Day 15, June 24, Saturday
We left Fattoria Tregole and stopped at Orvieto on our way to Rome.
We had a great lunch at Tipica Trattoria Etrusca, (Via Lorenazo Maitani, 10), just down the street from the Duomo. We had wonderful rabbit, steak and pasta with cingahle. We found a street there where everything is made right in the shop by the artisan. I purchased a beautiful woven scarf.
We visited the duomo, which is stunning and completely dominates the piazza. Then we stopped for our requsite gelato, but we all agreed this was the worst gelato we had – pretty much without flavor. We really enjoyed our visit to Orvieto, although it was shorter than we would have liked as we got a late start from Tuscany and were anxious to get to Rome. Orvieto is definitely on our list to go back to as we would like to explore more and have an opportunity to see the underground parts of Orvieto.
Before our trip we had debated whether to drop off the car in Orvieto and train to Rome, or drive into Rome and drop the car off there. After a few weeks of driving under his belt Stephen decided that he was up for driving into Rome. On the freeways they have these large buildings, called Autogrilles that go over both parts of the freeway so you can enter no matter which way you are traveling. We stopped for a bathroom break, but found they have pretty good snacks too!!
The rental car drop off was near the Borghese Gardens. Everything went smoothly on our entrance to the city, and we got to the Borghese Gardens. Our only problem was finding exactly where to drop off the car. After a few missed turns, we discovered that indeed you go down into the underground parking which is where all the rental car returns are. We caught a taxi to our hotel Albergo Cesari.
Now, just a word about Albergo Cesari, as there was a thread on Fodors shortly before we left about them getting ready to remodel and having to cancel several people’s reservations. When I heard this I immediately contacted them. They said they would not be closing until the day after we were scheduled to leave. I was still a bit nervous, but we had stayed there on our last trip and loved the location and the size of their quad room. I am happy to report that we had no negative impacts from this. The hotel was running as usual, in fact as people were checking out and new people were not checking in, we found the often crowded breakfast room with plenty of space and the service of the delightful waitress mostly to ourselves. I did speak with them about what their remodeling plans are. They were redoing the façade of the building, they were adding a new breakfast room on the roof that will be much larger than the existing one and also gained outdoor eating space when the weather is good. They were upgrading several rooms as well. Most importantly they put in a new heating and air conditioning system that will allow each room to control it’s own air conditioning temperature, rather than the existing system which did not allow that. This is a MUCH needed change that we discovered as the temperatures soared to 100 degrees! They closed on June 30, and planned to reopen on Nov. 1.
We settled in to our room then headed to Obika (Piazza di Firenze, Via dei Prefetti) for dinner. One of our favorite places from our last trip. It is a mozzerella bar with, of course, excellent mozzerella di buffalo and meats and salads. A nice meal, after our heavy lunch. San Crispino near the Trevi Fountain for gelato. Then back to sleep.
Day 16, June 25, Sunday
Today we had decided to go to Trastevere. We had not been there on our last trip and I wanted to explore this part of Rome I had heard so much about. It was Sunday which meant the famous Flea Market at Porto Portese in Trastevere was going on so we started over there. It was hot, hot, hot!! About 100 degrees. The flea market was just that, and while Lauren bought a three euro purse and Michael some sunglasses, most everything else was what you usually see people selling on the street, only now they were all in one location. We headed over to the main piazza and went inside the church of Santa Maria Trastevere. By this time we were hot, tired and hungry and Stephen really wanted to leave Trastevere and head back to more familiar parts of Rome. So we crossed the bridge and just headed towards Piazza Navona. Much to our happiness we practically ran into Der Pallaro (Largo del Pallaro 15) another favorite place from our last trip. We asked “Poppa” if it was air conditioned inside. He said no, but if we sat in the shade he knew we would be comfortable with the breeze. Well, actually he was right. At Der Pellaro there is no menu, “Poppa” just takes care of everything. The last time we were there it was for dinner. I thought perhaps for lunch he served fewer courses, this was not the case but we were very hungry and thoroughly enjoyed our leisurely lunch – the lentils were incredible and the fried rice balls fantastic!
We headed back to the hotel to rest and all took a cool shower. Later in the evening we headed to Piazza Navona. Michael really enjoyed giving coins to the living statues – our favorites were the grim reaper and the businessman caught up in the wind.
We ate at Zucca Gialle (Via de Governo Vecchio 86/87) another recommendation of Megan’s. We had an excellent meal with good pizza, carpaccio and pasta. Even with all the food we ordered it was only 39.50 euros for all four of us. Definitely our cheapest meal. We went back to Piazza Navona and the kids got their caricatures done.
I found an artist I really liked and bought one of his pieces. We had gelato at Le Cremeria (our favorite) near the Pantheon on our way to the hotel.
Day 17, June 26, Monday
The next day was set aside for shopping. Lauren had just graduated from 8th grade and also had her birthday. She had been saving most of her graduation and birthday money for Rome. We enjoyed exploring the shops along the Via Corso and the many streets off it. The guys went back to the hotel to rest after lunch but Lauren and I persevered. It was amazing how much shopping there is in Rome!
Before dinner we stayed in the hotel and watched an Italy World Cup game. Italy won on a penalty kick in overtime, and as soon as they won the people in the street started cheering, and the cars started honking!! After the game we left to go to dinner, and people in the streets were carrying the Italian flag riding their scooters through the city.
That night we had dinner at Mimi & Coco’s (Via de Governo Vecchio, 72). We had eaten there last time on our visit for lunch and really enjoyed it. We had a good meal, but all agreed it was probably more of a lunch place than a dinner place, however, my porcini risotto was the best I had in Italy. We had gelato at Della Palma because Le Cremeria was closed. We all agreed the gelato at Della Palma is too sweet for us.
Day 18, June 27, Tuesday
Every morning we would wake up and hope that it would be cooler, but to no avail. The concierge explained it was very unusual for it to be so hot in June and apparently there was some weather coming in from Africa. We had 11:00am reservations for the Borghese Gallery so took a cab ride over there – lucky for us the cab was air conditioned. We had not been to the Borghese Gallery on our last trip. We rented the audio guides and I must say they were excellent. The information they gave about the sculptures was absolutely fascinating and I would not have wanted to go through without either a personal guide or an audioguide. The kids even enjoyed the audioguides, however, they did not want to have to do the whole second floor, so we agreed to just cruise through there and listened to the audio for about two paintings. Definitely on our list to return to.
We decided we wanted to have lunch at Da Bolognese in the Piazza de Popolo. Despite the heat we walked through the Borghese Gardens to get there. Little did we know how difficult it was to get into Da Bolognese. They were all full for lunch, so we tried to make a dinner reservation – nothing available for 3 more nights – after we were leaving. This is definitely on our list for the next trip.
We walked down the Via Corso and suddenly realized we were near Gusto! (Piazza Augusto Imperatore 9) Another restaurant we had eaten at on our last trip. Knowing the city a little bit really helped out! We had a nice lunch in great air conditioning.
The guys went back to the hotel to rest, Lauren and I do a bit more shopping right around the Pantheon. Dinner was at Il Baccaro (Via dei Spagnoli ). We had a lovely dinner; the pasta dishes there are particularly good.
Gelato at Le Cremeria before we landed at our hotel for the night.
Day 19, June 28, Wednesday
The next morning was our last full day in Rome. First we went to the nearest travel agency to get our train tickets to Milan for the next day. The agency had about four people in line and while there were three people working there, only one person was actually helping the people standing in line. I was clearly not the only one who was a bit annoyed by this. When we were done we did a bit more exploring then went to Lozozone (Teatro Pace 32) for lunch. It had gotten rave reviews for it’s paninis. It was good. Plus you get to choose what you want them to put on the panini or pizza bread, but frankly I have had better.
On our last trip we had been to the San Callisto Catacombs and visiting there was a highlight of our trip, so we wanted to go see some more catacombs. I had read quite a bit about the Catacombs of St. Domitilla. With the heat we thought it would be nice to take the Archeobus to the catacombs and see the other archeological sites. The Archeobus website said the bus stopped at Piazza Emmanuelle starting at 10:00am and then every hour on the hour. Our concierge said he did not think it stopped there every hour but he was not sure. They gave a phone number to call on the website so I had called it in the morning to confirm, but the person I spoke to did not speak English and I was unable to communicate with him. I decided to go with the information on the website. We arrived at the Archeobus stop about 1:45, noticing an Archeobus heading out a block or two away. When we looked up at the sign it said it started at 9:45am and left every hour after that. ARRRRGH! We had just missed it, and the information on the website was wrong. Well, at this point we hailed a taxi and had him take us to the catacombs.
We really enjoyed our visit to the Catacombs of St. Domitilla. It was wonderfully cool down there (too bad the tour was not longer). We had a delightful young guide, and enjoyed the many interesting things he had to tell us. The unique thing about this catacomb is there is an original unrestored frescoe there. Quite amazing to see.
It is not super easy to get a taxi from there, but we just started walking in the right direction, and eventually a taxi came by. We had him take us to the hotel where we changed to be appropriately dressed for St. Peter’s Basilica. We had been to the Vatican Museum, Sistene Chapel and St. Peter’s on our last trip, but really wanted to go back to St. Peter’s again. After climbing St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and Sacre Couer in Paris Michael and I were up for tackling St. Peter’s Dome. Unfortunately, the stifling heat and long line got the better of us – next trip. Last time we were at St. Peter’s there was no line to get down into the crypt, but now with Pope John Paul’s tomb there was a line, but only about a 20 minute wait. We had been in Italy March of 2005, just a week or so before John Paul died. While we were in St. Peter’s Square he, unannounced, appeared at his window and waved to those of us below. It was a memorable experience and turned out to be his last public appearance. Perhaps this was why I was so moved by seeing his tomb. I am not really sure, but it was a moving experience. You just needed to keep walking by, but if you wanted to stop and look or pray, they had a rope you could stand behind.
We walked up the stairs to St. Peter’s. They had a large portion of the church cordoned off as they were having some type of ceremony taking place at the farthest point of the church. We had been able to see quite a bit more on our last trip, but did get a chance to linger again in front of the Pieta.
The kids also mailed postcards at the Vatican post office
Our last night in Rome. We had dinner at Al Moro (Vicolo delle Bollette,13) near the Trevi Fountain, not too far from our hotel. We had another excellent meal, and our waiter was particularly nice, cracking jokes with Michael. The bread was the best bread we had in Italy (unfortunately one thing the Italians do not do too well). The best however, was a cioccolata caldo with zabaglione cream that Michael ordered – absolutely incredible. Don’t ask me why he ordered hot chocolate on such a hot night, but it was delicious. Our last night, so of course, gelato at Le Cremeria. We threw our coins in the Trevi fountain to be sure that we would return once again.
Day 20, June 29, Thursday
We woke up the next morning and started packing. Our train left at 2:30, so we decided to have lunch in Rome before we left. We all agreed we wanted to eat at Obika again. We got there at 11:45am. The sign said they didn’t open until 12:00. Fine, we walked around a bit. No stores were open today, as apparently it was the Feast of the Patron Saint of Rome – so it was a holiday. We got back to Obika at noon and we went through the door, but the guy said they will probably open in about 15 minutes or so. I was getting impatient due to the train we had to catch (okay, I’m one of those people who likes to get to the airport three hours early!!). Anyway, we decided to go to another restaurant nearby that someone had recommended. They did not open until 12:30pm. Back to Obika, where we waited outside until they opened – finally at 12:50!! Turns out they were having their usual Sunday buffet due to the holiday, so at least we did not have to wait for our food. We had a wonderful, though quick lunch, headed back to the hotel and took a cab to the train station.
We took the first class train from Rome to Milan, about 4.5 hours with stops in Florence and Bologna. From Milan Centrale train station we took the shuttle (five euros per person) to the airport. It took about an hour. From there we hopped on the hotel shuttle to our hotel – First Hotel. It is a nice modern hotel. They have a full service restaurant where we had a decent dinner.
Day 21, June 30, Friday
We were up at 4:15am for our 7am flight. Our flights home were uneventful, thank goodness. One thing to note however, I was sitting on the left hand side of the plane out of Milan to Frankfurt and there were the most stunning views of the Swiss Alps from that side of the plane. It lasted at least 15 minutes and was absolutely beautiful.
A few ending notes. This was a three week trip, longer than we had ever taken before. While the heat was getting to me, I did not have a problem with being gone that long, although the kids seemed ready to go home a bit after the 3rd week started. My concern over small towns was completely unwarranted as we all enjoyed them just as much as the cities. I was very thankful we had already been to Rome as the heat made it really hard to enjoy. Our last trip was in March with much more agreeable weather and we had done all the typical must sees such as the Vatican, Forum, Colesseum, Castel St. Angelo, etc. This allowed us to take our days slower, and not have to be in such heat with all the crowds. Despite the heat I have decided that Rome is my favorite city. Returning to Italy and seeing more of Italy, of course only makes us want to see even more. I can only say how thankful I am that we have taken the time to see everything at a slower pace. We did not spend less than four nights in a single location and I think that allowed us to really get to know the city or region we were visiting. Driving in Italy was not as difficult as we anticipated, and is absolutely necessary in regions such as Piedmont and Tuscany.