Our last day in Rome and actually more of a half day as we had to leave after lunch to catch our flight. We were going to go to what we thought was a Klimpt exhibition not far from the flat, but when we got there it turned out to be some sort of multimedia “experience” so we gave it a miss!
Instead we checked out a local church and cathedral which we hadn’t had time to see previously.
First we went the strange octagonal baptistry of San Giovanni in Fonte
Battistero Lateranense which is a fascinating and unusual structure. It is hard to avoid the view that it must have been build on the base of an earlier Roman structure, but apparently there is no evidence to demonstrate this.
We then moved on to the cathedral of San Giovanni in Laterano which is a huge and most impressive building.
Today we divided our forces. Mum and Sophia went to see the Hiroshiga “Visions from Japan” exhibition of 19th century Japanese art whilst Dad went to see the Roman port town of Ostia Antica.
The exhibition contained 230 prints by Hiroshiga, mostly landscapes from some of his famous series of views. It provided some excellent variety, delightfully lacked large deranged groups of tourists and instead contained mostly educated looking Italians of a certain age. Sophia was able to practice trying to read some of the titles on Japanese and identified some interesting stylistic connections with Manga.
Dad meanwhile was hugely impressed with Ostia Antica. It took about 20 minutes to get there on the train from Rome and was well worth it. The site is HUGE and despite being there from 11:30 to 18:00 with a short break for lunch, Dad only managed to see just over a third of it.
The large formal buildings such as the theatre are very impressive, but what Dad liked most was wandering through the suburbs and exploring the numerous houses. Although the site was busy with visitors, it was only necessary to wander a short way down a side road to be nearly alone and able to imagine the that one was back in Roman times.
Until late in the day, the more popular areas were spoilt by numerous school parties. Why is it that the members of such groups have to bellow to each other all of the time?
Clearly, with less than half of the site covered, at least one more visit is required!
Finally, Dad would like to apologise for the annoying white splodges spoiling some of his photos. He got some dirt on his lens near the start of the day and didn’t notice until nearly the end. He is very annoyed about this!
Dad’s Health Tip – Don’t wander around a Roman world heritage site in the pouring rain if you want to remain able to speak to people or, at the very least, don’t be so pig headed as to ignore your wife when she insists that you take and use an umbrella!
A relatively quiet day with Dad’s throat not permitting much in the way of communication! After a late start we header for the Vatican. We weren’t really intending to visit the Vatican museum as it would clearly take several days and by the time we arrived we wanted lunch anyway. The queue was huge and basically it wouldn’t have been worth while.
We looked round St Peter’s square. Dad loved the fountains and as usual expressed the view that something similar would look good in the garden. Amazingly, the square is infested with the same annoying selfi-stick sellers as the rest of the centre of Rome. It is astonishing that the pontiff puts up with them!
The main event of the day was a visit to the Papal castle at Castel Sant Angelo. This turned out to be an excellent and well worth while visit (14 Euros each and free for Sophia). The castle was originally the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian and for Dad the most spectacular part was the huge roman spiral ramp which you descend to exit. It is an amazing piece of roman civil engineering constructed purely for Hadrian’s funeral cortège.
A serious change in the weather. After several warm and sunny days, today it was cold, windy and raining heavily. Dad elected to go the Colosseum as the tickets from yesterday we valid for two days. In the end it was far from successful as the Colosseum is almost entirely outdoors and the rain was heavy and unrelenting. Never the less, it was still heaving with people. On his shivering return Dad admitted that we wouldn’t have been wetter if he had swum home.
The Colosseum is certainly spectacular, but really needs to be seen in better weather and preferably with fewer people and here is a basic conclusion about visiting Rome. There are countless things to see and the less popular ones (e.g. Etruscan museum, many of the churches) are not significantly less worth seeing than the key sites but much less stressful and usually cheaper!
After lunch we went to the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in the centre of the city. It has some excellent paintings in sumptuous, if sometimes slightly faded, surroundings but there was one slight snag. They had run out of audio guides. This didn’t seem to be a big problem but it was. Normally an audio guide is just an adjunct, but here is is the only guide available. In most art galleries (at least in the UK), the is written information about all the paintings. Sometimes this is small sign next to each one or perhaps there is folder on a table in each room which you can consult. In the Pamphilj there are none of these things. Each painting simply has the name of the artist and a serial number. Some (perhaps 1 in 20) of the paintings has a number referencing the audio guide but for the other 95% there is nothing to be discovered even if you have a guide.
You can buy two guide books in English, but one just lists the titles and dates of all the paintings whilst the other gives full details but only covered the 5% covered by the audio guide.
Finally, we went to an area near the Spanish steps to see a plaque on a house where Gogol lived.
The weather remained dreadful all day, but the combination of rain and wind was excellent for our “Broken Umbrellas” photo project.
Today we spent the morning at the flat basically having a rest and recovering from the exertions of the last few days.
After lunch we headed for the Palatine Gardens. It was the day of the Rome marathon so there were hundreds of runner milling about. Observing a long queue that was for ticket holders only, we proceeded up the hill until we came to the Church of St Bonaventura. There we met a very nice man who for a small donation was running a guided tour of the church, attached monastery and its small garden with a spectacular view of the centre of Rome.
Mum then had the excellent idea of looking to see if there was another entrance and indeed a few hundred metres along the wall we found one which had a ticket office, almost no queue and bizarrely, unlike the other one, no x-ray machines. What on earth are they looking for with these machines? The roman palace and forum are huge and unlikely to be seriously damaged with anything small enough to lug in a bag. Guns? If one wanted to shoot people there must be 200 places in Rome that are more crowded and have no security at all. Wouldn’t you just go to one of them instead and save the entrance fee!
By the time we got in it was after 4pm so we didn’t have enough time to look at the properly. Dad was disappointed to hear that he wouldn’t have time to visit the museum until he discovered that it was closed anyway. After rushing round until 1900 and skipping some big chunks, Dad declared that one day he would have to return with a folding chair, pack of sandwiches and detailed guide book and would then be able to see it all properly in about three days.
Today we decided to try and look at the area near the river. We took a bus to the circus maximus and then walked over to the river. Since it was nearly lunch time we tried to find somewhere to eat in the Trastovere district but this proved quite tricky as most had only average Trip Advisor ratings. Eventually we located somewhere suitable, but then there was confusion about the order and they only brought one lasagne instead of two.
After lunch, we spent some time admiring the splendid interior of Santa Maria in Trastevere. We then decided that it was best to split up and allow Dad to concentrate on studying historic sites listed in the guide book whilst Mum and Sophia wandered around in a more free-form fashion. Dad was particularly taken with the Teatro Marcello and spent some time admiring it.
The return to the flat took longer than we had hoped as we couldn’t find the return bus stop. In the end Sophia discovered that we could use the tram.
Today we decided to go to what we hoped would be the relative calm of Villa Borghese. The Metro was miraculously and without explanation working again so we were soon at Piazza del Popolo. This magnificent square was marred by two elderly gentlemen who were clearly fans of rock and roll and also the worst buskers we had ever heard. It seems likely that even Dad could have sung better.
We then went into the Villa Borghese park and had lunch at a cafe. Despite there being many people in the park, its huge size meant that it didn’t feel crowded.
It took quite a while to walk all the way through the park to the gallery where we discovered that we should have booked weeks ago! So, instead we went to the Etruscan museum at Villa Giulia which turned out to be excellent (at least if you like Etruscan stuff and Dad does) and only eight Euros and free for children. Dad didn’t have nearly enough time and needs to go back for a day or so. He also made a mental note to visit some of the Etruscan sites from which many of the exhibits had been excavated.
After a stroll back through the park and an ice cream we returned via a rather more crowded metro.
Gosh it’s crowded here! This morning (after a relaxed start) we spent in surveying the local area, buying week long bus/tram tickets and visiting the supermarket.
After lunch at the flat, Mum decided that she wanted to check out the Trevi Fountain and deduced that our best plan was to take the metro. Unfortunately, when we got to the metro station it was mysteriously closed with no signs in any language to indicate why. At the time of writing this remains a mystery.
We then waited a very long time for a bus. We got off near the Colosseum and had a quick look at part of the Forum before heading for the fountain. This was a mistake as it was heaving with people and simply too crowded to be enjoyable. After resting our minds in a huge and rather odd underground bookshop we headed for the Spanish Steps of which the only positive thing to be said was that there were a few gaps between the tourists where one could sit down.
Tomorrow we will try to find somewhere rather more off the beaten track!
Well, here we are at the start of our “Roman Holiday”. Our flight from Heathrow was slightly delayed but the promised taxi driver was waiting for us when we arrived.
The flat “El Case Di Rita” is in a large apartment block with several entrances and there was no sign if anyone to meet us or where exactly it was. Fortunately, Mum speaks Italian and found a caretaker who took Dad to a local shop where the owner works.
About five minutes later an operative arrived to let us in. The flat is clean and relatively spacious. It is on the second floor and if you are feeling brave you can ascend in one of those old lifts that they used to fit into stairwells of old buildings with the stairs going round the lift shaft.
After a quick trip to a modest local supermarket we looked for somewhere to eat. We settled on a fish restaurant on the corner of the block but this wasn’t a good move. To start with we discovered that the boss seemed to spend most of his time standing in the doorway smoking.
The starters were quite nice, but Sophia’s main coarse of meat balls was entirely raw. We sent it back and then had to wait a long time for a replacement pasts dish. Finally, when we came to pay they informed us that due to a technical fault they couldn’t accept card payments. Due to Dad not listening to Mum’s advice before we left we didn’t have sufficient cash, so Dad had to walk a long way down the road to visit a money robot.
Let us hope that things improve tomorrow!
It has snowed in Salisbury for the first time in four years and, predictably, there is complete chaos. No buses are running, schools and work are shut and so is practically everything else!