bread, fruit) so that our breakfasts would be taken care of, I unpacked our clothes into the wardrobe . . . and then we set the alarm and went to sleep for three hours. Man it was hard to wake up again at 3pm! But there was no way we could have slept any longer without really messing with our bioclocks. Besides, we had things to see!
And see them, we did. I’m calling it the ‘Dan Brown tour’ because I pulled a bunch of gorgeous sites from his books, and had a lot of fun telling J. the narratives as we were walking around. Because it was so late, I had to skip Santa Maria del Popolo, but otherwise we hit the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps (not in that order, actually). It was a perfect intro to the city, didn’t require anything other than our feet and my maps.
The Pantheon is always billed as a wondrous pre-Christian temple . . . and it is. But it’s ALSO a Catholic Church. All the Pagan stuff is gone.
The Piazza Navona is a huge open air ‘market’ — code for peddlers selling stuff. At first I was delighted to see what I thought were hand-drawn watercolors of Rome . . . but after a bit of walking around I realized I was seeing the exact same images sold by dozens of people. Clearly they aren’t ‘real’ but manufactured by slaves in China. So, be warned.
The Fountain in Piazza Navona is just lovely.
Along the way, we discovered The Colonne, THE Column. We didn’t understand the title until we saw it, and then it made sense.
Look closer: that ‘carving’ is incredibly detailed. We need to remember to find out just what it means and why it’s here.
The Trevi Fountain was three deep in tourists. April is apparently not the slow time in Rome.
It’s just gorgeous, and full of detail.
We ended at the Spanish Steps, where I’d hoped we would have a drink at the Palm Court in the Hotel Hassler. Sadly, it was still closed for the weather. But we had time to kill before dinner, so we stayed and had a drink in their Salone Eva instead. Hotel prices (ouch), but accompanied by a trio of olives, nuts, and veg chips, all of which were delicious, and did a perfect job of priming us for dinner.
Dinner was at Ristorante 34, just down from the Spanish Steps. It’s a bit touristy, but not in a way that made us feel like tourists. Mostly, the food was very good! We started with a shared plate of burrata cheese and culatello ham — sort of a non-salty prosciutto. Then I had a divine plate of pumpkin gnocchi in a cheese sauce. The gnocchi were tender and sweet and the sauce rich and slightly spicy. J. had a pasta ‘carbonara’ which was also delicious. The pasta was a thick, short noodle rather than the typical spaghetti, and I think it held the sauce gorgeously. For my main, I had a lovely sole muniere and he had meatballs Roman style — with celery, tomato, and sweet peppers. My sole was delicious, the spinach not being at all metallic and flavored with lemon; his meatballs were tender and tiny, not at all like the ones we see ‘back home’. My wine was the house red, a montelpuciano d’abruzzo (which I think is just telling me where it is from rather than a winery and/or vintage); a liter for 11 euros.
We walked home and fell into bed, preparing for the next day and an early morning tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum.