Round city once
To colosseum for roman forum next
Yesterday - long train journey was pleasant and easy and our hotel seems nice, if basic. We went for a walk to the Colosseum and over the Tiber - an old Italian lady on the bridge complimented mike on his lovely long hair, and we saw a small white crane fishing at the weir. Pantheon and Trevi fountain both lovely. Dinner at Hostaria Romana - a very lucky find. Local specialities tried and enjoyed - though the pasta was a bit too strong with cheese. It rained a little, all the street vendors tried to sell us an umbrella and couldn't understand that we were English and finding it refreshing in the heat. Definitely hotter than Venice, even when the sun is in. The ice-cream is very very good though.
Lido in Venice was a lovely way to spend the afternoon and we did get our paddle on a stunning sandy beach. The sun was perhaps a bit too much for mike though. Despite the resulting headache he bravely came out for one last pizza before we left and very good it was too - as was the pesce miste which he had for a starter - he seems to have a better eye for the menus than I do.
Later on Saturday
Roman fora: entry turned out to be free but we'd have happily paid quite a bit given how long we spent wandering around them and the other excavations on the palatine hill. Spectacular in both scale of the site, how much is still in good condition and in the detail especially of the frescoes in Livia's house and the temple of Romulus. If we'd taken out one of the audioguides we'd probably still be there now!
It was well past lunchtime by the time we left in search of food, and several places were closed for the afternoon but near the Argentinian theatre we found a cafe which did excellent bruschetta which we had with cocktails and a salad. Sadly despite being the caffe di gelato it had no ice-cream available for pudding, which was very disappointing. We shall just have to have one another time instead.
After so long out and about on our feet and in the sun, which came out around noon, we've had a relatively quiet evening. An excellent hotel room picnic, with the playlist we put together for the wedding disco. Which was brilliant - especially as none of the CDs of it had worked so we didn't manage to hear most of it at the wedding itself. Great fun, so glad we brought the iPods on holiday with us, even if we only managed to get any working wifi on the first night.
And we've all the rest of the week to enjoy the rest of Rome too!
Monday morning appears to be delivery day - at around 6:300am - ow! Still at least we got back to sleep for a while once they finished clattering about outside. Monday is also the day when many museums and restaurants are closed but I'm sure we'll find something to do.
Yesterday we woke to glorious blue skies and set off on the open-top bus again to take us round the other side of the city - enjoying slightly different views on its Sunday route. We got off at Piazza Augustus Imperiatus to visit the Ara Pacis or altar of peace. This is a rather impressive marble monument which rather confused us for a while since it's right next to Augustus' mausoleum, which doesn't make sense at all given the map of the area in Roman times until you realise they moved it there when they put it back together. There are some pieces missing but the remaining friezes are remarkably complete.
It now stands inside a modern glass museum to protect it from the elements, which also has two exhibitions on at the moment. One has the winning entry and done of the runners up of a competition go create a new image or brand for Rome - all based on the word Roma and the symbol of the wolf. We definitely liked the winner best.
The second exhibition downstairs was of a series of portraits and landscapes by a rather famous modern Italian artist whose name escapes me now - I'll have to look it up later. Many of the landscapes were in a series entitled 'sitting and looking' which might help me find him. Although I like them I definitely preferred the portraits though. Somewhat abstract, and using an interesting technique in oil and pencil with splashes of bright colour, they were full of character. And even better was the fact they also displayed a series of preliminary pencil sketches for some of them, so you could see how they evolved towards the final image.
As we left it began to rain, quite heavily, but it was still warm and looked like it would blow over soon so instead of seeking shelter we happily wandered round the square looking at the huge round mound of the mausoleum. Sadly it's currently behind barriers in preparation for some restoration plan perhaps. Then we walked up a busy shopping street towards the piazza de populi which we'd only had a fleeting glimpse of from the bus the previous day. Well worth seeing, especially as the rain had just stopped and the sun was coming back out.
From there we climbed up the steep stairs and slope to the gardens in the grounds of the Villa Borghese. There we had a very pleasant afternoon. The main museum had sold out of tickets for the day (and was selling only advance ones for Tuesday) so we skipped that, but we had a nice wander round, saw escaped parakeets flying around and terrapins in the boating lake where we went for a row - and very bad at steering we were too, but we had fun. Then we finished off the afternoon with the modern art museum, which was great. I steered us too far when we went on search of the famous names (Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh etc) but in the end that meant we saw them last instead of first which worked just as well :) We saw lots of other stuff some of which I loved, and other bits oh which really didn't do it for me - which is more or less what I expected. Sadly by the time we'd got round everything the cafe had closed though, which was a shame as I'd been looking forward to an ice-cream all afternoon.
We headed back through the gardens, past a roller-skating competition and lots of people on bikes and pedal cars, and found ourselves at the Spanish Steps which were thronging with people coming out for the evening. In a backstreet though we found some reasonably quiet restaurants and spotting one from our guide we stopped to eat at Al 34. This turned out to be excellent and reasonably priced - I had a fab ravioli dish with a creamy pesto-like sauce and we both had great fish courses to follow. I'd been planning to finally get that ice-cream for pudding, but they listed home made desserts so I couldn't resist trying the tiramisu and Mike went for the panna cotta and they were both lovely. Very different from the tiramisu you get at home.
In Rome they seem to bring you a carafe when you ask for a glass of house wine. This time it was a full half litre! so I was feeling a bit squiffy by the time we came home to bed, but very well fed. And I'll just have to get that ice-cream today instead!
Monday and Tuesday ended up being reasonably lazy days. With one visit each and a long siesta with our books in the afternoons. We did get to the Vatican but only did St Peter's so will have to go back another time fir the museums and the Sistine Chapel.
The Basilica is pretty impressive though to say the least. It's hard to keep a real impression of the scale of it - gigantic - since all the statues are also on a huge scale. The best bit for us though was definitely climbing all the stairs (550 of them, many of them large and sloping, plus some bits of ramp) all the way to the top of Michelangelo's dome. The climb itself is great fun - so long as you're not claustrophobic (some bits are very narrow), agoraphobic (it's incredibly busy) or scared of heights. But oh what a view from inside looking down on the church and oh what an even better one from the top out across the rooftops and hills of Rome. I suspect it won't come out on camera though.
We did manage to get our ice-cream before our nap :) and very good it was too - though it wouldn't gave looked out of place in the hands of one of St Peter's statues, being of a similar outsize nature. Fab. And we had our nicest (and cheapest) pizza yet in a cheap and cheerful little caff round the corner from the hotel.
On Tuesday we decided to pick a nearby place to visit first - what better than the national museum of Rome who have several locations including the Palazzo Massimo just a short stroll away. The collection of stone heads was perhaps a bit much after the first 20 or so, but several of the statues were fascinating, especially the two huge Greek bronzes, and the top floor is worth a visit of it's own. It's full of friezes and mosaics, some in incredibly untouched condition, and arranged into rooms exactly as they were found. The colours are amazing.
For dinner we thought we'd do something a little different and wandered over to the Via Veneto to sample a little of the famous dolce vita. We didn't see anyone who looked any more glamourous than ourselves in the end but we did have a fun meal and cocktails at the Hard Rock Cafe. Great fun, if not very Italian! We resisted the souvenir glasses though, and the t-shirts too once we saw the prices!
We finished the evening with a bit of souvenir shopping elsewhere though, although frustratingly most of the nicest things you can buy here are all Murano glass which was cheaper in Venice where it's made. In general Rome certainly seems less expensive though.
I find it almost impossible to believe that in Rome you can get half a litre of really rather good Cabernet for only 3 euros, if it's the house red, when you'd spend more than that for a glass back a home. Certainly that added to the feeling that the the excellent meal we've just had was a bargain - and not just because it was 50 euros less than we would have spent on a similar meal in venice.
I get ahead of myself though. Yesterday we visited the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli and another part of the roman museum, both in parts of the Diocletian Baths. It seems nothing in Rome is small and it's really hard not to be amazed at how big the Baths must have been given that Michelangelo could build such a huge Basilica from such a small portion of them. The church was lovely, and again full of Scientific exhibits - this time relating to the life of Galileo. Parts of the museum were also really nice: the Aula X was a great way to see the scale of the original buildings and the cloisters attributed to Michelangelo were an oasis of peace and sunshine. The other exhibits were fairly interesting but we were a bit overwhelmed by that point and I think there was a lot we didn't take in. It would help to have a deeper understanding not just of Roman history but also of Roman myth and legends and the gods.
We had lunch locally and a long siesta with our books and then a nearby dinner too, neither of which were very exciting but at least they were cheap and cheerful.
When Thursday morning came around we found we were quite tired, and moreover somewhat tired of sightseeing, so we packed our books and iPods and set out in search of somewhere green and peaceful just to chill out. First though we found that the hotel wifi was now working so we could have a quick peek at our mail and Facebook and order some food to be delivered when we got home.
We struck out at a fairly random direction from the Via Cavour near our hotel, always heading towards the river but along unknown streets. Then we crossed over to Trastavere (the other side of the Tiber) and pottered through some more backstreets which reminded us both of the old towns of parts of Crete and up to the hill of Giancolo where we had a lovely picnic, admired the views across the city and sat and read in the shade for a while and watched the parakeets (or tried to - given how brightly coloured they are they're very hard to spot).
In the afternoon we wandered back along the river and then along the Via Guilia which was pleasantly quiet and through more back streets to Piazza Navona. It's been lovely to avoid the traffic so much today! Here we sat and enjoyed a drink watching the world go by (and the police arresting some counterfeit handbag sellers) and then bought some art from one of the thronging sellers, before heading home. And then it was time to go out for our lovely dinner at Ristorante del Giglio which is just down the street from our hotel and now highly recommended, especially the lamb. And I promise that's not just half a litre of good red wine talking!
Tomorrow is our last full day, and we plan to head out to the sea for the day, but who knows what we'll feel like doing in the morning. We were beginning to feel a bit bored of being on holiday but in the end I've had a lovely day today.
As I said already on Facebook a lazy morning turned into a long walk - out to the Walls of the city and along the old Appian Way out of town. On Sundays apparently they close it to traffic except tour buses and it's probably lovely but on a Friday afternoon it's a bit unpleasantly busy. However it has its own sort of national park area, and we struck off along a narrow lane into the countryside and it was really charming. We came back through suburban Rome which was interesting in its own way too, but entering back into town to be greeted by the Palatine hill and the colosseum was spectacular - it would have been worth coming to Rone for that alone.
We definitely worked up a good appetite for dinner and found a nice little nearby restaurant for it and had a lovely meal until Mike found a shard of glass in his chocolate mousse. They were very apologetic but it's not really something you can make up to people easily. Especially if they don't actually want the limoncello they're offered as a gift. It's a shame because the food was really good and it rather took the edge off an otherwise excellent meal, we're only lucky he wasn't badly cut!
We won't let it spoil our evening though. We've got rock anthems on the stereo, each other for company and lovely memories of a fab holiday. And tomorrow we have presents to open and a house to welcome us home for the first time as husband and wife. Now if only we didn't have to go back to work on Monday!