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With Frances and John in Rome:


On Friday September 12, after breakfast in the Machiavelli Palace Hotel we said goodbye to the family and towed our bags down to Santa Maria Novella train station bound for Rome Termini station. There after a short wait (of course we had gone down early) we boarded our train and found our comfortable seats for the ninety minute fast train ride to Rome, speeding through green countryside and pretty hills.

At Stazione Termine I avoided the aggressive taxi driver who wanted 20 Euros for the one with the meter and 10 Euros later we arrived at "Casa di Santa Brigida" 96 Piazza Farnese, a convent run by "Brigidine" Nuns.

Here I am at the guest door to the Convent/ Hotel on 54 Via Mon Serrato.  

We gained entrance to the convent after ringing the bell and passing through the mighty door and a sliding glass gate.

Then up to our room. 

We actually spent our first night in a "small room" due to lack of space due to a German tour group that was about to leave the hotel. So from the second night a larger room became available.

It was a nice room with very solidly made functioning outside shutters, swinging windows and inside wood panel shutters and these rather nice lace curtains.

Our third floor corner room looked out over the Piazza Farnese at the French Embassy which while we were there had a continuously present armed guard. Also there was a public stage political protest meeting for the first weekend; the issue I was told was lack of jobs and slow economic activity.

Anyway it was a lovely room and view even if the drunks went by every night about 1 a.m and the municipal street sweeper went by at 6 a.m.; then the nuns bells went off soon after to rouse them for their first service of the day; and the person in the next room had left his clock alarm to go off at 6:30 a.m and then left for some other destination!

Here is Frances looking out at the view which, as it happens, included me!

Many streets in central Rome are narrow and some ban cars. There is a very limited amount of parking space. So very small "Smart" cars are everywhere and as you can see sometimes park sideways. 

Also there are large number of scooters and motor bikes and quite a few bicycles.

So with the cars parking on the sidewalk, scooters weaving along and little taxis pushing their way along the cobble stone streets it is necessary to keep alert to avoid accidents.

Our first afternoon and evening we walked down to the  Fiume Tevere (River Tiber).


The Ponte Sisto bridge was just a couple of hundred yards south of our hotel.  It also happed to be where the hop on hop off bus stopped.  Very convenient for us.

That first afternoon we made our way North along the river towards St Peters about a 20 minute walk along the West bank of the Tiber.

Near St. Peters is the 2000 year old Castel Sant' Angelo. 

The photo shows people on the footbridge crossing the river to the castle.

We had planned to pick up various passes and ride cards on Saturday morning from the office just south of St. Peters Square so we went over Friday evening as the sun was setting to find where it was located.

As it happened we were there just in time before it closed and we ended up with all our "stuff" to take home and study.  Maps passes etc.

That first evening we wandered into Campo de' Fiori a piazza adjacent to our hotel and ate at a sidewalk restaurant. 

This photo is from a subsequent meal at one of the restaurants recommended by one of the sisters from the Convent. 

Food was excellent and the next morning the sister asked how we liked it and I told her it was good. 

She said yes a number of her guests had told her that; so I said "so you have never eaten there?" "Oh no!", she said.

  So I broke all nunnly protocol by offering to treat her to a meal there! 

Frances quickly explained to me that this was not something sister could do!

The Campo de' Fiore (Field of Flowers) piazza had an active fruit, vegetable and fish market and as you can see they still sold flowers.

So armed with our hop on and hop off bus pass we headed out to explore the city. 

That day there was a very bright hot sun. One of our hop off spots was this very fine museum and war memorial. 

We climbed up the steps and balconies and looked through the exhibits. The view from the top was great.

The dark area at the top of the photo is the brim of my cap, very necessary that day.

One evening we ate at this outside restaurant in Trastevere (on the West side of the River).  We had gone there to see the floodlit gold mosaics on the Santa Maria church in Trastevere 

While some restaurants were better than others, overall we had very good and interesting food in Italy.

We had to visit the Colosseum and our Hop Off for that was near this arch (Arco di Costantino) which we skirted to get to the Colosseum.

Frances advance tickets saved us joining a very long line to buy tickets.  So we just had a short line and were inside in no time at all.

What sticks in my mind is that 55,000 people could attend to watch gladiators, criminals, slaves, dwarfs and women fight to the death and on the opening day in AD 80, 5000 animals were slaughtered and thereafter there were 100 days of continuous "games".

Whatever you might think of all that and what one might conclude about human nature as a result, it is amazing that the structure is still sufficiently intact to allow tourists to crowd into the Colosseum.

From a lower level you can see into the substructure where the animals, gladiators and people to be sacrificed were held.

Now we get disgusted if a football player bites another player; so I guess we are making progress!

After we had toured the Colosseum we walked by the Palatino and the Circo Massimo (old horse race course) to get to Santa Maria in Cosmedin where among other things we saw this stone (which may just be on old manhole cover) set in a wall, but is now reputed to have the ability to tell whether you are telling a lie. (If you put your hand in the mouth and have told a lie your hand gets bitten; so I guess there a very few liars in Rome)

There was a line to check it out.  We decided to skip that one and just take a photo and visit the lovely church.

In Campo di Fiori near our hotel is this statue of Giordano Bruno who was burned at the stake at this spot in 1600 for daring to propose that (according to Wikepedia)

"the stars were just distant  suns surrounded by their own exoplanets, and moreover the possibility that these planets could even foster life of their own (a philosophical position known as cosmic pluralism ). He also insisted that the universe is in fact infinite, thus having no celestial body at its "center". "

Anyway this was enough for the Inquisition to give him the thumbs down.


I found the Pantheon quite amazing.  Not least because of its almost 2000 year old history and also because of the beauty of the internal dome.  Also the fact that Rome is now several meters higher than it was at the time the Pantheon was constructed, as evidenced by the deep hole that has been excavated to uncover the foundations.
Pantheon from the inside, looking up.
Another day looking up; this time in St. Peters Cathedral. We were able to skip the lines thanks to Frances' advance pass, so our guide just took us past the lines and then set us free to spend as long as we wanted gazing at all the marvels of the church.
Michelangelo's Pieta.  (Some distance away and behind glass)

Then that afternoon we toured the Vatican Museum ( according to our guide book the worlds largest museum complex) ending up in the Sistine Chapel.

I have to admit that by the end of the day I was dragging and suffering from art overload.

I mean, any  one of a thousand works of art was worthy of an hour or two of study and all I had time to do was just to walk by them!


For example here I am walking down a corridor with a roof painted with the most complex works of art. 

If I could walk and look up at the same time I still couldn't do it justice.


Sorry I don't recall who or what this was but we liked it!

 Towards the end of our tour of the Vatican Museum we came to an exhibit of more modern art.

  I was moved by this painting of Pope John Paul II, hugging his mentor, Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski on the Pope's pilgrimage to Poland.


I also liked this four generation painting which reminded me of a photograph we took years ago of Win McCaffry, Frances, Clare and Annika.

The female line!

At the end of our tour of the Vatican Museum we got to an immense crowd in the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo's frescoes.

 The Sistine Chapel was not for me as enjoyable an experience as I would have liked, in part because of exhaustion and in part because of the dense crowd and the guards shouting "SILENCE and NO FLASH" in several languages and then telling us to move to the center.

I was quite happy to get out.


So the Vatican Museum allows the footweary the option of taking the elevator or using this spiral ramp and staircase on the way out.  Amazingly we still had the energy for the ramp!

The next day Frances had tickets for us to attend the weekly Wednesday audience with the Pope.

  We were told to come early so we could get good seats.

OK I have to admit I decided that as a non Catholic this was one experiece I could forgo. 

So I let Frances make her own way down to St. Peters Square while I drifted around by the river and visited the Trevi fountain, Pantheon, Popolo Piazza and sat drinking coffee in little cafes.

Anyway Frances joined the crowd in St Peters Square as shown here.

When the Pope appeared everybody stood on their chairs.  Which I am glad to say Frances decided was not a good idea for her.

Nevertheless in more than three hours she did get a chance to see Pope Francis.

 A member of the Pope's Swiss Guard.

Frances did get to hear the Pope speak and enjoyed all the activities and awards taking place including blessing a good number of brides and grooms.

Here is one of her photos.

And here is another.
After the ceremony I met up with Frances at a nearby restaurant.

Next day, for a change of pace, we headed out of town to Tivoli to visit the Villa D'Este.

Our friends David and Cindy who had kindly loaned the Florence and Rome Guide books had said we "must" visit the Villa D'Este.

So we took the metro and then the bus to Tivoli and after a quick lunch went into the house and gardens.

The Villa is high on a hill and water flows down through a series of waterfalls, fountains and channels.
It was very beautiful and well worth the visit.
 Also by taking the metro and bus we saw more of the Rome that working Romans see.
Another fine Piazza near our hotel was the Piazza Navona.  While wonderful fountains are the dominant feature at the middle and ends of the elliptical piazza, much is going on around the edges including this rather impressive balcony over two little shops.

Then of course there are musicians, acrobats, mimes and these  two guys in orange, hoping to make a little money from the tourists. They sat all day in this position.

Likewise this Centurion, for a Euro or two, made himself available for photographs. 

A thoroughly modern centurion as you can see!

In the middle of the piazza Navona is this fountain of the four rivers. Much photographed day or night.

In addition to recommending the Villa D'Este, David and Cindy had told us they had liked a pizzeria called Gaudi.

We had no idea where it was but by dint of much research Frances located it on the map. 

Rather a long walk from our hotel but doable.  We walked all the way by the smart shops on Via del Corso to the impressive Piazza del Popolo.

Visited the Santa Maria del Popolo with its fine paintings, sculptures, and frescoes including some Caravaggios.

Then cut across this Villa Borghese park where we got caught in a rainstorm.  So we got a baby taxi ride to the Galleria Borghese, where we found long lines and I was not unhappy to hear that unless you had an advance reservation you could not get in. 

By now the sun was out and we walked on North to pizzeria Gaudi!

We hit Gaudi just before the peak of the lunch rush which was fine as we got a table and then watched others line up to get in.

This was a different Rome than we had been seeing in the old city where we had been in for the last several days. 

No tourists, mostly young men and women in work groups and having business meals or on lunch breaks.

Food was good and, as you can see, after our long hot walk we decided the local beer would be more hydrating than wine.

Neat feature of each table was a little light with a switch over the center of the table so that when you wanted the waiter you just turned on the light and in a few moments somebody stopped by your table.

We were impressed by how well he teams of servers worked together to meet the lunch rush.


So here is my proof for David and Cindy that we made it, even though we had to walk half way across Rome!

Oh!, in the photo on the table behind on the right you can see the little switch on the light I was mentioning.

Also they have upgraded their business cards.  The one David gave me just had an address.  The new ones have a little map on the back that if we had would have made our search easier.

On our way back across the Villa Borghese park we found a little tourist train/ bus that for a few Euros took us to see some of the principal sights including this view down across the Piazza del Popolo.

There was a guy near where this photograph was taken playing an accordian with the hopes of making some money.  Frances obliged him and somewhere between finding the money and pulling out or putting away her camera, she dropped her wallet! (We think)

Which we did not discover until we were down in the square below somewhere near the monument you can see in the photo.  So then we had to retrace our many steps. No luck!

So then we were back in the hotel cancelling credit cards on line and by phone.  A Finnish sister who spoke several languages helped Frances with the international phone calls and then walked with her over to the police station to report the loss. I know Frances just sent a letter thanking Suera Marja-Liisa for her help in our time of need.

Next day we took a taxi to the Fiumcino airport and then flew off to Istanbul Attaturk airport.  If you want to go back to the main page or to read about Istanbul click on one of the links below.
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On to Istanbul
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