This is a very long trip report so I am dividing it up into multiple posts between traveling on our own, the Rick Steves South of Italy tour, and what I learned. I hope I don't bore you too much.
May 1 – We’re on our way
I couldn’t believe it! We were on our way to Italy. My husband’s sister and I boarded our Delta Flight and after a long layover (which we didn’t mind) in Atlanta we headed for Rome. This trip had been so long in the making. Until we landed in Rome the following day, I wouldn’t allow myself to believe it was real. As you may remember, it started two years ago when the Denver travel agent stole my friend’s and my money just before we were to leave on our Trail of Lippizaners tour. Once that was resolved – jail time for her, no money for us – it was time to move on. Italy was my first choice, especially the south of Italy where their grandparents were born.
Rome on our own
We landed in Rome, wide-eyed with wonder and excitement. We both had Euros so we didn’t need to find an ATM. This made life easier for both of us. You’ll laugh that before the trip neither of us had used an ATM to withdraw money. We’re old school people who write checks to pay bills and go to the bank to deposit/cash checks.
It’s a good thing I can be assertive. Walking out of the airport we had to deal with two “unofficial” taxi drivers wanting more that the stated fare before we found the “official” taxi queue. Thank you to all on the Forum who warn travelers about taxis at FCO. Our driver spoke almost no English but with my 15 words of Italian and Microsoft Translator we managed to have a short conversation about gas prices and sites along the way. I like Microsoft Translator better than Goggle Translate when offline with its phrase book and conversation memory.
We were soon at Hotel Due Torri, our home for the next four days. RS Italy guidebook says the hotel is overpriced but I don’t agree. I booked our room in September for almost €50/night less than the guidebook rate scale. Preplanning pays off. The hotel is small, friendly, safe and walking distance to everything in Old Rome. As soon as we checked in we headed out for gelato and to explore the neighborhood. The first thing we learned about Rome was that we easily got lost but we soon learned landmarks to get us back to the hotel. We often asked for directions because maps don’t show that a street is the size of an alley and only a couple blocks long. We splurged the first night for dinner at Ristorante Alfredo Alla Scrofa home of Fettuccine Alfredo, close to the hotel but only OK food and not worth the price.
The next morning we were up early to walk to the Colosseum. We had signed for Walks of Italy Caesar’s Palace tour which included the Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. Our guide was an art historian and very informative, comparing Rome to lasagna so we could visualize the multi-layer, multi-millennium ruins. Afterwards we wandered to the Pantheon and sights surrounding it. In our wanderings we found a little restaurant that I can’t remember the name which served good saltimbocca for an early dinner. It might have been Antica Trattoria Due Colonne on Via del Seminario since it was a few doors down from an antique store that was in the basement of the seminary. On our way back to the hotel we stopped again at Gelateria Giolitti for gelato, but bought pastries instead.