Rome, May 2019

By Henry Doenlen

After 3 years of small airplane flying adventures, Liz and I were ready for a vacation where we did not leave the ground. So instead of flying all over one or two countries, we decided to explore one city, Rome, the Eternal City.  Preparation was a lot easer.  Choose a week off, book the flights, arrange an air B&B, and get a ticket to see Pope Frances.

This web page is a combination blog and photo album. Almost all of the photos are clickable and hyperlink to a larger image. Photo descriptions are under the photos of the day, listed by row number and position (left, middle, right).

5/18/19: Overnight flight…

Our American Airline flight left Charlotte and arrived in Rome pretty much on time the next morning.  Our Air B&B host arranged for a pick up at the airport. We arrived at our Air B&B and met our hosts, but were told they were not ready for us as they were fixing the shower in the apartment. They told us were we could go to find lunch, and so we began our exploration of Rome.


5/18/19: Arrival Day


We left our Air B&B and walked though the narrow streets (row 1 left) to the Piazza Farnese, which was an open air food market. We bought pizza slices for lunch from the Forno Campo de' Fiori. The pizza slices were served cold and wrapped in paper.  We explored the market, looking at the variety of past, fruits, vegetables and cheeses.  There was one table selling wines and liquors (row 1 center).  We walked back to the Air B&B, but they were still working on the shower.  We left the Air B&B, heading for the Parthenon. We passed the Largo Argentina (row 1 right), which was an excavation of 4 temples. This excavation was also a feral cat sanctuary. Several cats were seen laying in the sun.


We continued walking North, passed the Elephant obelisk, and saw the round dome of the Pantheon (row 2 left). The Pantheon was a roman temple (row 2 center) dedicated to all the gods (one-stop worshiping?), but later turned into a Christian Church consecrated to St. Mary and the Martyrs (row 2 right).  In front of the Pantheon was the fanciful Fontana del Pantheon (row 3 left). We walked up the street and found the Church of St. Louis of the French (row 3 center & right).   We then walked back to the fountain, and ate dinner at Napoletano's Pantheon.  We walked back to the Elephant obelisk (row 4 left) and went inside the Basilica Maria Sopra Minerva (row 4 center & right). Liz wanted to walk to the Trevi Fountain (row 5 left), which was surrounded by a crowd of people. Across the street was the Chruch of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio (row 5 center & right) and we went in. We then decided to walk to the Spanish Steps.  We walked to the Palazzo del Quirinale (row 6) which had steps, but this was one of the residences of the Italian President.  We then walked back to the Air B&B.  The step counter on the cell phone showed we walked 5 miles on our first day.


Château d'amour in Saumur Château de Chenonceau on the Cher River
Château de Chambord

5/19/19: The Vatican 

We woke early to make the 8 am mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. This is one of the four Papal Major Basilicas. After a 20 minute walk, we found ourselves at a closed entrance, and had to walk around the block to get to the main entrance. The guards did not allow metal water bottles, and Liz had to throw her's out. Once inside the Piazza San Pietro (row 1 left), we found the short line for folks going to mass, and made our way inside the Basilica of St. Peter. We walked all the way back to the Chapel of the Chair (row 1 center) where we observed mass in Italian. After mass, we looked around (row 1 right, row 2 left), and took the elevator up to the dome.  We did not walk the narrow steps to the top of the dome, but went out on the terrace (row 2 center).  After leaving the Vatican, we stopped for coffee and Liz found a place where photographers were taking pictures of the dome's reflection in the puddle.  We walked up the street and came to the Castel Sant'Angelo (row 3 left). We decide right there to pay the fee and walk insides. We saw the usual items found in castles, including amour, cannons, and medieval weapons. From the balcony, we had a very nice view of Rome (row 3 center & right, photo at top of this web page). On the walk back to our Air B&B, we saw a random church, Santa Maria in Vallicella (row 4) We passed through the Piazza Farnese. At the liquor table, a man, who appeared to be Pakistani gave samples, and we bought a bottle of Lemon Cello and Almond Cream.


Later that afternoon, we crossed the bridge over the River Tiber into Trastevere.  We visited the church of Saint Cecilia in Trastevere (row 5) and the Basilica Our Lady in Trastevere (row 6, row 7 left).  We ate dinner at La Botticella (row 7 center) where I had the best lasagna of my life.  We walked back over the River Tiber (row 7 right). Our cell phone step counter showed that we walked 11 miles that day. (row 5 left attribution: User: Gobbler at wikivoyage shared [CC BY-SA 3.0 (])



5/20/19: The Colosseum

We woke up early and made the 30 minute walk to the Oppio Cafe to meet our Context Tour guide. On the way, we passed by the Altare della Patria (row 1 left) and excavation of the Forum of Augustus (row 1 center).  As we arrived, we viewed the Arch of Constantine (row 1 right) and the outside of the Colosseum (row 2 left & center). We met our guide and tour group and made our way inside the Colosseum. Climbing steep stairs, we way displays of artifacts on the second level (row 2 right). Then, into the arena (row 3) where the structure under the stage was visible. After photos of the Colosseum were take, we left the structure and crossed the street to enter Palatine Hill (row 4 left & center). This was the location of the grand residence of Emperor Nero, Unfortunately, There were excavations of walls, which we were told were originally covered with marble. I think the marble ended up in the basilicas and churches. Over the hill, we came to the Roman Forum (row 4 right). While it continued to rain, we walked thought the forum.


Leaving the forum, Liz and I decided it was time to obtain a 7 day bus pass. Our Context tour guide told us we could get it at some of the subway stations. We walked in the rain up Via Cavour until we reached the Cavour Metro station. We hoped to find a person in a windowed booth who spoke English and could sell us the bus tickets. No such luck.  We found kiosk machines where people were buying tickets. We tried one machine, but it didn't work. The adjacent machine took our Euros and give us the 7-day tickets.  They were 24 euro each, but we figured we would be able to use it enough to make it worth it. We used it first on the Metro to get to the Termini Station, and from there Google Maps found a bus to get us near our Air B&B.  We asked We had planned a Taste of Rome Sunset Bike Tour involving riding around and eating street food, but the forecast showed a strong possibility of rain. We discussed this through several texts, and the hosts decided it would be best to cancel and refund our money. So instead, we took a long bus ride to visit the Basilica of St Pauls Ouside the Walls (row 5), the second of the four Papal Major Basilicas.  Then, we returned to Trastevere for dinner at a restaurant which reminded me of an American pizzeria.  Our cell phones showed that we walked 11 miles that day.


5/21/19: Galleria Borghese & Pasta Making

We again woke up early to get to the Galleria Borghese (row 1 left), as we had tickets to view the museum from 9:00 am to 11:00 am.  We were glad to have the bus pass, as it would have been a 42 minute walk. We had an English speaking guide who talked about the sculptures of Bernini and others along with numerous paintings. Unfortunately, there was a visiting art collection of metal sheets with patterns of holes in them which resulted in photography inside the museum to be forbidden.  After the museum, we made our way to the Basilica St. Mary Major (row 1 center & right, row 2), the third of the four Papal Major Basilicas. We then found lunch in a pizzeria. It seems that pizza is served at room temperature, which I thought was a disadvantage. After lunch, we took the bus to the Basilica Holy Cross in Jerusalem, but we could not find a way in. We took a long walk around the block looking for another entrance, which we did not find. We went into an adjacent hotel and found that the church was closed until later in the afternoon. We did not have enough time to wait for this and we walked to the metro station and took the metro to the Spagna Metro stop.  This let us out by the Barcaccia Fountain (row 3 left) and the Spanish Steps (row 3 center & right) which we walked up.  We walked several blocks to the Bishops’ Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican to get tickets and a briefing about our Papa audience the next day.  As we walked back, we checked out a random church, the Church San Marcello al Corso (row 4).

That evening, we attended a Pasta Making Class through Walks of Italy.  After meeting at the Piazza Farnese, we walked a few blocks and up 5 flights of steps to the uppermost apartment.  Our class was held another flight higher on rooftop. The class started with a glass of wine, after which the two cooking instructors had us moisten our flour with egg and kneed the dough. Once kneaded to our instructor's satisfaction, we used a machine to flatten the dough, then cut out little raviolis. The instructors took them aside to cook them in boiling water. Another small box with piano wire was used to cut the flattened dough into fettuccini strips, which also were cooked.  Then the group ate, drank wine, and talked, enjoying each other's company and the food. Kneeing egg into the dough made the fettuccini on a whole new level. 


5/22/19:  The Pope's Blessing

We arrived early at St. Peter's Square for the mass audience with the Pope Frances. We shared our time with the pope with several thousand other people. After the Pope arrived, the sat in a chair on the back of the pope-mobile and was driven around pathways through the crowd (row 1 left).  People would hold up their babies for the Pope to kiss. Liz and I never got to meet Pope Frances personally. We had heard that the Pope personally talked to newlyweds, but Liz didn't bring her bridal veil. I did get a close picture of the pope has he drove by (row 1 center). After listening to about 30 minutes of greetings to the pope by several groups and a mini sermon from the pope in Italian, we got the Pope's blessing (row 1 right).


We then took public transportation to the Basilica St John Lateran, which was the fourth of the Major Papal Basilicas (row 2). I found this to be the most impressive church outside of St. Peters. We then took the tram to the Basilica San Clemente, but it was closed for lunch. We found something to eat and we ate it in the Park Tombs of Via Latina with the Colessuem in the background (row 3 left).   We returned to the Basilica San Clemente (row 3 center & right). Photographs were not allowed inside, but this 12th century church was the least ornate of all the churches we saw in Rome. We paid the fee to explore the excavations, and walked one level down to find ourselves inside a 4th century church.  Another level down was 2nd-century pagan temple and a 1st-century Roman house with a subterranean river running under it.


We took the tram back to the Basilica St John Lateran and walked to an adjacent building containing the Scala Sancta, which, according to tradition are the steps leading up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Jesus Christ stepped on his way to trial. They were brought to Rome by St. Helena in the fourth century. Photography was not permitted. There were many pilgrims slowly walking up the Holy Stairs on their knees. Liz and I walked up one of the 3 replica stairs. We then took the tram to the Basilica Holy Cross in Jerusalem (row 4 left & center). Photographs were not allowed inside the Chapel of Relics, but we were able to view the fragments of the cross, one of the nails used in the crucifixion, two of the thorns in the crown of thorns, and the  Titulus Crucis- the wooden tablet of the Cross. We then returned back to our Air B&B and went to dinner at the Sora Margaurite (row 4 right).


5/23/19: Positano & Pompay

We took an early bus ride to the Piazza della Repubblica to meet our 7:00 am Walks of Italy Pompeii Tour with Amalfi Coast Drive. From there, we rode a small tour bus for 2 1/2 hours over the Italian highway to Naples, then on a winding road along the beautiful Amalfi  We passed by Serrento (row 1 left) and then onward to the costal town of Positano (row 1 center & right). Positano was very much a vertical town, and Liz and I walked down to the Mediterranean before the found a nice restaurant to eat lunch. We then went shopping, and found a ceramic bowl with the Positano lemon themes. Then back onto the tour bus which took us to Pompey.  Pompay was an amazing excavation of a living city buried under volcanic lava and ash (row 2 & 3). We walked along the streets, seeing homes, stores, temples, baths, and even a brothel. Before leaving, Liz bought a hugh edible Lemon. We rode back to Rome, and our guide recommended getting dinner at the Mercato Centrale in the Termini Station. This was a fabulous food court, we both found good dinners to eat. 


5/24/19: The Catacombs

Our Air B&B was in the Jewish Ghetto section of Rome, so we decided to tour the nearby Synagogue and museum (row 1).  We then took the long bus ride to the Apian Way where the Catacombs of St Callixtus was located (row 2 left). A modern day monk took us down into the catacombs and gave us a tour, but photographs were now permitted. We then looked at the nearby Church St Sebastian (row 2 center & right). By this time, it was late afternoon, and we took the bus and metro back to the Termini Station where we could get a quick dinner in the Mercato Centrale. The Metro took use back to the Vatican, where we met our Context Tour guide for our Vatican museum evening tour.  After a quick line, we were inside the museum (row 3 left) and the guide gave us an explanation of what to look for in the Sistine Chapel. We walked down corridors of countless objects of art (row 3 center), and through rooms painted by Raphael (row 3 right).  Inside in Sistine Chapel, talking and photography were not allowed.  We stood staring at Michelangelo's paintings on the rounded ceiling above.  We walked back to the Air B&B, looking for lighted fountains.  We passed by the Barcaccia Fountain at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain (row 4 left), the Turtle Fountain (row 4 center), and the Fontana Cairoli (row 4 right).


5/25/19: The 2- Capitoline Museum

On our walk to the Capitoline Museum, we stopped by the Church of St Maria in Monticelli (row 1). It was a 15 minute walk to the Capitoline Museum (row 2 left). In the courtyard we found the large statues of Emperor Constantine (row 2 center & right). There were three floors of numerous art objects to explore. We found the famous sculptures of the Boy with Thorn (row 3 left), the Capitoline Wolf (row 3 center), and The Lion Attacking a Horse (row 3 right). On the walk back, we stopped by the church of Santa Maria in Portico in Campitelli (row 4). We went back to the Basilica Maria Sopra Minerva for 4 pm mass in Italian. Then, we took the tram back to Traverse and found a restaurant for our last dinner in Rome.


5/26/19: Return home


Our Air B&B hosts arranged for transportation back to the Rome–Fiumicino International Airport. Our international flight was delayed by two hours because an empty container left in the aircraft had to be taken off. The flight back to Charlotte was uneventful, and made up some of the time. We got through United States customs quickly with Trusted Traveler, but Liz was delayed by TCA as she had been randomly chosen for the examine everything check.  We managed to get to our flight back to Pensacola in time.  We were thankful that we were safe and healthy during the entire trip.