Monthly Archives: December 2009

Belated Update: Rome 2009

Continuing what started with Barcelona last year and hopefully may continue in future, our End-Of-Year City Break this year was …

Rome ("The Eternal City" — or is that somewhere else?)

Flew from Manchester via Brussels on Brussels Airlines. No, I’d never heard of them either, but they got us there and back quite efficiently; in fact, in unaccustomed comfort on the Manchester-Brussels legs of the journey, on an Avro RJ85 with only 5 seats across where you normally get six and far more legroom than I’m used to.

Arrived around teatime and transferred by train from Fiumicino to the Stazione Termini. I thought it looked like walking distance on the map from station to the hotel, but it turned out I was a bit optimistic; still, we staggered there in about 20 minutes (which is a long way with a 15 kilo bag, at least at my age!)

Hotel very spacious and comfortable. They tried to sell us a "special price" upgrade for a room with a view (of nothing remarkable) or one with a jacuzzi-bath, but we decided we’d be quite happy with the original booking.

Strolled out for a pre-dinner drink at a cafe on the Via Veneto: sat outdoors but it didn’t have the atmosphere of Paris or Barcelona, and was in truth a bit on the chilly side! Mooched around some local side streets looking for an eatery, and settled on a small pizzeria that looked as if it had local clientele. Enjoyed bruschetta followed by pizzas and a pud with a bottle of house red.

Wednesday, we started out by heading to the Spanish Steps.
I had this idea that we’d be sure to pick up the Open-Top Tour Bus somewhere near, but I was wrong, so we set off to walk along the Via del Corso to the Colosseum. We hadn’t been going all that long, and had paused at the Piazza Colonna to admire said column, when Lesley spotted the bus turning off a little way behind us, so we retraced our steps and followed its route up the Via del Tritone until we found a stopping point.

Purchased a one-day ticket for the tour bus and were smartly conveyed past a few minor sights and so the the Termini station. Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it — all the tour busses are going to have a stop at the main station: why didn’t I think of that sooner?!

In due course we reached the Colosseum, our target for the day.
Following Anna’s advice we hired one of those audio-guide things, and worked our way up and around and down, duly noting the points of interest along the way. It’s pretty impressive, what’s left of it, and must indeed have been a spectacular venue in it’s day. Had an inevitably overpriced and over-breaded sandwich for lunch. Explored the surrounding area, without actually going all the way to the main Forum part, and then rejoined the bus tour

Completed the tour bus route and returned to the hotel for a cuppa and a bit of a rest, before heading to the area around Piazza Navona  to find somewhere for our evening meal.

The Piazza proved to be a rather more lively spot for an al fresco vino (and the cafes all had gas heaters too!) Roamed around for about half-an-hour trying to find a place I’d read about in one of the guide books; eventually gave up and settled on a crowded little place in a back street that seemed to be popular with local-looking types. Proved to be a real gem of a find! Enjoyed three courses again, this time from a menu with no English — thank goodness the Italian for risotto is risotto!

Thursday we did St Peter’s from top to bottom — literally: paid an extra 2 euros to take the lift up to the base level of the dome but then climbed about another 250 steps to reach the top.
Astounding view of Rome and the mountains in the distance; great feeling of satisfaction at the time — but learned later Anna and Matt also made the ascent while being 7 months pregnant and carrying Archie (respectively!). After viewing numerous pope tombs in the basement area, decided we couldn’t be bothered with the trail around Vatican museums just to see Sistine Chapel. The engineer in me was always going to be more impressed with the Colosseum, St Peters, and the Pantheon, than some bloke lying on his back to paint a ceiling. Incidentally, by far the cheapest place in Rome to get a coffee is the cafe on the roof of the basilica!

Returned for evening meal to the same place as Wednesday, after a preparatory snifter at a cafe opposite the Pantheon. Lesley had the risotto again and I had one of the best steaks I can remember. Tiramisu for afters (well you have to really) — proprietor obliged us to have seconds with an excess of cream, which L regretted during the night. Still, three courses and a bottle of acceptable red for around 50 quid is pretty remarkable for a capital city these days!

After two days of fortuitously excellent weather (breakfast in bright sunshine on the rooftop restaurant of the hotel was a really brilliant way to start the days), Friday the weather broke and we mooched around a somewhat bedraggled park/garden area of the Villa Borghese killing time before heading for the airport and flight home.

All told, an enjoyable visit, though not a city I think we’ll be rushing back to do again.

(Some piccies here)