Saturday, May 1, 2010

Italy: Spring 2010: Day 2: Thursday, April 29: Rome

Sunny and warm on our second day in Rome. We accomplish our goal of sleeping through the night and avoiding any long lasting effects of jet lag. After breakfast--outside on the small terrace next to the hotel's breakfast pavilion--we walk over to the Scuderie di Quiranale to see if the line for admission without reservations is manageable. When we are told it would take two hours to get in (and that there are no on-line reservations available for weeks), we decide not to wait. Instead, we get on a bus and head for the of our "obligatory" stops on any visit to Rome. We do one errand first--at the Rome branch of the Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella for Diana to to buy some of her favorite face cream-- then we walk over to the Piazza alla Rotonda.

The Pantheon continues to thrill us....we never get tired of walking inside and admiring how well it has survived the centuries. Lots of tourists are inside, most all of them taking pictures of the oculus in the dome with the sunlight blazing through. We try to get on the little electric bus (116) that goes to the Campo de' Fiori but I can't remember which street it runs on so, after looking for a few minutes, we jump on a 116 that is going the opposite direction. We get a chance to sit for a while while the bus careens through the "centro storico", up the Via Veneto, through the Villa Borghese park and then back to the Campo de' Fiori along the Corso and past the Piazza Navona. The return route is nowhere near the outgoing route so it is not surprising that I was unable to find it. On the bus, I give some advice to a family that is trying to get to the Spanish Steps, forgetting that the bus makes a circuit around the park before stopping near the Steps, so they get an extra ride and will likely not hire me as a trip planner.

We arrive at the Campo de' Fiori just in time for one of our regular lunch options in Rome...a porchetta sandwich at Aristocampo--delicious as usual. Then a pleasant visit our friend Simona, one of the desk staff at the Hotel Teatro di Pompeo. We hop the bus back to the hotel (as usual, the #64 is packed to the gills and we have to wait for a few to pass by before getting on) and rest, check e-mail and do a little work. I take a walk around the neighborhood to do a little more scouting and exploring.

When I get back, we attempt to visit one of the oldest churches in Rome, located a few blocks away from the hotel. But when we get to Santa Pudenziana, there is a mass being celebrated (it is a church that serves the Filipino community in Rome) so we can't go in and see the 4th century mosaics over the altar. A stop for a (Sicilian) gelato compensates somewhat and, to add to our experience with Jewish Italy, we pass the "other" synagogue in Rome--the di Castro Oratory--on our way back to the hotel. It was established in the last century as a Ashkenazi-rite synagogue to accommodate those Roman Jews who no longer lived in the ghetto. It is closed up tight but we will think about going there on Saturday for services.

We are invited to dinner at Maureen and Franco's near the Colosseum. It's a bit too early to eat outside on their roof terrace but the evening is wonderful as usual...great food (shell pasta with fava, guanciale and artichokes, grilled lamb from the farm of their friend from Abruzzo and breaded baked onions) and convivial company. It's almost midnight before the party breaks up and we take a cab back to hotel.

Tomorrow, we hope for continued beautiful weather...plans for the day are uncertain.
Jim and Diana

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Italy: Spring 2010: Day 1: Wednesday, April 28: Rome

We are back in Rome...the day is sunny and warm and the traffic in from the airport is fierce.

The flight from Dulles is one of the best that we have had.....we fly non-stop for a change and splurge on Economy Plus seating with extra leg room. In addition, for both of us there is no one sitting in the adjacent seat which makes it feel even more spacious. I manage about four hours of sleep but Diana isn't so lucky.

The plane is on time, we have a somewhat anxiety producing wait for the luggage to arrive and the driver is waiting for us in the arrival lounge.

Our hotel--the Hotel Artorius--is located in the Monti neighborhood, near the Colosseum. The area is largely unfamiliar to us so we will be exploring a lot of new territory in Rome on this trip. The hotel is on a lively but narrow main street--the via del Boschetto. We are lucky that we can get into our room at 10 am. The room is quite small and cramped (according to the desk clerk we got the last room available) but, on the plus side, it has a large terrace (which looks bigger than the room).

We hit the ground running on our first day in Rome. We have been invited by our friend Maureen to visit a luxury apartment rental--Casa Manni--where she arranges Roman "experiences" for the guests, and then to have lunch with the owner, Armando Manni.

We take a taxi from our hotel to the apartment which is located a few blocks from the Pantheon, on the Piazza di Pietra. The apartment is spectacular...all recently redone and designed by Adam Tihany, a well-known restaurant and hotel designer from NY. Everything is top of the line and tastefully done; in addition, the apartment has a spectacular terrace overlooking the roofs and church spires of Rome. While we are there, a Montreal television crew is filming for material to include in a Canadian travel program.

We have a memorable lunch at a terrific trattoria near the Pantheon called Grano, where Armando is a regular. Sitting outside on a piazza with dish after delicious dish being put in front of us, it is a fantastic way to start our month in Italy. The dishes include a fried meatball unlike any meatball I ever had (it is like a thick stew wrapped in a thin crust and deep-fried), prosciutto, salume, mozzarella di bufala, eggplant parmigiana (the best I have ever had), tripe alla romana and two pasta dishes....carbonara and amatriciana.

Back at the hotel, Diana sleeps and I go out to explore the new neighborhood. I do some shopping for telephone and computer supplies and scout out places for dinner (if we ever eat again). The area is a mixture of neighborhood shops, trendy boutiques, wine bars and restaurant (some higher end, some traditional) and it looks like a good location to get to know.

We do decide to eat dinner, in the interest of trying to stay up as late as possible on our first day and avoiding any long term jet lag. After a stroll around the lively neighborhood, we pick a small place just a few doors down the street from our hotel. The food at Osteria al 16 is quite good...the mixed plate of salumi has a nice variety of meats and the fried vegetable appetizer is completely delicious. But fatigue and our large lunch begin to catch up with us and much of the pasta dishes we had ordered, while quite good, is left on our plates.

It is not long before we are up in our room and asleep. Tomorrow we will try to go to the big Caravaggio exhibit at the Scuderie gallery just around the corner.

Jim and Diana

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Itinerary for Zurers in Italy - Spring 2010

We are off again....for another month of research in Italy. Here is our itinerary for this trip.

April 27: Fly from Dulles to Rome.
April 28-May 2: Rome
May 2-5: Volterra (Tuscany)
May 5-9: Pistoia (Tuscany)
May 9-15: Verona (Veneto)
May 15-19: Vicenza (Veneto)
May 19-23: Padova (Veneto)
May 23-26: Ascoli Piceno (Le Marche)
May 26: Fiumicino (near Rome airport)
May 27: Fly home

Check this space for reports of our progress.

Jim and Diana