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

By nikkihop from USA, Summer 2011

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Page 4 of 16: June 3, 2011 Day Three: Rome - Jewish Ghetto and the Pantheon Before Driving to Florence

photo by nikkihop

The Jewish Ghetto

When I asked the girls last night if there was anything they wanted to do that we hadn't done already, DG1 mentioned she wanted to see the Jewish Ghetto. I looked it up on the map, and we agreed to meet in the morning so we could breakfast on pastries in the ghetto. DB had no interest and decided to sleep in as usual.

Woke up early again ... walked a couple of hours to see the sights. I hooked up with the girls to walk through the Jewish ghetto for cornetto and coffee.  Both girls were pretty sleepy still at 9:30am or so, but off we went with me leading according to the map and my two ducklings in tow. Well, DG2 was definitely my duckling, with her sweet disposition and tendency to just follow me without question or looking both ways on the street to make sure I wasn't leading her into traffic. DG1 cannot really be classified as a duck.

On the way to the ghetto, we saw the Victorio Emmanuel monument and Trajan's column (again, for me) before crossing the ponte fabriccio onto the island in the middle of the Tiber. At this point, DG1 was starving and getting a bit grumpy. DG2 and I were happily discussing boyfriends and their tendency to avoid doctors, but I started looking in earnest for a cafe so keep the grumpy beast at bay. We settled on pastries at a charming cafe in the heart of the ghetto. All the locals lined up to stand at the counter with their espresso and pastry, while we Americans chose to sit at a small table under umbrellas to gorge ourselves on a pile of pastries and lattes. It was a fab breakfast except for the small sparrow incident.

As I mentioned DG1 has a fear of birds and demonstrated said fear when a small sparrow landed on our table for crumbs about halfway through breakfast. After breakfast, we all met DB at the Pantheon. We explored and took photos, then decided to split up again, the girls to do some more shopping and DB and I to stroll. DB and I had an early afternoon appetizer of prosciutto and cheese at a cafe outside the Spanish Steps while waiting for the girls. We all walked to Spanish Steps; we climbed up this time. No one fell down.

Afterwards, we took the metro to the hotel. DB and I left the girls there to pack and took the Metro to go get the rental car at the train station. We navigated our way past the ZTL zones in Rome back to the closest parking spot to our hotel. I parked on Via Corso while DB walked two blocks to the hotel, got the girls and bags, and walked back lugging the bags to load us up. We couldn't park on Via dei Serpenti because it's strictly locals only unless you want a whopping ticket from the license plate cameras. I drove out of town carefully, but very quickly.

I had best panini of my life at an autogrill on the A1 on the road to Florence.  I still think about it and wish I could go back.  

We drove into Florence, which, like everyone says, is a total nightmare.  Freakin pedestrian only ZTL signs (see the travel tips section of this website).  ZTL signs are the bane of Florence.  After congratulating myself for getting to Florence with no problems, we could not find a way into the city without running into a ZTL.  Moving as fast as Italian traffic, it was impossible to slow down enough to get a good look at the ZTL signs and translate them (despite three solid months of Italian lessons).  Finally, I was able to pull into a parking spot and walk over to a sign to find out that one of the signs only restricted cars at night from midnight until 3am.  We were able to make our way to the train station, and parked at the train station and walked two blocks to the Hertz rental office (closed).  ( Why Hertz chooses to be located in the center of this city is beyond rational thinking.) However, sign on door directed us to leave the car at a garage a block away for a €14 fee.  No problem.  Our very courteous garage attendant ordered us a taxi, whose driver was waxed from head to toe, and was wearing a wife beater and short shorts.  Ah, Italia...

Our driver took us at white knuckle speed, dodging tourists, right into the Piazza della Signoria for the relatively bargain fare of €15. We were dropped at the edge of the piazza and walked across the square to the Casa del Garbo apartments, which are amazing.  Right on the north east corner of the piazza our apartment opened onto the piazza itself.

We trundled our luggage over to the front door, where a small pink note was taped to door with my name on it instructing me to call the owner's number. We called and waited a few minutes, drooling at the appetizing smells coming from the cafe immediately outside our front door. Ten minutes later, we were let in by a charming young man who offered to carry one of our bags up the four flights of stairs.  A quick jealous look passed between the four of us and DB2, as the smallest and youngest won out with her green eyes and cute puppy dog look.  The rest of us hauled our bags up the stairs and flopped exhausted into the apartment, which was as charming as it could be without being on the ground floor.  

A quick shower for all in the huge bathroom (though only one) and off we go to find food at 10:00pm at night. Thankfully Cafe Vecchio, the second cafe from our front door agreed to serve us, though we were the last guests.  We had a good meal (again, a bit expensive because it was strictly tourists). When we tried to order more wine, our cute waiter just laughed charmingly, in a head-thrown-back, oh-you-funny-Americans kind of way.  He said with a giggle that the kitchen is closed.  We asked for wine to go, which he found even funnier.  No dice.  So, we took a quick turn about the piazza and turned in.

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