Rome Italy

Trip Start Nov 18, 2002
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

The last few months have been very busy for us work wise.  All work and no play is very dull so we decided to get away for the Christmas break to Rome, Italy.  My (Caroline's)Dad and his wife Hiroko came too and we all had a fun filled busy adventure packed in historical Rome.
Our adventure stayed the minute we loaded ourselves into a Renault people carrier taxi.  Within just a few seconds we were experiencing the real Italian driving in excess of 150km in a 100km per hour road.  There was no end to this drivers skills as he read his text messages on his mobile, scratched off the silver seal on his lottery scratch card and read the odd passage in his book that was carefully laid out in front on him on the dash board!!  Some 40km later we arrived safely, that is as much to say we were still in one piece, at our lovely Hotel Artemide on Via Nazionale.
After a quick freshen up we all meet in the hotel foyer and started on our way.  We picked up the usual tourist map from reception and headed off to Trevi Fountain.  It was very well lit up and just full of tourists taking photos and throwing coins into the huge fountain.  We took the photos but declined to boost the Trevi Fountains' economy with our coins! 
Whoever gets to collect that lot must be loaded.  Trevi fountain
A great thing was our hotel was very centrally located.  The Trevi Fountain only being a 10 minute fast-ish walk away.  From the fountain we made our way to the Spanish Steps.  Made famous by the film 'Roman Holiday' where Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck sat and ate ice cream.  Well, that is what Hiroko told us as we failed to watch it before we left!  Even thou my best friend had given it to me to watch, sorry Connie.  The steps were packed with locals and tourists especially as it was a Saturday evening and quite the in thing to do apparently.  A good place to be for people watching.  We ended up walking back to our hotel rather late.  There were still plenty of people both tourists and locals, walking about and at no time did we ever feel unsafe.  

Sunday 24th December 2007  Christmas Eve
Breakfast was served between 7 and 10.30am.  We all made it by about 10.  Breakfast was indeed a feast.  Everything you could wish for was laid out before us.  None of us are big eaters in the morning (if at all we eat anything first thing)! but one gets that compulsion to try and stuff yourself to the point of explosion "just because you have paid for it!"  When will we ever learn?                            
As we sat feeling like Monty Pythons' Mr Creosote, ("not even one waffer thin mint?) we all decided that we would go and visit the Colosseum.  We did catch a glimpse of it yesterday but at the speed the taxi driver was doing, it was just a glimpse. 
Outside was a clear blue sky and slight chill in the air but nothing a coat couldn't handle. Todays taxi driver duly dropped us off safely in one piece at the Colosseum.  Outside we observed several Romans dressed up in full Gladiator costume walking about and charging 'sucker' tourists to have their photos taken with them.  And wow, what a queue by the ticket area!  We had arrived at the busiest time of the day.  But no problem there are plenty of tour guides there offering their services for a meer 10 Euro extra on top of the 11 Euro entrance fee.  For that they would give you a history talk about the fantastic Colosseum via hand-held listening devices (similar to a mobile phone) but most important of all (and the main reason we clinched the deal) we got to skip the hour++ queue we would have had to endure to get in.  What a great idea we thought so we paid our money and joined a group of 40 or so people and in we went.  Our lady tour guide knew her stuff but most of us shut-off after she had informed us that it was built in AD 72, took 4000 slaves just 8 years to build.  The first ever Gladiator battle lasted 100 days. It could house 55,000 spectators.  She went into great detail about its structure blar blar blar, what sort of wild animals were used in battles, how they magically appeared from underground through trap doors in the floor etc etc.  But what was good was, while she gabbled on and on we were free to walk and look around for ourselves instead of having to stay in a group looking at one person.  It also meant that our ears were free to listen to her information or not as the case maybe, when we chose.  It was all very impressive stuff as our photos prove.
After lunch we took another taxi to the Vatican, St Peter's Basilica in particular.  Taxis are all metered in Rome and the prices worked out rather fair when you consider there was 4 of us.  It also saved so much walking when you knew you were going to be walking loads when you got to your chosen destination.  
The area around the Vatican and St Peter's Basilica is so huge and impressive.  Wow! Where all/most of the Catholic money goes was right there standing before us.  The buildings were very impressive indeed.  We took a look at the huge nativity scene which was situated in the middle of the square.  Lots of people were wandering about taking in the calm atmosphere.  It feel very peaceful despite the hundreds of people there.  We worked our way past the Swiss Guards,Swiss Guard at the Vatican Deli shop
through the security of metal detectors and started with a walk round the crypt where all the past popes were buried.  There were quite a few people praying and taking photos of its latest addition that of John Paul II's tomb.
Inside St Peter's itself was massive and again very impressive. The dome by Michelangelo at 136m or 450ft is the tallest in the world.  You found yourself looking up at it for ages.  Your neck soon told you when it had had enough!  The papal altar and surrounding area was being dusted, polished and vacuumed ready for mid-night mass which was due to take place in just a few hours time.  The cameras and lighting were having there last minute tweaking before the great event.
Later that evening we walked our way slowly back to the area where our hotel was situated.  On the way we took photos of the outside of Castel Sant'Angelo, a huge fortress and mausoleum to Emperor Hadrian back in AD 139.  It was quite a tourist attraction with the usual 'statue' type street entertainers and numerous Gucci, D&G, Channel handbag sellers (of which you see millions around Rome) outside.   
Once back in our hotel room, we were greeted with 2 delicious Italian chocolates left on our pillow and a card saying Buona Notte (Good Night).  What a pleasant way to end a fab day.
To be continued...................

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