Thursday, September 11, 2008

When in Rome

Air Transat stayed in business long enough for us to make it to Italy. The flight was uneventful, other than terrible food.Why would they choose a frozen dinner of Indian curry chicken for Montrealers flying to Rome? After landing, we had a short train ride to the main bus terminal and then a tram to our hotel.

On the 2 minute walk to our hotel, we already started passing by ruins. There’s a fenced in area across the street that’s been excavated with some old columns and building foundations exposed. What would Italians do with such a treasure? Turn it into a cat hospice, of course! They bring cat food and actually use it as a home for stray cats that the public can visit.

Our hotel room is in a former palace – Costaguti Palace. They claim to have a Michelangelo painting, but it’s not viewable to the public, so I have my suspicions. We got a peek at some of the rooms and some seem to be well maintained with fantastic art and furnishings. We got there half an hour before check-in time and I made the mistake of sitting down on the marble stairs. The building manager gave me the no-no finger. Don’t they know butt prints add character?

When the woman arrived to check us in, we saw that the preservation of the palace seems to have stopped at the 4th floor – where we’re staying. As we entered, the fridge in the common area seemed to have broken at some point so there was water all over the floor. Plus our room hadn’t been cleaned so we had to sit around for half an hour while the woman changed sheets and mopped floors. She never really spoke to us either, so it was weird.

Keys finally in hand, we headed off to explore Rome. We needed some time to collect our bearings so we bought a map and stopped for lunch on a patio. After we were seated, a big group came along that wanted to sit together so we offered to move to another table. Our server brought us free lemoncello as a thank you. Score! I’m liking Italy already.

First on the list was the Colosseum. It’s right out of the postcards. We did a tour and saw just how big it was inside. The area below the stage where they used to keep animals and fighters, by itself was huge! Very surreal.

Next we headed to a tour of Palantine Hill, where all the emperors built their houses. They had bathrooms the size of my house. With heated floors! The emperors had so many slaves they had nothing to do but watch gladiator fights and eat. There’s nothing quite like traveling 6,724 km for a tour of vomitoriums.

A quick gelato stop later, we went to the famous Trevi Fountain. Legend says that if you throw a coin in the fountain it will ensure you return to Rome. Apparently they make about 3,000 euros a day from this. I should make my own legend. If you give me a $10 bill every day, I will ensure a more frugal lifestyle for you. The area around the fountain was packed! It’s actually been hard to get a clear picture anywhere due to all the tourists. And this is the off season!

Next, the Pantheon - now a Catholic church, it's the oldest domed structure in Rome and the best preserved building. All of the history and art in Rome is overwhelming. So is the jet lag, so we stopped back at the hotel for a quick nap.

For dinner, we crossed over the Tiber river to the Trastevere area. I had my first, of what will be many, spaghetti and clam dinners - one of my favourites. Wine here is cheap! At some places you can get a ½ litre for about $6 Canadian. Trastevere is very lively at night. Restaurants don’t open until 7:30 and almost everyone eats outside on the patios, so the piazzas are packed with eating, drinking and street performers. I didn’t know you could just walk around Italy with open liquor! We went to find Kevin a “walking beer” (our name for it, not an Italian term) after dinner and found that Duff is really popular. The label is exactly the same as on The Simpsons.

While Kevin walked around with his beer and took pictures I went to see a so-called fortune teller. I say so-called because even despite my prompts, everything she told me was wrong. You’re moving. Nope. Someone close to you is in the process of moving. Nope. Your mother is blonde. Nope. You have cats. Wrong again. Kevin's prediction was better: you will get bilked out of 20 euros in the near future.

No comments: