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Report 619: March in Rome, Venice and Paris

By TominVB from Virginia, Spring 2005

Trip Description: Three days in Rome, three days in Venice and four days in Paris, during March 2005.

Destinations: Countries - France, Italy; Regions/Cities - Paris, Rome, Venice

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Art Trip; Foodie Trip; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 13: Rome - Arrival, Sant' Agnese, Vatican Museum, Trevi

See Rome Web Blog for this Trip Report with Photos (link to the right under Resources).

Arrival

After a long nights journey into day we finally arrived in Rome after 2 flights that were remarkable because of their shear tedium: the mind-numbing spirit breaking tedium that only a completely full “red-eye” can impart on the world traveler who patronizes coach accommodations. Ah, one can only dream of a seat in the Front Row.

You Will Do Signor

Normally we are semi-adventurous souls (50 somethings who are dollar frugal) who would have entered Rome via the Airport Train and then a cab or bus to our hotel. This time however I chose to be met by a driver because we had been on the road for over 24 hours and I correctly assumed our sense of adventure would not be with us.

Clearing customs etc., we proceeded to the “meeting point” where a dozen drivers held small penciled signs up in the air, each proclaiming the name of someone who’s travail is almost over. Everyone except us. Our name was not present. However a man held a sign that was promising. It contained the same number of letters as our name, started with the same first letter and had four out of the same 6 letters. "You will do signor", I thought to myself.

What followed was a taxi ride as only airport cabbies can provide. From the airport to NEAR our little hotel in the Piazza Paridiso. Both the driver and I thought we were close, and we were, only 40 yards away. But after decabbing we then spent 20 minutes in a light rain searching for Albergo della Lunetta while pulling heavy bags through the cobblestoned narrow rabbit warren of alleys that is the environs of Campo de’ Fiori. Finding our lodging (we had driven right in front of it) we humped the bags up to the 4th floor, no elevator, 26 hours after closing the door at home.

Immediately we ventured back out into the light rain to explore the magic of Rome, and magic indeed it is. Even dead tired the ensuing two hours until bedtime were wonderful.

Serendipity

We choose to stay in the area around Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona (the Centro Storico) for easy access to pleasant and interesting venues that we could walk to anytime of the day or night. (We were not disappointed). Around 11 o’clock of this first evening we entered Navona during a cold drizzle and everything was closed or closing and the atmosphere was decidedly bleak and quite uninviting. We visited Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and then noticed something out of the ordinary, people were entering and exiting the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone. Often choosing to be guided by the unexpected, or following the serendipitous yellow brick road, we went in.

Oh joy unbounded! We discovered a light and radiant little vest pocket of a hall enhanced by a subdued blend of light marbles and minimal decoration. A Boromini masterwork only lightly touched by the guidebooks. Pity. Here is a jewel that deserves a good contemplative sit.

And to add to our pleasure, even more unexpected, were, to the left, a dozen young people singing religious melodies harmoniously in English. Accompanied by two guitars, the voices softly merged into a musical whole that underscored the completeness and unity of both the space and the time.

Wonderful!

Two Vatican Museums

Friday it rained and we decided to tour inside and selected the Vatican museum, along with 10,000 of our closest friends. And close they were, as we joined the river of people propelled to the Sistine Chapel. In my view there are two Vatican Museums: With Sistine Chapel and Without Sistine Chapel. You can do both, and on a good day, both in one day. But you cannot intermix them. Once you enter the upper hall with the Gallery of Tapestries and the Gallery of Maps you are in a one-way river of humanity being pushed, as surely as a log in a fast flowing river, toward the Raphael Rooms and the Chapel. You really cannot drift into and out of these galleries at your whim. Nor is reflective contemplation your companion here. Rather a relentless noisy tide of folks pushing on, interspersed with blobs of tour groups surging through like a watermelon in a snake. And to add to your pleasure there are the doorways. Constricting gates that force you to funnel even closer and closer to one another. Oh, it’s a horror of the first magnitude.

And then you step over the threshold and into one of the World’s premier spaces: the Sistine Chapel. The 10,000 melt away. The noise dissipates. The motion stills. The angst withers. And greatness enters your vision, your mind, your heart, and your soul. It is then that you realize that it was worth the journey.

Mid to late afternoon we visited Saint Peter's Basilica and it was everything the guidebooks say it is. And the guidebooks can describe it better than I can, except to say that it is huge.

Empty Trevi

Friday night I introduced Judy to the Fountain of Trevi. Nocturnal magic. A Nicola Salvi confection dating from 1762 that has gained its fame partially through the movie “Three Coins in the Fountain”. Today tourists the world over now arrive and toss a coin and make a wish. Judy did so. I took a photo of the act. Good picture too. I asked her what she wished for. Her response was the thousand-yard stare. “I forgot to make a wish,” she bleated sheepishly. We repeated the performance with wish.

If you have been to Trevi during warm weather your memories may not be quite as fond as ours. The fountain area, as a world venue, can become less than fluid with large numbers of visitors. Especially with everyone wanting a turn at the waters edge to make the toss and dream the dream, photo de rigueur. We were blessed with a cool early March evening. At no time were there more than 50 people on site. An empty Trevi where everyone was helping to photograph each other in a multitude of languages. A true delight with soft water sounds and subdued lighting. And yes ladies, she fell in love again, AND with me.

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