Wednesday, March 09, 2005

When in Rome, do as the rodents do--Part I 

Mike made up the title for our Rome trip report, and I promised him that I would use it. You'll see why later.

We set off for Rome on Saturday. The drive to the airport in Hahn usually takes about an hour and a half, but I left with plenty of time to spare because we had gotten a fair amount of snow that morning. I was glad I had the extra time, as the parking lot at the airport was a snowy mess, and I was able to take my time in finding the perfect parking spot (after having to use my ice scraper to dig myself out of a less-than-perfect spot). Our Ryanair flight left at 8:00 p.m., and we were in Rome by 10:00.

There are several ways of getting to and from the airport in Rome. Of course, there are always taxis, but that can be expensive. Ryanair operates a shuttle bus service for 8 euro per person. Or you can take the COTRAL bus to the end station of the metro line and metro in to the city center--one euro for the bus, one euro for the metro.

I opted for the cheapest route, which left us standing in the cold for close to an hour while we waited for the COTRAL bus to arrive. We were surprised to find out upon reaching the metro station that the metro closes down at 9:00 p.m. these days due to construction, so we had to take yet another bus into the city center. By the time we reached our stop and made it to the hotel, it was close to midnight, and our nerves were frazzled.

Crossing the street in Rome is scary business. Here in Germany, if you stand next to a pedestrian crosswalk and look as if you might be pondering crossing the street sometime in the future, cars screech to a halt. In Rome, however, you can stand with your toes hanging off into the street, and cars whiz by. They do tend to stop, however, if you simply dash out in front of them, but that calls for a tremendous leap of faith. The kids and I eventually got quite good at glomming onto crowds of other street-crossers and found that women with baby carriages made particularly good cover. That first night, however, I was afraid that we would be able to see only the sights on one side of the road in Rome, as that maiden voyage across the street was rather traumatic.

I decided that first night that we would have to strike a balance between going and doing and taking time to relax. More B-ness, less A-ness! Accordingly, we opted to have our breakfast each morning at 9:30 and to take our time getting into our daily activities.

On our first day, Sunday, we headed straight for the train station to make arrangements for Monday's trip to Pompeii. As we walked back to the hotel, we stopped at the fountain in Piazza del Repubblica and posed for our one and only group shot from the entire trip:

From there we walked down Via Nazionale and headed over to the Colosseum. Walking out of modern day Rome and into the heart of ancient Rome will remain at the top of the list of the coolest things I have ever done. Here are the kids in front of the Colosseum:

Rome has a bit of a stray problem, and there are oodles of cats wandering the city. We fell in love with this cat and named him Nero. Unlike most feral cats, who tend to be fairly skittish around humans, Nero is a Class A suck-up and knows how to work the crowd. We saw at least one tourist feeding him, and I'm sure that plenty more do the same:

The Arch of Constantine was on the top of Mike's list of things to see, and we saw it from just about every angle possible:

My friend Lisa gave me a valuable tip--the entrance ticket for the Colosseum and the Palatine are one and the same. While there are usually long lines at the Colosseum ticket window, there is generally no wait at all at the Palatine, which is where we went to get our tickets. We enjoyed strolling along the Palatine hill, where legend states that Rome founders Romulus and Remus were brought up by a wolf. The view from the hill looking out across the Forum was amazing:

After the Palatine, we stopped for lunch from a sandwich cart before visiting the Colosseum. Here are a couple of panoramas I made from the Colosseum; if you click on the smaller image, you can see the full-size panorama. This one shows the interior of the Colosseum:

And this one shows the view from the Arch of Constantine to the Forum:

After the Colosseum, we wandered through the Forum. It was unspeakably cool to stand literally smack dab in the middle of so much ancient history. Here, for example, is what remains of the Temple of Saturn:

And here is the Arch of Septimius Severus, which we walked underneath as we exited the Forum:

From the Forum, we found our way over to the Pantheon and walked quickly through. After the Pantheon, we stopped by Sant'Ignazio di Loyola. We slipped into a pew to rest our aching feet, and I encouraged the kids to look up into the dome and tell me what they saw. "Um, a dome?" they answered. I urged them to look closer, and they did:

Finally I let them in on the secret: Although a dome had been planned for the church, one had never been completed. The space where the dome would have gone is covered by an illusionist painting of the interior of a dome:

Our energy supplies were running low, but no trip to Rome would be complete without seeing the Trevi Fountain. Here are Mike and Annabelle, getting ready to toss their coins into the fountain, thereby assuring their return one day to Rome:

From the fountain, we headed over to the Spanish Steps, which proved to be an excellent spot to sit down for a quick break:

After we left the steps, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe for supper and then back to the hotel, where we were asleep by 9:30, a new record for us.

Tune in tomorrow for more exciting Roman adventures! I promise the whole rodent thing will soon make sense.

Dad here...I want to help make Mike and Annabelle's (Bonnie's too?)wish to return to Rome a reality. Let's add it to th elist of places to see during my 30 days leave upon redeployment. It will be warmer in July/August, but with sun screen and shorts we will be fine.
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