Trip Start Nov 06, 2012
Trip End Dec 21, 2012

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 14 - Tuesday 20th November

A 0420 alarm woke us for our early morning transfer to Paris Orly airport, ready for the taxi which we had booked through the hotel the day before. The taxi, operated by two ladies (driver and navigator), made our way south through the city to Orly. The city traffic lights seemed to have no logic to them as we seemed to get stopped by red lights at every intersection even though there was no other vehicles waiting to cross. The city buses were chocked full of people at 5am with people off to start their work days!

Our flight was with Easy Jet, and their check in and boarding process was just that, easy. The flight was smooth and we both used the time get a quick sleep. After landing in Rome and collecting our bags, there was a €5 transfer to Rome's main train station, Termini. Compared to the parts of Europe we had already been, Rome's weather was significantly warmer and with clear skies. There also seemed to be more parks and gardens.

Hotel Opera was to be our accommodation for the next three nights. We found it not far from the station. The cobbled streets were not being kind to the wheels on our bags, with Lauren's wheels now visibly bent out of alignment! As check in was early, our room was not ready yet so we spent the time getting tickets for a 2 day hop on hop off bus ticket which provided us transport around Rome, and unlimited trips to the major sights of the city.

By now our room was ready, so our luggage was able to be stored and we could explore the city. We headed to the Trevi Fountain, built in 1732 and shows Neptune's chariot being led by Tritons, with sea horses representing the moods of the sea. Customarily, we threw a coin over our shoulders into the fountain, thus ensuring we return to Rome again. It's reported that on average €3000 is thrown into the fountain each day!

Just up from the Trevi Fountain, we found a street full of traditional Italian restaurants. We found a place with an table outside and ate a very tasty dinner of bruschetta, gnocchi and pasta, topped off with a gelato.

After dinner we walked through the city streets and along the main road Via Nazionale, and had a look inside the shops. Ash purchased a couple of pairs of leather shoes at a sale, and Lauren still on the hunt for her new leather boots too. After a bit of retail therapy, back to Hotel Opera for a well needed sleep with very satisfied stomachs!

Day 15- Wednesday 21st November

A very nice continental breakfast greeted us this morning before we headed for the hop-on hop-off bus terminal. Our focus for the morning was the Colosseum. Built in 80 AD, it stood imposing at the end of the Via dei Fori Imperiali as the tour bus drove toward it. Passing the Arc of Constantine, we entered the arena and signed ourselves up for a guided tour. Our local guide gave us a good hour long tour, including information on the construction, use and eventual decline of the arena. It was interesting to hear that the holes in the stonework all over the was where brass joining plates once were installed to fasten each stone block to another. After Rome was later invaded and sacked by many tribes, and all of these fasteners were prized off the structure leaving the resulting holes. The plates would have been used for other purposes as the metal would have been surely worth something. The building was also later used as a stone quarry and pillaged of stone blocks as construction materials for other constructions, so that is one of the reason only part of the outer ring of the building still stands. Overall, visiting the Colosseum was a magnificent experience!

Later we wandered the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum, the famous central meeting place for Romans, where they voted, heard speeches from emperors, and socialised. We also visited the Paletine Hills area, which was the residential area for Roman citizens, where they lived and exercised.

By now we had developed the hunger of a Roman Army, so we caught the bus up a few stops to the Isola Tiberina, the island on the Tiber River. Here we found a nice little cafe and grabbed a panini and coke. Very nice indeed after a morning of sightseeing.

Now we were off the Pantheon, an ancient temple built in the second century AD. It is a circular building with the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world, with an adjoining verandah supported by huge concrete columns. It is now a catholic church. We had a look inside and marveled at the dome.

We now headed south back toward the river and area known as Trastevere, in search of restaurants known as aperitivo. These places are where you can buy a drink, which then gives you free access to a buffet of local Italian food. However we found out that any of these restaurants wouldn't be open until 1830, as the locals eat a lot later here than back in Australia. We decided to have a coffee at a small bar and then head back toward the area we had dinner the previous night, near the Trevi Fountain. The trip back took us past the Arch of Constantine and the Coliseum where we were able to get night pictures of these attractions. For dinner we found a small Italian eatery and shared a pizza and a pesto gnocchi, which was super, followed by our customary gelato. What a colossal day!

Day 16 - Thursday 22nd November

This morning we hoped onto the bus and headed to the Vatican. Getting off just down the road, we made our way though the guided tour spruikers and into the square in front of St Peters basilica. Next we headed up to the lookout of top of the dome, and took in the marvelous 360 degree views of Rome. The journey up to the top of the dome took us through some narrow passages and up skinny, worn stairways! Also on the way up we were able to go to a balcony which is on the inside of the dome, high up inside basilica. Here we could look down below on the floor or up at the dome and the mosaics around the dome. Descending from the dome, we arrived inside St Peters, and was able to take in the interior from ground level. The interior is amazing!

The Sistine Chapel was next on our list, but this required us going through the Vatican Museum first. We decided we'd have a break from museums for the afternoon and head back into Rome and explore some other attractions the city. A visit the the Spanish Steps, a famous (and widest in Europe) outdoor stairway which links the Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Trinita dei Monti.

A quick freshen up at the hotel allowed us to research somewhere nice to visit for dinner. Our research found a place called Trattoria Vecchia Roma Pizzaria, an underground restaurant which has been family owned in the same location for 100 years. We were lucky to get a table as the place is apparently highly sought after for dinner in Rome. The meals were fantastic, with bruschetta, tomato-based gnocchi and a bacon and cheese-based pasta. We ordered the meals using our very broken Italian which we had been practicing, includig many 'gratzie' (thank you) and 'per favore' (please) to which they would say 'Preggo, Preggo!' (you're welcome, you're welcome). Dinner was capped off by the customary gelato, followed by a wander of the streets as we soaked up our remaining time in Rome. Overall, our prior expectations of Rome were exceeded by our stay here. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and sights, and we'd love to say Buongiorno to Rome again one day!
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