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#Italy: Trip of a Lifetime. Part 1

From window road

One view from our hotel bedroom window in Rome.

Ciao!

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.

Info

Some of the information gathered before and during the trip. The hand-scribbled piece top right is one page from our 10 week nightclass course in conversational Italian.

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.

TripAdvisor review of The Airport Tavern. 

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.

From window tower

An ancient Roman building opposite our room in the Hotel Forum.

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.

From window street

The narrow cobbled street below our bedroom window in Hotel Forum.

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.

From window forum

A wider view of the scene from our bedroom window in Hotel Forum.

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.

Colusseum approach

Our first approach to the Colosseum.

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.

TripAdvisor review for Hotel Forum.

More to follow. Watch this space!

20 Responses to “#Italy: Trip of a Lifetime. Part 1”

  1. Jules

    When I was in Italy (hubby was there for business) – we got to see Pompeii.
    We stayed mostly in this little town where I did quite a bit of walking by myself.
    We did not do touristy things. And one night we actually went bowling!

    Happy Anniversary (belated). We had our 39th last month. 🙂
    Hoping to do something out of the ordinary next year.
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • stuartaken

      Thanks, Jules. We spent much of our first week in the sites that display the history of Italy and the Romans, as we’re both interested in history. Our 2nd week was spent mostly in simple relaxation and enjoyment in the Italian Lakes region. More photos and text to come here. Next post on Wednesday 17th. Congratulations on your 39th – and hope your 40th goes well!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • Jules

        Being that my heritage is both Northern and Southern Italian – going to Italy was a real treat. I ended up at some market fair and had one of my family names traced (in Italian) – I had to translated it when I got home. As, unfortunately I only know a few key and not so key words. 🙂

        Thanks… I’ll make a note to look in on the 17th.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        • stuartaken

          We took a short night class in conversational Italian, which certainly helped us. Valerie, my wife, is much better at languages than me and we found that the odd ‘courtesy’ word really made a difference to service we received in many places.
          Valerie’s also doing our family trees online. Fascinatng, but so time connsuming!

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
          • Jules

            I know of my tree, some of my hubby. Mostly just to the great grandparents. When folks came over many records were lost from country of origin. Mostly due to border shifting because of warring.

            Hubby isn’t really interested in the DNA stuff. One of his relatives found an unknown child that they never knew about. And then now with police using some of the data… not that we have anything to hide… but still it is kind of un-nerving. But then we don’t do FB either.

            Liked by 1 person

            Reply
            • stuartaken

              Valerie uses Ancestry for the trees and FindMyPast for additional searches. She finds lots of errors of spelling and the like in the original documents (many people were illiterate, of course, and the handwriting of the various recorders was often very ornate!) but also, a lot of people seem to be happy to use the first link they come across, without checking further, even though it may be not their relative: odd, but that’s human nature. We both had DNA tests and those have brought loads of new relations we had no idea about. I understand your concerns about DNA records; sad when we can’t really trust the authorities, eh? Also, many of our county boundaries in UK have changed over the years and, of course, a lot of records were destroyed during WWII, so information can often be patchy. Still, Valerie enjoys the research and I find it fascinating to learn where the families have spread to and where we originated.

              Liked by 1 person

              Reply
              • Jules

                I only have an oral story, with no proof that one Italian side came from France. My husbands side has a possibility of five European/Slavic countries.

                It might be interesting to do a DNA test. But privacy of info is a sticking point.

                Continued success in your searches. As long as you are enjoying it and having fun.

                I remember reading that most of folks have some mitochondrial African DNA in them. Even if they have European ancestry.

                Liked by 1 person

                Reply
                • stuartaken

                  As I come from a rather ‘broken’ family history (my biological father died 3 weeks before I was born, my mum remarried later and died just after my 16th birthday) I didn’t have a lot of info on my relatives. I’d always thought we had French connections, but my DNA results showed a different story with connections to northern Europe, Eire and, as you say, an African connection – I’m apparently 1% Benin or Togo, which I find fascinating. But the general opinion amongst those who know is that we all came out of Africa originally, of course.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  Reply
                  • Jules

                    “But the general opinion amongst those who know is that we all came out of Africa originally, of course.” -Yes, sir. 😉

                    It is too bad though that there is so much prejudice in regards to differences rather than acceptance of similarities.

                    I’ve had a rough start myself. Early parent death, step mothers. Sort of attempted to also include the one Step parents ‘family’.
                    I’ve also read where a gent who came from a big family, took his (only child) wife’s name to help continue her family ‘line’. 🙂

                    Liked by 1 person

                    Reply
                    • stuartaken

                      Absolutely agree, Jules. Prejudice is so often the result of ignorance. And, as you so rightly point out, we are more similar than different.
                      My step father adopted my sister and I so we’d all have the same family name, but, as a result, I lost track of my real father’s family until I started to search for people using a family tree, when I discovered I had a cousin and an aunt I’d never known about!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Jules

                      Sometimes family doesn’t want to be found. I had an aunt who married and moved away. When her mother passed she came, but didn’t even stay overnight to visit with family.

                      I tried calling this woman once, but she was busy and I never got back to her – she has since passed. One can only wonder what rifts may have caused some families to not want to speak to each other? But alas as they say we are only ‘human’.

                      I have several ‘step’ grandparents – and I just don’t really know all that much about those sides at all. And with age… there aren’t many folks now to ask.

                      Good luck with all of your wonderful family ties 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. Paola

    Welcome to Italy! Looking forward to reading more about your holiday. And congratulations for the 30th anniversary!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  3. delphini510

    May I first wish you and your wife a belated happy Anniversary. Your story from Rome and the trip itself is wonderful. You catch Italy with such fresh eyes and wonder. Beautiful.
    I like hearing how you travelled. I always book everything myself but you seem to have used. Travel agent. Am I right. Might try that again, it takes away some possible hassle.

    miriam

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    • stuartaken

      Thanks, Miriam. Yes, we used Tui (used to be Thompsons), who used their Italian associates, Citalia. I did a self-organised holiday in France a few years ago, and all went very well, but this was a special trip for us, so I wanted to have everything properly covered. Plus, of course, ABTA cover only applies if everything is done acording to their rules. The agents arranged everything for us, but I added to that by ordering tickets to various venues online. Otherwise, they arranged our transfers, railway and air journeys. It meant we had nothing to worry about but to enjoy ourselves!

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply

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