Author: Amelia Hesson
Date of Trip: December 2011
Roma, Roma, Roma
This is an account of our pre-cruise visit in Roma, we had 3 days there before we got on the ship and I had plans to conquer the city! After a grueling 20 hours of cars, trams, and airplanes we finally made it to Roma, it was beautiful to behold even from the air. We were off the plane and got our checked luggage very quick and as we exited the baggage area we see Fabrizio (allarounditaly.net) running to us with the most welcoming smile and lots of hugs. He would not allow us to schlep our luggage and insisted on carrying our stuff to his van, all the while engaging us in conversation and catch-up. We zipped out of the airport and before we could say Mamma Mia we were in the Eternal City. Fabrizio insisted on showing us some sights, just quick drive bys, and then we went to our hotel, Hotel Pantheon smack in the middle of the ancient city center. Once again, Fabrizio would not allow us to touch our luggage and he dragged all our pieces to the lobby, we checked in and made a quick pit stop in the room, and then we headed back out to go to dinner with Fabrizio. We went to a delightful restaurant close to the Pantheon called “I’angolette Romano” where we had an amazing and delicious dinner including antipasti, pasta, lemon Veal, wine, and a trio of desserts which completely hit the spot. The prices were very reasonable and the food was excellent. After dinner we went back to the hotel and parted from Fabrizio knowing we would see him again several times on this visit and cruise.
The hotel was nice (Hotel Pantheon), located right at the Pantheon; we had a nice room with a view of the lively Pantheon area streets, which was just what we wanted. The hotel kept asking us if we wanted our welcome drink and we politely asked if we could have it the next day, which was no problem. We went to sleep and got a good nights rest, waking up and feeling ready to tackle the city on foot.
We walked from our hotel to the king of Baroque churches called St. Ignacio, the Romans call this the 3D church because the artist Pozzo painted a fake dome which looks very much like a dome if you are standing in the proper place to see it. Its very cool, moving through the church you see it become distorted and even then it is something to behold. This church is painted very much like the Sistine Chapel with biblical scenes rising up the walls and onto the roof of the church. Don’t forget to turn on the lights of the dome, they really illuminate it well and it only costs one euro. Beware of beggars, and do not pay them if they tell you there is charges to see the church, all churches in Rome are free.
Next we head to the Ghetto area to visit the ancient Synagogue and Jewish museum, which is right on the Tiber close to Ponte Fabrizio. On the way we find the cat rescue place called Torre Argentina, which is filled with ruins and cats! A must see for cat lovers.
The Synagogue and Museum are very interesting, we learn that Rome’s Jews are some of the oldest Romans around; they came here long before the birth of Christ! We also learn the heartbreaking history of their lives in the prison like Ghetto, which came after thousands of years of living as normal Romans. It was all very sad and I quickly became saturated and it was time to go cheer up. We walked the bridge and saw the walls that fortify and protect Rome from the flooding Tiber River. Then we walked through the Ghetto and noted a lively area filled with all kinds of people, shops selling kosher foods and other items. There are many ruins close to this area where you can walk amongst the pillars and ancient remains of a theater. From here it was easy to walk up Capitol Hill where the magnificent Campidoglio designed by Michelangelo.
We had to walk around and see the great views of the Forum and Palatine hill before we decided to visit the Capitoline Museum. The museum was incredible, filled with some incredible pieces of sculptures, Bronzes, paintings, pottery and figurines, and murals. It took us hours to see all of it because we took our time and savored the beauty of the art. As we are walking through the upper floors I notice the sun is going dawn and I cannot believe it. Sunset was beautiful from the top of The hill and we see it set over St. Peters, as we decide to head back to the hotel for our welcome drink.
The walk back to the hotel is quick, and we see many Romans out for their nightly walk, and people are gathering in squares all over the city. We make a quick pit stop at our hotel, and they remind us of our welcome drink, which really makes us feel good! We love our hotel, Hotel Pantheon, which is less than a minutes walk to the Pantheon, and is a small boutique like hotel with only 13 rooms, very quaint and clean. Our rate of 140 Euros a night (prepaid) is great for the spectacular location and it includes a full breakfast served from 7am-10am. It’s definitely a be-back kind of place.
The hotel recommends a wonderful restaurant called ” The Popes Table” right around the corner and it is filled with locals and no tourists besides us. The food is so good and very reasonable and we will definitely eat here again before we leave Rome.
The next day our driver/guide/friend, Fabrizio picked us up to take us to Calcata, Lake Bracchiano, and a wonderful family run restaurant in Ceri called “Trattoria La Rocca” where we sit and enjoy a leisurely meal that is incredibly good, the Tiramisu is the best I have ever tasted in my life. Mamma Mia this is good food! The town of Calcata is a gem of a secret medieval town filled with artists and creative types and has quite an interesting past, something to do with an embarrassing relic that disappeared in the late 1970’s.
We hit the pharmacy because I am getting my travel bug, this time it feels like a bad sinus infection with a productive cough! I have antibiotics with me and I will start them when I get back to the hotel, but for now Fabrizio took me to a pharmacy and translated my needs to the Pharmacist, this made things a lot easier for me. I was worried that I would have to find a doctor and Fabrizio eliminated that problem.
Back in Rome, we say goodbye to Fabrizio but we know we will see him tomorrow. As we walk in to the hotel Pantheon we bump into some new friends me made at breakfast and decide to go out to dinner with them. The hotel recommends Alfredo’s, the place where Fettuccine Alfredo was invented. Of course we order it and it is good. While the food is nice, it is very expensive and we all suffer she’ll shock from the bill, which is 150 Euros including a 17-euro tip! We think that is expensive for the antipasti plate, bread and oil, and the pasta! I liked the restaurant we ate at last night much better, mostly because this prices were much more reasonable.
Transfer to the Port
The next day Fabrizio picks us up with a full busload of some friends who are already on the Pacific Princess, he got up early and picked them up at 8am, and us a 9. He takes us on a whirlwind tour of Roma, we all giggle with delight as dear Fabrizio teaches more and shows us delightful secret areas all around the city. We even hit the designer outlet mall as we head to the port; this mall is exactly like any outlet mall in North America. Since its Sunday, it is very crowded and there are no great deals and no big designers like Missoni! After an hour I’d so it’s time to get on the ship. No worries though, Fabrizio is driving to Livorno tonight so he can pick us up and take us all on a tour of the Super Tuscans areas tomorrow. We all adore Fabrizio; he even brings our friend who is sick on the ship some wine to help her get better. What a guy!