Barry & Phyllis

Rome, November 1998

Modified, January 6, 2003
Phyllis found a great "package" deal on a 5-day Rome vacation. For $599 per person, we got round-trip air fare (on Alitalia), 5 nights in a Rome hotel, including continental breakfast, and transfers between hotel and airport. Sure, sure, Alitalia stands for "Always Late In Takeoffs And Late In Arrivals," but we did just fine. The flight was non-stop and we had no complaints.
November is one of the rainiest months in Rome (guess why the price was so good). But a rainy day in Rome is worth several days in Long Island. Actually, we had as much sunshine as rain.

That's Phyllis standing in Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter's Square) in the Vatican. St. Peter's Basilica in the background was covered with scaffolding. They were preparing for a huge millenium celebration. It's prettier without the scaffolding, but one takes what one gets. We also visited the Vatican Museum including the Sistene Chapel (a little more on that later).
We were nervous about the hotel. What could we expect for that price? It turned out we had nothing to worry about. The hotel was great - not a fancy place- but we had a clean, comfortable room with a huge bathroom and large marble shower. The continental breakfast was excellent - fresh rolls & croissants, cold cereals, fruit, yougurt and coffee - even capuccino if you wanted it (Phyllis wanted it). The hotel staff was friendly and helpful.
The location was excellent. It was about a 2 minute walk to the Vatican and around the corner from the Via Cola Rienzo, a wonderful shopping area with lots of fancy stores. We walked all over Rome from our hotel.

Imagine central Rome as a rectangle. The hotel is in the northwest corner and the Colosseum is in the southeast corner. In the northeast corner you find Piazza di Popolo (where there's a famous statue of Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome), and in the southwest corner you find the area known as Trastevere (which translates to "across the Tiber").

We recommend the Olympic hotel and would stay there again.

One of our favorite spots in Rome is the Piazza Navonna (left and below) . It's much prettier in the sunlight, and when the weather's good, you can eat at one of the outdoor cafes or restaurants. Ristorante Tre Scalini is where Tartufo was invented (they claim). When it's not raining, the piazza is filled with artists and merchants selling their wares, both day and night.


Castel Sant'Angelo is a short walk from the Olympic Hotel and is situated on the Tiber River. That's Phyllis posing in the picture above (take my word for it, I took the picture).  Originally built as a tomb around 130 AD, it later became a military forterss and refuge for popes in times of trouble.  For you opera fans, the heroine jumps from the ramparts on Castel Sant'Angelo in the last act of Puccini's Tosca.


Our hotel was on the same side of the river as the fortress and we frequently used the Ponte Sant'Angelo (the bridge shown above) to get to the "central" Rome areas.


You guessed it. Ebbet's Field during the demolition, after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. They moved it, stone-by-stone to the southeast corner of central Rome to make way for the apartment houses in Brooklyn.

This was about the furthest (farthest?) distance we walked from the hotel, some 2 to 2 & 1/2 miles from the Olympic. Not a bad walk at all, especially considering that we were walking through the heart of Rome.

Those little blips of red in the lower left corner of the picture above are some guys dressed in old Roman garb putting on a little show for the tourists. Here they are doing their thing in the picture below. They were actually pretty funny, even getting some tourists involved

While near the Colosseum, uh, Ebbet's Field, we ran into some gypsies. Before they got close enough to empty our pockets, Phyllis, in her best Italian (not) shouted, "Avanti," which means, "Come in." What she should have said is, "Vattene" (vah'-ten-ay), which is the familiar (and therefore insulting) way of saying "Scram!" It worked very well when I said it.
Down the street (south, I think) from the Colosseum (see it peeking out on the left side of the picture below?), is a restaurant where we had lunch. Strangely, the tourists don't even walk this far but settle for the pizzerias, etc. located directly opposite the Colosseum.

Phyllis found this place in one of her tour books. It was busy, with good food, service and atmosphere. We had a nice relaxing lunch before continuing our trek of the day.

Hard to tell, but that's me in front of the umbrellas.


The Vatican Museum contains many long corridors with murals and ceilings that must be seen to be believed. Words cannot adequately describe what the eyes see. So instead of words, I give you some pictures with either captions or perhaps brief explanations if needed.


Two Murals in Stanze di Raffaello (The Rafael Room)


Inside the Sistene Chapel, a section of the ceiling (left) and "The Last Judgement" (far right), both by Michelangelo.


Here's some assorted pictures around Rome.

On the left, Phyllis on the roof of the Atlante Star Hotel with St. Peter's in the background. Yup, it was raining. We had just finished "lunch" in their rooftop restaurant. The view was great. Unfortunately, they really weren't serving meals at that hour (around 3:00PM), so we settled for a bottle of nice red wine and a dish of bar favors.

On the right, that's the Vecchia Roma (Old Rome) restaurant where we had a very nice dinner (on 11 27 '98 according to the camera). It's located near the Piazza Venezia if you happen to be in the neighborhood. The next day, we had to go back to retrieve Phyllis' belt (cintura) from her coat.

Phyllis actually almost got me into this picture.

That's the "Turtle Fountain" on the left. I don't know how Phyllis finds these things. She dragged me down some little narrow streets and passageways and presto, one of them opened up into this little square, Piazza Mattei, with a few shops and this lovely fountain dating from the Renaissance (1581). Actually, for those of you who are as fussy as I am, Fontana delle Tartaruhge actually means "Fountain of the Tortoises." If you look closely, you'll see that there are figures helping the tortoises into the basin at the top. By the way, the Frommer's guide spelled it wrong! They left out the second "t" in Tartaruhge.


Just a short stroll south of the Piazza Mattei (with the Turtle Fountain) and a little west of the Teatro di Marcello is Rome's only synagogue located in the old Jewish Ghetto. The figure at the bottom of the left photo is a policeman armed with an assault rifle. There are several stationed around the building. They have been guarding it for years. The synagogue is actively used and we saw a little bit of a Saturday service. It is beautiful inside. The services are orthodox; women seated upstairs and men downstairs. Too bad about the need for armed guards.


On the left is what is probably our favorite restaurant in Rome. Piperno is in the Jewish Ghetto and isn't easy to find. It's on the Via Monte dei Cenci (I think that may mean "Mountain of Rags" - if you know better, please e-mail me with the translation).

The speciality of the house is deep-fried artichoke, "carciofi alla giudia" (artichokes, Jewish style). My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Piperno is worth another picture...

That's a bottle of Travaglini "Gattinara" on the table. It comes in a square sort of bottle with an offset neck. I love it. In case you want to try it (it's available in the U.S.), I think I like the '93 better than the '94. The reviews aren't great, but it's my kind of wine.

Update:  I doubt if you can find any Travaglini "Gattinara" that old.  I bought a bottle of the '98 in December of 2002.  It may not win any prizes, but I still like it.


Here's Trastevere (Tras-tev'-e-ray), that southwest corner of central Rome mentioned earlier. November 28th was a very long day for us and we spent the latter part of the afternoon here. That's Piazza Santa Maria on the left. We relaxed over a Punt e Mes (a very good tasting sweet vermouth, usually served on the rocks with a slice of orange) under those umbrellas.


Here's one more view of Piazza Santa Maria on the right. One of the Sabatini restaurants (there are two in Trastevere) is on the extreme right. The place with the umbrellas, where we had the drink is on the left outside the picture.

The figure at the top of the steps, just to the left of the fountain, is Phyllis. (P.S. I'm in the picture above the Punt e Mes poster, but it's impossible to tell at that magnification).


Later that same day we climbed Gianicolo Hill for a beautiful view of central Rome (above).


The day before we left Rome we visited the Campo dei Fiore market where Phyllis bought enough spices from Mauro's spice stand to last most people about 10 years. That's pretty good for someone who doesn't cook much.

The market is worth a visit, especially since there's a little bar in the Campo dei Fiore that serves Punt e Mes. You can sit outside and sip and watch the shoppers go by (and buy).


Alas, our last few hours in Rome. We had an hour or so in the morning before we had to leave for the airport so we put on our walking shoes and headed down to the Spanish Steps for a last look and picture.

The area around the Spanish Steps is great for shopping and for restaurants. It is a bustling area, both day and night.


Well, that's it. I hope you liked the travelogue. I had to skip some; I had no idea it would consume this much time and space to cover our 5-day trip. We also managed to see the Pantheon, the ancient Forum and the Palatine Hill overlooking it, Teatro Marcellus with its modern apartments built right over the ancient ruins, Circus Maximus, and the Fontana di Trevi, plus little sights and experiences too numerous to write about. Here's one last parting picture of the two of us sticking our hands into the Bocca della Verita (the mouth of truth). Do we look anything like Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday" (even a tiny bit)?
A pui tardi!