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Rome/Venice Trip

My friend Chuck and I took a short trip to Italy to visit Rome and Venice in late March/early April. Our 4 nights in Rome and 5 nights in Venice included Easter Sunday in Rome.

Chuck had been to Italy twice prior to this trip – a week in Rome a few years ago and Milan & Florence last year. He had a few more things he wanted to see in Rome, plus he wanted to see Venice. He had had a little trouble finding someone to make the trip with him, but he knew his friend Dave is always up for a trip to Europe. This was just my second trip to Italy. I did a 3-week trip in 2015 with another friend that included Orvieto, Siena, Florence, Lake Garda, Venice, the Amalfi Coast, and Rome. That was a great trip! I had no real agenda for this trip.

Mr Grabby Hands

Flight story! Yay! We were on a Delta A350-900 in a 3-3-3 seat configuration. We had Comfort + bulkhead seats with great leg room. Chuck was by the window; I was in the middle seat; and a guy maybe in his 60’s – let’s call him Mr. Grabby Hands – was in the aisle seat. Mr Grabby Hands’ wife was across the aisle from Mr Grabby Hands.

During the plane’s ascent after takeoff, I had my cellophane-wrapped blanket and pillow in my lap. I looked down to see Mr Grabby Hands making circles with his index finger on my pillow. I looked over at him. His eyes were open looking at his finger making circles on and poking at my pillow. The gears in my brain turned as I tried to figure out how to address this. I said, “May I help you?” (Maybe not the best choice of words, but I was trying to be polite). He looked at me and said, “What?” I said, “You have your hand on my pillow and I thought maybe you needed something.” His response was, “C’mon, man! I was sleeping!” Happily, he withdrew his hand.

We had our dinner service. Mr Grabby Hands knocked back a couple of “doubles” of something and tonic before the flight attendant cut him down to singles. Dinner service ended, and it was time to sleep. After I dozed off, I felt Mr Grabby Hands’ elbow hit my elbow, and he started rubbing my upper thigh. I told him I would stab his hand with a fork if it crossed the arm rest again. Actually, I didn’t tell him that (but I thought about it). Instead, I moved as far away from him as I could… at least as far away as an 18” seat will allow. After I did that, he muttered “sorry” and thereafter periodically delivered a sharp blow to the right side of my ribcage with his left elbow… until I pointed a fork at his elbow. Actually, I didn’t do that either, though it seemed like a good idea.

I put this story up on Facebook at the time. One person commented something like, “I’m sorry that guy ruined your flight.” My feeling, though, is this… is anything really ruined if you get a great story out of it?

Rome Sites

Our Rome sites were an eclectic collection of places to visit. As mentioned above, they were largely things Chuck wanted to see that he missed on his first visit.

  • Bascilica of St Paul Outside the Walls. Grand on the inside. Does not look so grand from the outside. Really nice courtyard. Built over the apostle Paul’s body (or so they say).
  • Mamertine Prison. An ancient prison that by legend held Peter and Paul at one time (or so they say).
  • Borghese Gallery. The ground floor is stunning. The first floor? Closed for restoration… most of the paintings have been moved to another museum in town so that they can still be seen.
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Rome Sites (continued)

  • Vatican Museum. The day before Easter. Sistine Chapel. Utter chaos. And… uhh… this will make some people hate me… overrated (this is where I’d put in the nervous face emoji if emojis were still allowed). But… I love, love, love the Sobieski Sala which has an enormous painting (400+ square feet) by Polish artist Jan Mateiko with the also enormous title Sobieski Gives to the Courier the Message for the Pope after Liberation of Vienna. King Sobieski. He’s my guy. Dearly loved his wife. Defeated the Ottomans with his fearsome Winger Hussars. Ruled Poland fairly. Also spectacular to me? The Rafael Rooms.
  • Parco degli Acquedotti. The Aqueduct Park! My contribution to the Rome part of the trip, and the perfect post-Vatican chaos activity. I visited here on my first trip and was eager to return. Away from the city center. Green space. People walking and biking amongst aqueducts. It was great!
  • Ostia Antica. Our Easter Sunday activity! Very, very, very uncrowded. Went early and almost had the place to ourselves for the first hour. Ended up spending 5 hours there… just had a written guide and read the signs. My favorite part? The mosaics.

Rome Food

  • La Pentolaccia. Chuck had eaten here on his last visit on the recommendation of the hotel staff and wanted to return. I enjoyed my veal dish and my eggplant parmesan, the latter of which was very, very good.
  • Le Mille e Una Notte. A second choice nearby our first choice on Good Friday when the first choice was closed. Italian food and Lebanese food. Ehhh… we weren’t expecting much on the Italian side, so we got Lebanese food. The server recommended a nice salad and a meat plate for two. Food was great.
  • Fuocolento. Chuck likes to ask servers what their favorite dish is on the menu. He asked the server here, and he talked us into a “true Roman meal” – appetizer, small selection of cheeses, carbonara, veal medallions. All were very good. We threw in a little tiramisu at the end that was a favorite for both of us… made more with biscuits (in the English sense of the word) than cake-ish lady fingers and topped with fresh whipped cream… nice texture, nice flavor.
  • Ristorante Pizzeria La Cucina Nazionale. Touristy. But all we wanted was a decent pizza. It was good for that.
  • Gelateria Consoli. Excellent gelato outside the Park of the Aqueducts.

Rome Hotel

We stayed at Hotel Aberdeen. It has a Hunger Games theme. I stayed in the Coriolanus Snow room. It has white roses. Interestingly, President Snow’s first name comes from the 5th century BC Roman general Ganaeus Marcius Coriolanus, who in Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus, seeks to become consul but his disdain for plebians and his difficulty getting along with other leaders ends up getting him banished from Rome, which he then attacks with the enemies of Rome.

Okay… you got me… there is not a Hunger Games theme at the hotel. Katniss' last name is Everdeen, not Aberdeen, The hotel is a very simple hotel with simple rooms and with a nice rate of 115 euro per night. Decent breakfast. Good location near Piazzala Republicca. The story of President Snow’s first name? True!

ITA Airways

We flew to Venice because we are both aviation geeks. We wanted to add a new airline to our list of airlines flown. Those blue planes sure are pretty. We were supposed to fly on an A220 (a new plane for Chuck), but it got subbed out for an old A320 a couple of weeks before the trip. That made Chuck a little sad.

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Venice Sites

We were in Venice while Cameron Hewitt was in Venice. We never saw him. The Venice sites followed a bit more of a typical tourist pattern due to this being Chuck’s first visit. We were there for 5 nights, though, which probably follows a bit of an atypical tourist pattern.

  • St Mark’s Basilica and Bell Tower. The lines for both of these are crazy. Especially considering that a ticket can be bought in advance with a specific entry time that results in pretty much zero wait. Special thanks to one Richard Steves who has taught me how to avoid wasting time in lines.
  • Murano. Glass shops. Lots of them. Coolest thing: nativities!
  • Doge’s Palace. We did the Secret Itineraries Tour. It lets you see the business side of the Doge’s Palace, where grandeur was not so important. I enjoyed the Secret Itineraries tour, but it definitely is not a “must see.”. I will admit I was a bit weary of the grandness of the grand parts of the palace by the end of the self-guided tour.
  • Burano. Lace. Lots of it. Coolest thing: nativity lace!
  • San Giorgio Maggiore bell tower. Something like 6 or 8 euro. Not as tall as St Mark’s Tower, but the view toward St Mark’s Square and the far smaller number of tourists makes it a superior experience to St Mark’s Bell Tower, in my opinion.
  • Vaporetto fun. We hopped on a vaporetto going in the wrong direction somewhere around the Rialto Bridge. Hopped off at St Mark’s Square, but the passing vaporettos going in the opposite direction were LOADED – like dragging passengers behind them on ropes (well… maybe they weren’t doing that). We decided just to walk it back to the hotel. This little travel misadventure resulted in two hours lost trying to get back to the hotel. The long return (and the crowds met along the way) made Chuck a little grumpy.
  • Non-Dueling orchestra on St Mark’s Square. Still low season. So, just one orchestra playing in the evening, but it was still very enjoyable. The experience took away Chuck’s grumpiness. The orchestra leader would ask ladies for requests. One responded, “Something from Taylor Swift.” The orchestra leader’s face and head dropped. He gave the lady another chance. She said, “Lady GaGa?” He played something. It got the most applause of the night.
  • Jewish Ghetto & synagogues. Did a tour with Walks in Europe, which also took care of the entry fee for synagogues. Met a couple of fellow RS forum members on the tour… coyote something or something coyote. Nice people!
  • L’isola di Pinnochio. It’s a marionette workshop. I wanted to go here in 2015 but couldn’t find it. This time, I found it, but I failed to call ahead to make sure they were around. It was behind a locked gate. I felt like maybe there would be an expectation to buy a $250 marionette if I actually had someone come out and let me in. I chickened out on pushing the buzzer.

Venice Food

  • Orient Experience. An Afghan filmmaker and refugee came to Venice for a film festival and stayed to open a restaurant featuring the food of Afghanistan and nearby countries. Now there are two restaurants like this + another called Africa Experience. Appetizers were amazing; “entrees” (pick 2, 3, or 5 dishes) were good. It was mentioned later on our food tour as a good place to visit. That made me feel proud of my choice!
  • Pano Vino e San Daniele. Very good Italian food.
  • Rio Novo Ristorante. Around the corner from our hotel on a night we were tired. Good TripAdvisor reviews. Seafood menu and tourist menu. Chuck and I ate off the former. He had a very good seafood pasta. I had a fish fillet with vegetables and a side of pasta. I asked the food tour guide if we disappointed her with this restaurant choice. She said yes.
  • Gam Gam Kosher Restaurant. In the former Jewish ghetto. I ate here in 2015 and enjoyed it. Returned and enjoyed it again.
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Venice Food Tour

We did a food tour through Eating Europe. Thanks to Princess Pupule for posting that the company had 30% of food tours in certain cities. Our guide was great – a native of Venice who was forced off the island because her apartment rental contract was up, and the owner wanted to convert the apartment to an AirBNB. She told us that at one time she “worked for the enemy,” coordinating rentals for a group that rented apartments to tourists. She showed us a “secret park” in a residential area where kids play and residents relax. It was nice. The food part of the tour was okay. The tour seemed new and was not at the caliber of other food tours I have taken. I would say our guide’s Venice knowledge made the tour worth 69 euro; I would have been disappointed at a price point of 99 euro.

Venice Hotel

We stayed at Hotel Olimpia. It was a very short walk from Piazzala Roma, where the busses run. Our rooms had a side canal view. Good breakfast. The coffee machine in the breakfast area turned out terrible espresso, but there was a sign that said the staff would make an “authentic Italian espresso” if asked. Yes, please. Those were great. Staff was great, too. Price? Great. $154 per night. The hotel arranged an early taxi for us to get to the airport for our 6 am flight.

Conclusion

This was a good trip. I had fun hanging out in Italy with my buddy Chuck. AND… we were on a Delta A-330 on the way home. Happily, it has a 2-4-2 seat configuration in coach. Yay! No Mr Grabby Hands!

Next Trip

The Young Adult and I circumnavigate the globe in May. Amsterdam, Germany, Istanbul, Bangkok.

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3234 posts

Great trip report!
(Was “Vienna” a typo?)

Yikes.
I would have been stabbing with my fork, especially if it was a metal one…you were very restrained.

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S J --

Yes, it was a typo... about six times. Thanks for pointing out so that I could correct!

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Thanks for that delightful report. We just signed up for the Eating Europe tour. I think it will be fun to do it and I did have some trepidation about it but will go with a positive attitude. I am hoping the food is enough to be dinner that night.

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Great report as always Dave. interesting to read about visits where people have already done the main sites and are visiting the so-called secondary sites, as you and Chuck did in Rome. So often these can be as much rewarding as seeing the top tier three triangle type places. I’m glad you were able to shake off the rather uncomfortable start to your trip.

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Thanks Dave for a fun report. I’ll be in Venice last week of August and Rome mid-September. Always looking for good restaurant ideas since I’m not a foodie and will settle for almost anything.
This is the first year of Eating Europe’s Venice tour. I had planned on doing it along with Florence and Rome but timing isn’t working out. Sounds like I should be glad of that.

Mr Grabby Hands deserved a fork jab in the you know where.

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Dave, you mentioned that you felt the Vatican museum was overrated. Any particular reason why?

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Super entertaining trip report! Loved it. I am with you on the Vatican, except my disappointment was with the Sistine Chapel.

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Great report! Can't to read up on your future trips.

I had a Ms. Grabby Hands on my last flight from AMS-LAX last November.

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Your reports are always a pleasure to read, Dave.

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Hey, Rob. Religious art is not my favorite. Sistine Chapel was utter chaos. I just wanted to get out of there. BUT I was also there the day before Easter.

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Mr. Grabby Hands had me laughing! I also went on a mini-Italy segment during my April 2024 trip, and flew Volotea ATH-VCE and then LIN-FCO on ITA, both airlines for the first time (though I've flown with Alitalia before, so maybe not really). I didn't film either one for my aviation YouTube channel as they were evening flights, but they were otherwise uneventful. And Linate was an easy subway ride from the city center.

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Smiled reading about Mr Grabby Hands. Loved your restraint. Glad you and your buddy had a great sojourn. Venice is so unique.

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Glad you had a good trip! (Is there another kind LOL.) Your report was just what I needed tonight!