Sunday, September 02, 2007

First Wednesday in Rome

When we last left our brave travelers, they were taking a nap in their hotel room.....

So after our nap, we got up and showered. Our bathroom was not actually attached to our room but was out in the hall across from the flat's door. The bathroom was new and interesting. There was both a toilet and a bidet (I never have figured out how you're supposed to use that thing...seems a bit awkward, if you ask me). The shower head was mounted on the side of the shower wall on the longest wall of the shower (whereas here, most of us have our showerhead mounted on the shortest wall of the tub. I'm kicking myself for not getting a picture of it, since we didn't have this room the whole time. The water was not consistently hot, but was definitely hot enough and quite welcome after travel and nap. We dressed, met up with our flat mates, and set out to start exploring.

In the streets of Rome

In the alley (it's a technically street, but really...skinny enough for one car to get down) our hotel entrance was on, there were a few shops, a couple of pubs, a restaurant, and a pizza shop. We stopped into the pizza shop and browsed. The pizza was on display behind glass under hot lamps, and there were several different varieties, and the pies were all rectangular in shape. There were also other calzones and goodies, but I was all about the pizza. We weren't sure how we were supposed to order, and our pizza guy didn't speak English, so we motioned how much we wanted of a couple of different types. Everything I thought I'd learned in listening to my CDs all went out the window. All the ingredients on the pizza were fresh (no canned tomato sauce here!), and the crust was like a flat bread. Cliff and I shared some fresh tomato and mozzarella pizza, and I also chose some that looked like sausage with a tomato sauce. There was no cheese on it. After taking a bite, I was quite surprised to realize that it wasn't sausage at all but tunafish! And it was amazing. The tomato sauce was creamy, like there was some cheese in it, and the tuna had a kick to it. So we wandered up the street to Santa Maria Maggiore, a large church with a lovely square, and encountered our first beggar who had a baby that was not much older than Corinna. Seeing that we were obviously tourists, she asked for money. We took photos and decided to push on.

The square at Santa Maria Maggiore

The church Santa Maria Maggiore

We then wandered down past the Domus Aurea (which you can tour if you sign up ahead of time), which was in a park-like area and down toward the Colosseum. As we approached, I was taken aback at how enormous it was. It was early afternoon, and we decided to take a look around. A woman approached us and asked us if we were interested in taking a tour, and we thought about it and decided to go. Our guide was a Brit, and he gave us the lowdown on its history and was quite enjoyable to listen to. We climbed the stairs once inside and got a great view over the surrounding area and the Arch of Constantine.

Excavating at Domus Aurea

See how little I am compared to the Colossal Colosseum?

After our tour, our guide let us know about another tour of the Palatine Hill that would be going on right after with another English speaking guide. We decided to go and do that one also. Here, we learned about this being the site where Romulus, the founder of Rome, and Remus, his twin, were found. This was also the site of Augustus's birth and the palace of his wife and Domitian's palace. The sun was beginning to get low in the sky, and the light was spectacular. I just kept being blown away by the ancientness of it all. Our tour guide, Elaine, was a Canadian and a pleasure to listen to. We decide to do her tour of the catacombs the next day.

Inside the Colosseum

Arch of Constantine

How Miss C. traveled Italy

Domitian's Circus

On Palatine Hill

After Palatine Hill, we walked back toward the hotel and decide to eat at the restaurant down the street from where we are staying. It's not a large restaurant, and the server was quick to help us out. He asks us if we would like water, and we agree. We get a bottle and it turned out to be effervescent. If you want plain mineral water in Italy, you have to ask for water with no gas. I decided to try some of the house red, and was not exactly excited about it. So much for thinking that wine in Italy would really taste that much different. For my primi I ordered the bucatini amatriciana, which was penne with bacon and tomato cheese sauce. Yum. For my secondi, I ordered a breaded veal and greens, which turned out to be wilted spinach. I think I was expecting a salad, but the spinach was good. We then went up the street to Cottini, a little pasticheria/gelateria with a lovely outdoor seating area. We went in and ordered gelato (I got the chocolate, hubby got the braccio (he remembers what it is and I don't at the moment) and ate it topped with unsweetened whipped cream from frosted cups garnished with cookies at the outdoor tables. Corinna went into spasms of delight and excitement at our cups of gelato and was determined she would get some.

Yeah...that's what I was feeling too.

After our meal, we walked back in the cool night air to our hotel flat and crashed hard. It was a long first day.

By the way...this is only a small sampling of the pictures I took. I have nearly 450 photos (and I don't feel like I took nearly enough), so I had to really pick and choose what to post here. It's really hard to choose representative photos when there are so many that I liked. Hope you all enjoy!

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