This will be a series of (mostly) relatively short posts illustrated with photographs. The holiday in Italy was a special treat for us, to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We’ve been saving to visit our daughter in Australia, but she’s coming to the UK this December, so we dipped into our funds for this extravagant holiday. Having thoroughly enjoyed it, we want to share our experience. You’ll get the full (well, almost) story of our travels, activities, and experiences; warts and all. Before we went, I collected a good deal of info, including maps and guides.
17th Sept – Monday
Our friend, Nigel Cooper, who serves with me on the committee of the Lydbrook Memorial Hall and Recreation Ground charity, picked us up and took us to The Airport Tavern, near Bristol, where we’d booked a room. Nigel runs a furniture business and property services, and the journey was punctuated by fun interruptions from his hands-free, as customers and employees contacted him. He carried us through the afternoon rush-hour with good humour and delivered us to our destination in good time.
The Airport Tavern is an old village pub that seems to be under development as a stopover base for the airport. The food is typical pub grub. But they’d run out of wine (Really? In a pub?) and chicken. Our postprandial walk took us to the airport gates and back along the main road, as there was no real alternative route.
18th Sept – Tuesday
The included transfer to the airport got us there in plenty of time to take advantage of the Aspire Lounge, which we’d booked to enjoy a peaceful breakfast before the flight. It was quiet when we arrived, around 09:30. A cooked breakfast of bacon, sausage and baked beans was on offer along with a limited selection of cereals, but no toast. A self-service tea/coffee machine produced a reasonable cappuccino. Soft drinks were on hand and alcohol was available, free, from behind the bar. A bit early for us, however. The staff seemed a little less than committed and some customers expressed dissatisfaction over minor issues.
Bristol Airport, light and airy, is well-organised. No long queues, and an efficient system of flight management and security controls.
We travelled with EasyJet. The airline, and the rest of our trip, was organised through Tui, using their Italian associates, Citalia. As will be revealed, this agency made a great job of the whole holiday for us.
Aircraft staff were pleasant and we boarded without bother. The bubbly I’d ordered online was presented as soon after take-off as possible; Valerie suffers from claustrophobia and wine helps her cope. Seat space was quite compact, but no worse than other airlines we’ve used. Take off was 12:20 (10 mins late) and, after an uneventful flight, we arrived at Rome Fiumicino Airport 15:35 (10 mins early).
Rome airport was clean and efficient and we managed to avoid queuing for security and passport checks, and picked up our luggage quite quickly. Having lost luggage on one overseas trip (we were in Cephalonia and our baggage went to New York, which hardly seems the right way round!) we’re always just a little concerned as that belt snakes round with all those suitcases.
After finding an airport employee, we were directed to our transfer enquiry point in Arrivals. The driver wasn’t present, but would arrive soon.
Within 10 minutes, a friendly and smart Moldovan, who spoke good English and Italian, took our suitcases to the waiting people carrier. On the busy drive through Rome, he pointed out various sights of interest and delivered us to our destination in about 20 minutes.
Hotel Forum sits on a corner where two narrow, cobbled, side-streets meet. One’s opposite the Forum, and the property’s only 200 metres from the Colosseum. We were greeted outside by a uniformed receptionist and porter, who took our bags and guided us into the hotel. Check-in was swift and courteous, and our cases were taken to our room by the porter, who didn’t wait for a tip. The room was medium sized, the bathroom quite narrow but fine. Both were very well equipped with quality fixtures, and good pictures on the wall. There was a safety deposit box. I had to go down to reception to find out how to use it – it was really quite easy, but the missing descriptive leaflet meant this simpleton needed guidance. Reception explained if we needed anything else, we could just call them.
Pleasant music was playing from somewhere in the street below our 2nd floor room. The small road was quite busy with tourists on foot and occasional light traffic, quite a contrast to our usual peaceful bedroom in a quiet village cul-de-sac, and a reminder why we don’t much care for cities.
We unpacked essentials and took our first walk, exploring the nearby area and discovering just how close we were to the sights we hoped to visit.
Dinner was in the hotel restaurant (quite pricey for us, but a real treat for our first night). We hadn’t booked, but the head waiter found us a table, not far from the piano. Later, a musician with electronic backing produced some good music to eat by. The restaurant was quite busy, but neither too crowded nor noisy. Everything was good quality.
We ordered. Polite questions from the waiter told him we were in Italy to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Italians are a romantic lot and 2 free glasses of bubbly came with congratulations. Our deserts came free, too. The meal was good, and the accompanying bottle of prosecco very fine, but we would seek more reasonably priced places to dine for the rest of our stay in Rome.
We took a leisurely stroll around the night streets close to the hotel before bed. We always find such a saunter beneficial after an evening meal.
There was some noise, mostly loud conversation, (we quickly learned Italians are generally not quiet people!) from the entrance to a nightclub across the street, so I closed the shutters. When I rose for the inevitable over-65-man’s nocturnal pee, around 02:15, the noise had stopped and I opened the shutters to let in some fresh mild air.
We both slept well.
More to follow. Watch this space!