Thursday, May 25, 2023

May 8, 2023 – Rome, Italy – Cool, windy, chance of rain – 65F

The room was not warm, and it was quiet - I think we slept well.

We went up for breakfast at 7:30 AM or so.  The breakfast area is fantastic.  Nice tables with linens and utensils all set up.  They have tons of fruits, cheeses, breads, and pastries.  I started off with a bowl of corn flakes and milk along with some fresh strawberries.  I just like corn flakes.  They also have a short order cook that makes omelets, pancakes, or fried eggs.  We both tried omelets (cheese or cheese and tomato).  They were good although the mozzarella cheese didn’t quite melt. The breads seemed fresh.  The pastries were yummy especially the chocolate filled ones and one that seemed to be filled with pecans.  The breakfast spread was probably one of the best we have ever experienced in a hotel anywhere.  And finally, the coffee was really hot and good – I did have to dilute the coffee with hot water to make it drinkable.  Everything was fantastic. We have had breakfast included at hotels in Europe several times but nothing like this (especially items cooked to order).

We were told by the desk that a room had opened up on the fifth floor. Ellen went to check it out and came back and told the desk we would take it for the remaining two nights.  The hotel staff would move our bags to the new room – we hadn’t unpacked so only toiletries and meds had to be tossed into our backpacks.  Both rooms had safes with a real key, so Ellen got a new key for our new room, 500.  

I had been looking into private golf cart tours of Rome but the price was astronomical – in the 250 – 400 Euro range.  Instead, I purchased two 48 hour tickets on the Green Line hop-on-hop-off bus that stops at the major sites in Rome.  The tickets were on sale -  68 Euros discounted to 54 Euros ($59.67).  The pickup point was just over the Castel Sant’Angelo bridge on the other side of the Tiber (about a 10 minute walk).  Today, we would just do the whole circuit to see the big picture and then decide tomorrow where we might want to get off and walk around. 

We went to the pickup point right after breakfast and got on the green route bus.  You check in using a QR code emailed by the bus company.  When I showed the nice ticket girl the code she said that i needed a code for each of us.  I told her - because I thought it to be the case -that I only got one.  I showed her the bank receipt for the charge.  She was very patient with me and looked at my phone - the second QR code was at the bottom of the email - Always scroll all the way down.  Kudos to the bus girl for being so patient.  Once you are scanned in, you don't have to go through it again (just show them the QR code).

Ellen wanted to sit upstairs to get a better view.  I miscalculated the wind and temperature and did not dress accordingly.  When the bus was not on the street bordered by tall buildings the conditions were OK but in the open air, it was chilly and windy.  We did take a lot of pictures of well-known sites (I should note that the bus does not stop at the sites proper but nearby so picture taking is hit and miss): 

After several attempts we managed to get a good shot of the Circus Maximus

great shots of the Colosseum (the bus drove around the structure).

When we were last in Rome, there was street construction around the Colosseum area and we couldn't get within two blocks of it.   

The bus then entered the Piazza Venezia

which at one end, stands the Vittorio Emmanuelle II Monument, which we have walked to several times,

on this visit, we could see the flames and soldiers at the Tomb of the Unknown (the shot isn't great but there were two soldiers guarding the tomb)

Just before you reach the actual monument, there is the Basilica Santa Maria in Ara Coeli (Saint Mary of the Altar in Heaven) with 124 stairs leading to the entrance. 

Women who were having difficulty getting pregnant would climb the stairs on their knees in hopes of a better outcome.  The Basilica also contains the relics of St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine. 

We drove past the Largo di Torre Argentina, the site where Julius Caesar was killed,  It was at one time overrun with feral cats but now is an archeological dig free of felines.

We stopped near Palatine Hill, and the Forum but I could only get a peripheral shot of one of the Seven Hills of Rome.

We drove by the Piazza Barberini, with its Fontana del Tritone (Fountain of Triton) by Bernini.

The bus continued through the Quirinale District of Rome, where we saw the Fontana de Mose (Fountain of Moses).  The statue reminded me of Michelangelo's Moses, so I knew immediately what I was looking at.

The tour continued as we circled the block at the Basilica Santa Maria de Maggiore, one of the four basilicas in Rome.

We got off the bus and stopped to take some pictures of Castel Sant'Angelo from across the river.

Ellen took some nice pictures of me on the Ponte Sant'Angelo, with the Basilica of St Peter in the background.

We made our way across the bridge in the rain and headed back to the Isa Hotel.  I also got a nice shot of the Vatican from the bridge.

At the hotel, we checked out our new room – everything had been moved. This room was an upgrade from our other room – bigger overall and a bigger bathroom (with a step-up shower).This room had a balcony overlooking the courtyard as well as easy access to the elevator, You could walk up to the dining room (one flight) and roof top bar and terrace. 


We went back up in the roof top bar where we spent a good deal of the afternoon.  It was raining now so we really couldn’t go anywhere.  I dodged raindrops to get this picture of St. Peter's Basilica framed by a trellis.

When the rain stopped, we took advantage of our bus privileges and took another circuit of Rome.  This time out we had jackets on and were in an area on top where there wasn't much wind. The bus has an earbud system that narrates the tour is several languages.  It is perfectly synchronized so you can really identify the sites.

We passed the Teatro di Marcello.  The theater, at 111 m in diameter was the largest and most important theater at the end of the Roman Empire. We also learned from the bus employee on board that it is the best stop for the Jewish Ghetto (useful for tomorrow's plan).

The bus drove along the Iranian Wall, which was, according to the recorded guide, constructed to keep out barbarians.  I had trouble finding confirmation of this wall on line but I am going with what the guide said.  

At one point, we thought we heard that the next stop would be the last one of the day. Ellen checked and it wasn’t. For a moment I thought we might have to take a cab home. We got back to Castel Sant’Angelo and it was just as nice the second time around.  We walked past Piazza Cavour and the Supreme Court building on our way.  No rain, no wind, just right.

We tried again to go to San Marco Pizzeria but it was very crowded and for some reason completed taken over by what appeared to be an Asian Tour group.  We again opted not to eat here.  We wound up at a place called RAF Pizzeria. We split a Pizza Funghi and a very nice salad (with corn and an egg). This pizza was more substantial, and the salad was very good.  We also had some bread and again shared a Coke Zero.  When I got the bill, there were two cokes on the tab and we were charged for the bread.  I started to complain, and the waiter immediately took off the incorrect charges.  I started to wonder if this is a mini scam pulled on unsuspecting tourists.  Anyway, the food was good and cost 26 Euros ($28.73). 

We went back to the hotel and I took a picture of the one of the art pieces that are found throughout the hotel.

Back to our room.  There was some people noise in the hall and in the courtyard beneath our room.  Earplugs were at the ready in case it didn’t stop.  At around 10 PM, the noise essentially stopped.

Today was a walking and riding day.  Here are the results of our big day in Rome.

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