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Travel Update - Italy

On to my last leg then..finally and I'm in Rome :)

Day 1:
- Get up a little late 8:30ish. I've been taking it easy these last few days. The max Dad is able to do is around 5 or 6 hours outside, so I don't start too early at all. Tend to start between 10 and 11 and wind up by around 7 in the evening if I can. At the most we'll just sit in a park or have dinner or something..later than that.

  • Planned. I wonder what I'd do without Google Maps. It is such a fantastic tool.

  • Free Sunday for the Colloseum. I save 33 euros :). Buy 3 day travel pass from Termini station for 3 people. 16.50 euros per head - unlimited travel. Pretty good deal.

  • Metro to Colloseu. Lunch. Stand in line. Colloseum's nice we spend a couple of hours there, its the hottest day of the trip so far though, more than 35 degrees in Rome today. Mom and I are pretty tired today for some reason..I'm more mentally tired at the end of a long trip.

  • Dad loves the Colloseum. He only did the lowermost levels. The architecture is obviously great and probably an inspiration for a lot of building going forward. Cant help but feel sorry for the gladiators though, and I wonder why people were so bloodthirsty in the past - maybe just man's tribal instinct...never dies.

  • Walk around a bit. Bus to the Trevi fountain. Construction going on. NO water :(. Lots of disappointed tourists who go away with shocks on their faces.

  • The Spanish steps are pretty close but Dad's leg is bad again. So we take a few buses and eventually end up there. The buses in Rome aren't great. The biggest problem is that they do not announce the stops inside, so I have no clue where I am and where I'm getting off unless my GPS updates its location in realtime (which it does not). Twice atleast we got down at wrong stops.

  • Dad loves the Spanish steps. Mom predictably feels its a little crowded. I don't mind..either way :).

  • Need to go to Piazza Navona and see the Pantheon. Fail. Some amount of walking is needed and Dad's leg is not upto it. My Nexus battery is very low, I decide to go home instead.

  • Wise decision as it turns out. Everyone is totally shot by the time we get home. Some more bread and cheese and chips and that's the end of our first day in Rome.

A nice city so far, a bit disorganized if you compare it to the rest but unique in its own right. We'll try and head off to the Vatican tomorrow afternoon. The morning I'll try and head off to Piazza Navona, see the Pantheon and roam around a bit around Campo De Fiori.

Lastly, does anyone know if the gelato icecream that is everywhere contains egg and ANY other animal products? Does it contain gelatin - a known animal product? Are there ANY places I can safely eat ice cream? Do note that I do NOT eat in places where cross-contamination is possible? Thank You :)

I'll update this tomorrow. For now, I'll sit and read a few posts in the Italy forum and plan tomorrow.

Posted by
11493 posts

As to gelato, it does not contain eggs for animal gelatin. At artiginale shops. ask about your concerns. There are a couple of good ones near Largo Argentina (Corona and one more towards the Ghetto whose name I forget), plus Come il Latte, Gelateria del Teatro, and Fatamorgana are trustworthy. As they make their own products they know what goes into them,

Good luck with the rest of your trip!

Posted by
137 posts

Thanks Laurel. I'll try and check those spots out if I can.

Posted by
7655 posts

Arvind - the buses and trams worked well for us 2 years ago. At the bus stop, before getting on, we checked the diagram on the sign at the stop and counted how many dots (stops) until our destination. We also paid once for a taxi, and that was money well-spent at the time.

Be sure to visit at least the Borghese Gardens (and the Borghese Gallery if you want to see inside the ornate building with its outstanding art). For the Gallery, you do need to reserve ahead - you can phone them to make a reservation (or ask someone at your hotel?) :-)

Posted by
137 posts

Quirite: That might well be true, but the thing is .. I'm not a local :). I've been in the city for less than 2 days and don't know more than 5 words of Italian. So its a little tricky - that's all. On Day 2 I could manage much better of course, because I was a little more used to it. All I say is, if you compare it with the other countries I've visited - it isn't as good. Can it still work? Of course :)

Cyn: Thanks. Today I wrote down all the stops and went and kept peeping out of the window to read stop names at each stop. That in itself is tricky coz of the crowded buses :). I have a day tomorrow - lets see what I can do.

More in my Day 2 update post in a while :)

Posted by
2252 posts

Arvind, I have been following your posts since the beginning and I am enjoying them so much. Thank you for sharing your trip with your parents with us. I think you are one amazing person!

Posted by
137 posts

Day 2:

  • Planned the day, booked my Vatican museum tickets online (+ an absurd 4 euro online charge per ticket, since its usually the other way around and cheaper)
  • Wrote down detailed bus routes today.
  • Caught 64 towards Piazza Navona, caught 30 to Senato - got off and walked. Its a nice square, probably nicer in the evening though. Tried to get a coffee for Dad but that involved sitting at a restaurant which we didn't want to do.
  • Walked to the Pantheon. Pretty awesome structure and dome, the idea of having holes in the centre of the room was pretty cool. Leaving the dome open so the sky can be seen is a nice idea.
  • Bought Dad a coffee at a local coffee shop - that gave him a little more energy to move on coz he was already feeling tired with the walking.
  • Vegan restaurant I'd thought of going to was closed :( - chips and melted chocolate for lunch then.
  • 492 to the Vatican museum. Got off at the right stop.
  • Energy levels very low for Mom and me today, couldn't totally appreciate the museum or the overcrowded Sistine chapel. Mom liked the paintings on the long corridoor towards the Sistine chapel better. We took the short route to the Sistine chapel, legs were just too too tired today.
  • Sistine chapel was nice, I recognized that Adam picture - though I didn't know its name till I saw the display :). All the rest .. well.. just a lot of great architecture, sculpture and paintings.. I don't understand art any more than that.
  • Mom and me come out and wait. Dad said he'd meet us latest at 5:30pm.
  • 4:30, 5:00, 5:30. No Dad.
  • Mom goes and stands at the entrance. She's super worried by now, its not like Dad to be late. I'm much calmer.
  • 5:45. No Dad. I begin to wonder.
  • 5:50 - I start thinking of where to search for him. Ask security guard. He says there's an exit from St. Peter's basilica as well.
  • Huh? They're connected? Oh f**k. I run off along the wall to the other entrance, takes me around 5 minutes. Cant find it. Information is not helpful. Vague replies and they're more interested in shutting down :|. No Dad though.
  • I run back. Mom's even more panicky now when she sees no Dad.
  • Ask the guard, he says they've checked - Not a single person inside apparently :-o. Where the hell is Dad? Mom's worried that he's crashed somewhere because of his bad knee. That's not logical, because then, they'd have found him and treated him.
  • 6:25. No one's coming out anymore so we decide to head off to the other entrance. I see Dad on the way back limping back very slowly. Meet him halfway. Relief all around. Apparently there's an exit near the Sistine chapel which goes into St. Peter's square and the basilica - we missed that. So when he finished seeing St. Peter's he couldn't find a cab either and started limping back. Oh well.
  • We take Tram 19 and roam around a bit, before catching the Metro at Lepanto and heading home to Termini, a little grocery shopping and we're back home.

I'm thinking of what to do tomorrow though. Cyn suggested the Borghese gardens and that's a great idea, what else though can I do in a day? I was thinking of heading over to Naples and trying to look around Pompeii or Herculaenum but I'm not sure I can see any smoking mountains from where I will get to... and I doubt I want to make Dad climb a mountain on his last day here :).

All suggestions are welcome. Thanks all :)

Posted by
137 posts

@andi: Thanks so much for those nice words :). I love to write and blog - and invariably blog at the end of a long trip and find it exhausting. This time I wanted to try a different approach and its worked wonderfully - all you guys and your feedback keeps me going.

Posted by
11613 posts

You can rent pedal-powered (that would be you) 4-passenger vehicle at Borghese Gardens. There is also a funny little train that runs around. The Galleria Borghese has an elevator, let staff know your dad needs to use it. At this point it may be too late to get a reservation for the gallery, but the park is great.

By the way, in July I arranged with a taxi driver to drive a friend (with limited mobility) and me around the momuments at night, all lit up. Agree on a price and how much time before you start.

Posted by
5697 posts

Arvind, you're probably right about not trying to fit Naples and Pompeii in your last day -- long train trips and lots of walking on uneven ground. Shorter trip would be to Ostia Antica, about an hour from central Rome with similar archeological sites.

Zoe's idea about a taxi tour of the lighted monuments sounds great.
Hope your last day in Rome can be memorable.

Posted by
137 posts

Thanks Zoe, Laura :)

We ended up going to the Borghese gardens and Dad took the train around and liked it. Very cheap at 3 euro. More in my Day 3 update in a bit. We had a long bus ride though, so .. probably done with seeing the city this time. Will keep it in mind for next time ..whenever that is though :)

Posted by
137 posts

Day 3:

  • Everyone is in wind down mode, get up very late at 9 am.
  • A bit of breakfast and some planning. The amount of junk food (chips and chocolate) I have eaten on this trip is huge. But since we've been walking around such a lot, its probably okay.. that's what I have to say anyway :)
  • We find out where the TAM airport shuttle stops so we can catch it to the airport tomorrow morning.
  • Bus to the Borghese gardens. Its a nice park but it seemed really quiet for such a large park, maybe it was because it was a Tuesday morning and everyone was at work?
  • Dad went around in the little train there. Mom and me took huge walks all around the garden, one of our last walks in Europe. Mom says she'll really miss all the greenery and trees and flowers.
  • We sit around rather lazily for a few hours, no one's in the mood to do anything too concrete..really.
  • In the end Mom snaps out of it and says we should go :). I go search for a busstop so I can go to Via sannio and Technier, but Dad's been sweating due to not eating enough (type 2 diabetic) and his other leg is acting up too, probably due to all the running yesterday.
  • We simply take a bus from the closest busstop to Mancini , a stop north of the Borghese gardens and catch another bus home.
  • That gives Dad a long look at the city over nearly an hour and a half, without any walking.
  • Back to Termini, Dad roams around trying to do a little shopping while Mom and I go off to Il Gelatone to find some all vegan icecream shops. Il Gelatone on Via del serpentine. Sadly no.. they also sell icecream which has egg in I leave Italy without having eaten a single icecream, which is a shame really :(. Oh well.

We're back early today, Dad is very hungry and tired so he eats..we all eat a bit. Pack up. I take my passport and money from Mom. Mom and Dad have a flight at 11:55am tomorrow through Qatar and back to Mumbai. I have a flight at 1:15pm with a 6 hour ( ughh) stopover at Heathrow.

2 weeks of working from Mumbai, stamp my new H1B visa and I'm back to Boston on Sep 26 for work.

This will be my last update for my trip. It has been a hugely educative experience and I would like to once more thank everyone on this forum who has helped me in some way.

I'll write one more blog on my personal blog summing up my entire trip (graphically if I can :)) and update all the threads with a link. Do have a look at that when I post it.

Goodbye/afschied/au revoir/aufvidazeen/addio :)

Posted by
2252 posts

I look forward to it with great anticipation. Have a great trip home!

Posted by
7655 posts

Arvind-I enjoyed your dispatches and hope the trip was an overall good experience for you and your folks. Too bad about no ice cream in Rome - 2 years ago we were in Rome for a whole week and didn't have any gelato there, either (it was December, though -- but we had some the following week in Sicily).

If you see this message during your 6-hour (ughh) layover at Heathrow, check out the "Eat" stand - they will have vegan items, but not sure if they can guarantee no cross-contamination with non-vegan utensils or preparation areas. If you're in Terminal 5 and want one more bit of (really good) junk food to take home, go to the Chocolate Box and get Butler's chocolates (Irish) and/or Thornton's toffee (English). Cheers!

Posted by
1501 posts

I loved reading about your adventures! How fortunate your Mom and Dad are to have you! I'm sorry you did not get ONE Gelato, but you're obviously Vegan, and Gelato has eggs. no gelatin! Are you able to consume milk? If not, then definitely NO gelato!
What about "granita" which is just frozen fruit and ice? Dietary restrictions are difficult when traveling! I have no restrictions, but constantly watch my weight, and find that when I go to Italy, despite Pizza and Pasta and Gelato, I either maintain or lose a few pounds because of so much walking!

Posted by
8 posts

It's wonderful. Thank you Arvind for sharing your experience with so much details but throughout enjoyable. I am also going to Switzerland and Italy end of this month with my family. So your travel updates and their enthusiastic replies are guiding me towards a great trip.
One more thing, your write-up reflects so much concerns about your Dad.I think he is proud of you, My best wishes to you and your family.

Posted by
137 posts

Thank You chandni :). All the best with your trip too - have a wonderful time.