Today we planned on taking the free shuttle into Rome. We didn’t really know exactly where in Rome we would be dropped off (all of the information just said “Central Rome”) but figured we could either walk to where we wanted to go or ride public transportation. The shuttle ran every two hours and since we had slept in, would need to catch the 10 am shuttle bus.
We had breakfast at the hotel. They had a continental breakfast for 12 Euros or a full breakfast for 24 Euros per person. Being total cheapskates (and not that hungry) we opted for the continental breakfast. They had some croissants and a lovely selection of fresh fruit as well as juice and coffee. The choices for the full breakfast looked quite delicious but spending $27 each for breakfast seemed a bit excessive. They had a machine for coffee. I learned something today – there was a button on the machine that said latte, which sounded better than an Americano, so I pushed that. Do you know what latte means in Italian? Hot milk. I got a cup of hot milk. So, I grabbed another mug and pushed Americano this time and got a cup of hot coffee. Add your hot milk to your hot coffee and you have something that resembles what we would call a latte!
We finished breakfast and went to wait for the bus. I discovered that you can get free internet access on your telephone while sitting in the lobby, so I was able to check my email. I had a note from someone wanting to sign up for a tour (really?), and one from the events coordinator on the ship regarding the Meet & Greet. She wanted to see if it was ok to change the location and date of the Meet & Greet to one of the port days. I emailed her back to let her know that this was definitely NOT ok; we would be off the ship on the day she suggested, as would the majority of the people that were supposed to attend!
The bus ride into the city took about 45 minutes. We were greatly amused by the people sitting behind us (I don’t intend the eavesdrop. I am actually a little hard of hearing, but some people speak so loudly, you can’t help but hear them). There are Mediterranean pines (umbrella pines) that line the streets. The women decided they looked like clouds and that they were very pretty. They then wondered aloud, “Does someone trim them to look like that?” A full discussion with their husbands ensued; they decided that they were like big, huge bonsai that someone shapes so that they look pleasing to the tourists. No sir, you cannot make this stuff up! They had some other fairly amusing conversations, but that was the only one that stuck with me.
We arrived in town; the bus dropped us off. Somewhere. Somewhere with Marcello in the street name. That was as much as we knew. We had passed some ruins on the way in; the people behind us said that they were Roman Baths (but these are the same people that said someone pruned those pine trees, so who knows what they actually were!). Fortunately, I had picked up a map at the airport last night, so if we could locate our street on the map, we could figure out what we were near. That turned out to be easier said than done. So many streets in Rome do not have signs identifying them. And, if you don’t know which direction is north, south, east or west, it is hard to situate yourself. We decided to walk until we found something that looked familiar from our last visit. We also took a picture of the place where the bus dropped us off so we would know where to return to later.
A few blocks up the road, we found the big white building known as Vittoriano (where Il Duce gave his speeches during WWII; pictured above). We had been here before! Yes! Now we just needed to find it on the map and try to figure out what direction to head next! The plan for the day was to visit sites that we had not been to before: the Trevi fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Capuchin Crypts. Originally, I had wanted to return to the Colosseum to do the gladiator tour and to return to the Vatican, but we ended up losing one day of our time in Rome due to an itinerary change, so will do those another time.
We were able to find our place on the map, and so marked where to return to for the bus, and went on our way, confident that we could follow the streets to the Trevi fountain. Ha! The joke was on us! Again, the lack of street name made things really tough. We wandered in the direction that I was sure the fountain was but didn’t find anything, so turned around and struck off in another direction. No luck that way either. We stopped in a shop to ask if we were headed the right way; turns out the first way we tried actually was correct; we just hadn’t gone far enough. We took our life in our hands crossing streets but became more confident that the crazy drivers would actually stop for pedestrians (it just didn’t look like they would!).
We eventually found some familiar looking streets; we had eaten at a restaurant on one of them when we were there last fall. Turns out that it was only two blocks from the fountain (which was closed for refurbishing last time). The fountain was magnificent; it was also very crowded. I took some pictures, but we did not toss any coins in the fountain. I am fairly sure we will return to Rome again, coin or no coin. We were amazed at how many tourists were there since this is (theoretically) off-season.
Our next stop was the Capuchin Crypts. I had read that there are several catacombs around Rome; this one may not be the most spectacular, but it is centrally located and very close to the Trevi fountain. We did end up stopping in a Pharmacia for directions and were able to find the crypts fairly quickly. There was a museum that you walked through before entering the crypts. It was very interesting to read about the saints and martyrs of the Capuchin sect of monks. I was surprised by the beauty of the arrangements of bones. The monks made spectacular displays using the variety of bones in the human body. It was really fascinating. Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed because it is a holy place but I did purchase a couple of postcards.
By now we decided it was time for lunch. We found a place near the Trevi fountain and had our traditional Italian meal of pizza (Clayton) and lasagna (me). Clayton ordered a prosciutto pizza; it was a large pizza with three huge strips of prosciutto on it! A little different than what we are used to, but quite tasty nonetheless. My lasagna was ok; not the best I had eaten, but certainly better than Stouffer’s.
Off again for our final tourist destination of the day – the Spanish Steps. The steps themselves are not that exciting; just a place that many people sit and people-watch, but the people-watching is excellent. I must say that I felt very frumpy in Rome. There is something about the people there that is stylish and beautiful. I remember thinking the same in Paris years ago – there is something about the French women that I found fascinating as well. I could wear the same clothes, makeup and hairstyle as these women, and still feel like a drudge next to them. I can’t pinpoint what it is about their style, but they certainly were lovely. The men dress much more stylishly than the men at home as well. We passed groups of armed guards (carrying machine guns). Clayton asked one group if there was a particular threat that they were guarding against but was told that they do this year-round. I guess that is common in most of Europe these days. We wandered around the area; there are many upscale shops. We looked in the shop windows on the way by, but were not tempted to purchase anything. By now we were getting tired so decided to head back to the bus.
After wandering lost much of the morning, I by now had the lay of the land so was able to guide us back to the bus without getting lost or having to ask for directions once! We ended up waiting about a half-hour for the bus which gave us an excellent opportunity for more people-watching. Our bus ride back to the hotel was quiet and relaxing. We were still full from lunch so decided to skip dinner. Instead, we headed back to the train station which is attached to the airport. We wanted to plan our trip to the port in the morning and to familiarize ourselves. So, we hoofed it over to the station and went ahead and purchased our tickets for the next day (11 Euros to the port). We will take a train back towards Rome (Trastevere station) and then transfer to the train to the port (Civitavecchia). There is no direct train from airport to port, though they are not that far apart. We have all day to get to the port, so it won’t be a problem.
Tomorrow – embarkation day!