Italy: Trip of a Lifetime. Part 2

Constantine crowds
The Constatine Arch

This series of (mostly) relatively short posts, illustrated with photographs, details our holiday in Italy. We’d been saving to visit our daughter in Australia, but she’ll be home this December, so we robbed the fund for this rather extravagant holiday. Having thoroughly enjoyed it, we’d like to share our experience. You’ll get the full (well, almost) story of our travels, activities, and experiences; warts and all, in instalments. You can read part 1 by clicking here. And you’ll find Part 3 here.

19th Sept. Wednesday

Breakfast was very civilised, with waiter service for hot drinks (cappuccino for me, tea for Valerie) and self-service for the food, which was excellent and wonderfully varied. The restaurant sits on the top of the hotel, with extensive views across the city, and a small bar area above. Tables are generous and chairs comfortable. A good experience.

Sky bar1
A view from the Sky Bar at Hotel Forum.

We set off for a walk to explore the city. Past Foro Di Nerva to Via Dei Fori Imperiali, where huge, informative hoardings line the road to hide the work being done to create a new Metro station close to the Colosseum. We continued through the throng of other tourists toward the huge monument, where we were greeted by a polite young English woman who approached us about tickets. I explained we were due to visit on Friday and she told us where we would need to go to queue with our online tickets, which was helpful.

Colosseum wide
Wide view of the Colosseum

We walked in search of some of Rome’s varied and well-preserved history. From Piazza Del Colosseo, past the Arco Di Constantino, my camera clicking frequently all the way, we then walked along Via Di San Gregorio, with the Palatino on our right, to Via Del Circo Massimo. Here, we left the road and took to the gravel and grass paths of the Circus Maximus to shield us from the constant traffic.

Circus maximus
The Circus Maximus

Along the Via Della Greca, light rain began to fall, making the cobblestones slippery and causing Valerie to slip and bang her knee. As usual, she made no complaint, though it later became clear she’d bruised it quite badly, and we continued to the Ponte Palatino where we crossed the River Tiber and back across the water via the Ponte Rotto, and past Chresa Di San Bartolomeo on Isola Tiberina, a tiny island in the centre of the river.

first view of tiber
Our first view of the River Tiber

Then we crossed the Ponte Palatino again and walked along the river bank, past the inevitable but colourful and often creative graffiti common to all cities, to Ponte Fabrico.

Island bridge
Bridge over the river to the tiny island

There, we climbed steps in much need of weeding! We crossed the river once again and walked back across the tiny island and over the Ponte Cestio and then along a different section of the river bank, past a place for boat trips.

From Ponte Palatina
The Tiber falls over a weir with the island on the right of the picture.

Back up to Ponte Garibaldi and then across Circo Massimo in the opposite direction to our first passage, past the Constantine Arch and the Colosseum to travel along Via Dei Forum Imperiali to our hotel for lunch.

Island in the river
The Tiber divides as it passes the island in its centre

The menu offered more than we really wanted at midday – most Italians have their main meal at lunch time, apparently. We wanted something light, and I needed a beer! So we explored the local back streets, having been warned against using restaurants near the popular sights because of their inflated prices and limited, unauthentic choices. Walking along Via Cavour, and then Via Fragpane, we discovered a small osteria (the equivalent of a café) to eat.

Stu lunch
Lunch – healthy; it’s a salad!

They guided us to seats underground in a large area with a vaulted ceiling, where we had a decent lunch at a reasonable price. Then back to the hotel, via a deliberately convoluted route to see more of what the city had to offer, in time for a well-earned siesta.

Hotel forum int
The hotel corridor leading to our room

In the evening we ate at Osteria Maracuja, a small eatery just up the road from our hotel, and within sight of it, on a wide piazza where other eating places also live. This square was under the constant watch of a few armed soldiers and an occasional reassuring police car. Security is clearly important and the authorities take care to ensure visitors and citizens are protected against the idiocy of the extremist threats that beset most European cities these days.

Valerie constantine
Valerie with the Constantine Arch in the background

We’d been ‘prospected’ by a friendly guy after lunch as we passed this place on our way back to the hotel. He’d offered us free prosecco if we ate there in the evening. We told him we’d be there, and chatted briefly using our smattering of Italian. As we arrived, he greeted us like long-lost friends and instructed the waiter to find us a good table and bring our free wine.

old bridge and new
An old bridge sits in the river in front of the more modern crossing

The tables here were cosy. The dining area was outside, but covered by a wide awning against the occasional rain of mid-September. On one side of us, a couple of American guys were laughing over a trick they’d played by text on the architect building their new house. They were happy to share their joke about changing part of the structure for a pizza oven, much to the dismay of the architect.  We had a friendly chat about other things as we awaited our food.

Inevitable grafitti
Ubiquitous grafitti on steps up to one of the bridges

Afterwards, we met Mick and Lynda, who sat at the other side of us. She’s a teacher and he’s a banker in the City (London), someone we generally would’ve dismissed as a parasite. But we enjoyed a very pleasant and wide-ranging chat with them; an interesting experience that demonstrated even bankers can be human!

River bank
The riverside is reminiscent of the Thames in London, with the Plane trees

After the meal, which was very good, we took a walk in the gentle evening rain and discovered the first of a series of excellent light shows where slides and videos were projected onto walls of ancient buildings either side of the main road, telling the story of the city’s origin and development.

Padlocks on Ponte
It seems lovers’ padlocks attached to bridges isn’t a custom confined only to Paris! But see the comment below, from Bojana – her link will give you the true history behind this ‘custom’.

Back in the hotel, Valerie noticed the TV in the lounge was showing a football match between Roma and Real Madrid, so we stopped for a look. Another couple were seated opposite the TV, they were from Birmingham in the UK and had been in Venice, via the Orient Express. We stayed and chatted for a while, saw the result (Real Madrid won 3:0).

on banks of tiber
Part of the walk along the riverside

Then off to bed, as we’d arranged a very early call for the following morning. All will be revealed in the next post!


17 thoughts on “Italy: Trip of a Lifetime. Part 2

    1. Thank you, Paola. I certainly enjoyed Rome; fascinating and so full of ancient sites. But I can’t compare it with other cities, as I am not a lover of cities in general. I prefer the countryside. But Rome was definitely a great location , and so full of interesting and stimulating places and people!

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  1. I am not the best journal keeper. But sometimes when I get to travel with my hubby – I do keep a brief accounting (sometimes without verse)… anyway – I really enjoyed a couple of weeks pretty much alone exploring two different historical cities in Kentucky and another in Wisconsin. Walking about can be entertaining when meeting some of the locals and other tourists.

    I hope your wife heals quickly. I tend to bruise up myself. And it seems like forever for the black and blue bits to completely fade. Perhaps that’s just part of getting old?

    Lovely photos. Cheers, Jules

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    1. Ah, journals. I used to keep one regularly but not any longer. As a writer, however, I do keep a notebook and pen handy in case a spontaneous idea presents itself, and to record those odd impressions that appear from incidents encountered.
      It’s always interesting to meet other tourists from other countires and the locals are full of useful tips.
      Valerie’s bruising gone, now, but the knee gave her some greif during most of the holiday. Of course, being the woman she is, she said not a word to me about it until I noticed the growing bruise. Even then, she shrugged it off as ‘nothing’. Women, generally far braver than men, I find!
      Thankf=s for the comment, Jules. Enjoy your travels.

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