Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mi amor, Roma!

Well, now that we have a home in Amsterdam, why not take a little vacation?! A dear friend from childhood called me up to tell me she'd be in Rome for a conference. She didn't have to say anything more--I was already booking a flight and looking at day trips from Rome. We'd both already been to the city and wanted to explore some countryside. We only had 2 nights, so my idea was to rent a car and drive to Orvieto, only about 2 hours north of Rome.

I arrived Thursday night, after a delayed flight. It was 10:30pm and I was supposed to rent the car from Fiumicino and drive to the center. No, no GPS. And when the guy handed the keys to me, he said, "En eyou ecanne dorive emanuala, si?" I can drive a stick, but it's been a looooong time and no way was I going to drive a stick into the center of Rome at 11pm. The man was really nice and switched my car to a zippy 4-door VW automatic. Sweet. Still no GPS, but I had my trusty google maps print-outs. Ha ha.

I should've known that there are no night-legible street signs in this country. Just like the rest of Europe. Luckily, my sense of direction is pretty good; and I studied the map pretty good before heading in. As I was accelerating onto the freeway, other cars were zooming past me--definitely going over the 100km/hr speed limit. I thought to myself, why did we rent a car????? Why didn't we just take the train??? What am I doing??? 

In the end, it wasn't so bad. I only had to stop one time to ask some ladies if I was on the right street (and I was). [Although, side note to Google maps: you need to be more contextual in your driving directions. It would be super helpful if you gave directions that sounded like this: take the only main road and follow the signs towards 'Roma Centro'.]

Corinne was walking up to the hotel in the Trastevere neighborhood from dinner right as I was parking--perfect timing. We sat at a super hip cafe for a glass of vino and caught up. We realized that it had been about 18 years since we last really spent some time together. Too long!

The next morning, Corinne headed out early for the last day of the conference and I headed out early to see all of Rome in 8 hours. I walked nearly the whole city, except for the Vatican--already saw that years ago and wasn't up for it again. Rome is such an incredible city. History, culture, food, people. Inspiring.

I started by walking to the Forum ruins. I remember learning about this very place in one of my first graduate courses History of Urban Planning. This is where everything happened. It was the center of government. Around this center, was the grid of streets. I'm glad I had Corinne's Rick Steves book with me. I was glad to revisit the history of this great republic/empire. Thanks Rick!

Then I walked to the Colosseum. What an impressive structure. I'd never been inside it, so today was my lucky day. Imagine 50,000 spectators yelling and screaming at gladiators below! Its amazing that this thing was built in 80AD.

After a quick espresso macchiato, I walked all the way to the Piazza Venezia to see Il Vittoriano, a monument to the first king of Italy, completed in the early 1900s. Lovely white marble and view of the city from the top floor terrace.

It was only noon at this point, so I headed down the swanky Via del Corso and wandered around the neighborhood near the Spanish Steps and the Trevi. I love that fountain! Rick told me all about how it's the end point of the three aqueducts that watered Rome in ancient times, though the fountain was commissioned and built in the 1600s. You're the best, Rick!

I found a nice vantage point of the Piazza del Popolo, ate a street panini, enjoyed another macchiato, and hatched a plan for the rest of the day. The metro was close, so I hopped on and returned to southern part of the city in search of a specific hilltop view of St. Peter's Basilica. Finally I found it: a small keyhole in a church's garden door. Cool.

By then, I was exhausted and ready for a nap. I walked all the way back to Trestevere and chilled at a café for a while and read more about this city. At 5pm, I headed back to the hotel to meet Corinne.

Let the adventure to Orvieto begin!

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