Rome.. AKA Can I Have Your Finger

Seriously, that’s what a street vendor/scam artist asked me the first night we were wandering around Rome. “Can I have your finger” and he was holding a yellow and green string. Freak!! I said no, very nicely and he asked again, so I said NO and shook my head. “Please pretty lady”; this time I said NOOOO and he growled “meeeoooooooow”. Nice, huh? We had this encounter at the Piazza Novana, which is just a few blocks from our B&B. I had no idea when we booked this place how conveniently located it is. We are in the best location of the city. The Pantheon and Trevi fountain are like 10-20 minutes away – walking. The Vatican City and the ancient Roma sights are less than 10 mins by taxi. We’re very lucky.

We have amazing restaurants within one-three blocks and our host, Francesco couldn’t be more gracious. He let us use his own washing machine, drying rack, and modem while we were here. He goes to his own apartment in the late afternoon/evening, so there’s no one else using the Internet.

We have a great breakfast every morning (minus the Rainbath, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and razor, of course!)
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He even left us breakfast goodies for the day we are leaving early to go to Pompeii. After we leave, I’ll post the contact information in case anyone is looking for a place to stay in Rome. Here is the view from our street and inside the building entrance.
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I’ll say that while all the food we’ve had in Italy has been good to excellent, Rome has the best food we’ve eaten. (I don’t count that horrible McDonald’s incident at all) The first night we were here, we stopped at placed callled Novana Notte, near the Piazza Novana.  We each had a pizza.
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We shared some incredible Tiramisu — wow was it good and cheap — less than 22 euros for the entire meal.
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Jose also sampled some grappa, which was nasty (in my opinion).
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Then we went on a night walk to the Pantheon – these are night pictures (and it was raining) so I apologize for the poor quality. The sad part is that we probably won’t get to see these sites during the day because we are so busy, so this is it.
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(This is an open ceiling in the center of the Pantheon) —
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On the way back, we stopped at a little store
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to buy some snacks, including CRIK CROK crisps and a coca-cola. YUM.
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The next morning we moved rooms (into a bigger room that wasn’t available last night) did our laundry and planned the day. We were going to Vatican City to see St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum (Sistine Chapel, specifically). Here’s Jose outside Vatican City.
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The top of the buildings were covered with statues, which we assume are Popes of the past.
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Today the weather was just beautiful. It was clear and sunny and just warm enough. We even got a bit of sunburn! When we arrived at Vatican City it was around 11 and the line was almost circling St. Peter’s Square. To our relief (Uffizi Gallery flashback!!!) the line moved very quickly.
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It is confusing tho, because this is just the line to get into the Basilica, NOT the Vatican Museum with the Sistine Chapel. For that, you have to leave the Vatican City, walk around the wall and enter on the other side which is a 15 minute walk. However, there are few to no signs that give you any information at all. (Our biggest beef with Italy is that there is a lot to see, but you never know exactly WHAT you are looking at! — more on that when we visit the ancient Rome sights)

We were not supposed to take a lot of flash pictures, plus the Basilica was humongous, so the pictures came out a bit dark. Here I am with Michelangelo’s Pieta, which is near the front of the Basilica.
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Jose and a friend.
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Here’s Jose with the state of St. Peter. You are supposed to rub his toe for a blessing or good luck. The entire foot is worn down, you can see how flat it is from millions of hands.
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We also got to go on a tour of the Vatican Crypt where the popes are interred. Again, you weren’t supposed to take photos, but I am sure you can find some on flickr. The differences in coffins, (are they called sarcophagi?) were incredible. Some were very plain and others were extremely ornate and decorative. It was a bit aweing (even for non-Catholics).

How the Sistine Chapel Almost Killed Us!
After we left the Basilica, we walked all the way around to the Vatican Museum. I really wanted to see the Sistine Chapel and the painted ceilings. We thought we’d be able to get right into the museum and scoot over to the Sistine Chapel, pop in, pop out and move on with our day. That was not exactly what happened. Instead of a short thirty minute escapade, the quest to find the Sistine Chapel took almost two hours and involved about forty museum rooms (galleries) fifteen sets of stairs (both up and down) and more hallways than I could count.

Somewhere in the Vatican Museum someone is laughing. LOUDLY.

We started our trek by walking through a lovely garden, but what is this thing?
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The Vatican’s answer to the Bean?
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From here, we started following signs to the Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel for non-Italians) We walked through some impressive hallways, but after a while it was visual overload…way too many things to look at.
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The colors in this fresco are incredible. They are doing a lot of restoration of the frescoes (plaster paintings on walls and ceilings, not canvas – so they require a different approach to restoration) and they look incredible. Again, we were able to take as many non-flash photos as we wanted.
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Each time we exited a room, we were greeted with another sign saying “Cappella Sistina —>, but you’d find another set of stairs, or a hallway or in some cases about thirteen art galleries to walk through. After a while you start believing that the chapel doesn’t exist.
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Finally, we arrived at the chapel and it’s filled with at least 1000 people. All looking up. Tell me this isn’t a pickpocket’s dream? I swear inside this room there was the same sign we’ve seen in all the other rooms saying cameras without flash are allowed. So I took some pictures of the famous Hand of God painting, but they I heard someone yelling “No photographa per favore!!!” so I won’t post it here. Again, try flickr and search for Sistine Chapel. I’m sure you’ll find something.

Free at last! We were making our way outside. They had this incredibly cool ramp that gradually turned into a staircase as it looped down.  Look carefully at the picture and you can see the steps getting closer together and deeper.
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and the funny sign of the day:
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Ok it’s been way too long since we’ved talked about food! So here is what we had for lunch (back at Novana Notte) Jose had another pizza, this one Diavola– pepperoni (which was really salami) and red pepper flakes.
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I had penne alla pomodora with my beloved basil.
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Then it was time for a much needed nap after a walk back through Piazza Novana.
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This fountain was under construction while we were here, but it’s featured in the movie Angels and Demons.
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After the nap, we went for another night walk and ended up back at the Trevi Fountain. Here are some pics from there.
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It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the fountain is carved out of the building. It’s incredible. The water from the fountain runs underground for about a mile or so to the Piazza Novana and comes out of the fountain there. (see above)
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We ended our night by having a late dinner at another recommended restaurant called Maccheroni. It was just around our corner, which was nice. I wasn’t crazy about the service we had, our waiter was extremely busy, rushed and borderline rude, but the food was fantastic.

This is the best mozzarella we’ve had…look at that lovely Caprese salad!
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Jose had a specialty pasta dish, amatriciana, with bacon white wine and and tomato sauce. It was excellent.
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I had the Roman special of pasta alla carbonara. This was wonderful; I’d never had it before, I think the eggs always scared me. It was soo incredibly filling.
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I don’t know how Italians manage to eat all their portions (antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti, dolce and the coffee?? and people say Americans eat a lot??) I could only manage about one-fourth of the plate, but it was delicious.

We usually don’t have secondi piatti, but we did tonite. I had meatballs and they were so good. They had just the right texture, sometimes meatballs are mushy or rubbery, but these were very very good.
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And yes, we managed to squeeze in dessert! They were out of tiramisu when we ordered dessert so I asked the waiter for a recommendation. He suggested the ricotta and chocolate torte. Jose made the funniest face saying “ew ricotta in dessert” but I told him its common to use it in desserts. So we gave it a try. Again, it was soooo good! The chocolate chunks were perfect.
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Tomorrow, I’ll post the blog entry for the ancient Rome sights…we took almost 300 pictures so I need to dig through them. We are also traveling to Pompeii on Sunday, so I’ll do my best to get these up before we head home on Monday.

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One Response to Rome.. AKA Can I Have Your Finger

  1. Anonymous says:

    Chris,It looks like you are having a wonderful time. The sights are beautiful and the food is making me very hungry. I’m glad that you stuck to your guns and kept your finger. I can’t wait to hear more about it!Kristen

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