Friday, July 21, 2017

Four Days In Rome Part 1

I do NOT recommend visiting Rome in the middle of July, but a concert forced us to join the throngs of parched, sweaty tourists during not just a month that's traditionally hot, but also during a heatwave and a drought. Here's what we did, with some suggestions, and a few lessons learned.

We arrived in Rome at midday. We had taken the train from Umbria, but many people arrive directly from the airport after a long overnight flight. If Rome is your first point of entry, try to allow some time to adjust to the time difference, and don't over-book yourself. One of my top recommendations is to book a walking tour of some sort. These vary from inexpensive, basic sights of Rome to more expensive, comprehensive, and even customized, tours. Do some research and pick what suits your budget and your interests, but trust me when I say a guide will help not only save you time, but educate and entertain you in the process. You will come away with a greater appreciation for the sites you saw, and your time will have been spent efficiently.

We dropped our bags off at THE BEEHIVE, our go-to place in Rome. Like most places, they'll let you drop your luggage even if your room isn't ready, so we were able to grab some lunch and begin enjoying the city. We'd brought insulated water bottles to carry with us, because in the 90º heat and the intense sun, staying hydrated was a priority. We had lunch at the small mom-and-pop restaurant just around the corner from the Beehive. The Regina, just two blocks from Termini, the main train station, serves good food at reasonable prices and we were welcomed like family.

After lunch we headed back towards Termini, hung a right towards Piazza della Republica, then headed down via Nazionale. We walked in the shade – another simple tip – to avoid the blazing mid-day sun. Our plan was to visit the Domus Romane, a fairly new exhibit, housed in the Palazzo Valentini, directly in front of Trajan's column. The Palazzo was built during the Renaissance, directly over ancient Roman houses, and now thanks to plexiglass floors and projected lighting, we were able to see the ancient Roman houses (Domus Romane), and to get a better idea of how the rooms would have been decorated for the Imperial Romans who inhabited them. The tour lasted about an hour, and was well worth our time. If we'd arrived earlier we could have eaten at the restaurant next door, Terre e Domus, which boasts of traditional Roman dishes and wines. This restaurant is worth noting for its location – not much else nearby!

Our walk back up the via Nazionale wasn't difficult – the hill is very gradual – but the heat of the day was tiring. We stayed in the shade as much as possible, and once back at The Beehive (in The Sweets, just around the corner), we were happy to indulge in some air-conditioned air. We stretched out for a brief rest, but be warned – unless you're staying in a high-priced hotel, you probably won't have television. For most of us, as long as there's WiFi, we can stay connected via our phones, so this wasn't a problem. That evening we met a friend who lives in Rome for dinner at MEID IN NEPOLS, just a few blocks from our room, and all enjoyed a traditional Neapolitan pizza for dinner.

Day two began with breakfast at the Beehive's cafe. Yogurt, croissants and coffee got us going, and thanks to the shared kitchen at The Sweets, we had cold water (and even some ice!) for our scheduled visit to the Borghese Gallery. When planning your visit to any city, decide which museums you'd like to see, then check for opening days and times. Do some research to find out which ones require reservations, and which ones recommend reservations. I realize sometimes it's not easy to predict how your day will go, and when you'll be at a certain location, but sometimes a little extra planning will go a long way.
For the Borghese, reservations are required, and it's easy to book tickets online. The only other museum where I strongly recommend reservations is the Vatican. This is also one museum where I would strongly recommend a guided tour. Not only will you save time in line, you'll understand what you're seeing, and hear interesting stories about what your seeing, rather than just the dry, boring details.

 Okay, back to the Borghese. Entries are timed, so you know exactly when you need to be there. We'd taken the #910 bus from Termini, which dropped us off right at the entrance. I took my printed receipt downstairs to exchange for our tickets, checked my purse, and waited our 11 o'clock entry time. Technically you're only allowed 2 hours in the museum, but it's small, covering 2 floors, and two hours will be more than enough time. I recommend renting the audio guide – you can move at your own pace, and listen to as much or as little detail as you want. Knowing what you're looking at, knowing who created it and what makes it special enough to be in a museum is definitely a worthwhile investment.

Borghese_Rome_Italy_Bernini_Rape of Proserpina_3841Borghese_Rome_Italy_Garden_3805


Borghese_Rome_Italy_Ceiling_3824  We'd plan to grab a panino or a salad at the museum cafe, but unfortunately it's closed, so we walked to Viale San Paolo del Brasile, a main street with many buses. We asked the driver “Termini?” and when he nodded yes, we boarded. Bus and Metro tickets are easily purchased at various locations around town, and we'd bought four tickets that morning. Bus tickets, Metro tickets and trains tickets MUST be validated! For the Metro (Rome's subway) it's unavoidable, since you need to insert your ticket in order to go through the turnstile, for trains the machines are on the walls near the trains – not on the trains! - and for busses the machine are on the busses themselves. After the short ride back to Termini, we walked the two blocks to The Beehive, had lunch at The Regina once again, then returned to our room for a nap – the main purpose of our visit to Rome was the U2 concert, and we knew it would be a late night! Once again, the air conditioning was heavenly!

We'd originally planned to take the Metro, then transfer to a bus to get to the Olympic stadium, about 4 ½ miles away, but when friend offered to drive us, we gladly accepted. We arrived around six so that we could exchange our vouchers for proper tickets. Being Italy, there were no signs, but with a little luck and a few helpful directions we found the office, got our tickets and walked back to the stadium. We knew our tickets were in the next-to-the-top row, in the middle of the stadium, but really had no idea how good or bad our view of the stage would be. Knowing that most concerts now use large Jumbotrons, we weren't too concerned. Additionally we knew that the Olympic Stadium features a covering over the roof, much like the ancient Coliseum used, so we knew we'd be protected from the sun.

The stadium filled up quickly, as well as the open space in front of the stage. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds took the stage at 7:30 and played for an hour. Although I'm not familiar with him or his new group, I was in the minority and his set was received with enthusiasm. The guy two rows in front of us was on his feet from the first note and knew every word to every song – he had a blast!

After Noel Gallagher left the stage it was a full hour before U2 took the stage – it seemed excessively long since all of U2's instruments were already set up – but I have no idea if this is normal for this tour. In any event, once U2 took the stage the crowd went wild! THIS was who we had all come to see! The complete set list AND all the videos are HERE.  

I hadn't looked at the set list prior to the concert, so it was a wonderful surprise to hear my favorite U2 song, “One”, during their encore. 'Encore' might not be the right word – I think it was really part 2, since it lasted nearly an hour!

I have a side note for anyone from Louisville who might be reading this: not ONE person left before the last note was played. NOT. ONE.

We had heard from friends that getting home from the concert might be challenging, and indeed it was. Although extra busses had been added, every one that passed us was jam-packed. We walked one stop closer, with no luck. We walked to the next stop, but still the busses were full. For us to get home we'd need to take a bus to a Metro stop, then take the Metro back to Termini. We'd heard the Metro was staying open one hour later than usual, until 1:30, but with all the busses full, and with no more busses arriving, we didn't know if we'd make it. It would take us a good hour and a half to walk home, through unfamiliar streets, and that just wasn't in our plans.

 As many of you know, in the states, after any large event, taxis would be lined up, waiting to whisk people away, but not in Rome. In Rome you need to make sure you're taking a legal taxi, because rogue taxis are a problem. Rogue taxis can be exhorbitantly expensive at best, and dangerous at worst, so you must get a cab at a hotel, at a taxi stand, or call for a cab. We tried to call the number but of course the line was constantly busy. I was getting more than a little concerned while I stood watching the horizon, hoping another bus would appear.

Art walked over to a local policeman and asked if it was always like this. “Yes” was the reply. Honestly, how do most people, who rely on public transportation in a city like Rome, get home after a concert or soccer match? Art explained our dilemma to the officer, and eventually he said, “Wait, I'll try to call a taxi for you. I'll call the dispatcher.” We weren't sure if he had a special, direct number for the dispatcher, but we thanked him and waited expectantly. After just a few minutes a taxi appeared out of nowhere – it didn't come from the street but seemed to come from the parking lot! Needless to say we didn't ask questions. We thanked the officer profusely and jumped into the cab. Whew! By this time traffic was pretty much cleared out, and the €17.50 for the cab ride – right to our door – was worth every penny and we tipped the driver generously. What a night! We turned on the AC, turned off the alarm clock and fell into bed with U2 songs still playing in our heads.

There are five albums with our pictures from this visit to Rome on our FLICKR PAGE


At 7/22/2017 05:00:00 PM , Blogger Karen K said...

Hi Barb, I love reading about your travel adventures. We stayed at the Beehive on our first trip to Italy in 2008. We plan to go to Umbria in 2018 for the Eurochocolate Festival. It sounds like you are having a great time. Enjoy. Karen K.

At 7/23/2017 03:57:00 AM , Blogger Barbara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7/23/2017 03:58:00 AM , Blogger Barbara said...

Thanks Karen! My one piece of advice for Eurochocolate would be to try to go during the week rather than on the weekends - it's gotten so crowded that you can't move, or see, or enjoy.


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