Rome; an ancient city full of mystery and relics. Full of powerful rulers and religious leaders. Relics and ruins are so very common that around every corner in the city center there is an ancient church, a ruin, a monument, or an obelisk to an intriguing city.
In the evening we said our goodbyes to friends we've met and toured with for the previous 12 days. We've exchanged emails with one couple from North Carolina. Jokingly I told them we'll probably see you in Rome since it's such a small city. Surprisingly we did run into them at the Vatican and at the Coliseum the next day.
We had a driver meet us at the ship and drive us the hour and 20 minutes to the Le Clariese Pantheon hotel. Not even unpacking our clothes we were headed off with two other couples to see the sites in and around the hotel as we had to be over at the Vatican for a 2:30 tour. We saw the Pantheon (2 blocks from the hotel) and the Trevi Fountain about 10 blocks from the hotel. We also headed over to the Spanish Steps where I got into a heated argument with a street vendor. I haven't lost my temple like that for over 20 years. It's not a pretty sight and I admit to being slightly embarrassed.
Grabbing a cab we all hustled over to the Vatican to meet a private tour guide. The six of us spent the following 4 Â½ hours touring the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. Exhausted we returned to the hotel and promptly left for a late dinner. We finally got into the hotel after 10PM. By the time my head hit the pillow I was ready to leave this city and never return. I had had it. We slept really well that night however we had to get up fairly early on the 13th for a cooking class at a chef's home followed by a private tour of the Coliseum.
The cooking class began by meeting Chef Fabio about a block from the hotel. Being joined by a couple from England and one from Australia, we all followed Chef Fabio to multiple markets picking up fresh ingredients for the meal we were about to prepare. The next 90 minutes were spent following either Chef Fabio or his assistant around the city, ultimately ending up at his exclusive residence not far from his restaurant. While others prepared either a rub or a sauce, I got stuck removing fat from chicken breasts with two dull knives. Eventually we all got together in one room and prepared pasta from scratch and put together ingredients for appetizers and ultimately a filling lunch.
Running a little late, the Chef borrowed and van and drove us to the Coliseum for a 3:00 meeting with another private tour guide. This tour was exclusive and incredible! I was now into seeing everything Rome had to offer. We got into the bottom of the Coliseum and to the top, areas normally secured from other tours. I could have spent another hour there and still been captivated.
From the Coliseum we walked to The Forum where the Senate held their meetings. Not much was left but with the aid of a book showing the before and present in comparison, one can get an excellent idea of the grandeur of the place. The excavations continue and some of the areas were secured preventing even decent photos of what is being unearthed. As one of the archaeologist explained, when Rome was built it was built with the "wow factor" so that whoever came to the city would be impressed with the empire that was being built. All of the ruins and most of the churches are built with the wow factor. To duplicate a city such as Rome, with today's technology and mechanical capabilities seem nearly impossible and yet these massive structures and incredible art work were done centuries ago. As a first-time tourist to Rome, I was impressed with the structures and what I was seeing. The sad thing is, pollution and tourism are eating away at the structures, leaving little for future generations to discover. The one positive note is that every time a shovel is turned to build something as simple as a light pole, an archeologist must be on site. Perhaps future generations will have something new to discover with the same "wow factor".
For dinner we all met at a highly recommended restaurant. On a scale of one to five stars, I'd give it a zero, and as soon as I get the name of the restaurant I intend to write the revue that way on Trip Advisor. You got to eat what they wanted to serve you and no medications to the menu were permitted. When we asked too many questions, the server just walked away and began arguing vociferously with the remainder of the staff. To try to get any help was nearly impossible and met with mean and glaring stares. To make matters worse, on our walk back to the hotel, when we asked a cab driver for directions he sent us off packing in the opposite direction. Fortunately we asked a resident and we were led in the right direction. It was still a long walk back to the hotel and by the time we hit our room, we were totally exhausted once again. For us we were fortunate in that June 14th would be touring Rome on our own and via a cab.
June 14th saw us arise without any destination in mind. Over breakfast we looked at various options and settled on St. John's Cathedral and one of the catacombs on the outskirts of the city.
St. John's was impressive to say the least. This is the Pope's church where he worships. Pictures just do not do it justice. A private tour would have been nice but we didn't opt for that on this day. We wanted to do it on our own. We must have missed out on a lot of information.
Following the experience at St. John's we hopped into another cab and took an expensive ride out to the catacombs. The catacombs, and I guess there are about 40 of them is the place where Christians buried their dead underground. Since they were being persecuted at the time, this was the only way they could preserve the remains from grave robbers and those who wanted to desecrate the graves. The Christians dug a couple of stories underground and buried the dead in vault-like tombs. Over 500,000 were buried in the catacombs we visited that day. And yet despite the best precautions, barbarians invaded the tombs looking for riches of the dead. When none were found they sacked and desecrated the remains out of revenge. A few Popes had been buried there and chapels built so Christians could practice their faith in secrecy. Today all that remains are the open resting places for half a million Christians. It served as a sobering reminder of the history left behind. No pictures were allowed so I have no idea how the above picture got on my camera....
For lunch we hopped on an equally expensive cab ride to "That's Amore", Chef Fabio's restaurant. We should have had dinner there the night before and since we had dinner plans for our last night in Rime, the best we could do was a nice lunch. The service and food were both excellent. While we were there a private cooking class was being conducted by Chef Fabio's Sioux Chef. We got to watch a couple from New York and their daughter, do a portion of what we had done the day before. Chef Fabio had another large class at his apartment a couple of blocks away and so we did not have time to say our goodbyes. For me, the Coliseum and then the cooking class were the highlights of Rome.
That evening we took another cab to Di Meo Patacca restaurant. This place was a restaurant Mindy visited with her parents 46 years ago and when any friend of her mother's would travel to Rome, she always recommended this place for dinner. It is a little bit off the beaten path which was nice but the experience; well let's just say it could have been better only because of the attitude of our server. I won't get into that aspect of the evening. The food was excellent and the atmosphere wonderful, but the service far less than desirable.
We knew we had an early morning wakeup call for our flight back to the States and so one last cab ride saw us safely tucked in bed, not as exhausted as before but just plain tired.
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