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Rome, the Maremma, and a new Back Door

This trip report covers our trip to Rome and southern Tuscany last spring. Although we’ve made many trips to Italy over the last 30 years, the Maremma area of southern Tuscany was new to us. If you’ve been to any charity auctions in the last few years you may have seen the “Week in a Tuscan Villa” that pops up often. My best friend bought a $100 lottery ticket, and when her name was pulled for the grand prize, she got to pick anything in the auction, and, voila, we were signed up for a week in Tuscany, for 100 bucks! It was difficult to find much info about this region, so I’ve added a lot of detail in hopes in might help you.

One caveat. I’ve known several people who have purchased these weeks in Tuscany with great plans to day trip everywhere, from Rome to Florence to Pisa to the Cinque Terre. Manciano is in WAAAY southern Tuscany, and a day trip to Florence, for example, would involve at least eight hours in a car. (Not my idea of a day trip.) If you’re headed this way, have a look at Rome2rio.com to get a better idea of travel times. (And even that site can be optimistic about Italian traffic!) The Maremma is lovely and relatively untouristed, but if your interests are in more northern Tuscany, you probably should base yourself there rather than this far south.

Rome was my first taste of Europe as a university student, and it left its mark on me. We manage to start or end a trip there about every other year. My favorite area to stay in is within the triangle of Campo dei Fiori, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. I’ve found great apartments in this area for the price of mediocre hotel rooms, sometimes from VRBO and sometimes from a recommendation on this site. This trip we stayed at Palazzo Olivia, just around the corner from Piazza Navona. It’s popular on this site, and hard to get into for good reason.

We landed on Sunday morning; our shuttle driver pre-booked through the hotel was waiting for us. Starting out jet lagged on public transportation is no way to start a vacation, and a private driver shared by four of us seemed both a bargain and a no-brainer. Palazzo Olivia is not easy to find — another reason for a driver — since it’s basically a door on a side street with negligible signage. Since we were two couples we rented the two bedroom, two bath Family Apartment. We had a very pleasant space with tall beamed ceilings, French doors overlooking either the quiet courtyard or the more “festive” street, modern spacious bathrooms, and excellent beds. The two bedrooms are separated by a gallery kitchen and a small sitting area. This property is something of a cross between an apartment and a B&B. There’s an attached restaurant across the open courtyard which serves included breakfast, and friendly staff is on site for a few hours in the afternoon and early evening to help with reservations and questions. Would definitely stay here again.

We dropped our luggage, headed around the corner to lively Piazza Navona, and ducked into St. Agnes in Agony to hear a bit of organ music before mass started. Had time for a gelato lunch at Gialitti and a quick visit to my favorite Bernini elephant in Piazza Minerva before catching a taxi to the Borghese Gallery for our 3PM tickets. Such a great collection of Bernini sculptures and well-preserved mosaics of gladiators and beasts from 300-400 AD. Never really crowded but you really have it to yourself if you start upstairs and work down. Dinner at our favorite L’Orso 80, 5 minutes on Google maps and 25 minutes to find on Rome’s goat trail back streets, even though we’ve been coming here since 1988. Plates and bowls of antipasti required an extra table; always a festive meal. If you can make a reservation (in Italian) you’ll increase your chances of sitting in the front rooms with the Italian families, but wherever you’re sitting, service is friendly, prices are light, and food is wonderful.

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Monday morning we’re doing the Pristine Sistine with Walks of Italy, meeting at 7:30AM to beeline to the Sistine Chapel before the hoards descend. Stunning and peaceful there for almost 30 minutes before we headed back to the front to hit the highlights. I’ve done this tour several times and think it’s worth the price just to get in the Sistine Chapel early. But as an artist it’s always frustrating to rush through the contemporary galleries near the end of the Vatican Museum. Also think it’s probably too much to cover both the museum and St. Peter’s in one swoop, but you do get to bypass the ominous security line, and you can always go back to St. Peter’s early in the morning when it’s more peaceful.

After leaving our guide, we did go back outside to buy tickets to ascend to the dome.The line may look long but it moves quickly. The elevator gets you up to the base level of the dome, where people are ant-sized on the floor below. In another 330 or so steps you can climb to the cupola topping the dome. If you’re claustrophobic, you can still get a good view over Rome from the rooftop where the elevator ends, though now wire fences prevent visitors from getting to the edge lined with statues.

Pizza lunch outside at Il Buffetto near Campo dei Fiori, then back to the apartment to recharge cameras, phones, and feet. Dinner tonight at another favorite restaurant, Taverna dei Fori Imperiali near the Colosseum. We were meeting more friends from Atlanta here, so we let them choose the wines and the owner picked our special antipasti. Moved on to wonderful Cacio et Pepe and Amitriciana pastas, decadent desserts, then waddled home past the light show going on in the Forum.

Another early start on Tuesday to make the first Scavi tour of the day underneath St. Peter’s with a Vatican archeologist. Fascinating to see the lasagna layers of ancient pagan and early Christian tombs. A very good guide, and the the tour ends where you ascend the steps up to the main altar of St. Peter’s. Walked along the Tiber back to our apartment, then one pair headed to the catacombs of St. Calixtus out on the Appian Way, and the other caught a taxi to Santa Susanna to pick up tickets for tomorrow’s morning audience with Pope Francis.

Dinner tonight at Taverna Antica, one of Laurel in Rome’s recommendations. Glorious bruschetta, proscuitto, and buffalo mozzarella for starters. Excellent pastas though the English menu translation of “scallops” turned out to be veal, not seafood. Seated dangerously near the dessert cart, and pointed to something flaky and lovely we though we heard described as “ganache.” Definitely Popeye’s finest “spinache”! Clearly not intended for dessert! Our bad. Overheard bits of animated conversation between servers about how one could have let us order this when he knew we wanted dessert. Va bene. Charming small restaurant, and would definitely return, but probably should work on my Italian a little more.

We've been waiting to see the newly refurbished Trevi Fountain at night, and it's sparkling. And crowds are thick as always. A bride and groom got an approving roar from the crowd with their big kiss in front of it. Wonderful Grom gelato at Piazza Navona on the walk home definitely topped our spinach dessert.

I love to attend the outdoor audiences on Wednesdays at the Vatican when in Rome, even though I’m Methodist. We were through the metal detectors and in our seats by 8 AM, and it filled fast. Found a row with a baby to increase our chance of Papa Francis stopping. Here came the Popemobile, and there he was — big smile and white vestments flapping in the breeze, and he stopped to kiss the cute baby on our row!

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Beautiful spring day to walk back along the Tiber on the Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle. Great pizza slices from Forno in the Campo dei Fiori. Gelato from nearby Grom was stellar. Had to hustle a taxi to get us to the Colosseum to meet our guide from Walks of Italy. Angela was our guide, we were the only four, and we’re going to the Roman Forum, Augustus Caesar and Livia’s newly excavated palace, and the Colosseum. What a passionate, knowledgeable guide Angela was! I've attempted the Forum multiple times - with tours, guides, guidebooks - and each time have left in varying levels of confusion, declaring "a pile of ruins" is just not my thing. Angela was great at explaining the history and bringing the rubble to life. The house of Augustus and Livia has opened just this year, only to private tours. Some of the frescoes were wonderfully colorful and incredibly preserved after being in dirt filled rooms for centuries.

I left them all at the Colosseum to find a taxi to take me to Piazza Farnese for a special English tour of the recently restored French embassy. Michangelo had a hand in this building's design, and it's beautiful and elegant with a lush garden in back. The showpiece is the Carracci Gallery on the second floor. Very interesting but most of the art is on the ceiling or just below. Studying it was a real pain in the neck, literally. But glad I finally got to see it. (We got an extraordinary tour from Angela, who stayed with the rest of the group until 5:30PM when they were getting weak-kneed from all the step climbing!)

Returned to our favorite L'Orso 80 tonight for abbreviated antipasti courses chosen by our favorite waiter Marco and piles of pasta with salmon, clams, or seafood. Great food, and they're always so nice to us, tonight bringing us grappa and their house-made liqour.

Thursday is our last day in Rome and we're off to Testaccio for a four hour walking food tour with Eating Italy. What a day of food! We started with cornetti and tiramisu at Barberini, then turned the corner to Volpetti, the gourmet food shop, for Parmesan and prochiutto and balsamic vinegar tasting. (The 30 euro aged balsamic is definitely better than the cheaper stuff.) On to Volpetti Pui for two kinds of pizza. Walked through the Protestant Cemetery, past Keats' grave, on the way to the new covered Testacchio Market.

At the market we focused on tomato bruschetta and buffalo mozzarella. (Leave it out at room temp and don't waste the "milk"!) Then there was a street food of bacon and pork neck called "the Bomb." We're all maxing out, so thankfully there's a walk to Flavio al Velavevodetto ("I told you so") for a sit down tasting from large platters of three of Rome's signature pastas: carbonara, Cacio et pepe, and amatriciana, all wonderful. The restaurant was in one of the small caves carved into the mountain of ancient amphora shards. (This is not a tourist neighborhood! An interesting off the beaten path kind of place.)

We've all about reached the "stick a fork in me" stage, so at our next stop at Trappizzino, we just nibbled a bit of our suppli and bagged the rest for later. Last stop is coming. Gioliti. For gelato. We revived. We got a great lesson on how to choose the real and avoid the mass manufactured. (Avoid the brightly colored and piled high, at all costs! )Our final test was to choose two flavors that "work together." I got the deep dark decadent chocolate paired with a delicate almond...and a dollop of fresh crema on top. It's holiday! Don't judge! But do consider taking this tour. Great fun and too much food!

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Taxi back to our hotel, then on to Europcar on Via Sardegnia to get our Alfa Romeo, the rental I arranged with Andy at gemut.com. The street is just a narrow one way path between two rows of parked cars, so we double parked on the corner to try to stuff it all in. It's a tight fit with even our limited luggage, and an awkward angle into the back seat, but we're soon on our way to Manciano, less than 2 hrs away. We survived exiting Rome with some missed turns but no major mishaps. When we left the autostrada, our much narrower country road rolled through bright green Tuscan hills and flocks of sheep, one whole pastureful pushing their way through a narrow gate. Fascinating to watch the ribbons of sheep divide and converge as they all tried to squeeze through. Would have made a great video but nowhere to pull off the narrow road to photograph!

Our Manciano apartment La Terazza is spacious and lovely...once you ascend the black slope stone steps up to it. The huge living area has leather sofas, an antique marble dining table, and a contemporary kitchen wall fitted with a big square countertop marble sink. Have no idea how they got any of this up those steps. Up even steeper steps there's a rooftop terrace overlooking rows and rows of terra cotta tiled roofs, with views far into the green fields and mountains beyond. Very nice.

Six hours ago we thought we'd never need to eat again, but about 8 PM we were out searching for the recommended pizza place near the gas station. We actually went to the wrong one...and ate at O'see. It's filled with clown decor, and we called it the Chucky Cheese...but it would make my top ten pizzas ever eaten list. Big thin uneven pizzas falling off the plates; the mark of truly homemade, as we learned this morning.

Friday was banking and grocery morning. The Coop was a field trip with beautiful vegetables piled high and too many local artisan products to choose from. Lovely lunch at home on our rooftop terrace.

After lunch we're off to Cambiano to find the nearby Tarochii gardens. This was a major project of a French artist who designed the huge voluptuous sculptures faced with colorful tiles and mirrors. Some have water fountains; some have innards of moving scrap iron sculpture designed by her husband. All are based on the Tarot, and I know nothimg about their references. I had envisioned a serene green sculpture garden. This was more a hilly green-trampled whackadoodle installation with half a dozen Italian school groups on end-of-year field trips, but it was colorful and creative. Once you got into the spirit of it all, it was fun, and the day was truly beautiful to be outside doing anything.

Next to nearby seaside Orbetello. Beer and coffee stop at a sunny table in the main piazza for people watching. From the shops and people we saw, this is a well-heeled town, with beautiful views across the lagoon. Not another tourista in sight. Our goal here is a sunset dinner at the local fishermen's commune, Il Pescatori. They don't open til 7:30, so we drove down the coast to the next town, San Stefano. This one has a harbor packed with yachts, and ominous ZTL signs, so we were soon on our way back up the coast without parking.

Il Pescatori is an adventure. Friendly, but no visible or spoken English. Usually in Italian restaurants I'm OK with point and guess if I can't read the menu, but here the local specialties are eel and pickled fish roe, so we resorted to Google Translate for safety reasons. I'm sure our interesting and indecipherable mixed antipasti platters had both eel and the strange vinegary fish eggs, but our mains of grilled sea bass were great. Plated looking at you, but once we got the heads off and most of the bones out, delicious. Great wine and beer.

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Saturday is for fishing with Paolo! This is the adventure we've waited for. Read about Paolo, a local fisherman, on a Maremma blog by Katje last October and have been communicating with her since then. We're meeting him in the harbor at Talamone at 7AM, then going out on his boat while he pulls his nets along the Maremma parco coastline. We had been warned that it could get bone-chilling, but it's a beautiful morning and we're layered up.

Paolo talks a lot - all in Italian! - but he's very friendly and we figure it out. He wants one of us to drive the boat, and we elect Ann who's a pro behind a boat wheel. A ways out, we pick up his two helpers from their motor boat, and they unload the first net's catch into ice boxes on our big boat. Pietro the young one stands in the bow and steadily cranks in the nets over a big wooden wheel. The nets are each at least a hundred yards long, There's not a big pile of fish all at once, as I had pictured. The fish come in at intervals, most tangled in the nets. Paolo deftly untangles fish, flipping each into the nearby XXL ice chest, then loops the emptied net into a steadily increasing pile on deck. There's also the occasional octopus which is pitched into a galvanized bucket, a few prehistoric looking flat things which go back overboard, and two vile looking eels which are dumped on the boat floor. I'm sure we're all thinking the same thing: "Please, don't cook those nasty creatures for us!!"

When there's a tear in the net, he ties a knot to mark it for repairing later. When there's a major tangle, he hands that to the older fisherman sitting on a low wooden stool nearby. Their work is smooth and steady. When one giant net is finished, we motor down the coast to the markers he's set for the next one. He emptied three giant nets during the morning, and his compadres had emptied a smaller one on their boat before we all met up.

Paolo has brought us fresh cornetti and made inky espresso in a tiny worn galvanized silver coffee maker. As the sun rises we shed layers. The coastline is pristine narrow beach separated by rock cliffs. The water is that crystalline turquoise of over Photoshopped postcards.

When we got back to the harbor about noon, Paolo had half a dozen customers waiting on the dock to buy his fresh catch. He had been slicing up octopus and scaling fish with industrial size scissors on the ride home. We had a flock of gulls dive bombing our wake as he chummed the water.
We knew we were going to Paolo's house for lunch, but weren't sure of his plan, so we sat in the sun on a harborside park bench til all his friends bought their fresh cleaned fish, and he led us behind his truck up the hill to his house. While Paolo, his wife, and her friend started cooking, he queued up some of the professional documentaries that have been shot about him. From these and his scrapbooks we figured out his interesting story.

This Maremma coastline has been fished by small traditional fishermen like Paolo for generations. Then the big commercial operations discovered the bounty. Instead of hand drawn nets, they used giant mechanized weighted nets that dragged the sea floor, scooping up everything that swam while destroying the natural habitat of the ocean bottom. This was all illegal, so they fished at night. The fish they didn't want were dumped back in the water, dead. This was destroying the traditional fishing trade.

Paolo couldn't get the government to intervene, so he started raising money to finance his idea to stop them. He decided to sink giant concrete blocks with huge iron hooks that destroyed the ocean floor-dragging nets of the illegal boats. This got him banned from selling his fish at the Mafia controlled fish auctions, but the 200 sunken blocks also successfully ended the illegal deep net fishing. Quite a story; courageous man.

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Our lunch started with fresh raw octopus sushi (delicious!) then a pasta course with fish and tomatoes over penne (wonderful!) and finally, grilled sea bass and vegetables (best I've ever tasted!) Paolo cooked the fish over a low charcoal fire using a fish basket he flipped frequently. With each flip he brushed the fish with a long rosemary branch liberally dunked in local olive oil. And of course there were the baskets of fresh bread, bottles of wine, and the ending of biscotti dipped in rich Vin Santo (holy wine.) What a good meal; what a special day! And what a Back Door Experience.

There's a famous antique market the first weekend of each month in Arezzo, and on Sunday morning we were off to find it. A beautiful almost medieval town center, vendors up and down all the side streets and filling the centro. Lots of dogs walking their people. Perfectly blue skies, plenty to look at, paninis at an outside table on the square, and a great bakery. Saw some repro terra cotta sundials we liked, but too heavy to carry. Stopped by on our way out but they were already packed away deep in his van. Broke my first rule of antiquing: if you really want it, buy when you see it. Don't think I really wanted it.

We had planned to get back to Grossetto to find a sagra (festival) where there was some kind of rodeo happening at 4PM. The Maremma is a relatively untouristed part of Tuscany, and Mr. Tom Tom has not always been our friend here. In addition, though I have been researching for months, the elusive page with the sagra info failed to make it into my carefully printed and bound trip book. We burned through a chunk of data roaming trying to find this mysterious event, and I even stopped some locals in the center of Grossetto to ask, but nobody knew about it. I think I was not in the right town probably. It's Ok. Still a great day.

We have had such good weather this trip, albeit cool, but this Monday morning was cold. We layered up and headed to Pitigliano to meet our guide Roberta. We have her for the day, and we're visiting three small hill towns. By the time we meet Roberta, it's getting sunnier. The centro has a fortress and and a few pretty shops and restaurants. It gets very quiet as we wander deeper into the small streets and up and down lots of steps. These are good towns to have local guides. This is back door Italy and sights can be elusive. Houses here are tiny and dug into the tufa rock. They can go down for layers. It's hard to figure what people do for work here. Think many are retirees, or weekenders from the big cities, or artists.

We went to the synagogue, which is built atop an ancient synagogue dug even deeper below, where they were once required to hold their religious ceremonies. Pitigliano is also called Little Jerusalem. There's only one elderly Jew living here today. At one time this was a safe haven for Jews escaping Rome. The history goes back even farther to the Etruscans. You can spot Etruscan tombs dug into rock cliffs around several of these old cities. My knowledge about the Etruscans is scant, beyond the black and terra cotta vases from art history classes.

Sorano was even smaller and quieter than Pitigliano. Climbed to the highest point for views over landscapes and very old tile roofs. Roberta said this town is dying because it's steeps are just too much for its aging residents. Get that. So many beautiful massive wooden doors here.

Sovano is even smaller, just one street. We saw the artisan who has reproduced museum quality Etruscan vases for 40+ years. And the hotel with the beautiful garden and maze. And the cathedral, which was topless for years, maybe centuries, but has been restored. Very quiet here. Not a ton of things to see in any of these villages, but left to ourselves, we might have found nothing at all!

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Dinner back in Manciano at Trattorio il Refugio. An amazing Maremman variation on French onion soup with a poached egg in it, and my pasta was rich with local pecorino and bacon. I think we are still very off season here. Their food was very, very good and there were only two other tables with guests. They also have a communicative gray parrot.

Beautiful, beautiful Tuesday in Siena, and after an uber curving start, a fairly non-eventful drive up the autostrade to get there. Found our parking lot by the soccer stadium without crossing the ZTL. Our guide on another trip clued us in to this one. Put St. Catherine’s church in your GPS. She’s within the ZTL, but when you get close you will see several big parking lots for the nearby soccer stadium. Great place to park and a lovely street to walk into Siena.

The enormous clam shell piazza was blessedly uncrowded, and the sun just warm enough. Walked back to the striped Duomo. Most of the inlaid marble floor is uncovered today, and the library is not crowded. The wonderful pulpit is shrouded for restoration. Lunch back on the piazza al fresco in the sun.

Out of town about 4 PM and off to find some Tuscan poppy fields. Drove around Crete di Senesi area, Anconi, and lots of farm roads In between, but poppy fields are elusive today. Saw about as many pheasants as poppies! Beautiful green rolling hills, rows of manicured cypress lining drives to fine villas, and plenty of pink and yellow wildflowers, but only a scattering of red along the road.

GPS kept losing us, and the roads were conspiring to put us on detours. The worst was the closed bridge we came to. The farmer ahead of us turned off on a dirt track road past a salvage yard, but we kept following, assuming he knew a back way...until we followed him into his driveway. Turned around and backtracked 6 or 8 miles , to the enormous detour sign we completely missed. This last detour did take us through some of the best scenery and right into a double rainbow. Back in Manciano after dark. Good fast pizzas again at Osee. Nearly wore out our driver today.

Wednesday is our last full day in Manciano, and plan is to find the beach. No culture on the agenda today. We knew the Maremma park started at Talamone, so went there first. Info hut was closed so I talked to a woman on the street, who told us to go to Alberese about 20 minutes away.
Beach access is down a long straight dusty road, passing horses and some long horned Maremma cattle. There are only a few people on the beach. Lots of driftwood piles and clean brown sand. Water is a beautiful turquoise, but very cold. Walked the beach for a couple of hours. Peaceful and lots of tiny shells. Back to the harbor in Talamone for outside lunch. Great risotto with lemon and tiny shrimp. Watching a giant crane lifting yachts into the water, probably after wintering in storage.

Off to find the famous hot springs at Saturnia. As usual, nothing is completely easy. We smelled it (sulfurous) but couldn't find it. Stopped a lady on the road, and I got about one word of her rapid Italian - "sinistre." When we went out again, searching on the left, found it. It's beautiful! A cascade of blue waterfalls and infinity edge pools overlooking rolling green pastures. Water is more warm than hot, but lots of current coming off the waterfalls. Lots of fun. All shapes and sizes in swimsuits here! Stayed til we realized we would be eating dinner at 10 if we didn't get out. Wish we had found this earlier in the week. Could have done this several times!

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Dinner tonight at lovely La Filandia in Manciano, but we were the only guests! It's a beautiful restaurant - arched ceilings, suspended stairs, elegant presentations. Steak served seared and sliced. They placed a nuclear hot volcanic rock in a metal frame in the center of the table, and we heated each slice for a few seconds. We did something similar in Prague. Would never pass the US safety regs! Somebody would stick his finger on it, then sue. It’s May 4, and we are still very off season here.

Thursday is a beautiful day to drive to Rome, with the blue sea on our right. Both Waze and the GPS got ornery as we got closer to the city. We weren't exactly sure how it was routing us, and it was heart stopping to drive out of a tunnel into city traffic and see St. Peter's looming up on our left. Heart stopping NOT in a good way. Our car drop off was completely on the other side of town, and we were driving about an eyelash from the ZTL for the entire perimeter around the city. This was the worst drop off ever. Next time, back to Tiburtina or the airport! Of course once we found the car drop off there was nowhere to park. We pretty much threw our luggage on the sidewalk and our keys at the manager before hopping in a taxi. The car was great, but that Europcar location is too close in. (This was not gamut.com’s fault; it was mine. I asked for an in-town drop-off. As soon as I got home I wrote Andy and told him to avoid this one in the future.)

We had one last night in Rome before our Friday morning flight out and we chose to spend it back in the city rather than in the nether land near the airport. The Hotel Portoghesi, very near the Piazza Navona, was a good choice. And L’Orso 80 was just down the street! We had one sunny afternoon left in Rome, and we covered ground. Quick panini lunch sitting on the fountain in Campo dei Fiori, walked to Piazza Argentina, then up the tall steps to the Campodoglio. Downhill overlooking the Forum, a cab uphill to Maria Maggiore, then walked downhill to San Pietro in Vincoli. Further downhill through Monti, we had outdoor sitdown coffees, then walking gelatos from a place on a corner near the Forum Imperiali, i think called Flor. (Tropical fruit was extraordinary.) Onward to the Pantheon again and the tiny religious shop with the beautiful carved Christ childs. Then one last Roman dinner with our favorite waiter Marco at L’Orso.

There’s little traffic early in the morning when Delta flights to Atlanta leave Rome. Private shuttle got us there painlessly for about 50 euro. A great trip. Loved it all!

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I read this, re-read it, then read it again. I felt like I was there with you and could almost taste the gelato! Thank you for sharing this with us!

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Ruth, I saved this trip report until I could read it with a caffe and biscotto - absolutely the best trip report I've read.

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If you'd like to see more about our fishing trip, check out Paolo Il Pescatore on FaceBook. Lots of pictures. Loved our day with him. His little fishing tourism business helps overcome his losses from being blocked from the fish auctions by the mafia. And he's a really nice guy!

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Ruth, we just returned from Rome last Sunday and the first 3 days are identical to ours: Walks of Italy Pristine Sistine tour on Monday, Tuesday, first SCAVI tour of the morning then Dome climb, Wednesday PApal audience. Am making a cup of tea now to finish reading your report and think about adding mine.

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Barbara, hope you do share your trip. I'm not crazy about early morning wake ups on vacation, but that really is the best time to see things. How were the crowds at the Vatican? It was a Jubilee year when we were there last spring, but I've never seen it so crowded!

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Ruth,
Wonderful report! I wrote down notes about a couple of the restaurants you mentioned for my impending Rome trip, just 9 days from now.

Hope to see you April 8th at our Travel group meeting.

Judy B