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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

September 13-15. We have a final breakfast at the Rome Cavalieri and we pack up our things to move to the Palazzo Manfredi located at Via Labicana, 125. We take the complimentary shuttle from the hotel, and then a taxi to the new hotel, right next to the Colosseum.

We booked our room through Jetsetter and even though the room was expensive ($371 per night) it’s a boutique hotel and has 5 stars. The location couldn’t be better-it is 1 block from the Colosseum and a bunch of cute restaurants.

The hotel offers us a complimentary beverage when we arrive, and we head up to the roof to a wonderful patio to have a drink.

We then spend the morning at the Colosseum. The concierge at the Cavalieri had booked us tickets so we didn’t have to wait in line. I highly suggest buying tickets in advance-and also going early in the morning. Beware of people walking around offering to give you private tours and of ‘Gladiators’ who will charge you to take pictures with them. All I’m saying, is that in Ancient Rome, the Gladiators didn’t wear Teva sandals buddy!

Tickets were 12 euros each. It’s pretty breathtaking-while I had been to Rome  before, we never actually made it INSIDE the Colosseum….

As we left-they were filming a movie outside.

It was in Italian, so I’m pretty sure we’ll never see it.

We grab a quick (read: cheap) slice of pizza from a restaurant we just happen to pass by.

Pizza here seems to just refer to the bread-cheese optional. You order what type of pizza you want and they charge you by weight.

Plain pizza=pure deliciousness at this moment since we are starving and hot. We eat at the counter, take in the air conditioning  and then get on our way.

We taxi over to the Vatican Museum-the Rome Cavalieri has purchased us tickets ahead of time, so at 2pm- we zoom right past the line. The pine cone statue outside is made of bronze and was part of an ancient Roman fountain that used to be in the Courtyard of the old St. Peters. My husband wasn’t feeling very well, we think it was the flu, so we did the Vatican in record time-less than an hour!

A Fountain in the courtyard neat the pine cone statue.

Also  outside in the courtyard with a view of St Peter’s dome in the background.

Inside the Vatican museum.

The Sistine Chapel has massive frescoes on the walls that show the parallel episodes from the life of Moses and Christ. Make sure to look up at the ceiling (this is where the audio guide may have come in handy, but we didn’t have one). The main panels show the creation of the world and the fall of man. We almost missed it-it’s hard to walk and look up at the same time. never mind navigating the massive amounts of people who are walking at various speeds.

The spiral staircase is on the way out of the museum.

St Peter’s. We didn’t actually go in, we took pictures in  the piazza San Pietro. It was hot, my husband looked like he was about to keel over. We were done for the day. As I am taking pictures of the dome, about 5 people come up to us and ask if we want private tours. The first 3 I think I was polite to, said no thank you, blah blah blah. By the 5th person who came up to us in the span of 2 minutes, I just ignored her. So she looks at my husband and says, “you’re a real lucky guy-you’re wife is a real winner.” Yeah lady, now I TOTALLY want to give you my money and go on your tour after you insulted me, is that your ingenious marketing plan? So we take a few more pictures and get a cab back to the hotel. There is a line of cabs, but the first guy says to us that his friend will take us-it will be about 18 euro. We say fine and get in the cab. As we are driving along, I realize that the ride from the Cavalieri down to the Via Popolo was 10 euro and that was probably the further than this cab ride, we realize that we have totally been scammed-this guy doesn’t even have a meter. We have to direct him to the hotel because he doesn’t know where it is.

We get back to the hotel and the room is ready. Our bags have been put in our room and this is how we are welcomed. I’m touched. This is really nice.

The bathroom.

More petals on the tub.

A lovely fruit basket and Prosecco welcome gift.

We walk by the Colosseum to take some pictures-it is SO beautiful at sunset.

We ask the man at the front desk for a recommendation of where to eat for dinner that is close by. He recommends us Pa.Pa.Gio (he pronounced it like Papa John) which was two blocks away, right around the corner (Via Capo D’Africa, 26). We arrive and there is one other couple sitting there-inside the tree lined alcove on the street. A man and a woman sitting at the end of a table for 6-no one else is site. They ask us if we have a reservation, we say no, and that the concierge from the Palazza Manfredi has referred us. The host gets the manager and they discuss for a minute or two, and they decide that they can seat us. They sit us at the other end of the 6 top table with the one other couple that is there-meanwhile there are 6 other tables open, just not available.

We start with the tomato and mozzarella salad (12 euro).

We order the carbonara (12 euro), which was a little on the small side and a bit too eggy for my liking.

We also order the pasta alla sorrenti (10 euro)-the pasta was EXCELLENT-thin wide ribbons of noodles-SO good!

We ended the night with a ‘white’ tiramisu (6 euro), no espresso but smothered in chocolate sauce. Really tasty.  The service was a little bit slow-towards the end of the night more people began to arrive (who also did not have reservations but received better tables than we did) and the waiters were busy. The restaurant inside is smoke free, but the patio area was not. Unfortunately for us, the couple at the other side of our table, in the time it took for us to eat our meal (about 30 minutes), smoked non stop. The man had 2 cigars and the woman had about a half a pack of cigarettes. She also put water in her wine to dilute it, but that’s a whole different can of beans. My husband is still feeling pretty ill so we hurry back to the hotel and get him some tea. We order it at the front desk and they send it right up. I had read that the service charges here were insane, from the JetSetter website, but it was truly ridiculous. The tea was 8 euro, but the service was 10 euro. So that’s equivalent to $25 for a pot of water, one tea bag and one flight walk to our room. Yikes!

Breakfast was included in our stay-we caught a glimpse of the buffet when we arrived and had drinks on the patio-it looked impressive, but we were picked up at our hotel at 7am to do a day trip to Naples and Capri and miss it (breakfast is from 7:30-10:30am.. We booked the tour through Vaitor.com. the trip is about $175 per person. We looked into taking a train ourselves to Naples and then booking our own ferry, but it came out to be similar in price-and we figured with a tour group it would be easy because they would do all the work for us. So we are picked up at our hotel, they stop at the Green Line Tours headquarters (near the termini station) to pick up everyone else and the tour guide. We get on the road and it’s about a 2 hour ride to Naples. We stop about an hour in to a truck stop where you can grab something to eat or use the facilities. On the ride to Naples we see Mount Vesuvius, which is still an active volcano and the Appian Way. When we arrive in Naples, we are told that if we want the same seats on the way home we should leave something in our seats-non valuable of course. The tour guide speaks in English and in Spanish, and has another woman who is translating in Japanese.

Naples is very industrial-it looks old and tired as a city-this building reminds me of New York-in the Bronx. The people who are doing the day trip get off at the harbor, there are other people who stay on the bus to do a longer tour (2 day) that includes  Pompeii. We are met at the harbor by a local guide.

I had to use the facilities. The guide points me in the direction of a coffee shop. There is no water in the toilet, no toilet seat and no toilet paper. This isn’t that place, but it’s typical in Naples. So I use the one in the harbor-again, no seat, dirty floor, and ladies mopping up the floor and asking for tips. Seriously? After telling what I think is a horrifying experience to my friends who have been to Italy, I find out that this kind of situation is typical. Man, it stinks to be a girl.

There are some shops near the ferry-although we don’t really have time to go into any of them. We take a 45 minute fast ferry to the island of Capri. There, they are know for the Blue Grotto, a natural cave where, depending on where the sun hit, creates this amazing shade of blue water. There is a 25 euro charge (extra) for this. They collect the money-cash only- on the bus and if the weather prevents you from seeing the grotto, you get your money back.

I’ve seen blue water-but this is so amazing.

Once we arrive in the port at Capri, we take a mini bus to Anacapri where we will have lunch and some free time to wander. There are scenic views of the Bay of Naples. If you choose not to the Blue Grotto, you have extra free time to walk around after lunch. There is  gondola type ride in Anacapri so you can see the sights from above.The mini bus is truly mini and the streets are narrow and windy. We aren’t cut out for going on tour group trips….you’re stuck for 13 hours with people who you may or may not like….whether you like it or not. There was a small group of women who were just loud and obnoxious, didn’t care about anyone else…and it was just dreadful being around them. Why do all the annoying people talk non stop? So we walk past our lunch spot and a few shops to a Limoncello store for a free sample…included in our tour…yikes! We walk further to the ‘most scenic area’ in Anacapri….we are filing along in line…and we are about to walk to the alcove…and there is a HUGE poop on the walkway-we’re not talking human. My husband and I look at each other and simultaneously decide that it’s not worth it to hold our breathe long enough to snap a picture and promptly turn around. Ick. There are various responses from our group:horror, shock and immature giggling. We have lunch at the restaurant pictured above-it’s included in our tour price. The restaurant caters to cruise boat parties and tour groups.

The lunch is included, but any drink is extra. We start with salad-iceberg and about 2 slivers of carrot. They offer us a choice between rice (risotto) or pasta. The food comes out in massive aluminum tubs and they spoon the food out like you were in your elementary school lunch line. By the way, did I mention that you are stuck sitting at a table with other people from your group? The pasta is mass made and bland.

They offer us “Italinan sodas” which is really a juice of some kind-orange or lemon. The orange is ok-it tastes like grapefruit juice, and I’m pretty sure that the lemon flavored ‘soda’ took enamel off my teeth. Needless to say for 4 euro, I only took 2 sips.

They offer chicken or meat, but frankly after seeing the pasta and tasting how bland it was-I wasn’t risking meat at this place. They finish with vanilla ‘gelato’ which tasted pretty boring. Is lunch over yet? After all of that-they also said that tip wasn’t included. We walk around for a little, but there aren’t that many stores.

There is one store that is amazing. There is a man who is actually making sandals! All of them are pretty ornate, and made with Swarovski elements but they can be made to order-any color leather, any color element. They will run you about 200 euro. After our time in Anacapri we board a new mini bus and head to the Blue Grotto. We wait in line and head down the rocky stairs to the Grotto. You have to go in by rowboat because the entrance is so low, and they take you 4 at a time-3 in the back (one person sits open legged in the back, then a person sits in between his/her legs with legs pointed to the right and another person sits in front of him/her with their legs pointed to the left). I am having a panic attack because I have no interest in being that close to a stranger in this case or any other case. Thank goodness that we wait until the end to go and we are able to head into the Grotto by ourselves.

The small row boats bring you into the Grotto and then back out to larger motor boats so you can return to the port to catch the ferry. The whole thing takes about 5 minutes-so make sure your cameras are ready. The Grotto is a natural cave-it’s dark inside and taking photographs can be difficult.

The Grotto opening is on the left. As you enter the Grotto, your row boat guide sings a little “O Sole Mio” with echos throughout.

The experience is pretty amazing-even if it is for only a minute. The water is SO blue-I can’t even describe it. We head out of the grotto and board the speed boat-and jet over to the ferry. Our day in Capri is over. We board the ferry for the 45 minute trip to Naples.

Back in Naples we say goodbye to our local guide (no one tips apparently) and meet up with our original tour bus guide.

We drive back to Rome-it takes longer than the journey to Naples because we hit some traffic. The sunset is beautiful from the bus. We make a stop, about an hour into the bus ride-again for a bite or the facilities. The stop has food for sale as well as lots of religious items, pasta, Italian cookies and other gift shop items. We make the trip back to Rome and they stop at the Green Line tour headquarters as well as major points that are as close to your hotel as possible. It’s late by the time we get back to the hotel and we have an 8am flight. Make sure to get to the airport 3 hours early. It isn’t the security that takes up your time-it’s the airline check in that kills you. We bought one way tickets from Rome to London-which were about 80 euros each. Little did we know, that if you purchase your tickets online, and check in online, when you get to the airport, you have to have the credit card you purchased the tickets with to board the plane. Needless to say they made an exception for us-but we waited in line for a good hour. People were unable to check in through the self serve kiosks and there was lots of confusion as to what lines to stand in.  The flight from Rome to London ins about 3 hours. We arrive in London and their terminal is amazing.  You don’t even have to shop anywhere else besides the airport! Louis, Gucci, Chanel, duty free, you name it, they’re selling it. We have to stop at customs to get our tax free form stamped (we bought goods in Paris that were eligible for a tax refund). You have to have your form from the store stamped as you are leaving the EU. When they stamp your form and you can choose to get the cash back, have it returned on your credit card you purchased with, or take a check. We were told to take the cash because the time that could elapse before you actually saw your refund could be significant. We take the almost 8 hour plane ride back to Boston-it’s a long flight-but at least you get 2 meals, a hot meal and a cold snack. Upon entering the US we have to go through customs-each person is allowed to enter the US with $800 of un-taxed items from abroad. Depending on the item(s) purchased, anything above the $800 will be taxed-it’s confusing, but the first x amount over the $800 is taxed at 3% and then any money over the x amount is taxed at 20% (let’s say, for leather bags). Again, it’s complicated. Good news is that the airport customs agency takes credit cards-so you can at least get miles, or cash rewards…hey you have to look at the bright side. The trip was amazing-an unbelievable two weeks abroad-we saw some unbelievable sites, ate great food and have some great memories.

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