Category Archives: Roma

Our Trips to Rome

Travel Itch

I miss Europe. I love the mix of culture, cuisine, antiquity, and beauty that we have found in Italy.

We have excursions planned for this fall and next spring that will be novel and exciting. The Amazon will no doubt present its own set of adventures. Peru and Ecuador are mysteries to us. It will be amazing to visit South America and dust off a bit of Spanish. (can you feel the but…)

I miss Europe. I do. I had planned our last trip to Greece and Italy to continue for another two weeks. We cut short. I was told the weather in late June and into July and August gets oppressive. With some depressing grumbling, I changed plans and literally yanked our last two weeks of our Tuscany trip. In retrospect, I am glad I did. I flagged on some of our walks in Florence in late June. It was hot, still reasonable but hot. If July gets still hotter, I am so glad I came around and dropped the last two weeks.

Our plans for the next year: this fall, winter, and next spring are complete.

Next fall we are planning to return to Italy for a few months. I’ve started looking into villas for rent around Florence and Rome. We’ll use a villa as home base for our excursions into the Italian hillside and coastal towns. I can relax, content in the knowledge that we’ll be returning to Italy soon. Troubling though, I would also like to do some island hopping in Greece. On our cruise we found that there is an extensive ferry system throughout the Greek Islands. It’s not difficult to see Greece by ferry. Perhaps we’ll fly into Greece and wend our way back to Italy.

There is so much to do. We hope to visit Alaska by RV; tour China and Thailand; revisit Africa a few more times; visit friends in the south of Spain; visit family on Madeira Island; tour Ireland; drive through Eastern Europe, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and into Germany; visit Paris and tour the south of France; go skiing in the French and Italian Alps; drive through the Old South, the South West, and North West; canoe in Ontario. That’s just for starters. I have a scrapbook of places we hope to visit tucked away. Every time I come across an amazingly beautiful location or an adventure that’s not life threatening, I paste it into the book. I’ve done enough wacky and dangerous things in the past that I’m no longer interested in pushing the safety envelope. “Moderate” danger is ok. A charging elephant, canoe on the Amazon, bare boat cruising, diving with hammerhead sharks without a safety net, those are all OK by me. Class IV white water kayaking, technical rock climbing, or base jumping are “right out”. All this would be possible but for Ellen whose sense of “safe adventure” is clearly a subset of mine.

I truly hate the word, “blessed”. It smacks of a religious sense of “blessed by God”. As an atheist, that drives me crazy. I would rather say that decades of hard work, some risk taking, and a bit of luck made travel and adventure possible for us. We have the opportunity to enjoy ourselves after retirement. We will.


Rome 5/1/2015

We have added a number of photos taken on a tour of the Vatican today. We head off to Istanbul on the morrow. I will miss Rome; we have not touched contemporary culture aside from cuisine. But I digress…

Finally, I’ve weaned myself from auto and semi-auto and I”ve gone full manual for photos. What I’ve learned in the past few days doing this is: typically you will not learn the subtitles of lighting and shadow taking photos in auto mode. The camera selects the “best average exposure” for the shot. By going to manual, you chose the exposure. If the shot is not the best (typically far from it at first), you adjust aperture or shutter speed to bring the shot closer to perfect. Today’s cameras have a wonder built-in light meter. Us it to manually toy with aperture and shutter speed and you can become very good at guessing the correct exposure for any lighting situation. Of course there are cases where very high dynamic range makes taking photos extremely challenging.

Just today I was repeatedly taking photos of a relatively uninspiring scene. Some passers-by actually commented on how strange/weird/crazy that was or how shoddy the scene. I had found a very very difficult lighting situation and was playing with how different camera settings interact with the light, depth of field, and under/over exposure for parts of the scene. It was fun for a while.

For many auto and point and shoot is everything you want in a camera. Have fun and enjoy. For those looking to improve their photography, move to full manual and watch your skill set grow.


Rome 2015, day 2

We researched the best way to see the Colesseum on-line the evening before. We saw the throng of people queued up to get into the ruins and both agreed “no way, we’re not waiting an hour or two in line”.

You can buy tickets in advance that bypass the ticket line entirely here:

You buy your ticket, print your ticket, walk through the “express gate” to the left of the ticket line entry gate, and present your ticket to a window for validation. The whole operation took maybe 5 minutes. From Trastevere we took the #8 tram to the last stop (Piazza Venezia) and walked around the enormous marble monument Vittorio Emanuele II also nicknamed by some as the”wedding cake.” Next, the Colosseum. The walk to the colosseum is stunning, but the sheer magnitude of the colisseum dwarfs all other ruins. It is immense. Estimates put its capacity at between forty and seventy thousand spectators.

We arrived early, before the crowds became a human sea, around 10AM and left around 11:30 as the crowds swelled. Even in late May, the sun can be quite hot. We found it best to take siesta between 2 and 4 (sometimes 1 and 3 or so). We took the #8 back home and stopped at a so-so pizzeria. The pizza was served on an extremely thin crust that was cooked on an oak fire. The spinach side dish was the best I’ve had at a restaurant in decades. Go figure. The beer was wet and cold. Two out of three = success.

After our siesta we headed out to find the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.

That took some doing… to be continued.

Rome 2015, day 1 continued.

After settling in we had a two hour siesta before heading out to the ancient city. We purchased two tickets for the ATAC, Rome’s bus and tram system, and headed off to the Victor Emmanuel II monument and the Coliseum.
You purchase tickets for the bus/tram system at any tobacconist. The price is quite reasonable (see prior blog entry). Victor Emmanuel II is the last stop on the #8 line making it difficult to get lost. We walked around VEII AKA “the Wedding Cake” toward the colessium. I was blown away by the grand scale of the city and its architecture. I was not prepared for the emotional impact I felt walking back two thousand years in time. It was and is incredible.

Ellen and I strolled through the ancient city finding ourselves at dead ends serving as the exit for some monuments and having to retrace our steps. There are many instances where the truly ancient abuts the relatively modern, a visually stunning juxtaposition. We walked for a few hours returning to Largo di Torre Argentina for gelato. Julius Caesar was killed in the Curia of the Theatre of Pompeii, which is part of the Largo di Torre Argentina ruins. See

We took the tram back “home” in Trastevere for a brief rest and dinner at a local restaurante. The meal was quite scrumptious. Ellen had a yummy soup followed by a veal dish. I had a pork dish prepared using “traditional ancient roman recipe”. The pork sauce was very complex, with hints of cinnamon and the slightest taste of cardamom, but I could not guess the other ingredients or how they were blended. The pork was excellent and cooked perfectly. We had a bottle of Sicilian wine for $17e that the proprietor recommended. I had misgivings ordering such an inexpensive wine. All it took was one sip; the wine was superb.

We had fun bantering with the owner. The restaurante was closed when we knocked on the door at 6:48pm. The owner’s son let us in and the owner was initially a bit gruff, “do you have a reservation? We are booked for the evening.” “No.” I said and Ellen added, “but we would really like to eat here.”. The owner said he might be able to make room for us if we could come back in fifteen minutes. That’s not a problem for us, and we pleasantly agreed to check back with him. Fifteen minutes later, after strolling through the local church’s courtyard, we returned to the restaurant. The owner introduced himself as Romeo and had us sit at the front table.

Romeo said that this building (the one we were eating in) is the oldest working building in Rome build around 150AD, but that you go back another 80 years for each step you take going down to his cellar which dates to 80BC. We asked if we could take our desert into the cellar, which we did. I’ll post photos taken in the cellar on an iPhone. Not the best shots given the lighting.
We returned home around 9:30 and zonked out.

The bed in the apartment is wonderfully hard. “That’s the way, ah ha, ah ha, I like it”

A wonderful first day, though we did walk 5+ miles and our toes paid the price.
I’ll dig out the restaurant’s name and the homeaway info for the apartment we rented. With the breeze, the apartment is fine in the afternoon in late May. It does have a small wall air-conditioning unit, but it would probably not be a match for July or August weather.

Rome, arrival

We love to travel light. For a one or two week trip we’ll bring one carry-on piece of luggage and a small day pack. We could probably live comfortably for a month with the occasional trip to a cleaner. This trip is different. We will be taking a two week cruise and need a variety of “resort style” and formal clothing. For that we purchased a modest sized bag. As for garages, stuff expands to fill the space. All five pieces of luggage were filled to exploding.

Why a discussion about luggage, that’s not talkin’ Roma. Well the luggage became an annoyance once we arrived. Connections and the flight into Fiumicino Aeroperto was smooth. Baggage collection was a bit more challenging as the baggage was slow to unload and it was “fun” to find the correct carousel. With baggage in hand, we next searched for the train terminal.

The train terminal at Fiumicino is very well marked and easy to find. It’s a very short walk (relatively…). The luggage was a minor annoyance.

Not knowin how to use the ticket machines, we asked a charming young fellow at a ticket counter for two tickets on the local train going to Trastevere. No problem. The tickets were 8 eruo each and the train was arriving in 12 minutes. Great. Luggage and passengers made it on the train, no problem, train stops are presented on a marquee making it darn near fool proof. We got off at Trastevere station and made our way out to the street. Again the exit was well marked, but required going down stairs, through a tunnel, and back upstairs to the station house. The “how to” described getting tickets for the #8 tram which runs from the train station to our stop. Again this was not a problem. The tobacconist sells all manner of things and we easily bought two tickets for Roma’s wonder bus and tram system.

Tickets come in 75min, 1 day, and 3 day increments. A single use ticket is $1.50e. Here we found our first hassle. The tram stops outside the station. Our “how to” guided us to our left. The tram stops to the right. I guesss that’s the difference between facing train station going in v.s. going out. We were hauling our luggage all over the place across cobble stone sidewalks with no idea where we were going.

The Italians are a very fun loving and gracious people. All we had to do was ask. A fellow pointed to a tram waiting to load passengers, it was the #8 and it was nearly full. It is no fun pushing onto a nearly full bus or tram. We did not win over any friends for the Stati Uniti on that trip.

The next issue was finding Via De Genovese #38, “our” building. Once you know where it is, it is still difficult to find it without a few side trips. Not knowing was hell with a 44lb weight on wheels. Glad for the wheels. It took probably 30 minutes to find the building with help from a local then local police. Rosie, the woman we were to meet at the flat was nowhere in sight. We were over 30 minutes late and had no reasonable expectation that she would wait that long.

Rosie answered on the second call, said she was busy at the moment but would be there in 20 minutes to welcome us. Casting about for what to do with our luggage, we walked the 30 meters to a local restaurante. The owner came out and suggested we could have something there and he would watch our luggage. We ordered two cappuccinos and I must admit, the Italians do know good coffee. My cappuccino doppio was superb. The 30 minutes it took Rosie to arrive went very quickly, though I call out, “Rosie” to any woman who seemed the bit lost and got some puzzled looks back.

Rosie arrived and she and Ellen scrambled to the 4th floor. Ellen might take issue with scrambled, but that’s what it looked like to me. Carrying my day pack, carry-on, AND the oversized bag was not a scramble. I was in a panting sweat at the last of 68 steps.

We arrived. The apartment was exactly as shown on the website. It is small, cozy, well appointed, with a view over the roofs of Trastevere. It does not overlook a monument, which is OK for us. We’ll go to the monuments and use the apartment to sleep.

Thus far renting from has been great.

What was not prominently mentioned in the flat’s listing: it is located two short blocks from the #8 tram. The #8 tram ends at the Vittorio Emmanuel II monument and very close to the colosseum. We now use the #8 to go anywhere. You purchase tram/bus tickets at any tobacconist: single use for $1.50e is good for 75 minutes, day passes for $7.00e, and 3 day passes.

We have been stuck out after tobacconists close and not having a ticket we rode the #8 anyway. This can work as tickets are seldom checked, but the fine for riding with an invalid ticket is $100.00e. Now we buy tickets ahead.

We have seen more Smart Cars in Italy than any other single car. It is the national car of Italy (or at least of Roma) and it makes sense. They are small, inexpensive to operate, inexpensive to insure, and inexpensive to purchase.