Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rome, Day 1 ~ 4/2/14

8:30 am ~ we were through customs and looking for the shuttle we had ordered but it was a no-show.  A phone call and an hour later we had our man. Unfortunately, he had one more pickup to make before driving us into Rome and picked the wrong airport hotel. We finally got her and headed to her Rome hotel, which couldn't be found. After we repeated the route we had just taken, I asked the driver if he could find our hotel and then ask directions. Bingo. He drove us in that general direction, stopped nearby, asked some questions, and serendipitously we were near her street/hotel. He unpacked her luggage and pointed her in the right direction. We weren't sure if he was just turning her loose or if it was really where her hotel was. Truth be told we were happy to see our hotel two minutes later, over 3 hours after we had landed.
Happily, and surprisingly, our room was ready. It was full of old world charm and we were glad to be able to wash up and change clothes.
With so little sleep on the flight over, we felt a bit like zombies but knew we had to stay awake to acclimate to the time change. Yes, we lost a night but now it was morning in Rome, so we were off. The hotel was a block away from the Trevi Fountain so we headed out with our hotel-provided Rome map.
Everyone is taking pictures and the place is packed, this time and every time we subsequently walked by. It's a beautiful fountain but the throngs are dense. Suddenly, we spotted the woman who was dropped off by our shuttle. She had found her hotel so we felt better about our driver casting her out :-)
Time for lunch. We stopped at a place near our hotel and had our first Roman pizza and beer. Margerita pizza (mozzarella and tomato sauce) and Pieronis. Good on both accounts.
The Spanish Steps were a few blocks away down the road from the restaurant so we headed there next.
Climb them? We couldn't get near them.We changed directions and headed for the Basilica Di Santa Maria, home to the relics of St. Valentine and the famous Bocca Della Verita. Along the way there were ruins to behold.
We finally approached Santa Maria with its nearby park/mausoleum.

There was a waiting line but it moved quickly with everyone, including the guard, helping in the photo-taking. Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn made this site famous in Roman Holiday.
The church was lovely and offered a crypt for viewing, for a few euros more.
On the way there and several times later we walked passed Octavia's Theater and its accompanying ruins.

The Vittorio Emanuele Monument contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a museum, and a roof view of Rome. We saved the latter two for another day. (See the sign - don't lead animals to smoke :-) )
The Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitol Square) was designed by Michelangelo and he designed it to face away from the ancient Roman Forum and towards the modern city. The Michelangelo-designed steps (to accommodate horses) lead to the Palazzo Senatorio.

We walked through the piazza and under this arch and stumbled across these great views of the Roman Forum, which we toured later in the week.


We were finally ready for dinner and our hotel clerk recommended Agrodolce, within walking distance.
Everyone in this place, patrons and employees, was incredibly friendly and very interactive. So besides enjoying the great food, we had a wonderful time with our friends for the evening :-) We began with Bruschetta and Salami, moved on to Spaghetti with fresh Tomato sauce and Basil, and Noodles with Meat Sauce and Parmesan.
To our delightful surprise, we were brought a dessert on the house, Applecake with Chocolate. Such a nice touch.
By now we were crashing, so we made our short walk back to our hotel, well satisfied with our first day in Rome.