Accio Jacksons!

An 11-inch holly blog with a phoenix feather core

November 13: Un viaggio a Roma, or How We Got to Rome Safely

by Rebecca on 2008-11-29

William and I left Austin at noon today and arrived in Rome at 8:15 a.m. We had no trouble at all with our connection in Atlanta. In fact, it was the perfect connection. We walked up to the gate, picked up our boarding passes and were boarding the plane 10 minutes later. Our flight had plenty of Italians on it (easily recognized by their tight jeans, long square toed shoes, and funky glasses frames), as well as a nun and what appeared to be a group of high school students going to Europe for the first time. Their leader looked like the perfect youth leader for kids and a parentʼs worst nightmare because he looked really, really easy going and a bit clueless about what was going on. Amazing! I hope those kids have the time of their lives here.

We didnʼt have any problems going through customs. Our longest wait was for our luggage, but it was one of the first bags off the plane, so that was easy, too. We took the train into Romeʼs central station, Termini, much to the disappointment of the shuttle driver who tried to convince us that our method of transport would be more expensive than taking his shuttle. While waiting for the train to Termini — the Leonardo Express — we saw an Italian man gesticulating strongly … as he spoke into his cell phone! No shortage of Italian stereotypes here.

Our hotel is a 10-minute walk from the station, so we were checking in by 10:30. The man who helped us looked exactly like Tim Curry! Our room wasnʼt quite ready, so we waited in the lobby for about an hour and read the paper. Thereʼs a courtyard/jungle overrun with lemon trees in the middle of our hotel, and our room is on the far side of that courtyard.

Here are some interesting things about our hotel.

  1. The lights only come on when the key fob is inserted into a “power box.” (I donʼt know what else to call it.) If youʼre trying to use the key to lock the door from the inside, you have about 10 seconds of light before the room is plunged into darkness. The first time the lights went out, I thought there had been a power failure. Fortunately, William quickly realized that the key was crucial to the roomʼs power.
  2. There is no carpet, only tile, so the floor is freezing cold. Itʼs a good thing that I packed flip flops!
  3. The toilet is flushed by pushing a panel on the wall. William had a bit of trouble, but when he figured it out, man, was he excited.
  4. The “mattress” is really a box spring. Probably. It is so, so hard! I had to ask for an extra pillow to keep from waking up with a sore shoulder and neck.

Two things threatened the success of our day:

  1. I have what I hope is nothing more than a cold.
  2. It rained and rained all the day long.

But still, we were determined to use our time well. So, after a short nap in our freezing cold room, we decided to head out. Our only fixed appointment was a 3 p.m. entry at the Galleria Borghese museum. It appeared simple enough on a map. Because it was raining so hard, we had thought about taking a taxi, but then decided to just tough it out on the Metro because, honestly, how hard could it really rain? Truth is, pretty darn hard. Whoops. So, our first stop was to buy an umbrella for William.

Then we took the Metro without incident, getting off at the Piazza di Spagna stop. We followed the signs to the Villa Borghese, came up out of the station, and found ourselves in the middle of what appeared to be equestrian training grounds. What? No sign of Villa Borghese and no signs to point us in the right direction. I could kind of see some buildings that might have been the museum, so we tromped through those equestrian training grounds towards those buildings and found ourselves right back at another entrance to the Metro station. Uh oh! So, after asking for directions twice (the first person who helped us was clearly just as confused as we were, and he was a policeman! I hope that no one ever called him for an emergency response, because he probably wouldnʼt have gotten there.), we found ourselves in Borghese Gardens, walking along the footpath called “Via della Galleria Borghese.” I didnʼt know how strict the museum would be about enforcing the 3 p.m. arrival time, but I was hoping that theyʼd be patient with us if we arrived late. And we got there in good time, along with several other large tour groups.

The Galleria Borghese is most famous for its sculpture collection, and we certainly got our fill of Bernini and Canova there. The sculptures were pretty amazing. Berniniʼs detail was so thorough! The museum has some other stuff, like paintings, but the sculptures were, by far, the most interesting. We also walked around the gardens behind the museum, which were filled with lemon trees.

Next, William wanted to see the Piazza del Popolo of Angels and Demons fame. According to our map, it wasnʼt terribly far, but it had started raining again. I think that this trip is destined to be a rainy one. We took the underground tunnel to the Spanish Steps because it was dryer and so that William could see the Spanish Steps. Thereʼs really not much to see, just a bunch of steps in front of a church. But now William can say that heʼs seen them, and people will be so impressed because they wonʼt know that the Spanish Steps are a bit of a letdown. And then we wandered down the Via del Corso, looking at all the fancy designer shops, until we got to the Piazza del Popolo. The piazza was overrun with some exhibit about eco-friendly cars, but we could see the obelisk and that was all William really needed to see.

Then we turned around and went back down the Via del Corso, in search of Giolitti. Weʼd seen a clock that said, “Giolitti to the right, 200 meters.” So, we went to the right and ended up back at the Spanish Steps, which is in the opposite direction of where Giolitti is, according to my Rome map. By that point, we decided just to go back and find some pizza for dinner. Not too far from the train station is a pizzeria called La Gallina Bianca, and thatʼs where we ate our first real Italian meal, pizza and Fanta. I love those pizzas baked in a wood burning stove! There was something strange, though: it was the first restaurant we had ever been to that had a cover charge. We decided not to go back.

We took a quick stroll through Termini to make sure we could find the McDonaldʼs where we were meeting the shuttle and then went back to the hotel for a good nightʼs rest.