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Report 1920: Rome, Tuscany, Venice & Amalfi for Beginners

By nikkihop from USA, Summer 2011

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Page 2 of 16: Arrive in Rome

photo by nikkihop

The Roman Colosseum

May 31, 2011

Arrived at Austin Bergstrom Airport two hours early for our noon connection to Washington Dulles.  Note to self, the Continental President's Club gave us a hard time because even though we booked through Continental, the flight is on a United plane (thanks, merger) and United has no deal with AmEx.  Luckily, DB (darling boyfriend) had his priority pass through American Express, which lets us bypass the dragon at the Continental Presidents Club reception.  Free muffins and orange juice abound beyond the gates.  

Arrived with only minor irritation in Dulles caused mostly by an inordinate number of very big and tall men and one screaming two year old who had to literally be dragged to the rear of the plane like a martyr to the stake.  That poor kid must have been traumatized by a previous experience.  He kept straining into the passenger's knees all the way back to the caboose, fruitlessly looking for sanctuary. I felt his pain.  Seats 26A-D are right by the rear toilet and can't smell very nice.

June 1, 2011

Long flight to Fiumicino with very little sleep. Video screens both broken on DB's and my seats ... the only broken screens on the flight, as far as we can tell. For the 'loss of comfort', we receive a coupon for a 'token of appreciation.' Free slippers? Peanuts? We have to go to the United website to find out. I'll keep you posted.

Waiting in the Rome airport for DB's two college aged cousins (We're treating them to a trip abroad); their plane is delayed by two hours. Sent frantic messages to the car service who was supposed to pick us up at 10:00am instead of the new delayed arrival at noon.  Made OCD checks of the constantly-shifting line of cabbies and chauffeurs holding up signs to check for my name.  No one had anything close to my name, so I just assumed the driver checked the flight info and would be there later, or we would just take a taxi to the hotel.

In the meantime, we dropped four and a half euro on a tiny glass of sucre rosso aranchia (blood orange juice) to rent a table in the airport bar/cafe. It was pretty good for €4.5 ... it better be.  At least the juice bought us some prime sitting real estate for those three hours.

A note about Italian men:  what's with the bright yellow or red pants? Or the neon yellow Adidas with the matching neon yellow tie over navy shirt and under navy linen jacket with jeans?  Maybe it's a football team spirit thing.

Really good people watching so far. By the way, the euro exchange rate in Rome was not as good as the rate in Washington by a loss of about $40. DB found a plug for his cell, which was nearly out of juice, so glad we brought the right adapters. Girls finally arrived looking how DB and I felt after waiting around the airport bar for nearly three hours with only juice to sustain us.  

Wonderful, completely silent driver met us at the gate with perfect timing just as the girls showed up. Then, took us on what I can only imagine is a fairly typical breakneck formula one race to the Hotel Apollo.   We only had a few near misses with the pedestrians and vespa drivers and it was hard to tell who would be at fault more if there was an accident.  Nonetheless, we arrived at the Hotel Apollo safely and I would book our driver again, which we found through Rome, Inc. Tours. I will rave about them later.  It was only €60 for a large van that easily held the luggage of four quivering, jet lagged, and somewhat shocked people unused to Italian driving.  Then again, we were all holding our breaths, so maybe the van wasn't as palatial as it seemed.  Hotel Apollo (Oh -POLE-oh, as I was corrected by our otherwise silent driver ... apparently my Texas accent was unacceptable. Forgive me oh Greek god of whatever.

DB falls face-down on the queen sized bed at the Hotel Apollo, which we booked for three nights. We got two rooms, one for the girls on floor one (actually the second floor by U.S. Standards) and one for DB and I on floor three. The total cost was $1,077 dollars or approximately $179 per night per room. They do have an elevator, which says maximum six people. That's two people and two small rolling bags in America. I took one look at DB and decided to fight my sightseeing battle later. The girls and I wandered a few blocks and ordered pizza, pasta and wine for a late lunch on Via Nationale Two hours later we pried DB out of bed with a spatula and drug him the four blocks to the Colosseum. He was cranky.

He was less cranky when, thanks to Rick Steves, we bought our Roma passes in the metro station by the Colosseum (no line) for €25 per person (pp) and bypassed the enormous line at the Colosseum completely. Don't think, just buy your Roma pass. We had unlimited metro rides and two free exhibits (Colosseum and Forum count as one) for the price.

Feeling and little punchy by the time we got to the Forum, we wandered the ruins for a couple of hours, taking photos and drinking from the spring-fed water fountains before being kicked out at around 6:30pm.

Note: there are a lot of pigeons and seagulls in Rome, a fact I noticed more because apparently DB has an irrational fear of birds that I wasn't previously aware of.

Like true tourists, we stopped into the first restaurant we found outside the Forum gates, a cafe called Massenzios. We ordered spaghetti bolognese, pizza with prosciutto and two seafood risottos and washed it all down with two bottles of wine for €69. Yes, like true tourists, we fell into the first tourist trap we came to ... jet lag does that to you. As far as I remember, it was fine.  We had to stop for our first gelato at Gelateria Il Gelatino on Via de Serpenti on the way back to the hotel. I had the the coffee flavored gelato, which was very good. DB falls face-down on the bed again and is out for the count.

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