€12 Coffee After years of harrassment from Assana, Chris has finally agreed to go on a trip with us! We better be on our best behavior or it will be his last! We meet in Rome, us arriving from Montenegro, and Chris arriving from San Francisco. We arrive within a couple of hours of each other, given über planners that we are. Perfect. By the time we get to the hotel Chris has already cleaned up, walked around a bit, and has experienced his first $15 cup of coffee!
Happy Birthday Our hotel is right at Piazza di Popolo but not necessarily centrally located. Well, it is centrally located to a very high-fashion shopping area, but not the touristy sights, so we end up walking and walking and walking. Thank God for the hotel's spa facility where the three of us spend a couple of hours at the end of each day unwinding before dinner. Chris is a good sport about it, getting grumpy just a couple of times. And that is, probably, because he is hungry and not because we are walking. Speaking of our hotel, they surprise Dan with a fabulous cake on his birthday. It is a very pleasant surprise! Thanks Hotel de Russie, even though you probably made up for the charges elsewhere... and ten fold!
Lost Our sightseeing starts on the first day when, right after lunch, we walk up to the Borghese Gardens, and then, along with another million tourists, to the Spanish Steps, Trevi fountain complete with a coin toss for Dan & Assana - Chris didn't toss anything - and finally a nice walk by the river on our way back to the hotel. Map in hand, Chris becomes our de facto navigator, and except for a few time when we have to snap him out of it and force him to enjoy the sights, he does a really good job at it. Although... hmmm... there was that one time that we got lost. So maybe he's not that good! (Chris, you know we love you! ;)
Tourists? No! One morning we wake up to a massive monsoon (the same one that ruins Chinque Terre) -- what is up with this trip and all the unusual storms?! It gives us a chance to dilly dally at breakfast and catch up. By mid morning the storm has passed but the tourists haven't woken up yet, so we head out for more sightseeing. We go back to the Spanish Steps… no tourists! Trevi Fountain and one more coin toss, no tourists! Piazza Navona, no tourists! The Pantheon, no tourists… and no Pantheon: the storm made such a mess in the Pantheon they had to close it for cleanup.
It is a great day of staying ahead of the masses! Everywhere we go, the lines are short upon our arrival and super long upon our departure. Between the storm, and our hotel getting us advanced tickets to The Colosseum and The Forum, and our private tour of the Vatican, we barely stand in any lines!
Cavalieri di Malta Talking of private tours, we have two scheduled that we have been very much looking forward to. The first one is a "Rome by Night" photography tour. Our guide picks us up at the hotel in a very spacious and nice Mercedes SUV. It is the evening of the storm and the streets are all glistening. Between complaining about her boyfriend, his ex-girlfriend and some random ass party where the ex-girlfriend was rude to her and the boyfriend didn't do anything about it, and how he is now remorseful but she is not sure what to do about it, and between all the txt messaging, she takes us to a bunch of the major sights, The Colosseum, The Forum, The Vatican, etc. But she also takes us to some obscure fountains and sights. One of the coolest places she takes us is Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, or The Sovereign Military Order of Malta, where one can see Saint Peter's Basilica framed perfectly in the keyhole to the gardens. Pretty cool!
The Romanian The second tour is a private "Behind The Scenes" tour of the Vatican. In reality, the tour doesn't appear to be behind any scenes, but we have a super hot Romanian-with-an-oxford-accent tour guide, and the boys start salivating as soon as they see her. In addition to being hot, she is also very knowledgable, a super factima, and very cool. She even helps Dan and Assana photo-bomb a couple's photo in Vatican Museum. We spend the majority of the day with her going thru Saint Peter's Basilica and Vatican Museum, and ending, of course, in the glorious Sistine Chapel. We learn a ton about the popes' history and a ton more about their corruptness! For example did you know that they sold sin insurance?! And when the living wasn't enough, they retroactively sold it for the dead. All so they can build more chapels to themselves. Religious figures exploiting others for their own good. Guess nothing changes.
Truffles Any other city would have a very difficult time upstaging the fabulous culinary experience we had in The Dalmatia, but not Rome. Good grief! Every meal we have is better than the last. Pizza becomes our lunch staple, and I should add that we have a great luck with the impromptu restaurant selection, followed by gelato. For the evenings, our hotel does the planning for us. They honor our desire for Italian food and do a great job of selecting a variety of restaurants, all within walking distance of the hotel.
Fortunately for us, it is truffle season! Assana manages to have truffles every single night. As a matter of fact it was the same recipe: fresh pasta with shaved white truffles. At Santa Lucia Ristorante, the chunk of truffle the waiter shaves on Dan's pasta is so large that, halfway in, Assana has enough time to pull out her phone, fight with the camera to turn on, switch to video, and still manage to get a good 15-second clip! Ahhh. Heavenly.
Ciao Traveling with people is not always easy, especially traveling with those of us who are set in our ways. Chris is a trooper, and a great travel partner. We have a great time hanging out with him and look forward to more trips in the future.
And as for Rome, Ciao Roma! We hope to be back again; we did throw coins in the Trevi, after all! But not Chris! No coin toss, no return! ;)