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 visit Roberto in Cesi Italy

We flew to Rome landing at Ciampino Airport not Fumincino as we expected. This meant finding a way from an Airport we had never been to before to Terminii and our hotel. We located a bus which took paying passengers to Terminii – eventually. When we arrived the driver dropped us off at Terminii station. Now we have been here numerous times but the bus had dropped us on the opposite side to where we usually arrived. So we spent some time dragging the luggage up and down looking for the hotel Dreamstation B&B. After about an hour we located the hotel. A shower a change of clothes and a comfortable bed and it was dream time at the Dreamstation.

As planned after awaking we strolled across the road pushing our luggage and boarded the train to Terni Umbria. We were more relaxed than our first trip to Terni. We knew it was platform 1 and knew that it was a 20 minute walk dragging the luggage and that we had to validate the ticket. The trip takes over an hour but to compensate there is some interesting countryside once you leave Rome. The deeper into Umbria the more hilltop villages can be spotted. These villages are often 800 – 1,000 year old settlements and some of the inhabitants have had generations of ancestors making a living in the fields around the village.

On arrival nothing has changed form our last visit 2 years earlier. The fountain in the main square still had not been repaired. The heat of the day was intense. We moved to the taxi rank and as we were slow getting out of the train (the platform lift is still not repaired), all taxis (there is only one or two of them) were busy rushing their fare to a destination. I spotted a passing taxi and waved it down. “I thought all a passenger she had arrive, wheres ya wanta go? Said the moustached Italian driving the Skoda. “Cesi” we say. “Cesi?” said the cabbie eyeing us up and down. With a shrug of his shoulders “Cesi!” Off we go, and I asked about the route he was taking, and he says “roada works, we go thisa way”.

Our arrival at Cesi in the main square was quite deflating – no Robert to greet us and the driver was not interested in tackling the narrow streets to get closer to our destination. So with the sun turning up the heat we dragged the luggage up the hill to the town hall through the shadows of the crowded town houses (they gave some relief from the sun) and after two further hills we see a beaming Robert swanning out of the shadows of his villa complaining about the heat. F**k me what a welcome.

Aided with the luggage (Robert suggested I leave the heavy bags in the foyer downstairs) we were offered a refreshing libation (a cordial or something) and told he had booked a table at the restaurant at Portaria where he can purchase his favourite meal. S**t we felt wrung out and in need of a lie down but no onto the bus (we had to stand in the sun at the bus stop and the bloody rattletrap excuse of a bus (unairconditioned) finally decided to attempt the climb up the hill and across the range to Portaria. The season has changed since we were here last and outdoor dining is all the go – well outdoor in the sense that we sat under a crude lean to, against a stone rampart in an airless courtyard. The saving grace an icy beer with the hot lunch and a breeze hot enough to dry the sweat from my shirt. Finally, I could stand it no longer, so making some excuse I made a break for the eastern side of the village where there is deep shade of an afternoon and hopefully a breeze that does not feel it was produce by a fan forced oven.

The eastern gate opens onto the road that circles outside the town walls. Many of the residents park their cars out here and there is, as in many other places in the village, a little shrine with the Virgin seeking your prayers. The countryside is still green, but the heat has caused a haze adding to the feeling of oppression. Here are some photos of the gate, the Virgin, the road around the walls, the walls, the houses perched on top and the memorial to the lost youth of the village through fighting in both the first and second wars.

I walked up past the war memorial past the shuttered empty former restaurant in the town walls and spotted Kerry and Robert sitting in the shade of a (the only) cafe in the village which also serves as the bus stop. The return journey is not straight forward. We have to travel by the bus back out from the village onto the main hill road down to the town of Aquasparta to the bus terminus turn around and travel back to Cesi. This time the bus was air-conditioned and more modern. The sting of the sun was waning and we were feeling tiredness wrapping around us so the journey passed unnoticed. The final walk through the village to Robert’s Villa Contessa from the bus stop for the day saw us flake into the lounge and after showering off the dust of the road bed to sleep and dream.

The Retirees return to Italy – Leaving the SS Costa Diadema for Nottingham.

We spent our day tying up loose ends and generally lazing around the ship. We attended the disembarkation lecture and tried to reconcile our on – board account with the deductions made from our cash card (that is another story). The following day we were unable to disembark until around 9.30 am and that was an hour earlier than our schedule time. We shared a cab to the Civitavecchia rail station and caught the train to Terminii but after enduring screaming children and ignorant Italian parents for an hour we left the train at what we thought at first to be the wrong station. However, when checking the station timetable we found that we could catch a train to the airport from that station without going into Terminii.

Our train trip to the airport was far less stressful but we had arrived hours too early. We had lunch and then waited and waited until the check in opened finally making our way to the plane and ultimately London Gatwick. A long day travelling. Just when we thought that our travelling was going to get easier, we encountered the case of the missing hotel. We had a reservation at the Hilton London Gatwick but could not find it until a kind gentleman in the carpark told us the sign directing us to the hotel meant go straight ahead then turn right not turn right. We soon located the hotel and ordered room service. It was now 10.00pm Italian time/9.00pm UK time. We had been travelling 12 hours and were dog tired.