Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Italy Trip Report: Rome

In case you missed the teaser post: Link to an older post with some pictures.

Also, the photos I'm going to post up won't have QB or me in them. If you'd like to see the full collection, shoot me a message, and I can give you access to the online album.

Onto the report...

We left the house at 2:30am PST on September 18. After a long journey, QB and I landed in Rome on the morning of September 19. We had all of our hotels booked ahead of time, but we had no idea what the best way would be to get to them. We figured we'd wing it.

We went to the tourist information booth at the airport, and we're told to take the Express Train to the city's main train station, Termini. We needed some Euros, so I changed a tiny amount at a poor rate (made even worse by some additional fixed rate charge). The train takes us there, and we quickly catch a taxi that takes us to our hotel, Villa San Pio.

The hotel was really nice, and the room quality was much better than I was expecting. We were quite pleased with the staff and the hotel's location near Ancient Rome. From here, we could easily walk to the Colosseum and explore the ancient parts of the city. The hotel's breakfast was quite good as well.

Here's a view from our room.

The food in Rome was hit-and-miss. Undoubtedly, part of this had to do with how things are cooked in Italy. We didn't know this at the time, but many dishes are grilled with extremely light seasoning. While I enjoy a lighter taste, I was craving for more flavor.

As an example, here's a typical meat dish... grilled lamb. It wasn't bad, and the lamb meat didn't have a strong smell. It was just that there wasn't much flavor.

We also tried a seafood restaurant that came highly recommended by our travel book... Cafe Mancini. Neither of us was really impressed. I'm not going to say that it was bad, as it certainly wasn't. Just that the dishes didn't deliver what you would expect for the prices. Part of this might also have to do with the fact that neither of us really knew just how expensive Italy is, especially with a weak dollar. I suspect that we had a preconceived notion of what to expect given the prices being charged. The service was good here, which means that it wasn't bad. After the trip, I can say that restaurant service in Italy is virtually non-existent.

A couple dishes from Cafe Mancini...

I must say though that we had two amazing meals (we went a second time, since the first time was so good) at a neighborhood restaurant called Il Bucatino. It was filled with locals, which was probably a good sign.

QB fell in love with the Roman Chicken dish. And, I should mention that if you eat tripe, you've got to try the tripe as it is prepared in Italy (see old post for photo). It is some seriously good stuff. Chinese-style tripe dishes cannot compare... at all.

While in Rome, we got to check out the Colosseum. The Colosseum, when looking at it from outside is breathtaking. But, once inside, I wasn't too impressed. The stadium is really huge though, so I suppose I should have been more in awe.

We also explored Palatine Hill (see old post for photo). And, we dropped by the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain just to see what they were all about. I remember how nice it was walking around Rome. You walk around semi-randomly, and you are bound to run into some pretty neat sights.

Here are a couple of photos... the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.

Not much to say about those two spots other than how crowded they were with many people lounging around. Both really beautiful, so I don't blame anyone for wanting to just park themselves.

There was this one area, Piazza Navona, that had a ton of local artists (I think) trying to sell their work on the street. There's only foot traffic in the piazza, so that helped keep area a bit more peaceful. It was a great place to do some people watching. Restaurants and cafes lined the perimeter, and there were a couple of fountains there too, if I recall.

I might as well throw up a few more pictures of Rome. Here is a shot of the Tiber River and one of the many bridges that cross it.

This one is of some random street while walking around the city.

We also went to the Vatican Museums. The museum had a lot of stuff to look at. You would think that it would contain only religion-based exhibits, but it wasn't like that. There were a lot of historical exhibits including some covering ancient Egypt and Asia.

I took a ton of pictures at this museum. Probably too many, but there were so many things that made me take a step back and say, "Wow." Here's a picture of the most decorated hallway I've ever had the privilege walking down. Seriously, this was one impressive ceiling.

Here is Raphael's famous work, Transfiguration. I was shocked by how vibrant the colors were... my photo does it no justice. I'm ignorant when it comes to art, but it doesn't take much to see that this was some magnificent work.

And, here is a shot of the main altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, where Michaelangelo painted his famous work, the Last Judgement.

And, in closing, here's a view of Rome from atop Castel Sant'Angelo.

The next update will cover Naples and the side-trip to Pompeii's ruins.

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