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Summer 1999 - Italy

Two Nights near Sovicille

After our last week in Argiano, we spent 2 nights in a country hotel on the other side of Siena. The hotel was made from a 12th century hamlet with a big defense tower. It is in the woods up on a hill. We had stayed very near this hotel for 2 weeks about 3 years ago, so we new the area a bit. Our room had two big beams that were about 2 feet in diameter! Huge. The stone walls were really thick too. It was fun staying in a hotel after all those weeks in tourist rentals.

Our Last Nights in Rome

Then we drove to Rome. Well, to the Rome airport. We drove into Rome 3 years ago and got lost going to our hotel and ended up being escorted off a buses-only street by the police. Almost got killed by a wild driver on our way out. So this time we decided to not drive into Rome. Returned the car at the airport and got a taxi in. This worked somewhat well - took several drives around the airport to find the car return.

In Rome, our hotel was in the central area. We could walk everywhere and then take taxis back when we were exhausted. We saw Nero's Golden House. He built this in about 49AD. A subsequent emperor (Trajan - the bastard!) buried it in rubble and built his baths on top of it (to make a statement). They have been excavating it for 30 years and have just recently opened it to the public. You go in a tunnel and look at this huge house underground, trying to imagine it as it was when it was above ground. It had 250 rooms and was long and narrow, with the long side facing south, and surrounded by gardens. The inside walls were covered in frescos (you could still see some) and gold and jewels (these were removed centuries ago).

These frescos were viewed by the major artists in the Renaissance and this is the style they used for their now famous frescos (Michelangelo, Raphael, Giotto, Pinturichio). The remains of the house were discovered back then and people were lowered into it through holes to look at the rooms. The ceilings of the rooms are over 30 feet high.

We also went to the other ancient Rome sights - the Palentine, the Roman Forum, the Coliseum. Incredible. You almost trip over bits of ancient Rome all through modern Rome.

We went to a pizza place that my guide book said was the best pizza in Rome but is always crowded. We got a table and - well, I need never eat pizza again, since it will never be better than this. If the crust was any thinner, it wouldn't be there. The topping was just tomato, mozzarella and zucchini, but it was incredible. The zucchini was sliced paper thin. 

We also had Tartuffe (that ice cream dessert that is round and dark brown with chocolate on the outside, and is meant to look like an Italian truffle (these are root things found in Italy and France and are grated onto pasta - a very distinctive taste)) in the caffe on Piazza Navona (near our hotel) that invented the dessert. (There, I wrestled that sentence to the ground!)

Anyway, Rome is noisy and crowded. The streets are so narrow that you become used to cars and scooters whizzing by an inch from your elbow. There are few sidewalks and if there are any, cars are usually parked on them. The city is under total construction in preparation for next years Jubilee 2000 (do not come to Rome next year - they are expecting 3 times the normal number of tourists). You wake up in the morning to the sounds of shouting and vespas and the smell of diesel fumes filling the room (and our hotel is in a quiet location). I don't know if I ever want to go back to Rome. 

Many of the major sites in Rome were closed for restoration - for Jubilee 2000. We couldn't get into the Capitoline Museums (the main museums with the ancient Rome art) - they are closed for the whole year! But we did see a lot. We explored some neighborhoods we hadn't got to the last time.

So, now we are hurtling over the Atlantic on our way home. It is always a strange feeling when a long trip ends. Happy to be going home to the cats, the house. Tired from the traveling. But sad because so much of it was so nice.

Pauline Kenny, October 1999

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