The Retirees return to Rome – Terni to Roma

The train trip was without incident. We are getting well-travelled on Italian trains, but the secret is to never get complacent and think you know it all. We arrived at Roma Terminii and thought our accommodation was close by. Well it was stinking hot and we knew the general direction through Piazza della Republica down Via Nazionale. But finding the right door. Our hotel was a suite of rooms in a larger building which fronted Via Nazionale and we had to ring the bell and wait for an answer. This did not happen without error as the manager was off doing something for another guest and did not answer his phone. And it was hot. After what seemed an interminable wait someone opened the door and we got inside the courtyard out of the sun. When the manager arrived, and he pointed us toward a set of stairs Kerry asked about the lift and we were told it was at the top of the stairs. That was enough Kerry. Kerry was certain I was not able to climb the stairs particularly as we were staying a number of days. After some kerfuffle we were changed from one suite to another suite of rooms and all was well again save that we would have to change room again tomorrow. After all was said and done she was right, dragging my moon boot up the stairs would soon wear very thin.

After settling into our room we were off for our Segway tour of Rome. According to the tourist map the Segway tour office was just down the road – well not quite. Feeling adventurous we hailed a bus and guided by our tourist map, got off at Piazza Venezia and the Vittoriano. There’s no way to miss the hustle and bustle of Rome’s largest round-a-bout: the Piazza Venezia. On one side you can look down Rome’s longest street, the Via del Corso to the ancient northern gates of the city. From another angle, the ruins of the Imperial Forums lead the way to the Colosseum. Take a different road and you’ll end up in the Jewish Ghetto, on your way to Rome’s Trastevere neighbourhood and last but not least, towering over the piazza, is the unmistakable marble monument: Il Vittoriano.

This enormous monument derives from the name of Italy’s first king, Victorio Emanuele II of Savoy to whom it is dedicated.  Another name is “l’Altare della Patria” or “Altar of the Fatherland” as the monument was built to celebrate Italian unification and the birth of Italy as a nation at the end of the 19th century.  Most Romans aren’t a fan of the monument which they say doesn’t blend in with the rest of the city skyline.

The centre piece of the Vittoriano is the enormous bronze equestrian statue of the first king himself. Over the steps in the centre stand the actual “Altar of the fatherland”, containing the tomb of “The unknown soldier”, a symbolic reminder of all the unidentified deaths of WWI. In front of the altar’s relief, visitors can see the statue of the goddess Roma with the secret eternal flame, always guarded by soldiers.

Using Vittoriano as as landmark, we walked down Via del Theatro di Marcello and unknowingly past the street leading to Turtle Fountain and the Segway office. We walked down to the church of San Nicola in Carcere and s**t it was hot. We decided to give it up and crossed the road to catch a bus home. We would have had better luck finding hen’s teeth – nothing came along and we were roasting in the sun. So we hailed a cab and decided to ask the driver to take us to the Turtle Fountain – sure he knew where that is and under 5 euros we were there and the tour office was closed but not the bar beside it and we needed a drink.

So, we tumbled in sat down and ordered a gin and tonic and a beer and some water. That was it and there we remained until the tour office opened and I could try to recover the loss of the booking. this little bar feed and watered us for the rest of the afternoon. A short time later on another visit we would walk down the lane obscured by the fountain to the Jewish quarter.

Well the tour office finally opened. With a slight case of sunstroke and the power of a couple of gins and a beer I went to plead our case for a refund of the lost tour. To my amazement  our booking was not lost as I had mistaken the date and our booking was for the next day. However we had learnt our lesson and we shifted the tour to the evening due to the heat of the day. I returned to the bar and we stayed ultimately having dinner and making our way home after the sun had set.

The next day we went back to the Turtle Fountain area and explored the Jewish district. Evidence of the roman period was obvious all the walls above us. Roman writing to sculptures in niches in the wall to forgotten ruins in the middle of the residential neighbourhood.

From the Jewish quarter we strolled across Tiber Island. The only island in the Tiber that flows through Rome it is boat-shaped, approximately 270 metres (890 feet) long and 67 metres (220 feet) wide, and has been connected with bridges to both sides of the river since antiquity. Being a seat of the ancient temple of Asclepius and later a hospital, the island is associated with medicine and healing. The Fatebenefratelli Hospital founded in the 16th century, and the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Island dating from the 10th century are located on the island. An ice cream was in order.

We kept our tour appointment. We had about 20 mins to reacquaint ourselves with the segway. Then we started our tour with a mixture of six other tourists all from the USA. The sun was settling into the horizon and the lights of the city rising. But my camera battery gave up the ghost just as we arrived at the first stop. It turned out to be unscheduled to allow some late comers to join us. I felt we could not object. It was a brilliant tour spoilt somewhat by some novices who were not quick learners on the Segway. But to see the city in the cool of the evening travel the laneways full of shoppers cafes full of diners and see the lights from Capitoline Hill was all wonderful.

Details of the tour:

Campo de’ Fiori and its several bars and restaurants. Then we head for the river to arrive at Castel Sant’Angelo, the former Mausoleum of Hadrian, used in many different ways over the centuries. From the Angels’ bridge to an amazing night view of St. Peter’s Basilica  (The Vatican). Next stop is the Piazza Navona with the stunning Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers, also inspiration for the construction of the Trevi fountain. Over to the Pantheon – the majestic ancient temple devoted to all the gods, passing by the Temple of Hadrian and finally reaching the Trevi Fountain. Seeing the Trevi Fountain at night is something you will never forget. The next stop Piazza Venezia with the imposing Vittoriano. Thereafter we zip through the ancient Capitoline Hill, for a last view of the ancient city from above, and return to the office at Piazza Mattei (Turtle Fountain).

Our little pub in Piazza Mattei was closed. Fortunately our accommodation was well located and across the road we found an Irish Pub for dinner that evening (our pub at the Turtle fountain was closed for some reason). The pub was full of antiques including bicycles motor scooter and cameras.

The Retirees in Umbria – return to Italy.

After 10 hectic days at home we boarded a plane for Italy. Our friend Roberto (formerly Robert) has made his home in Italy and desperately wanted to show off his renovated Villa Contessa in Cesi. What kind of friends would we be if we disappointed him?

Our flight with Qantas (an Emirates code share) was trouble free but lasted 23 hours with a three hour stopover in Dubai. Wisely we had decided to overnight it in Rome and get a good night rest before training it to Cesi. After landing we were talked into taking a minicab ride to our hotel. It turned out to be a good idea even though our hotel is directly across the road from Termini – Rome’s city terminus for the train. Our cab brought us into Rome through Trastevere across the Tiber past the Colosseum and through Piazza Vitorio past the ruins of the Forum (there were two other couples to be dropped off hence the circuitous route) and finally to Termini where we were greeted by a large green door and a small card on the intercom system telling us our “hotel” Dream Station Hotel was on the 4th piano (floor).

No one had said it was behind a large green door down a lane through a heavily barred gate on the 4th floor and we had 4 suitcases and hand luggage. Fortunately, there was a lift. It looked like a refrigerator and was about the same size internally saving us the difficulty of getting a refund and finding a new hotel. Once we had taken the suitcases up in the elevator two x two due to its carrying capacity, we discovered a quaint set of bedrooms (three for sure and may be three more across the landing) fitted out with a share kitchen and comfortable rooms with private bathroom. Good value at €65.00 per night.

We were settled in by 2.00pm. So here we are in Rome – what to do? Firstly, we went to Termini to book our tickets to Cesi and work out the train system. We visited the tourism information office and then the Trenatalia office to book the tickets. This is important to understand/question what happened later. Having finished the necessary, we wandered through the back streets of the area some five blocks southwest of Stazione Termini encountering The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.

It is a Papal major basilica (presently undergoing renovation) and the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome, from which size it receives the appellation “major”. The ancient basilica enshrines the venerated image of Salus Populi Romani, depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary as the health and protectress of the Roman people. Pursuant to the Lateran Treaty of 1929 between the Holy See and Italy, the Basilica is within Italian territory.

From there we found our way to an architects’ conference in a recently renovated building and in the grounds of course ruins of some previous use and one of the inhabitants of Rome still making use of it (picture below). Jet lag and the cold of the Roman evening started to take its toll, so we had an earlier dinner and retired to our hotel. Big day tomorrow training it to Terni and then up to Cesi.

Breakfast finished we walked around to Piazza della Republica and The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs. The building was created by the rearrangement in 1562, of the work of Michelangelo Buonarroti, and the central hall of the Baths of Diocletian, by order of Pope Pius IV at the request of the priest Sicilian Antonio Duke, uncle of the faithful disciple of Michelangelo, Jacopo del Duca. We had been here previously so we moved through the Basilica itself and went to the Sacristy and into a small courtyard where we spotted a statue of Galileo (donated by the PRC – Peoples Republic of China) and another religious scene before existing the building through the tradesman’s entrance onto Via Cernaia.

Our journey then took us past Domus  Australia in Via Cernaia bearing the Australian flag and the Vatican flag (I suspect the lodgings of Cardinal Pell whilst in Rome based on the protest notices affixed the bars on the windows), past the British embassy, past a memorial to the soldiers lost in 3 wars in the first 2 decades of the twentieth century, and the Magistrates Court.

These are a few things to see around Terminii whilst waiting for a trian.