Day 1: Wednesday, March 29, 2006
We arrived in the morning after flying all night, so we were all understandably tired. But, we also all knew that it is better to try to stay up during the day and go to bed early, so that is what we did. We checked into our hotel and then had some lunch before catching a hop-on/hop-off bus to tour the city. Since we were so tired, we stayed on the bus the entire route, but at least got a good idea about the layout of the city and the sights. The map that came with the bus tour is what I used the rest of the trip as I kind of ended up becoming the navigator for the duration of our trip.
Our hotel was right near the Trevi Fountain, so we ended up walking past it at least once a day.
Day 2: Thursday, March 30, 2006
On Thursday the wonderful rua1412 met us at our hotel to show us around the city. Carla was every bit as sweet and wonderful in person as she is on LJ. We were all grateful that she speaks as much English as she does, because none of us speak any Italian. She took us to see the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna); Piazza del Popolo, where we sat and had something to drink; the Pantheon, which is spectacular; we had lunch near there where we had real Italian pizza, which was very good - not much cheese and wonderful bread; when we neared Piazza Venezia she had to go. It was wonderful spending so much time with her.
The Roman Forum is just past Piazza Venezia, so we started to walk along the street looking down at it. We were all foot-sore from having spent most of the day walking, so we decided to head back to the hotel and rest for a while. I made a slight miscalculation with the map and ended up taking us away from the hotel instead of towards it, but we came across a Cat Sanctuary and sat and watched the cats for a while (and rest). After we made it back to the hotel and relaxed for a while we headed back out for dinner near the hotel.
There was a clock store, Centro Raku, near the Pantheon which we visited a few times over the week and all ended up buying at least one clock from.
Day 3: Friday, March 31, 2006
Friday morning we had an appointment at the Galleria Borghese. After another map-reading miscalculation, and a painful leg cramp on my part (luckily the only one of the week), we eventually found the museum at the corner of the park. Donna and I bonded over the art and sculptures on display here. I fell in love with Bernini's sculpture of Apollo and Daphne. It is difficult to see in this picture, but the detail on this sculpture is incredible. The thinness of the leaves as Daphne's hands turn into branches, and the roots coming from her toes as she takes root... amazing. I bought a poster of this piece, and a book of Bernini's work that has other views of this sculpture.
From there we headed to Vatican City and the Vatican Museums. We made our way through the museum to reach the Sistine Chapel. It was slightly overwhelming being there. There's just so much to look at. I still got the shivers just being in such a famous work of art. By the time we worked our way back to the entrance, it was starting to close (at least the bookshops were), and we were getting tired and achey again, so we headed back to the hotel for our afternoon rest.
It wasn't until we were leaving for dinner that I noticed that my wallet was missing. All day I had been complaining because I hadn't realized how low my cash supply was and was down to only 3 Euros by the time we left the Vatican Museum. I was going to put more money in my wallet when I discovered it wasn't in my purse. (I know better than to keep all of my money in one place, so most of my cash was still in the hotel room.) It had been stolen on the Metro on our way back to the hotel. Yes, I was victim of the wily subway thieves that everyone warns you about. Of course, my initial reaction was tears and shortness of breath - just that feeling of violation and panic. But Lisa (who was sharing a room with me) was there and we went down to the hotel desk to inquire about what to do. I decided not to go to the police, because the likelihood that it would be found is slim. The woman who worked there said they (thieves) mostly just want cash, and since it was obvious I was a tourist I must have appeared to be an easy mark. Well, the joke was on them since I had only the 3 Euros and some misc change in my wallet, cash-wise. I went online and got the phone numbers for my credit card and bank card and called them to have the cards cancelled and re-issued. I spoke with very nice, sympathetic people who confirmed that the only usage of the cards were mine and took care of the canceling and reissuing. Now I just need to replace my driver's license. At least my passport was in my room. I had my camera in my purse, but all the thieves took was my wallet, so being the optimist that I am, I think I got off easy.
And luckily I was traveling with the best people in the world. These women took wonderful care of me. They treated me to dinner that night (which included both wine and a chocolate dessert) and offered to charge anything that I normally would have charged on the trip, as well as take out cash from the ATM for me as I needed it. They made the entire situation much more bearable and were a big reason of why I didn't completely freak out.
Day 4: Saturday, April 1, 2006
On Saturday we took a tour to Florence, all but elenorlaura. (Click on link for description of tour.) The best thing about the trip was getting to see Michelangelo's David in person. If you look at it from a certain angle, he almost looks like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings movies.
We also went in the Santa Maria del Fiore, aka the Duomo, which has the 4th largest dome in the world (if I remember correctly).
When we returned to Rome, none of us were in the mood for a proper dinner, so we stopped by a Gelateria for some gelato.
Day 5: Sunday, April 2, 2006
Today we discovered ancient Rome. We started off at the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano. Gorgeous. Since it was Sunday morning, Mass was going on while we were there being tourists, but the doors were open, so they mustn't mind. Although Lisa was reminded to cover her shoulders by someone who worked there. This Basilica is build upon the spot of the first Christian church in Rome.
From there we walked to the Colosseum, stopping to buy some Murano glass jewelry along the way. We took a guided tour of the Colosseum which is an amazing structure. I was giddy walking through it. Even after centuries of being stripped for its materials and by weather, so much of it is still standing. We grabbed lunch from a stand outside the Colosseum and sat facing it as we ate.
After lunch we joined another tour, included in the price of the Colosseum one, of Palatine Hill. First our guide, a much better one than from the morning, showed us the Arch of Constantine, before heading up the Sacred Road, past the Arch of Titus, and part way up Palatine Hill. When the tour ended, we went down through the Forum Romanum on our own. I hate to use the word again, but it truly is amazing. Every five steps we had to pause to take more pictures. When we reached the end we decided to head back to the hotel for our afternoon rest before dinner.
On the way back, I stopped and bought a purse I'd seen on Friday but was too distraught to buy at the time. It is the most beautiful wine red leather.
Day 6: Monday, April 3, 2006
While kallie_kat & Donna took a bus tour to Naples & Pompeii, the rest of us stayed in Rome to try to pick up some of the sights we were afraid we'd miss out on. We couldn't justify the 6 hours that would have been pure bus ride to go spend only a couple of hours in Pompeii, despite how much we would have liked to see it, when there was so much still to see in Rome. Two of the places we had hoped to hit were closed: the National Museum of Rome and the Protestant Cemetery (where Keats & Shelley are buried).
First we went to the Capuchin Crypt, which was right near our hotel. It is as beautiful as it is macabre. Then we headed over to the Baths of Caracalla, after a quick stop at the Circus Maximus. It is hard to imagine that 6000-8000 people would bathe together at these Baths. The mosaics that are left were wonderful though. From there we headed over to Piazza Navona for the longest lunch of the trip. We had a very funny waiter, but it took forever to get his attention when we wanted our bill. There are several fountains by Bernini in this Piazza.
As we wandered back towards the hotel after lunch, we stopped into several churches we passed on these tiny streets along the way. All were beautifully decorated. We also stopped into any shops that caught our eye.
Day 7: Tuesday, April 4, 2006
On our last day in Rome, we headed back to Vatican City to tour St. Peter's Basilica, all except kallie_kat, who wanted to do some more shopping. There was a very long line, but it moved very quickly. We got audio guides, which were a little disappointing. It wasn't always clear what they were talking about and it didn't cover some of the statues I would have liked to know more about. That aside, we did get to see Michelangelo's Pieta, along with all of the other glorious statues and artwork decorating the Basilica. When we were done, we headed back towards the hotel for lunch. Since Lisa & Donna had started coming down with colds, we decided to take our afternoon rest early. Then we went to the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica di Palazzo Barberini, which was at top of the street our hotel was on. Every day we would say we'd go there after our afternoon rest, but never did, so we squeezed it in at the end.
For dinner, I had the fun idea of returning to the same restaurant we had our first Italian meal at. It wasn't too far from the hotel, so there we returned for our last supper. The dinner itself was okay, but the dessert was fabulous. elenorlaura was in heaven. I think she would have eaten that chocolate dessert for every meal on the trip if she could have (she'd had it for that first lunch too). Then back to the hotel to pack and prepare for the trip home.
Day 8: Wednesday, April 5, 2006 - The Trip Home
We all headed to the airport together, despite the fact that our planes left at different times. We had hoped to get our boarding passes and meet on the other side of security. Of course, that didn't work out as planned. kallie_kat, Donna and I were all on the same flight, and it was the last to leave, so the ticket agent wasn't even there when we arrived at the airport. When we went to try to find Lisa and elenorlaura this, we discovered that their ticket agents were past a passport/ticket checkpoint. They were on flights going straight to the US, but we were flying Air Canada, so our plane was going to Toronto. So we weren't able to properly say goodbye to them. ::sniff::
The flight from Rome to Toronto went smoothly. There was a couple sitting in the row in front of us that was overly amorous. They must have been newlyweds. I had to keep raising my book so that I wouldn't have to watch them making out through the gaps between the seats. kallie_kat and I kept laughing every time they started again. We were in the last row of the first cabin behind business class and this plane only had one movie screen at the front of the cabin, so movie watching was difficult over all of the heads. I passed on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire since I just bought it, and In the Line of Fire, but I tried to watch Walk the Line since it has received so many awards lately.
Now comes the ranting part of my trip home. I am never flying through Canada from another country ever again, no offense to the Canadians on my flist. First there was the 5 minute bus ride from one terminal to another (where I learned that 2 other people on my flight had had their wallets stolen on the subway and one man had his camera stolen). Then we had to go through Canadian Customs, pick up our suitcases, go through US Customs and then give back our suitcases. Such a hassle. kallie_kat & Donna's gate was at the opposite end of the terminal from mine, so we said our good-byes and I headed over. As I approach the gate they are announcing that my flight to Boston has been cancelled due to weather, but they will be putting everyone on the next flight scheduled to leave, an hour and a half later. Oh, and the new gate is at the other end of the terminal. ::GROAN:: On the plus side, it was the one next to kallie_kat & Donna's, so I was able to sit with them until their flight left. Then I pulled out the laptop and spent half an hour working on my joss10k fic - the only writing I did the entire trip.
I was exhausted, having gotten up at 6am in Rome, so I slept the entire flight to Boston. The taxi finally dropped me off at my apartment around 11pm Boston time. I pretty much headed straight for bed, grateful to be back in my own bed, with no snoring roommates.
This was truly a fantastic trip and one I will think of fondly for a long time to come, despite the stolen wallet. I had the chance to travel with some incredible women in a beautiful city, and even got to meet another of my LJ friends I never thought I'd have a chance to meet in person.
Some time in the next week or two, after I have a credit card again, I'll go get my photos printed out, as well as get them uploaded on my computer, with captions.