Thursday, July 19, 2007

Rome, Italy


On the bullet train

After 3 days in Tuscany, we took the EuroStar from Santa maria Novella train station to Roma Termini. The train ride took around 1 hour and 45 minutes. Buying train tickets were quite easy. You can buy tickets online in advance but they limit ticket purchases to 5 per person and since there were 10 of us, taufik had to go buy the tickets in person. Good thing the station was near our hotel in Florence, so he bought the tickets on the afternoon we arrived. The trains were on time and first class tickets cost 6 of us around EUR160 and you have assigned seats. If you've watched Oceans12, the seats are just like the ones in that movie. (Tapi unfortunately, my train tak ada George Cl00ney)

We arrived Termini station around 4pm and took a taxi to our hotel. There were some drivers who offered their services for a flatrate of EUR30 but when we found out they weren't metered taxis, we declined and got on a metered taxi. Thank God, because the metered taxi ride costs only EUR7!

I had booked rooms at Hotel Fontana Trevi online, simply because it was close to the the Trevi Fountains. I thought it'd be romantic. I assure you, it is right smack in front of the fountain! So close, you could smell the horsesh*t if you leave your windows open for too long.

At first glance you'd find the hotel a bit small and shabby. The rooms are very small compared to the huge rooms we had at Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence, and the rates were the same. But upon closer inspection, I found the hotel to be quite quaint. Again, the furnishings are antique, with old darkwood benches (with silk cushions) and chest of drawers put along its corridors. They display fresh flowers in antique vases and there are old paintings in every available wall.

The best thing about the hotel must be its dining room. Located on the highest floor of the hotel, it overlooks the magnificent trevi fountain. We try to wake up early every morning just to rush and make sure we get the tables by the balcony. Early in the morning there are practically nobody around the fountain except guys cleaning out the fountain (vacuuming up the coins that are thrown in there), so the atmosphere is quite serene compared to the rest of the day when there are throngs and throngs of people hanging about taking pictures, throwing coins over their left shoulders, selling something or just milling about eating gelatos.

The Hotel Fontana Breakfast room and Us sitting on the side of the fountain

The first evening we arrived in Rome, we took a walk towards Piazza de Spagna where the Spanish Steps were. The kids saw a sign for McDonald's and whined and whined relentlessly even after I told them repeatedly that they couldn't eat the chicken nuggets. Taufik finally gave in and we went to the McD0nald's near the steps.

This branch of McD0nalds was apparently awarded 'The Best McDonald's in the world' because it was housed in a very old building and they kept the original architecture. I didnt have time to appreciate it coz it was very very crowded and I had to wait in line for at least 45 minutes before I could order my 5 filet-o-fish, fries and water. I was grumbling to Ilham about what a waste of time it was to wait in line at a mcD0nald's when we could be walking through town and look at historical sites. Suffice to say, nobody whined for McD anymore after that.

It was an enjoyable dinner though. After dinner we took a walk up Via Venetto which is the posh side of town, where Hard Rock Cafe Rome is located. We then dropped by a souviner stall that also sells tickets for the hop-on-hop-off tour bus we were planning to take the next morning.

The next morning we took the bus for sightseeing and our first stop was of course, at the Roman Colosseum.

While waiting to get into the colosseum to buy our tickets, we saw people dressed as the roman legions. You could pay to take pictures with them, or you could do like Ihsan and stand on the side and take a picture of them anyway.

We had to go through an x-ray machine to get into the colosseum, and after that it was a very long queue to buy tickets. After finding out that the tickets bought at the Palatine are also valid for the colosseum, Taufik ran to the Palatine and got our tickets there instead. The Palatine is about 5 minute's walk, but the queue to get back into the colosseum via the x-ray machines took almsot 15minutes. So learn from me, go to the Palatine before the colosseum and you save time in the queue. (Oh, and bring your passports, coz somehow they require that to buy tickets).

Ihsan taking pictures with the SPQR outside the colosseum , Taufik with Izani and Anis inside the colosseum

The colosseum is actually smaller than I imagined, but it was still a magnificent structure. To think that this awesome, multi story stadium was built almost 2 millenia ago just boggles the mind.

We went up to the upper floor to take pictures against the backdrop of the columns Romun Forums and visited an exhibition on Eros, the god of Love.

The kids grew tired after walking around the colosseum, so we took the bus again and stepped off at Corso Vittorio Emanuele and randomly picked a retaurant Libeccio for our lunch. It was definitely a good pick, because the price were cheaper than the restaurants in Florence and their Spaghetti Vongole (Clams) was excellent. I tried out their Tiramisu and it was Yummeh. Taufik vowed to come back for dinner.

After lunch we rode the bus again and decided to go to the Vatican City later in the afternoon when it's not so hot. So we just rode through the Vatican City and headed back to the hotel for a short nap.

We took the bus again around 5pm and went to the Vatican City.

In front of Basilica Saint Pietro

Since it was later in the afternoon, there were not that many people on the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica. The kids had fun running around chasing pigeons and we took our own sweet time to look at all the carvings, light fixtures and mosaic work around the piazza. Again, we did not get into any of the museums.

We then took a walk across the bridge Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II towards the restaurant Libeccio (again), where we had our dinner. After dinner was another liesurely stroll towards the Trevi Fountain. We came across Piazza Navona, which happens to be quite a happening place. We managed to see a guy perform an act that combined juggling, comedy and some 'magical' toys. It was very entertaining and the kids really enjoyed themselves. There were also many artists selling their paintings or offering to do caricatures of you in the piazza.

On the last day in Rome, we relaxed a bit after breakfast, then checked out of the hotel. We left our bags at the hotel while we walked around some more, to places we did not get to go to the previous day.

We went to The Vittorio Emanuele Monument (I really should find out who this vittorio guy is), which is this amazing building that houses a tomb or something, because the guards there won't let anybody sit on the floor or it's steps or anywhere.

We went to the Pantheon or the Santa Maria Basilica, which is the only church I entered throughout this whole trip. The frescoes inside this basilica dedicated to Mary, Jesus' mother, was extraordinary, and I can see why christians could feel humbled when entering the building.

On the way back to our hotel from the Pantheon, we discovered a shop called Bertolucci that sells wooden toys and it had a small pinocchio's workshop outside it. The kids had fun oggling at the various toys it sold, but unfortunately we didnt buy any because they were rather expensive. :(

Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II, The Pantheon and Pinnochio's workshop

After early dinner and one last cone of gelato, we headed back to our hotel to pick up our bags and took a cab to the Fumiciano Airport. The taxi was supposed to cost EUR40, but the driver saw that there were 6 of us and charged us EUR50 instead. We didnt argue much because we know how expensive the price of gasoline is in europe.

And there ends our trip to Italy...

As I said before and will say again and again untill it comes true, "I wish to return!". Ihsan threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain before we left, so hopefully the myth will hold true and we will return some day.

Note to Didi:

I found Bocca della Verita, the Mouth of Truth, but I just saw it from the bus. We didnt get off to see it because the kids didnt want to. I had told them that the mouth will bite the hands of those who lie and they got scared! Their fear was compunded by the many-many posters of Gregory Peck with his 'missing' hand in front of the Mouth of Truth that they saw was sold along the streets of Rome. :laugh:

I wanted to buy you a Roman Holiday calendar, but the first night i was there I saw them sold for EUR6, but the following day I only saw ones that are sold for EUR7.50, some even at EUR8! In my persistence to look for one at the cheaper price, I ended up not buying it. *uwaaaaaaa* :(


next time next time

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