Tuesday, July 16, 2013
The flight from Toronto came in over France, gave us some spectacular views of the Alps and northern Italy and then headed down the coast to Rome landing at 10.15 am. The international arrivals area of terminal three was somewhat outdated and certainly seems ready for a refreshing facelift. We grabbed our bags and went to try and find our driver. He was ready and waiting and before long we were making our way into the city centre. We checked in to the Fortyseven Hotel and were very impressed with our room and the hotel. The room was bright, modern and quite big by European standards. The location was excellent. A quiet part of town near the Tiber River and within easy walking distance to several major Ancient Roman sites. We will definitely stay here again on our next trip to Rome.

We freshened up from our long flight and then headed up to the rooftop restaurant for lunch. A quick helping of bruschetta followed by a delicious mushroom fettucine with truffles and it was time to go exploring. We walked past the Circus Maximus on our way to the Roman Forum and the Colisseum. While the chariot track is mainly grass today, you can certainly imagine how it must have looked at the height of the Roman Empire. Next stop was the Roman Forum, the centre of city life in Ancient Rome. It's incredible how well preserved the many structures are and how advanced the Roman architecture was over two thousand years ago. 

Anchoring one end of the Forum is the Colisseum - one of Rome's tourist magnets. The ticket line up was ridiculously long, but we managed to bypass the line as our Forum tickets also included our entrance to the Colisseum. The first thing that strikes you about the Colisseum is the size of it. It is massive and must have been quite the venue with over 50,000 Romans watching the action at the centre of the arena. It was also surprising to see that there is no floor in the centre. Instead, the ground has given way to reveal an intricate labyrinth of tunnels and rooms where the "entertainment" - man and beast - was kept prior to entering the arena.

Following our visit to the Colisseum, we walked through the streets of Ancient Rome to take a look at the Pantheon, one of the best preserved buildings from the Roman Empire. Again, the architectural wonder of this building is amazing with its huge columns outside and massive dome ceiling. We visited the grave of Raphael inside the Pantheon and were glad to take a seat for a while to recover from the heat of the day. We decided we should look for a place for a lunch snack and found a wonderful side street cafe with the most delicious bruschetta. A couple of ice cold Cokes and some sparkling water was also much appreciated.

Recharged from the food and drink, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain but on the way we stopped to try the best gelato we have ever had. A blend of hazelnut and tiramisu gelato made its way into one container while vanilla gelato provided a great filling for a cone. After this tasty treat, we came across the Trevi Fountain. Truly the most beautiful fountain we have ever seen. It really is spectacular and one of the most impressive sights we saw while visiting Rome. 

Next up was a walk to the Spanish Steps, a magnificent staircase leading down from a church at the top of a hill. While the staircase is worth a visit, it is a popular meeting place and very crowded. There was a metro stop nearby, so we decided to take the subway train to the Vatican. Another amazing stop on our day tour of Rome. St. Peter's Square with its surrounding white columns is vast and imposing providing an incredible setting for St. Peter's Basilica and the papal balcony. It was early evening and the crowds had gone for the day, making our visit to the Vatican peaceful and memorable. 

We took the subway back to our hotel and were amazed at how much graffiti there was both inside and outside the train. It seems that the graffiti brigade takes great pride in spoiling every building, wall, window and fence with some useless symbol, initials or slogan. Thankfully, they have not yet painted the historical artifacts. Before arriving at our hotel, we grabbed some snacks from a nearby cafe and called it a day. We both commented that Rome is a fantastic city and in many respects, we would recommend it over Paris.
Monday, July 15, 2013
With the boys set to head off to summer camp for two weeks, it was time for us to get our trip to Italy started. We left for the Vancouver airport at 7.30 am and checked in for our flight to Rome via Toronto. The first leg of the trip seemed to go by quickly and before long, we were boarding the 7.45 pm Air Canada flight to Rome. While one of us took the opportunity to catch up on some work, the other enjoyed a few episodes of Black Adder accompanied by a fine malbec from Argentina. After a decent meal, it was time to get some sleep.