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Page history last edited by Phil Baraona 16 years, 10 months ago

Italy 2007 Day 1: Rome

March 19, 2007


As I write this, I am sitting at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris waiting to board an Air France flight to Rome. Today marks the beginning of an 18-day vacation in Italy. I'll be on my own for the first five days visiting Rome and the Amalfi coast. Saturday, I meet five friends (Aimee, Sheila, Matt, Rooney and Steve) in Florence where we have rented a villa for 10 days. Finally, I have two days in Milan (on my own again) before heading back to Boston on April 5. Should be a fun trip.


This is actually the first time I am traveling by myself in a country where I do not speak the language. I took a 2-day course called Italian for Travelers from the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and have been listening to "learn to speak Italian" CDs on my commute, but I have only picked up the very basics. I am not all that worried about this since I expect it will not be hard to find someone who speaks English, but it will be an interesting experience nonetheless.


My overnight flight from Boston to Paris was uneventful -- I managed to sleep most of the way. I actually used 50,000 frequent flyer miles (on Continental) to book this flight. Flying through Paris is somewhat ironic since my last international vacation included a trip to Paris but I flew through Iceland to get there. My only complaint so far: getting through security at CDG sucked! It took almost an hour, largely because they kept letting people without much time before their departure to go to the front of the line. Oh well, I'll probably appreciate that on the way home when I only have slightly more than an hour to make my connecting flight!


The flight to Rome went well and, after a minor annoyance waiting 15-minutes for this guy trying to reserve a hotel room, I caught a shuttle van to my hotel. I'm staying at the Hotel Julia which is just a couple of blocks away from the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps right in the heart of Rome. The Hotel Julia is a very basic, but clean hotel that has recently been renovated. This turned out to be a mixed blessing since I am apparently the first person who has stayed in this room since the renovation. I could not get the door to lock behind me when I left. After speaking to about four different people about it, the hotel handyman (Marcos) finally agreed that there was a problem and spent about 30 minutes fixing it. I was a little suspicious of his work so I decided not to leave any of my valuables in the room, which is perhaps the smallest hotel room I have ever seen. I can literally stand in the middle of the room, stretch my arms out and touch both walls. I'm pretty sure the entire room is less than half the size of my kitchen! Oh well, it will serve its purpose for the next two nights.


After taking a quick shower to help wake myself up, I set out to start exploring Rome. I walked past the Trevi Fountain, up the Spanish Steps and then found a place to have some really good gelato. My only complaint about Rome so far: it started to rain pretty hard as I was eating my gelato (did I mention it was really good -- mint and chocolate mixed together). It didn't look like the rain was going to let up anytime soon so I decided to just risk getting wet and I took the long way back towards the Trevi Fountain. I walked through one of the main shopping districts in the area: Via del Corso. Just what you would expect. Lots of interesting stores. Really, expensive, I assume but can't say for sure since I did not go into any of them. I'm sure my female friends will be horrified!


By now, it was almost 5:30 and I was getting hungry. I decided to try a Lonely Planet recommended restaurant called Il Chianti. It's on a small plaza about half a block from the Trevi Fountain and it's very good. I had a nice white sauce lasagna, a salad and an excellent glass of wine. The highlight of the meal was the outstanding chocolate mouse I had for dessert. At first, I felt bad even having dessert given that I'd had that excellent gelato just a few hours before, but I'm really glad I did. Besides, I'm on vacation!


Both to keep myself awake and to get a flavor for what Rome is like, I booked an "Illuminated Rome" tour from ItaliaTours.com (run by Appian Line Tour Operator) for the evening. This was basically a 2.5 hour bus ride through the streets of Rome past almost all of the major sites -- Stazzione Termini (where we started), via Bittorio Veneto, Piazza Veneto, Il Colosseo and Piazza San Pietro (where we ended), just to name a few. We got out for ~25 minute walks at the Trevi Fountain (again) and Piazza Navona. I had booked this trip to get a feel for what Rome was like and that is exactly what I got. Our guide was reasonable enough and he must have spoke six different languages. Overall, this was a worthwhile trip, but I sure was tired when I got back to the hotel a little after 10:30. I quickly checked my e-mail and then headed off to bed. All in all, this was a great first day in Italy!


Index Day 2

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