Italy with the Family: Day 1.5, Richmond to Rome July 24/25, 2014

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June 25th 2014
Published: June 26th 2014
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We left Williamsburg at about 1:00 in the afternoon. Had to stop of Chick-fil-A, of course. No unsweetened iced tea for three weeks—and we get back on a Sunday when they’re CLOSED!!! Things to talk to God about when I get to heaven. But I digress.

Trip to Glen Allen was uneventful, loaded our three suitcases (two roll-on bags and one larger bag mostly full of toiletries and sunscreen), one carry-on and two briefcases in the back of DiL Erika’s jeep and she whisked us to the airport. For a girl who didn’t know Richmond 1½ years ago, she drives like a pro now! Got checked in with no issues, consolidated our five carry-on items down to four (US Air is strict about such things) and then looked for lunch. Decided that Vito’s was appropriate. Not sure chicken salad sandwich is truly Italian authentic but choices were limited. We decided the sandwich was pretty good but possibly not the best meal we’ll have in the next three weeks, especially from a place whose name ends in “o”.

Flight to Charlotte was ten minutes late, which is early according to our history with US Scareways. When we got to Charlotte, I looked up our arrival gate (E-9) and our departure gate (B-13). Hmmmm. Don’t think those are next-door neighbors. We had about 45 minutes to get to the gate so we did a semi OJ Simpson through the airport, although we weren’t being chased by police so I’m not sure that’s really valid any longer. Got to the gate and they had just begun the preboarding so we were fine. I went to get a bottle of water and when I came back, Mark was talking with a lady who sort of lit up as I approached. She said, “You’ve been to Rome before!” I said, “Yes!” She said, “Do you have any recommendations for good restaurants?” I said, “I was 15.” Her face fell. She was a chef and was traveling with some workmates to eat and study Italian cooking. I wished her luck. I should have given her my email and said, “If you find some good places, email us!”

Plane boarded on time but turned out to be about an hour late taking off due to some mechanical problem. No worries. Find those things on the ground before you leave, I say. The plane was an Airbus (Mark could tell you the number) and was quite comfortable. They served us dinner and wine and there were probably 50 movies to choose from along with TV shows and other entertainment. I watched American Hustle which was very good. Mark read. After the movie, I slept for about three hours and then dozed for two more after that. We landed about an hour late, got through passport control with remarkably little note. I’m not sure the passport officer actually looked at the pictures and compared them to our faces. We did get stamps, though. That’s cool. Skipped the taxi line and found a driver to take us to the hotel. Probably cost a bit more but the saving of time balanced it out.

The hotel (Hilton Garden Inn Claridge House) is in a residential area of Rome, about 15-minutes by tram from the Vatican and 20 to 30 minutes by tram to downtown Rome. Our room was ready (yay!) and we went up stairs and said, “To heck with that no sleeping the first day thing!” and both took naps. Mark went to sleep before me and got up before me so we both slept for about three hours. It was heavenly! I got up, took a shower, kissed Mark who said, “I’m going to brush my teeth and shave,” and I said, “Uh, might want to shower too…” A little musty. After all of our ablutions, we went out into Rome.

Our hotel, as I said, is outside of the city center/tourist area but the tram stops right in front and the bus is around the corner. We opted to go to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps which required a bus. No reason not to be adventurous the first day! First note about Rome: Blocks are short. SHORT. I mean really, really short. Typical layout seems to be that each block forks out to two or more blocks until it just gets to be too much and then a piazza is thrown in and five blocks spoke off of that. We started out on Via Dilege and then turned left at Plaza Ungaria and up Via Rossini which promptly ended and became something else. Even when, to our untrained American eyes, you think you’re on a straight road, once you’ve passed over a cross street, the name will have changed. After crossing several streets, some more than once, we found the bus stop and after a short wait, got on the bus.

Initially we took two seats on the left of the bus but it became apparent early on that someone needed to sit on the right side so we could see the names of the stops. Mark took that duty and I plotted where we were on the map provided by the hotel. Success—although the names on the map were tiny which I guess they have to be when the blocks are SHORT and change names every 150 meters. With much craning and looking around, we found the right stop and disembarked. Victory!

There were signs to the Trevi Fountain which we followed and found with little difficulty. The fountain is under major renovation (who knew?) so no coin tossing for us. We were only going to put in 20 cent coins anyway since we knew we’d be back in a week. After that tried to figure out how to get to the Spanish Steps. The map was of little use so I bit the bullet and entered the desired destination in Google Maps, thinking about the limited international data I had purchased. Even with that it was a bit of a maze but we made it! Stopped in a wine bar at the top of the steps for a welcoming glass of vino and a potty stop (both welcome!) and then wandered down the steps. I remember as a kid, my parents took us to the bottom of the steps and we climbed. Google Maps was much kinder. Routed us to the top and we traversed down. Mark said, “What’s the history of the steps?” No idea. Have to look that up.

Found the bus (luckily it runs in a loop so the directions on the hotel sheet to look for a stop on the other side of the street did not apply) and got back to our neighborhood. Had dinner at Taverna di Rossini which is literally 50 meters from the hotel. Everyone seemed to be ordering pizza so we did too which was delicious. Also ordered a cheese tray to split. WAY too much food. Did the tacky American thing and asked for a to-go box. It will make a great snack for the train.

Back to the room and to bed. Hope we sleep all night. Rome is lovely. Excited to see a bit more tomorrow and then off to Tuscany!


27th June 2014

Spanish Steps
OK, since you have limited international data- I looked it up for you :) 7 Facts about the Spanish Steps: 1- The Spanish steps were built in 1723-1725 by a design of the rather little known architect Francesco de Sanctis and were financed by French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s bequeathed. It was built in order to link the the Trinità dei Monti church that was under the patronage of the king of France, with the Spanish square below. 2- The Spanish steps unique design and elegance has made it a popular place for artists, painters and poets who were attracted to the place which inspired them in return. The artist’s presence attracted many beautiful women to the area, hoping to taken as models. This in turn, attracted rich Romans and travelers. After a short time, the steps were crowded with people of all kinds of backgrounds. This tradition, of the Spanish Steps as a meeting place, has lived on ever since. 3-At the lower end of the stairs you can find an early baroque fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia, or “Fountain of the Old Boat”. It is credited Pietro Bernini; a member of the renowned artist family Bernini and father of famous Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. 4- On the 13th June, 2007, a drunken young man attempted to drive a Toyota Celica down the Spanish Steps. Luckily no one was hurt, but several of the 200-year-old steps were chipped and scuffed. The driver was arrested. (Maybe started off at the same wine bar as you, and just took a wrong turn? :) ) 5- At the corner on the right as one begins to climb the steps, is the house where English poet John Keats lived and died in 1821; it is now a museum dedicated to his memory, full of memorabilia of the English Romantic generation. 6- On the 20th March, 1986, the first McDonalds restaurant in Italy was opened near the Spanish Steps. Protests there against fast food led to Carlo Petrini founding the international Slow Food movement three years later. (If you're really, REALLY lucky, they'll have unsweetened ice tea- but don't get your hopes up!) 7- eh, the last one is a sales plug from the blog that I took this info from word for word. If you want to read the full thing, go to:

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