We were scheduled as one of the last groups off the boat so we spent a relaxing morning onboard before disembarking and catching the train from the Civetevecchia port back to Rome (about 45 min on the fast train). From the train station in Rome we were 'greeted' by a taxi driver who did not speak a word of English and was not the friendliest who complained about everything from the traffic to the pedestrians in Italian speaking to no one in particular. We were dropped off a few blocks from our apartment and met at the apartment by Manuel, our apartment Manager, who happen to be an Atlanta Falcons fanatic (pointing out his tattoo of the Falcon he had done just before Michael Vick was arrested).
The apartment was charming with dark wooden ceilings and rafters and big windows that opened to what we discovered later that evening to be the cross-road of a very lively nighttime cafe & entertainment section of Rome, a little 'old city' neighborhood called Trastavere.
After settling into the apartment we took off on a walking journey to sightsee - walking to the Vatican & St. Peters square only about 30 minutes away to just take a look around as we had already planned a tour inside for the next day. After being overwhelmed by the size and beauty outside the Vatican at St. Peters square, we followed the Vatican wall and can now honestly say we have walked around a COUNTRY (since the Vatican is actually it's own country) in 1 1/2 hours.
On the walk home we stopped at the local market for our cheese, fruit and crackers… oh, and of course Prosecco for Lisa and chocolate for Jesse.
Dinner was quaint at a local trattoria. With so many right outside our apartment it was hard to choose just one restaurant - but we ate on the patio (meaning at the tables just outside the door to the restaurant on what was a street during the day with little candles lit on a checkered tablecloth with umbrellas overhead - just as we had pictured a night out in Italy).
The funniest part of the day came as we walked back to our apartment - a little disoriented as we approached as our little, quiet front door entrance had been transformed while we were gone to a full service street-side restaurant with tables and chairs inches from our front door. Had not expected that and don't think it occurred to Manuel to mention this to us earlier in the day.
The locals loved to party… and they did right outside our apartment and on the immediate little roads and alleyways until 2am. Luckily the apartment has the most amazing windows that once shut block out most of the individual noises (laughing, partying, firecrackers - YES firecrackers at midnight) and turn it into white noise - so as tired as we were we were after our long journey that day we were actually able to sleep through it all.
The next morning we ventured out by 8am to again walk back to the Vatican to start our 6 hour walking tour of Vatican, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Square, then the metro to the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, and the Fountain of Trevi. Our tour was through a company called 'Enjoy Rome' which we'd highly recommend as it was extremely informative and organized. Every location was impressive on a grand scale and overwhelming with information while processing the timeline of such locations and events.
We had one odd incident where after the tour of the Vatican we decided to go back in to look around again ourselves at some of the things we wanted to explore - and while Jesse was on the floor of the Vatican narthex area with his camera on a very small tripod taking a picture of some sun rays coming through the upper windows he was 'gestured' by what appeared to be a very disgusted guard to get up off the floor. Mind you this was all done without one word being spoken - just the disgusted look on the guards face and hand gesture to 'rise' was enough to make your skin crawl - man, these Italians have this gesture of disgust perfected! Jesse was very proud that he got the picture anyway WITH the blur of the guard coming toward him in the lower right corner of the picture. Victory for Jesse as he now has a story to go with his photo.
At the end of the day after the tour, we were mentally and physically drained we strolled home that evening after the tour toward our apartment through some smaller neighborhoods stopping at an amazing bakery on the way. It was a long day, but it really brought the educational part of our trip together as much of the history of Rome is connected/tied to the locations we toured earlier in Florence, Ephesius and Sicily.
Our last day in Rome felt really long - we are both ready to go home to see our kids and puppy, and relieve Jesse's parents of their two-week prison sentence! We took an open-top city sightseeing bus tour, which was not as nice as the one in Florence. The buildings in Rome are much taller than in Florence, which makes it hard to see much other than the buildings surrounding you - unlike Florence, which is hillier and has lower buildings, giving you many panoramic views over the city. We jumped off the bus to revisit the Fountain of Trevi and the Spanish Steps, but walking through the designer stores district filled with the big brands - Prada, Armani, Gucci, Fendi, and of course McDonalds / Burger King! The main streets in Rome are not much fun - they're so crowded that you have to walk single-file, there is constant noise and traffic, and you're hemmed in by street vendors with their infamous "splat balls" and other rows of identical junk. We were so relieved to return to Trastavere, the neighborhood surrounding our apartment, with its quiet and pedestrian-friendly cobblestone streets. There are very few if any franchise restaurants or stores there, it's almost all family-run. We picked up pizza from one store (measured by weight, just the way Lisa remembers from her trip 23 years ago), gelato from a second store, pasta from a third restaurant, and then gelato from yet another store for good measure (it is our last night, after all). Oh yes, and Lisa had her American Coffee™ (aka 'espresso with a shot of water'). That's almost all there is to tell except for our ride back to the airport - a car service was supposed to pick us up, but they didn't show up so Jesse went to the main road and flagged down a taxi cab. In the mean time, the car service showed up 30 minutes late, and he was so upset when we started loading our bags into the taxi cab that I think he was almost ready to grab it from us and put it in his own car. Sorry buddy, not everybody is on Italian time! The cab ride was great fun - for the first time on our trip, we got to practice our Italian (remember those classes we took on the cruise? They actually helped!) with Paolo, our driver, and we swapped stories in his broken English and our even worse Italian about his trip to the U.S. and our experiences in Italy.
We're already talking about our next trip to Germany? Las Vegas? Maine? (Mom and Ron, hope you guys are still in one piece when we get home), and where we want to take the kids - D.C., Montana, maybe Puerto Rico again? I (Jesse) think that our next trip won't involve a cruise - it's definitely a better experience to live in a place for a few days than to be herded onto buses with thousands of other tourists for the afternoon. We're now about an hour away from landing - we're just about to fly over Charleston. Looking back on the trip, this is a memory that we will both enjoy for the rest of our lives.