It's Monday the 17th of October 2005. Maria and I just returned last night from a weekend in Rome, and let me tell you... I think I have a new favourite city!! It's not that I would necessarily want to live there, but wow, what a beautiful city to visit! Every corner you turn, there's something else waiting to have its photo taken. Between us, we took over three hundred photos in the forty-eight hours we were in Rome, and that was after deleting several dozen 'rejects' to make room on my memory card. There are so many great pics that I wanted to share with you, that I've tried something new with this page. To save bandwidth, I've shrunk each photo down to a small thumbnail. BUT if you click on any of the pics on this page, the photo will display as an almost full screen image. Then just press the 'back' button on your browser to return to this page. DO NOT CLOSE THE PHOTO WINDOW, or you'll have to start all over again!
It was seven o'clock Friday evening by the time we checked into Hotel Madison in central Rome. I had been trying for weeks to find a reasonably priced hotel, scouring all the usual websites; lastminute.com, tripadvisor.com, even the worldwide hostel search engine on my website, but Rome was so heavily booked, the only places I could find that were remotely near my budget were fully booked for one or both of the nights we wanted. I tried bidding on Priceline.com, but without success. We had decided not to Couchsurf this time, since we had a busy agenda for the weekend, and wouldn't have time to spend with a host. Finally, with just two days to spare, I found a great deal (well, everything is relative, and it seems that in Rome in October anything for less than a hundred Euros is a great deal!) on an old favourite that I had forgotten, wotif.com. Maria was relievd, as she hadn't been looking forward to sleeping in the train station!
We checked in, and immediately hit the streets, winding our way from Termini train station to the Colosseum. When you travel, there are always some things that you've seen in so many photos that the real thing ends up being somewhat of a disappointment. The Colusseum is not one of those things. We walked around the mighty ruin two or three times.
By that time, we were both ravenous. From the Colusseum, we walked across the Tiber to Trastevere, an area of twisting little cobbled lanes packed with bars and restaurants. The first place we came across was a picture perfect little sidewalk pizzeria. A quick glance at the menu, and it wasn't necessary for us to walk any further. Maria ordered a spinach pizza, and mine had large fine slices of cured raw beef topped with mountains of fresh rocket. Our beers arrived as two 700ml bottles.
But you might not know the reason for our visit to Rome. My cousin Matt, who I had the opportunity to catch up with in England last year, was getting hitched to his lovely Italian girlfriend Alessia, and that was all the excuse Maria and I needed to jump on a plane. Anyway, after we had washed down our delicious pizzas, I sent Matt a text message to see if he was out on the town. It was his last night of freedom, so to speak. Turns out he and a group of friends were just a few blocks away in the centre of Trastevere, so Maria and I ambled across and caught up with them for a few hours. By 1:00 a.m. we were both ready to call it a night, but not before wandering around Rome for another two hours on our way home. I wouldn't say that we got lost; more like we didn't really care if we were taking the most direct route. Madrid had been quite cool when we left, so I had taken the precaution of packing a jumper and a lather jacket. But Rome greeted us with real spring weather, and I spent the entire evening with the jumper draped over my shoulder. There was plenty to see along the way, and it wasn't till three o'clock that we both decided enough was enough.
The next morning, determined to get the most out of our weekend, we were up and at 'em by 7:30. After a hearty buffet breakfast at the hotel, we strode out into the sunshine and made our way to Piazza de Espagna, stopping for a break at the Trevi Fountain along the way, and the Four Corners Fountains along the way.
But there was another reunion this weekend. My old mate Paolo, who I had worked with on a kibbutz in Israel almost ten years ago, had flown down to Rome from his home in Torino to catch up with us while we were there. Paolo has since married, and he and his charming wife Nora have a bouncing two year old daughter. They were staying in a hotel near Piazza de Espagna, so Maria and I found ourselves a pleasant little terrace bar and waited there till we got a text message from Paolo. We didn't have an awful lot of time together; just a couple of hours before Maria and I had to rush off to get ready for the wedding. But it was great to catch up and relive some of the old memories, and we would have the chance to meet up with Paolo and Nora again in the morning. You can read about my experience on the kibbutz here and here, and the trip to Egyot that paolo and I made with some of our other workmates here.
A couple of hectic taxi rides later, and Maria and I raced up the drive to the Basilica di Santa Francesca Romana Al Foro Romana, the wonderful old church where Matt and Alessia were about to tie the knot. We needn't have panicked; just after our taxi sped through central Rome, the police blocked off most of the streets for some demonstration, and the bridal car was delayed by at least twenty minutes.
Of course the bride looked lovely, as did my darling, resplendent in her traditional Spanish manton di Manilla. The service was in the very heart of old Rome, in the shadows of the Colusseum, but the reception afterwards was on the outskirts, in fact just outside the city of Rome. Maria and I were hitching a ride to the reception with the wedding photographer, which meant we had to wait around until all the post-ceremony photo shoots were over. On one hand, we could have been jealous that the other guests were already sipping champagne, but on the other hand, we got the opportunity to see the sunset from the top of a hill, while the photographer snapped away at Matta and Alessia.
When we did finally reach the restaurant, the wait was definitely worth it. Food just kept coming and coming, it seeme dlike twelve courses or more, but I guess it was more like six or seven; first a selection of platters of baby mozzeralla, grilled mushrooms, salamis and the like, then delicious bright green risotto made with stinging nettles, delicate little ravioli envelopes, and a choice of a dozen or so dishes for the main course, of course accompanied by lashings of great Italian wine. I was on my best behaviour; Matt's mother (my Mum's sister) was there, and if there's one thing I don't need it's bad report getting back to Australia! Dessert was a scrumptious custard filled pastry cake, and before we knew it, taxis were waiting for us outside. It was 2:00am by the time we made it back to the hotel.
But that didn't stop us from making an early start the next day. Maria's alarm went off at eight o'clock, and no matter how much I pleaded, she wouldn't let me lie in an extra second. In our wanderings, we stumbled across the Monumento Vittorio Emanuele II. The photos below fail to capture its imposing grandeur, but I would say it rivalled the Colusseum in the take-your-breath-away department.
Our weekend in Rome was an excuse for Maria to break from her usually strict diet, a kind of a reward for all her efforts, and she wasn't taking any prisoners, I can tell you. It was pizza, pasta and icecream all the way! We met up with Paolo and Nora at St Peter's Cathedral.
Once again, we only had a couple of hours to spend with them, but we made the most of it, and managed to cram in one more pizza each before a mad dash to Termini station, to catch the 4:52 train to Fumanchu Airport. We literally broke into a full sprint when we reached the station (or as close to a full sprint as the pizz and beer swilling around inside us would allow!) and made it to the train just seconds before it pulled away from the platform.