Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 5: Happy New Year from Rome!

Happy New Year from Rome! It has been a busy day! We woke up early, had breakfast, and then walked to the Vatican. This time, we were going inside St. Peter's.

Outside of St. Peter's.

The altar.

More interior photos.

The Pietà.

We also went donwstairs to explore the crypt where we saw lots of famous tombs, including where the remains of St. Peter are buried. Pretty incredible.

We left the Vatican and had a quick bite to eat at Aristocampo in the Campo. Then, we did a little shopping (Lesley was on a hunt for la befana ornaments). By mid-afternoon, our feet were tired, so we headed home for a rest.

We ate dinner again at Da Vittorio's, where we enjoyed a traditional Roman New Year's feast. (I tried to take photos, but the lighting was so low, I could not get them to come out. Any hints or advice? Other than I need to take a photo class, that is. :) )

After dinner, we did a bit of a passegiato to the Campo and then back to Trastevere.

Josh and I rang in 2011 in Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere with some champagne in plastic cups! The Italians do not seem to have many rules (if any) regarding discharging fireworks, and the city was ablaze with fireworks coming from all directions -- from the sky down to the grounds of the piazzas. It was very festive!

I must say, I am happy to see 2011 arrive. 2010 was a mixed bag -- many great things and a few rough spots. I am optimistic for what 2011 holds. Aren't prime numbers supposed to be lucky?

And so, Happy New Year to all of our friends and family back in the States and abroad! We wish you lots of love and happiness for you and yours in 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Roma: Day 4

We woke up bright and early this morning, ready to tackle Ancient Rome. After a light breakfast with Giorgio, we headed out.

We again passed through Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of my very favorite piazzas. Since we walk through it so much, I kept forgetting to take a photo until this morning.

We walked passed Largo Argentina, a spot with ruins dating back to the third century BC. Now, it is home to the many stray cats of Rome.

We walked passed the Vittorio Emanuele monument... Trajan's Market.

Next stop: the Colosseum.

This is my fourth time inside the Colosseum, and I was as awestruck as I was the first time.

Next stop: the Roman Forum.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina.

We left the Roman Forum and headed out for a late lunch and then a nap. After a brief snooze and regrouping, we headed to dinner and then, of course, gelato. After walking around Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere a bit more, we headed home.

Tomorrow, the plan is to return to St. Peter's, and then maybe we will do a bit of shopping before the new year. But for now, bed. Buona Notte!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Roma: Day 3

Wednesday morning, we woke up early and had another lovely breakfast with Giorgio. Then, we set out for the Vatican.

We were lucky to get tickets to a general audience with the Pope, which was really incredible. The Pope gave blessings and a homily in seven different languages. Cardinals from around the world introduced various groups from around the globe who were present in the audience. A few choral groups even sang for the Pope when their names were called. It was truly an international experience.

(Side note: I really should buy some new lenses, including a zoom...)

After the papal audience, we headed to the Vatican Museum. I made reservations a month or so ago, so we were lucky to bypass the massive line and walk right in.

Ric and Lesley admiring the incredibly ornate ceilings.

We walked through most of the Museum and then into the Sistine Chapel (sadly, no photos allowed). The Sistine Chapel, although extremely crowded, was as breathtaking as I remembered.

We left the Vatican Museums and had planned on visiting St. Peter's Basilica, but the line was wrapped in and around the piazza, and we decided not to wait the 2-3 hours to get in. We will return early Friday morning to visit St. Peter's to beat the line.

So, we headed back to the apartment, had a nap, and then ate some delicious pizza at a restaurant close to the B&B. We walked around after dinner, got some gelato, and took a nice stroll through Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Tomorrow, we are off to explore ancient Rome. But for now, time for a little reading and then bed. Buona notte!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Roma: Days 1 and 2

As most of you know, we are lucky to be ringing in 2011 in one of my very favorite places. I have been on a blogging hiatus for a few months, but at the request of family and friends, I am reviving the blog (at least for this trip).

Josh's parents, Ric and Lesley, asked us if we would take a trip to Italy with them. They have always wanted to go and wanted travel companions who have been before to help show them around. As you may know, I cannot turn down a trip to Italy, so we booked tickets as soon as we found a good sale with the plan to visit Rome, Florence, and Venice.

We will spend most of our time in Rome. Rome has a special place in my heart. I lived here in college for a few months during a study abroad program in 2001, and I have been back a couple times since then, most recently in 2006 with my mom and sister for mom's 50th birthday. It does not take much convincing to get me to come back; it is one of my very favorite places.

So, onto the trip so far... We landed in the Rome Monday afternoon after a dramatic flight. The flight itself was on time and smooth, but the people sitting in front of us threw a holy fit when the people in front of them leaned their chairs back. Every hour or so, they would start screaming and get in a hollering match with the row in front. It was so loud and unnerving that most of the people in our section were standing and trying to separate them. At one point, about eight hours into the flight, the flight attendants warned them that the pilot was contemplating an emergency landing and then a call to the police. Luckily, this seemed to calm them down, and we made it safely to Fiumicino.

We landed on time and took the train to Trastevere, and then we took the tram a few more stops. We are staying in Trastevere in a tiny B&B with only two rooms. It is clean, central, and very reasonable. So far, so good.

Our room:

Ric and Lesley arrived later in the evening, and we had dinner at a lovely restaurant close by called Da Vittorio. I had spaghetti cacio e pepe, which was delicious. After, we had a bit of gelato and then headed to bed early, exhausted from our long day(s) of traveling.

This morning, we woke up and enjoyed a light breakfast prepared by Giorgio, the owner of the B&B. Then, we were off to begin my favorite walking route. We crossed the Tiber at Ponte Sisto and headed toward the center of Rome.

A view from the river, between Ponte Sisto and Ponte Garibaldi.

Our first stop: Campo de' Fiori, my old stomping grounds. An ancient market by day, and a bustling piazza by night, the Campo is one my favorite places in Rome.

My pal, Bruno, at the center of the Campo.

Josh & me.

Of course, we had to stop at Forno Campo de' Fiori for their famous pizza bianca.

A picture mid-bite (they will love me for this). Yum!

Next stop: Piazza Navonna, one of the most well-known piazzas in Rome. It is a little touristy, but I love the Bernini fountains.

After Piazza Navonna, we headed to the Pantheon. When I lived in Rome, we spent many nights with a bottle of wine, sitting on the steps of the Pantheon or by the fountain in that piazza.

Sadly, the exterior was obstructed slightly by some scaffolding, but I still think it is gorgeous.

The fountain outside the Pantheon.

One of the coolest things about the Pantheon is the big hole at the very top. When it rains, the water comes right through the hole and on to the floor inside. It is supposed to represent a sort of communion with nature.

Josh admiring the large hole in the ceiling.

From the Pantheon, we walked to the Trevi Fountain.

We each threw a coin in so we return to Rome. It has worked so far.

Josh and his dad.

From the Trevi Fountain, we went on to Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps.

Ric and Lesley climbing the steps.

Getting closer to the top...

A view from the top of the Spanish Steps.

From the Spanish Steps, we walked to Villa Borghese.

We had panini at a little cafe and then walked around the park. It is sort of like Rome's version of Central Park. We watched some dogs play, had a coffee, and then headed to Galleria Borghese.

Sadly, they make you check your cameras, so there are no photos of what we saw inside, but suffice to say I marveled at more Bernini sculptures.

After leaving Galleria Borghese, we headed to Santa Susanna church to pick up our tickets for a papal audience tomorrow. Then, we started the long walk home.

Luckily, we walked right past one of my favorite gelaterias, San Crispino. The people at San Crispino are very strict -- no coloring or flavoring -- just pure gelato. (For God's sake, do NOT ask these gelato purists for a cone as they will inform you it would contaminate the pureness of this perfect gelato!)

Josh ordered lime gelato which he said he would eat every day if he could. I ordered pear, and despite its slightly unappetizing beige color, it tasted like a real pear. Delicious.

On our long walk home, we passed the Trevi Fountain again. It is so pretty at night.

We arrived back in our little two-room B&B and rested for a few minutes. Then, we were off to dinner at a restaurant called Ivo down the street from the B&B. I had a delicious spaghetti carbonara and some red wine. Yum!

Tomorrow, we are headed to the Vatican which will require lost of energy, so for now, it is time for bed. Buona notte!