The Beehive apartment we are staying in is not unlike staying in a friend’s house. We have a nice, large room, but the bathroom and kitchen are shared. It is comfortable enough, but there is some staging in the use of the facilities in the morning.
After an excellent and quite reasonably priced cappuccino and pastry in the train station, we headed, by foot, the kilometer or so to the Coliseum area for the sights. Like most walks in old Rome, a UNESCO World Heritage site, there are many ruins to see along the way.
We arrived at the Coliseum to see a large number of tourists and a 45-minute wait to get a ticket to enter. This was my second visit to Rome and the Coliseum (and Becky’s first), and there were a lot more people than I remember. In fact, I don’t recall much of a line and there was no admission fee (OK, it was close to 20 years ago). As we were waiting, we were approached by an English speaking woman offering tours. She pointed out that the tours would bypass the 45-minute wait, so we took the offer figuring that the extra cost would compensate for shortening the wait. We weren’t expecting much from the tour.
We met our guide, Paulo, for the tour. Paulo looked like he spent much of his non-tour guiding time in the weight room and looked as if he was well prepared to provide “private and intimate” tours for the younger, female tourists. Or perhaps, this was just my fantasy.
We started the tour passing by some vendors where Paulo said as members of the tour, we could get a discount on some of the items. With this start and Paulo’s old rental horse, straight back to the barn look and demeanor, the tour wasn’t looking to be a quality travel experience. But, in the end, the tour of the Coliseum was actually worthwhile. Paulo, though clearly doing his 4,523rd rendition of the spiel, was informative and interesting. He used tattered pages of the very guidebook that he helped the vendors
sell at a discount to the group to show how the Coliseum was thought to look in the day. Though seemingly cheesy, it was actually a very good way of explaining how things looked in Roman times and improved the tour. The price of the tour also included a tour of the Palatine Hills area with another guide. The guide in this case, Paul, an American studying for his Ph.D. in Rome, was very good, knowledgeable, and passionate about the subject. The only problem is that we felt like there might be a test at the end and we didn’t think we would do so well!
From the end of the tour, we connected through the Forum, which was also included in out admission. Out the other end of the Forum, we headed to parts unknown that included the Monumenta a Vittorio Emanuelle II (with an elevator ride to the top to enjoy the view), the Campidoglio, and the Piazza Venezia. There was no plan at this point. We just headed towards the next interesting sight we saw and in Rome; you never have to look far for something to see. Likely we would still be hiking if weren’t hungry already having already missed lunch.
We pulled a restaurant recommendation out of a rather large book we had been lugging around, “Italy for the Gourmet Traveler” by Fred Plotkin, and plugged the restaurant locations into the TomTom GPS until we found one close by. Guided by a TomTom that was expressing concern for our safety as we took short cuts from the planned route and walked the
“wrong way” on one way streets, we made it to the first restaurant. The first restaurant turned out to be closed, as did the second one from the book. Many restaurants in Rome close on Sunday and we managed to find two that did. We wouldn’t go hungry, though, as we a passed a restaurant with a queue of people waiting as the door was opening. Figuring that had to be a good sign, we went back and went in to find good and cheap thin crust pizzas, a salad, water, and a nice bottle of Sicilian red wine for 40 euros with an American style tip.
After dinner, we headed to the Piazza Navona area to see the fountains at night and to find the food book’s favorite Roman gelateria. We silenced the now frantic cries of concern coming from
the TomTom, as we again short cut the TomTom route to reach the establishment, Giolitti. As is typical, you pay first and make your gelato selections second. The ice cream was spectacular. Our favorite was strawberry (fragola in Italian) which tasted like the best stawberry you’ve ever had.
In the end, we had walked half way across the old part of Rome and were tired. Gelato cones in hand, we hailed a taxi conveniently working its way down the narrow, winding alley way. The cab driver handed us napkins and practiced his English as we sped back to the apartment.
Gelato: Giolitti, near Piazza Navona
Café: Boulangerie Italiana in Stazione Termini