Italy With My Son 2012: Rome is Pazzo

We awoke early and actually left the apartment by 6AM to get the 6:55 ferry out of Rio Marina. We were there for the sunrise. There were only a few cars and people on the ferry. A chocolate croissant was actually still warm and pretty good. It was a beautiful ride across to Piombino.

The drive to Rome went smoothly, though it was long and mostly via secondary roads. We arrived at the hotel, Deko Roma, to unload our luggage and check in before returning the vehicle to Hertz. Parking, unfortunately was non-existent, so I double parked in front of the building at 1 Via Toscana and left my son in the car, while I went to check in. The small hotel is located on the second floor of the building. I made my way up and found Serena, one of the owners. She helped me with the luggage, while my son minded the car. There was barely enough space for other vehicles to pass, but there was enough. I managed to check in and get back to the car before any major problems occurred. We then set out to get some diesel and find the Hertz at the train station to return the car. This vehicle, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta was perfect for our trip. It was big enough to hold us and our baggage, yet small enough to maneuver in Europe. It was powerful enough to pass slower moving vehicles, yet obtained excellent mileage. I only had to fill up 2.25 times throughout the entire trip. The only real problem was  finding the Hertz return at the terminal. The GPS didn’t have it and the address I had was for the counter in the Terminal itself. After trying for about an hour and nobody able to help us, we finally got lucky and stumbled upon it at the very far end of the terminal with nothing else around. To make matters worse, I had forgotten to take the contract with me when we left the luggage. Fortunately, that didn’t really matter so much at the time and the return went quickly.

With the car taken care of, we hustled across the lengthy terminal to meet our distant cousin, Rome resident, Palermo native, Ida Sconzo.  Once we met Ida, we hustled onto La Metropolitana, the Roman subway system that only has two lines – the red (A) and the blue (B). A third line is being built, but according to Ida, like everything in Rome, it is “a work in progress.” Despite it’s limited coverage of the city, it was quite busy, resembling the NYC subway at rush hour.

We made our way over to the area just beyond the Vatican for pizze at Pizzarium, a gourmet, Roman style pizza place recommended by Katie Parla.

The place was tiny and extremely busy, chaotic like the rest of Rome.

They offer a wide variety of flat, rectangular pieces, from which they snip off the requested length with a scissor and weigh it, the price depending upon the weight of the slice.

The process is that the slices get ordered and heated (if desired – we desired) in the oven, the pizze get paid for and then they get served.There is really no room to eat there, but we ate outside, standing at a small bar.

We tried a plain tomato,

one with ricotta, lemon and zucchini,

one with spinach, potato and pecorino

and one with beef, mushrooms, potatoes, anchovies and arugula.

We also had a classic supplo (Campanian style rice ball with mozzarella in the center). Everything was tasty and fun, especially if one enjoys dining chaotically. I especially enjoyed the plain tomato pizza and the supplo.

I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t pre-purchase tickets for the museums and monuments of Italy. I did and other than my first experience at the Cupola of the Duomo in Firenze, I am very glad that I did, as doing so saved hours of waiting in line. Such was certainly the case at the Vatican Museum, where we entered immediately without any line. Without the voucher, I could only imagine the wait.

The museum was a mass of people, but we managed to see everything we wanted to. Our initial objective was, of course, to view the Sistine Chapel, so we made our way to that.

Bacchus

On the way, we passed through many a priceless room, including the Raphael rooms. As with all of our tours on this trip, time was a factor and we didn’t take along any audio guides or do any tours. These certainly would have been useful, but at this time, we opted for breadth over depth.

We enjoyed the sculptures and the Egyptian rooms and took the works for what they were. Having been there once before, I was able to explain some, but my son should certainly revisit at some point with a good guide.

From the Museum we made our way over to St. Peter’s Square. The magnificence of Bernini’s design was obscured somewhat by the ever present scaffolding and many chairs set up in the front of the square.

We waited on a short line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in Christendom, but to my eye, far from the most beautiful. This was not for lack of decoration, though, as I found the church, other than Michelangelo’s Pieta and Bernini’s Baldacchino, to be overdone and gaudy, lavish for its own sake. I much prefer the style of Siena’s Duomo to that of St. Peter’s.

From the piazza, where we stopped to admire the viewing spot that demonstrated Bernini’s perfect perspective, we continued on to see Castel Sant’ Angelo and cross over the River Tiber.

Our path continued on to the Piazza Navona with Bernini’s incredible Fountain of the Four Rivers and then to the amazing Pantheon and then to see some Caravaggios in the French Church of St. Louis. Throughout our sojourn, we were jostled and constantly trying to avoid bumping into other people. Rome was busy when I were here in 1998, but it seems to be even busier now and the drivers and motorcycles (Vespas have mostly given way to larger motorcycles, it seems), drive as maniacally as ever. The funny thing about Rome is all the grandeur that gets ignored that would be major attractions anywhere else.

We took the bus back to Via Veneto and walked to our hotel to relax a bit before heading back out to meet Ida, her daughter Alessandra and Alessandra’s boyfriend Guglielmo for dinner. The hotel, Deko Roma, is owned by a wonderful young couple, Marco and Serena, who put their hearts and souls into the place. Our room is small, but comfortable. The internet is as good as I’ve ever experienced in Europe and they are incredibly helpful. There are no additional costs as even the minibar is included int the reasonable price.The hotel only has six rooms and is stylish without being overdone. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone not in dire need of true luxury, but more desirous of spirit and goodwill.


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