Category Archives: 2014 Italy

Italy 2014 – Day 6 – And back again

Last days away are always hard as you have to balance the time you have available to do something meaningful with an eye on the clock to ensure you leave enough time to make your flight. Today was one of those days although with a flight not due to leave until 17:20 we had plenty of time for one last bit of sightseeing.

Behind the hotel where we were staying was a park housing the Villa Borghese and this was one of the few areas we had yet to venture so this morning we went for a wander through it along with numerous runners making the most of the fine weather and traffic free roads.

Speaking of which the roads in Rome are a nightmare and certainly not designed for pedestrians. Pavements are few and far between and those that do exist are narrow. Of course the streets are teeming with tourists who have no idea where they are going and no sense that there might also be a car sharing the road. Despite this Roman drivers are highly tolerant. You very rarely hear the sound of a car horn. If it was me I’d have my hard firmly resting on the horn!

Stopping for a coffee in the Piazza del Popolo proved to be an expensive business with one bitter lemon costing the same as the pizza we had enjoyed yesterday lunchtime. To be fair that’s the only time during our visit that we felt we had been stung. The hotel proved to be especially good value as drinks were always accompanied by nibbles of some sort.

We elected to take a taxi to the airport as the cost was only a few Euros more than the trains and decidedly more comfortable, although our driver was clearly auditioning for the vacancy at Ferrari – a regular Michele Alboreto! At one point he took off from the motor way to join a narrow pitted track. I thought that we were being abducted but it turned out to be a shortcut!

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time which turned out to be a mistake as our plane was delayed by over an hour due to high winds in London. Not a good sign after a week of lovely, fine weather but at least we had a fun time and some late summer sun!

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Italy 2014 – Day 5 – The Vatican

Another walking the streets of Rome and today we headed towards the Vatican.

We have been told that the weather back home has finally turned but it is still lovely here with the top temps getting into the mid to high twenties. Despite this the locals were already beginning to wrap up with scarves and coats while I was feeling hot with just a tee shirt and shorts combo!

Like the rest of Rome the architecture at the Vatican and St. Peter’s square is a wonder given that it will have been all done by hand. We didnt go inside this time but there was a long queue of people waiting to do so. Instead we found a quiet back street and had some lunch.

I have to admit that by this point in the holiday we were beginning to feel a little jaded and by the time we reached the botanical gardens we were running on empty.

In the evening we found a lovely looking restaurant just a few streets from the hotel. The waiter, rather than presenting us with printed menus brought a board with no translations. Up for a challenge we both chose things that we thought we recognised. It transpired that it was a fish restaurant which would explain the hand written menu. Our selections were fine but I really wanted a simple pasta dish and not this fancy tuna!

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Italy 2014 – Day 4 – MC Escher

Today was a bit of a departure from the norm in that while we did all the usual touristy things we also went to a museum to see and exhibition of the works of MC Escher.

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His work fascinates me and is some of the most accessible art that I have come across. Part of what I love about his work is the symmetry of it. The tescilating, regular patterns seamlessly moving from one form to another without your eye really noticing. Really striking. More enjoyable than the Spanish Steps too, which I have always felt were overrated.

Something that isn’t overrated is the Coliesum. A marvelous building on a grand scale. It is even better at night when the air is cooler and there are fewer people around.

We had a meal at a cafe in a good position overlooking the Coliseum but as I have been warned previously – never eat anywhere that is known for something other than its food.

After a stroll around the whole of the building we made our way to the Forum but this didn’t seem to be lit so we grabbed a taxi and made our way back to the hotel.

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Italy 2014 – Day 3 – Ostia Antica

Today we ventured further afield with a trip to Ostia Antica, the old port town of Roman Rome which had been recommended to us.

To get there required a couple of tubes and an overground train. Coming from London it is always a shock to find a major city with only two tube lines, in Rome imaginatively called “A” and “B”. This means that large areas of the city aren’t covered but what is there runs well and is pretty cheap too. An all day pass was only €6 which seem pretty good value.

Ostia is a sleeply little place half an hour from Rome and the Roman town is huge, dwarfing the Forum by some considerable margin. Once in you could wander the grounds freely going absolutely anywhere and that included traipsing over the beautiful mosaics of which there were literally dozens.

Had this been in the UK the place would have been under the watchful eye of English Heritage and I suspect that you wouldn’t have got anywhere near many areas.

The place is a fascinating insight into the Roman way of life with the small, low status, buildings right up to the marble lined and mosaic floored high status areas. It really has to be seen to understand the extent of it.

Italy 2014 – Day 2 – The Trevi Scaffolding

There is a standing joke at home that major sites of interest only receive an update requiring a coving of scaffolding when we are to holiday there. So it was today at the Trevi Fountain and it was a considerable undertaking there too. It almost looked like a rebuild.

Of course the thing about the Trevi is that you are supposed to toss a coin over your shoulder into the waters and it will ensure that you return again. There wasn’t any water and no way to toss a coin so I guess that we won’t be coming back this way again.

Fortunately we had been pre-warned that the fountain was scaffolded, although not to what extent, and the Colloseum too, although that turned out to be a partial covering. Also as we had been to both these before it wasn’t too much of a problem.

Instead we concentrated on the Forum and Palentine Hill, a large area that we hadn’t visited on either of our last visits and somewhere that I was keen to go to having read Robert Harris’ book about the great Roman orator Cicero. Harris paints such a vivid picture of the Forum that you get a picture in your mind of how it was. Of course not everything is beautifully preserved as it appears in my head! I guess that a couple of centuries ago many it’d the buildings would have been marble lined and looked fantastic rather than the plain red brick that remains.

Perhaps as it was two thousand years ago it was bustling with people. I would love to have a time machine and go back when the forum was teeming with toga clad Romans. Actually I would love to do it in the Tardis but that’s another story!

Italy 2014 – Day 1 – We're on our way

I’d forgotten just how long it can take to reach a destination with so many forms of transport involved. Today was no exception leaving home just after 8am and not arriving at our hotel in Rome until 4pm local time. A journey that included trains, planes, automobiles, Shank’s Pony and pods!

The pods are the futeristic transport that takes you from the business parking at Heathrow to the Terminal 5 departures. Each one is self-contained holding up to four people and autonomous. You step in, sit down and press a button after which you are whisked along a track, over the road and into the terminal building all in less than five minutes. As you glide along the TV screens at either end of the pod show “interesting” information along with a Windows type progress bar!

I have to say that of all the modes of transport I took today this was the one I enjoyed the most and lasted the least time. Perhaps they two are related?