This year I made a trip to another major European country, Italy. I have been planning this trip for over two years. I learned enough Italian to be able to read it a little and I did a lot of research on the two cities I would be visiting; Rome and Venice.
I drove down to Philadelphia to depart from the Philadelphia International Airport. I was able to book a direct flight to Rome from Philadelphia on US Airways. When I arrived at Philadelphia International Airport I had considerable trouble finding the Economy Parking Lot. I drove around in circles before finally driving along the more familiar terminals. Then I went through security without checking in my bag. I had to go through the scanner twice. This was not a great start to my trip.
The flight was about 8 hours but I was able to watch a few movies from a digital library of over 200 films. I saw Cleopatra with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor because it is partially set in Rome. That film is four hours long so it kept me entertained for half of the flight. Then I watched part of the film Wolverine which is set in Tokyo. There was a slot under the seat back video screen which looked like it was for swiping a credit card but fortunately the in-flight entertainment was free.
When I arrived at the Fiumicino Airport I just followed everyone else through passport control. Then I picked up my checked bag at the baggage claim area. I used a Trenitalia ticket machine to buy a ticket for the Leonardo Express. I remember going down a set of steps and through an underpass to climb another flight of steps to reach the train station. I had some slight difficulties validating my ticket which apparently must be slid sideways in the machine. The train was very roomy and had storage racks for luggage. It even had a toilet which was labeled WC for watercloset. The train ride to Roma Termini took about a half hour and along the way I saw some examples of Italian apartment buildings with balconies.
I had booked a room at Hotel Rimini which is very close to the Roma Termini station. Fortunately they allowed me to check in early and the desk clerk spoke excellent English. My room was on the 6th floor, one floor above where breakfast was served. The room lighting was ridiculously dim. I think they must have been using 30 watt bulbs. There was also no room safe or alarm clock. The bed was very narrow, like a cot. After unpacking a bit and freshening up I went back to Roma Termini and bought a Roma Pass at the tourist information point. Then I went to Borri Books and bought a travel guide to Rome, Rome and Vatican on foot published by Taita Press ISBN: 978-88-05746-82-1 and the book Easy Italian for English Speakers published by www.vallardi.it ISBN: 978-88-7887-189-2. I didn’t really need the travel guide but I recognized the format from an Italian travel guide on Venice which I had special ordered. I returned to my room with my purchases and filled out the Roma Pass which is supposed to be signed before use.
I then returned to the Roma Termini station and found the metro entrance. I bought a CIS 7 day ticket and took the B Line to the Colloseo Station.
Of course I immediately saw the Coliseum which was half covered in scaffolding. It didn’t look so big up close and the entire area was slightly different from how it looked in photos. I found the entrance to the Roman Forums and used my Roma Pass to skip the long line. The first thing you see from the entrance is the Arch of Titus. I took several photos of the Arch of Titus and then began to wander around the ancient Roman ruins photographing everything that looked interesting. Unfortunately I did not have time to read the Oxford Archaeological Guide I bought, but I knew what some of the temples were even if only a few columns remained. It is difficult to form an impression of what these ruins looked like during the Roman Empire. I saw more crumbling brick than marble.
Eventually I went up the Palatine Hill, an area I might have overlooked if I had not added it to my notes just before I left. On the Palatine Hill you can see the remains of the palaces of the Roman emperors, the House of Livia, the Hippodrome of Domitian, the Palatine Hill Museum, the Farnese Gardens, and the site of the bronze age huts where Rome was founded. I saw all of that but the House of Livia was closed to visitors. There was also an underground passage that I walked through. I think wandering around the Roman Forums and the Palatine Hill was how I got the blisters on my feet which plagued me for the rest of the trip. The walking is very rough in those areas of Rome.
After making sure I had seen everything there was to see on the Palatine Hill and in the Roman Forums, I finally made my way to the Coliseum where I used my Roma Pass to avoid another long line. The Coliseum has a small museum on the upper level where I saw an exhibit of Roman antiquities. There is even a bookshop where I could not resist buying the book The Roman Forum by David Watkin ISBN: 978-1-86197-805-9. I walked all around the Coliseum and took a lot of photos. The stage looked much smaller than it is pictured in Hollywood movie recreations. You could not stage epic battles in the Coliseum. I think it was smaller than the length of a football field.
I was hot and tired after being outside in the bright sun all day so I took the metro back to Roma Termini and my hotel. I had supper at Ristorante Donati, a restaurant very close to my hotel so it was convenient. The first evening I ate there I ordered gnocchi with tomato sauce which wasn’t particularly tasty. I only ordered gnocchi because it is something you can’t find in Italian restaurants in the United States.