Go to Another Vacation
Italy and Jordan - September, 2007
Baths of Caracalla
We visited the Colosseum and the Forum today. They were both very close to our hotel, The Hotel Richmond, and made for an easy day being it our first after a long flight. We ended up our day eating at Trattoria da "Giggetto" in the Ghetto nearby. This is one of our favorite stops and we try to get here each time we visit Italy. We always order the Carciofi alla Giudia, and now also recommend the Filet of Cod.
We headed south from our hotel towards St. Clementine. The interior of this church is magnificent. Over the later, there is a lot of gold mosaics with wildlife, including different types of birds. The blue peacock is among my favorites here.
A site that we had never seen before was the Pantheon. Not to be confused with the Parthenon in Greece, this is a circular building in the middle of a very busy square packed with eateries, including McDonald's and vendors catering to tourists. This may very well be the most tightly packed tourist spot we have ever been to. A secret to Rome is that McDonald's always has a public bathroom. This place in particular had a line out the door. Bring your own toilet paper just in case.
We ended up at the Ghetto for a late snack of Carciofi alla Giudia, and then we walked over the Palatine Hill as the evening settled in.
Today was the day to kick back and let someone else manage the day. We had booked the day trip over the internet, but when we got to the tour company, they did not believe that we had paid. The trip was not completely full, so there was at least still room to buy two tickets again and deal with the charges on the credit card when we returned if indeed we paid twice. I was insistent that the day would not be stressful.
Our visit to Capri was, indeed, a day to kick back and let someone else take care of the logistics. The company took care of the main bus, the ferry, the private boats, the tiny busses on the island, and our meals. I could not ask for more. It would have been nice to have another day on the island, but it is always something we could return to some day.
Being at the Hotel Richmond, we were close to the metro that could take us to the Termini. From the Termini, we took the Express to the airport. We had a lot of time, so we had a meal at the cafeteria and waited for our flight. The better airport shopping is in Milan.
The pilots smoked throughout the flight, and the fumes were discharged into the cabin. We found out it was the pilots because people were complaining to the attendants, but the attendants could only make passengers stop. It was such an odd situation, but it reminded us of who was in the driver's seat, so we should just shut up.
Our tour company had someone waiting for us at the airport and they brought us directly to The Mövenpick in Amman to get some sleep. I spent some time watching Extreme Home Makeover because it was in English, then turned to The Fashion Channel before turning in for the night.
Wadi Rum was our introduction to Jordan. And what an exquisite one. We did the all day jeep trip into the desert. There we saw amazing views, had tea under a covered nomadic tent, went into a slot canyon to see petroglyphs, climbed to the top of a dune, and visited a panel of petroglyphs featuring camels. On the slow ride out we saw many camels and watched the sunset from the top of a sand dune. I wished I had purchased some of the Palestinian hand blown glass vases from the gift shop that we met our driver at, as we did not see them at the shops for the rest of the trip. We were then off to Petra to stay for the evening.
Petra was the target destination for our trip to Jordan. It is truly an amazing treasure, and even the shopkeepers in the town want to tell you how it is one of the 7 New Wonders of the World along with Chichen Itza the Colosseum, the Great Wall of China, Christ the Redeemer, the Taj Mahal, and Machu Picchu.
We also did the Petra Luminary Show at night which was very pretty.
We did a lot along the way to the Dead Sea, including a church on a hill noting where Moses walked and the Baptism site of Jesus. We stopped in a town that had a little church with mosaics of maps and did a little shopping.
When we pulled into the Mövenpick, we were pampered immediately. Our room was no the small side, but very lovely. We bobbed in the sea for a while then went up to the pools. After another round in the dead sea, we washed up for dinner and chose the Arab buffet. It continues to this day to be the best buffet we have ever had. The food quality was fantastic and the selection almost overwhelming. Even the dessert buffet was table after table of traditional and European deserts. I would return to stay here in a heartbeat.
The flight was an overnight, and the next day we landed in Rome and found our hired ride. In the past we have brought our luggage on the train to the Termini, but because we would then have to switch lines to get to our apartment on Via Babuino, we found it easier and not that much more in cost to have a ride pick us up. We use Gianni Car service (firstname.lastname@example.org) every time we visit now.
Once we checked into our apartment (we always rent from Under the Roman Sun), which had the most beautiful views by the way, we had lunch, did our grocery shopping, and headed up to the park surrounding Villa Borghese to walk around. We then joined the crowd to watch the sun set over the city.
Today we went by people's suggested things to do. We were not disappointed to say the least. he woman who works at Hotel Richmond told us about a Valentino exhibit that showcased gowns over the decades. The show was phenomenal. It was held in a building that housed an old arch that Bill had interest in seeing, so it worked out for both of us.
A co-worker from the Rome division had suggested Castello de San Angelo. This, too, had a show on fashion, but it was for opera costumes. That was just a very small part of the castle, though. The actual castle is something you buy a ticket for, and then can wander along the halls into the dungeon and then back up to the sunlight all the way to the top for incredible views of the city and of The Vatican.
We woke up early and went to the Termini and asked for tickets on the express train to Florence. Within 20 minutes we were on the train and on our way. There was one stop between Rome and Florence, but in the length it takes me to go through Vogue Magazine, we were there.
The first stop was to an old apothecary called Santa Maria Novella established in 1612. My friend Amy suggests this to all her friends who go to Florence. Hannibal Lecter mentions it as a place he had an affection for, but in real life this place continues to do business for several hundred years. It sells perfumes, remedies, herbs for healing, creams, lotions, soaps...you get the picture. What is more incredible is the actual architecture and art that houses the goods. It's address is Via della Scalla, 16.
We then chose the Convent of San Marco where Fra Angelico painted the walls in most of the rooms. My favorite was a scene with Mary and an Angel called Annunciation that you see on a wall at the top of the stairs. The angel's wings has sparkles and catches the sun. Unbelievable!
We then broke for a lovely lunch in a cafe and headed over to Ponte Vecchio which was dreadfully crowded and the shops were very tiny. We continued on to the Medici Villa and Gardens. Strolling the gardens was very nice, and finding the rose gardens at the top was a nice way to end the day.
We had dinner near the train station, and it was suprisingly really good as it was touristy, and then boarded the train to come home to Rome.
When we visited in March, we went by this place that had just closed, but it appeared to be a large archaeological site on the edges of the city. We spent months researching the area trying to figure out what this place was. Finally, while looking at a little guidebook of Rome at the bookstore, I came across a photo that matched our memory. Now we knew what it was and how to get there!
This seemed far away from where we were staying. It was kind of out of our skills to figure out the bus routes. We decided to take a cab and once we were there, we could figure out how to get back. Maybe catch another cab. This last thought was not a possibility, and the walk back was long, but in all honesty, the site is a long and ancient road with places along the way. Bicycles can be rented, though most people stroll along the way. The stops were interesting and often beautiful. We could have benefitted from a better tour book, but that did not put a damper on the day. Ruins of castles, catacombs, and structures backed by the country side made for a nice and quiet day. There is a nice website for the park that describes how to get here, how to get around, provides walking itineraries, and nice photos.
This tour was the most impressive thing we have ever done in Rome. We had to apply months in advance with a range of dates to visit. We then received email to confirm that we did make it into a tour and the date of that tour. The tour takes you beneath the Vatican to the cemetery that existed before the land was graded, the tombs buried, and structures were built. This happened over may years, and long before today's cathedral was built.
The line to get in was endless, the collections were endless, and we found that one day could not do it justice. The cafeteria makes one thankful for the food one has at home.
In the morning, we took a quick hop over to a garden we found in our tour book and enjoyed being the only visitors at the park.
We then ventured out to see churches in the area including St. Cecelia's. The tickets to go below as well as the tickets to go upstairs were well worth it.
Sit by the edges of the outer aisles to get close to the drive by, but not the one by the bathrooms as that one is not accessed by the Pope as it stays available for people who need the facilities. After the prayers, stay as everyone leaves, move to the front, and he will drive by the front rows a final time.