Monday 4th June: Florence to Rome
Mark and I woke early on a clear and sunny morning to have one last walk through the old town of Florence which allowed us to experience the beauty of this magical place without the crowds. This is a ‘must’ for whatever city you visit; well it’s my view anyway. You need to rise early, about 6.30 ~ 7 am, no matter how tired you are and get out and walk Tourist type destinations are remarkably busy and crowded places by day, as I am sure that you all know, and this can cloud your impression of them. To visit them though, early in the morning, allows you to see them in all their beauty, in your own time and with peace and quiet. Florence is pretty by day but special and very beautiful in the light of the early morning. I know you’re probably thinking that you are not subject to the same compulsive disorder that I obviously have but, hey, give it a go some time. By the way, we are never absolutely alone at this early hour; there are always a few similarly inspired souls out with their cameras. The only difference is that during the early hours people nod and smile to each other.
By the way, three nights in Florence is not nearly enough time to do this city justice, especially if one of your days is a Sunday when many attractions are closed. I would suggest a minimum of 5 nights. We will just have to come back!
Whilst I am on ‘view points’, I am going to bore you with another of mine. Skip this paragraph if you like. It is my opinion that no one should visit Europe without reading up, or brushing up, on their history and art history. I researched a little before leaving home but it was not sufficient: Christian Crusades, Roman Empire, Renaissance Art and History and de Medici family. I really should have brushed up on General Franco and WW2 and the Popes, they do crop up every where. I see a real business opportunity for someone to develop a short evening style course, or book, along the lines of ‘European travel for Dummies’; something where everything is dove-tailed together for greater meaning. Karen Maras; I have been thinking of you so often on this trip and wonder whether you could tackle this after you finish editing your doctoral thesis? Ray could do the graphics and Mark could do the marketing! Karen; you and I (not sure what my role would be though) would have to travel to do some more research! Let me know!
We finally left Florence after a one hour delay and are currently heading to Rome, Stazione Termini. Train travel through Italy is great…I highly recommend it…again, I know. Enough for now, will add more later.
PS. We have been stopped in the beautiful Italian country side, somewhere between Florence and Rome, for over 2 hours now. The whole trip is only meant to be 90 minutes! I have developed another theory during this time though. I have decided red wine must be very good for you. Anxious Italian men clearly unhappy about the delay, dressed in expensive suits, have been strutting up and down the aisles babbling away on their mobile phones doing business no doubt. They are tall, slim, swarthy and very healthy and handsome specimens…I don’t care how long we sit if this keeps up!
Much later: We ended up sitting in that train for 4 hrs before reversing for 30 min and swapping to another train! What was I saying about train travel in Italy???? Anyway, we arrived in at Stazione Termini, Roma on a hot and sunny evening at 6pm; only 5 hours behind schedule. It was a short taxi ride to the apartment and located not far, just two blocks, from our last venue in Roma, the 5 ~ 6 star St Regis Grande. Dr Reidy and Mr Price take note! We hit the jackpot again with our accommodation, being just a 5 min walk to both the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. The apartment is a huge, 2 bedroom, two bathroom, massive space filled with all the mod cons that we are used to from home. The irony is though that this is the first building in some time with a lift yet, we are only on the first floor. Mark does not see the humour here unfortunately after lugging bags upstairs for so long.
Our apartment is situated above this quirky bar / café…not sure what to call it. You could send Tom down for an ice cream, milk or twisties (called ‘Fonzies’ here) or, I could go down and get a bottle or glass of wine or any cocktail I desired mixed by a dude in a waist coat or, choose between the full or half bottle of Moet! The choice is bizarre and endless but wait, our luck did not stop there. Just 3 m across the narrow Via Del Boccaccio, our address here, is a grocer / formaggio outlet, heaven for Annabelle. An aside: Tom has been learning Italian for 5 years but is useful only for ‘numbers’ and ‘days of the week’. We have noted that though that we merely add an ‘o’ to the name ending of all the terms for items we have used across Paris and Spain. We unpacked and eventually headed out for a walk by 7.30pm and found the said Spanish Steps and Trevi but, they were packed. The kids have vowed to come out early with us one morning and this was without being drilled with my ‘theory’. We ate at a Trattoria near the Trevi that was expensive and less than ordinary but, hey, we were in Rome on week 5 and all still talking to each other. Does it get any better than that? Home now; the kids are watching cable and Mark is looking over maps of Rome whilst I ‘blog’.
Tuesday 5th June: Our first full day in Roma
We slept in a bit as we were all rather travel-weary. Mark and I went out to try to find a butcher. These were so common through central Paris but absent through Central Rome so we had to settle for a BBQ chicken and fresh salad from the produce markets. We all ventured out at about 11am to purchase tickets for our afternoon walking tour of Ancient Rome that we were taking at 2pm. The only note worthy point here was that Mark experienced his first ‘gypsy’ episode on the Metro where they tried to take his wallet from his pocket. They were quite brazen in their attempt and totally non-plussed at being discovered, merely changing carriages at the next stop.
Our walking tour was great as we had Valentina as our guide who is an archeologist and part-time guide. She was young and passionate about her field and made the tour very special with fascinating detail and insight that few others would be able to offer. We covered the Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, the Roman Forum including Caesar’s tomb, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona.
We went back to Piazza Della Rotunda, site of the Pantheon for a well-deserved drinks break. Annabelle has developed ‘Bassaltitis’ of her hip joint; a condition that generally afflicts tourist who wear inappropriate footwear for days on end as they tread the basalt lining of the streets of Europe. In fact we are all feeling the impact of this hard surface! We headed home for a quiet night ‘in’ of our BBQ chicken and salad.
Mark and Tom have gone to St Peter’s Square to see if they can get a view of the Pope who is supposed to be having an audience this morning. I am e-mailing before taking Annabelle out shopping. We are going back to Colosseum this afternoon to have a look inside and then out for dinner. All well here.