Thursday, September 22, 2011

Just Some Stuff About Rome

Nathan loves Rome. To date, I've just been so-so about it. Possibly because I've had the chance to see a little more of Naples, while Nathan spends his time working, or at home, or traveling outside of Naples. For me, Rome is congested (ironic, considering we do live in the densest city in Europe), filled with tourists (while most Neapolitan sites are low traffic, high impact), and not filled with very friendly people. BUT, I may have to take back all my negativity about Rome.

With Nathan's aunt & uncle, we went for a four day weekend. Staying right off the Piazza del Popolo was a new experience for us, and I loved the location. Right next to the Villa Borghese and it's lovely gardens, a short walk down a mostly pedestrian area and/or through pretty back alleys to the Pantheon area (where my favorite gelateria is located - Gelateria Della Palma), another short walk via a different route to the Spanish Steps, and there is a nearby Metro stop. The location made a huge difference as it meant we could walk outside of our hotel and not be immediately thrust into speeding Vespas, crowded streets, and shoulder to shoulder crowds.

We headed up on a Friday with reservations to tour the fabulous Villa Borghese that evening. We did make our reservation time, but I ended up traveling separately due to a couple of last minute issues cropping up. Nathan continued on to go with his aunt/uncle and meet our check-in time (several places we've stayed around Italy require you to provide them with your arrival time at least a day in advance - B&B type places, where the lodging does not have a staffed front desk). I wrapped up our issues and followed on - thank you, Trenitalia, for the EuroStar train that gets us to Rome in just over an hour - for a hefty fee, of course. It actually took me longer to get from my house to the downtown, Naples train station than it did to get to Rome and take the Rome Metro to meet up with Nathan and Fam.

We've taken to always purchasing the Roma Pass when in Rome. For 25euros, we get three days of public transportation (bus & metro), two free entries at our pick of any number of sites, and reduced entry at other sites. Clever Rome, though, has made the Pass good for three days, ending at midnight of your third day of use rather than a strict 72 hour activation. So, hypothetically speaking, if you arrive in Rome around 3pm on a Friday, buy your pass, and use a free entry for, say, the Villa Borghese on that same day, then the pass still expires on Sunday at midnight, so one has essentially "lost" possible use time on Friday. Something to think about for future visits.

The Villa Borghese is absolutely fabulous! And thanks to all those tourists that fill Rome, reservations are required. I hate reservations. For anything - museums, restaurants, etc. Especially on vacation. I like to be on a free and flexible schedule rather than constantly looking at a watch trying to ensure timing of EVERYTHING, from eating to walking to public transportation to time spent at other sites, is working out just so. It just makes me crazy when time is spent watching time rather than enjoying it. But anyway, good news is that since the Villa Borghese limits entry on a reservation only status, one can actually enjoy it's exhibits, such as my two personal favorites: (1) Bernini's sculpture of Apollo and Daphne, which shows Daphne turning into a tree just as Apollo catches her. The marble carving of her fingers turning to leaves is so delicate and light. To think it's sculpted from hard stone is inspiring, and (2) a painting by Raffaello entitled Dama (Lady) con Liocorno. What's a Liocorno you ask? It's a unicorn. And in this painting, a baby unicorn. What's better than a painting of a unicorn? One of a baby unicorn! Love it. Note to self: Get a baby unicorn. The Villa also holds a beautiful, Bernini sculpture he carved at age 11. Eleven! And we think today's kids are growing up fast.
View over Piazza del Popolo from Gardens of Villa Borghese

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