Tag Archives: rome

Off to Rome & the Mediterranean! (2011 Trip)

On Thursday, August 25th we left early in the morning from LAX.  We took a Delta flight to Atlanta, but when we arrived it took us a while to get off the plane. Ended up having to haul ass from terminal T all the way to terminal E. Had just enough time to get to our gate and fit in a bathroom break. We were some of the last to get in and a woman had sat in our seats hoping to sit next to her hot boyfriend and swap seats with one of us. Sorry lady. We paid the extra to have Economy Plus and sit together for the next 10 hours.

Flying to Rome – Aug 25, 2011

It ended up being a great flight but very hard to fall asleep. So at 8:30am when we got to Fiumicino, we were still kinda exhausted. Customs was non existent and the guy humored us when he stamped our passport. We easily found the route to the Leonardo Express train that takes us into Rome. Got our tickets and ran to one of the cars very far down the track as it was already loading when we got there. Me and my four bags managed to get in the train but it was hard. I hate all those bags.

The train into Rome was surprisingly fast and before we knew it we were at Roma Termini, the main train station in Rome. After we got out of the train, I guided us incorrectly out the station towards the south side of the train station. Oops. It was fucking hot and humid and we ended up walking all the way around the station’s west end to get to the north side where fortunately our hotel was nearby, the Best Western Hotel Royal Santina. Luckily we were able to check in at around 10:30 and we got in, showered and changed clothes and headed off to our first destination, the Colosseum. We ended up walking to Termini as I knew that we could get our Roma Passes there at a tabacchi shop. Sure enough, that was easy.

August 26, 2011 – Welcome to Roma!

Arrival in Rome and Walking to Colosseum

We then schlepped down the streets of Rome from the hotel to the Colosseum, and it was fucking hot. Hot. I took us on a left a bit too early up some steps and to a bridge over the road we should have been on. So as we could see the Colosseum, we couldn’t get to it. Finally found some stairs down where we could cross the street to it.  As we were looking around the outside of the Colosseum for the entrance, one of those enterprising folks who sell tours caught us and asked if we wanted a tour. I was initially hesitant but the price didn’t suck.. So we got a guided tour of the Colosseum with not that great of a guide. Whatever it was still cool although it was ungodly hot.

Touring the Colosseum

After the 45 minute tour was over we had some time to walk around ourselves so we did and I took plenty of pictures. After 20 minutes of freedom we then met up for the second part which was a guided tour of the Forum and the Palatine Hill. We got a great female tour guide who was much more compelling. Very good tour of the Palatine Hill area and lots of great history stories, including the she-wolf/prostitute who raised the abandoned Remus and Romulus. The ruins of the palace are quite derelict but you can imagine what they must have looked like in their prime. Also got some invaluable advice during this tour applicable for the rest of the tour: you can freely drink the water coming out from the many fountains in Rome. Thank god as it was hot and water is not cheap in this world. So if you have a bottle you can constantly fill it up for free. Sweet.

The Forum and Palatine Hill

After the tour we wandered through the Forum a bit until we veered north out of the Forum area and found a place to eat a block or so from there, not the best but we were hungry. We then walked back to the hotel, uphill and in the heat, and when we got back, we passed t promptly for our first siesta. Ugh. Many hours later, we got up for dinner, which we dressed a little up for. It was around the hotel area and it was great, plus there were very hot waiters. We ate a lot but it was good. After that we went back to our hotel and passed out.

First night in Rome

2011 Mediterranean Trip Pics Index

Day 2 in Rome (2011 Trip)

August 27, 2011 – The Vatican, Trastevere, and Nighttime Walks!

On our first full day in Rome, which was Saturday, we got up early as I had booked us on a private tour of the Vatican museums and St Peters. This was also the first time we ended up using our Roma Pass for the subway there. That was quite easy especially as I had read before that with the Roma pass you just hold it over the yellow sensor, which isn’t at all apparent. So we got a bit dressed up, wearing our nice pants and a button down shirt as you have to dress respectful for the Vatican, although from what I saw later, that doesn’t to seem to be enforced too heavily. I’m guessing that it comes down to really just not wearing a g-string or something!We took the subway though to the Ottaviano stop, which was a stop too early although it didn’t really matter.

After getting our bearings thanks to the iPhone’s GPS, we got to where we needed to go that early morning. Our meeting point was at the bottom of the stairs across from the entrance to the Vatican Museums with the Dark Rome tour guides. We met at 7:55 to get in early and the group was guaranteed not to be more than 10 people, with us it ended up being a group of only 5. Two of us, another gay couple but older, and a seeming lesbian. Awesome group actually. And the tour guide, a beautiful Italian woman, made six. The tour was amazing and lasted about 3 hours, with our guide giving us fantastic explanations about all the rooms and galleries, including the many Vatican museum chambers such as Raphael, the navigation corridor, the courtyards, but of course it all led to the Sistine Chapel. Still so breathtaking, but just very crowded. You can’t take your own pictures, apparently because the Japanese funded the restoration and also own the copyright?  Flashes hurt the paint too, and it’s dark in there anyway. Looking at official reproductions of it later will be better than any picture you take yourself.

After the Sistine Chapel you then head into St Peters which is never disappointing. It’s enormous. We didn’t climb the steps up the cupola as I think we both were a little hot, as it was very hot still in the city and we were wearing pants. Also, I had forgotten to bring a second camera battery and the one in my camera was nearly spent from yesterday, so I was sparing with my camera, well, kinda, as if I turned the camera on, took a picture quickly, then turned the camera off, it was fine. Still can’t believe I did that. After the tour ended and we said goodbye to our tour mates, the gay couple actually are on the cruise with us, but we haven’t seen them yet and it’s day two of the cruise. Larry and I went to grab lunch north of the Vatican and had a good but early lunch. We were exhausted as it was effing hot so we took the subway back to our hotel so we could change out of the pants. We ended up also just passing out and having a siesta. A few hours later, and we were then ready to head out for the evening.

Touring the Vatican / St. Peters

Larry wanted to eat in Trastevere and I still wanted to see the Circus Maximus so we took the subway south to the Circus Maximus stop. Amazingly enough the Circus Maximus itself is right there and while they haven’t done anything to preserve it, it is still kinda impressive. We walked from there across the river Tiber into Trastevere, a stunningly beautiful section of Rome that is medieval and quaint and picturesque. It’s all cobblestone there too and you just can get lost wandering around its little streets filled with restaurants and merchants and squares. After walking awhile around the town, we found a little place that when we got there was decently crowded but by the time we left was packed. Very charming outdoor seating with the lights above, great food and all for a great price. Larry finally had his flora di zucca friti.

Circus Maximus

Exploring Trastevere

After dinner, it was nighttime and it was time to do Rick Steves’ nighttime walk across Rome. Such a great thing, as he even tells you how to link up from a dinner in Trastevere and start the walk at the Campo di Fiore. It was a beautiful night to do this as at that point it’s dark but the temperature has fallen enough from the heat of the day that it is now perfectly comfortable. It was also a Saturday night so everyone was out and about. I took a ton of pictures from the walk but we ended up going to the Campo di Fiore, the Piazza di Navone (an amazing and huge plaza with lots of performers and vendors), the Pantheon (which at night is dramatic, but when you add an opera singer becomes stunning), Giolitti’s (apparently one of the best gelaterias in Rome – I accidentally got mango and chocolate in mine….chocolate was great but mango was a bit strong), then to Trevi Fountain (amazing to see in person and quite crowded, but Larry and I both tossed coins in the fountain), and finally the Spanish Steps. It was a huge itinerary and well worth it but exhausting. So we got a cab for the ride back to the hotel. If we had made it there faster and by 11, we might have caught the metro, but this way we got to experience a car in Rome, and those guys especially in tourist areas, feel like you are driving on the sidewalks at some points as the road is so narrow and pedestrians and cars alike are sharing the way.

Nighttime Walk

We got back and promptly passed out. It was a long day!

Day 3 in Rome (2011 Trip)

August 28, 2011 – Our Last Day in Roma!

So on our last day we were able to take a little bit of time before heading out so we did just that. After a breakfast at our hotel’s swanky breakfast area with the coffee machine that Larry loved, we went to the metro station at Termini to head towards where Castel sant Angelo is. When we got down to where the platform was, it was mobbed with people though, which was not altogether surprising but still frustrating as it was late Sunday morning. We were glad that we weren’t headed to the Vatican as the last Sunday of the month, it’s free. Of course, that means everybody goes there. So there we are at the subway and the mob of people at the two entryways isn’t moving at all. We also see that you really can’t get out as both escalators were heading down and the staircase was blocked off. There was a blocked off path to the other direction of the platform and it was probably an attempt to keep the traffic flow of pedestrians from interfering with each other. Well, people were now passing through that barrier to just get out of the mob. It was fortunate though as it turned out we were able to walk down the opposite platform to an entryway back to our platform where of course it was completely clear. At that moment the train showed up and were able to walk right in and be in a completely non crowded car. We figure it must have been a tour group or something clogging the entryway but frustrating nonetheless.

We took the subway to the same stop we went to yesterday for the Vatican, but this time, when we got off, along with seemingly all of Rome, instead of following the masses to the Vatican we veered east and away from the crowd. It was almost magical as the streets were pretty much deserted at that point. Larry and I both felt that that area seemed a lot like the Upper West or East Side. I also remembered that the hotel I stayed in ten years ago was in that neighborhood, but I can’t remember exactly where.

We walked down to the castle, the amazing circular fortress that used to be where the pope could go for defenses. It’s also a challenging level for Ezio in Assassin’s Creed! It was fun to get to see the inside for myself finally and the real thing looked a lot like the video game interpretation. Crazy. Great views of St Peters from the upper balconies too. You can see the pictures.

Castel sant Angelo

 

It was warm that day too, but probably not as bad as it was our first day. We walked from the castle along the river to where the Hall of Justice was, then turned inland to retrace some of our steps, in the daylight, of the nighttime walking tour we took yesterday. So we got back to the Piazza Navona in the day, which was a bit more uncomfortable in the heat of the day and not nearly as dramatic as it was during the night. We then headed to the Pantheon again, as when we got there the night before the inside was already closed. The Pantheon is always dramatic but going inside is insane. It’s beautiful and huge. I took some cool pictures of the dramatic beam of light coming from the top hole. After resting there on the pews for a spell, we then headed to find somewhere for lunch. After a few misfires when places we wanted to go were closed, we found a place where we sat outside and had a pizza each and some Peronis. Good times.

Day Walk to the Pantheon

Our satisfying lunch was followed by more walking as we headed past Giolottis again but we did not partake in the gelato this time. We thought at first we would walk to Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps again, but as we headed there I happened to look down the street and notice that huge white building with the immense staircase and giant statue in front of it. I can’t remember what it was but I did remember from last time that right behind it is the Campidoglia which is right at the western end of the ancient Roman ruins. We had taken off about halfway through the Forum our first day so this would let us see the rest of it and also give me a chance to see the ruins from the spot I saw them the first time ten years ago. After walking there and also climbing up the large staircase behind, it was really hot so we rested again. Saw some hot guys. But that is easy in Rome. So many hot guys. After some time though, we continued walking on, checking out the sights but not getting back in the Forum as you had to pay again and our Roma pass was used up. We got back to the street and walked back to the Colosseum and it’s Metro stop, which we took back to Termini.

Campidoglia and the Forum

At the train station we figured out what tickets we needed to buy to get to the cruise port. Then we headed back to the hotel, where Larry took a siesta and I played a ton of Game Dev Story on my iPad while also looking at our pics. When Larry got up, neither of us really wanted to go back to Trastevere at that point although that’s what we had initially planned. Something closer sounded better so we found Babbos about a few blocks away and had a fantastic dinner nearby. Headed back to the room and got ready for the next phase of the journey, which was to head to the port for our cruise ship fun!

2011 Mediterranean Trip Pics Index

Day 1 on Equinox / Leaving Civitivecchia (2011 Trip)

Leaving Civitivecchia – Aug 29, 2011

Arrivederci, Roma!

After a fantastic few days in beautiful Rome, we wrapped up our Roman Holiday there in order to begin the true vacation on the Celebrity Equinox!  First things first, we had to get re-packed and ready for a bit of a hustle, as instead of doing the sane thing and calling a cab to take us to the harbor city of Civitivecchia, which happens to be about 45 minutes or so away by road from Rome, I thought an adventure by train was in order.   I had read plenty online about how to do it and frankly, it was cheaper, and quite easy.  But that “easy” part?  That’s if you’re traveling light.  We were far from traveling light, as not only had we packed for both a 3-day Roman vacation, but also an 11-night cruise, including formalwear.  So yeah, lots of bags.

After checking out of the great Best Western Hotel Royal Santina, it was time to schlep ourselves over to the nearby Roma Termini.  Frankly, the easiest part about this was that our hotel was very near to the train station.  But that was it.  Because once we figured out the right tickets to buy, we had not a  clue which track was the right one.  None of the ones we were near were right.  Only after getting a bit of help at the info booth did we discover that the train track we needed was pretty much as far away as you could get from where we were.  So more schlepping of luggage.  We managed to get there with plenty of time and actually had a nice comfortable place to sit and put our luggage, which was a relief.  We were able to spend that time cooling down and drinking water, as I knew that our death marches weren’t over for the day yet.

The train ride from Rome to Civitivecchia is gorgeous.  After getting an interesting view of Rome from the tracks, you then ride through beautiful farmland and countryside until finally you end up on a traintrack along the Italian coast.  Ah-MAH-zing.  All the nonsense was worth it at that point, even if we were drenched in sweat.  This train wasn’t ending in Civitivecchia though and you had to be paying attention to the stops, as you could easily end up missing it.  Of course, we didn’t, as I am an amazing navigator.  We got off the train fairly easily, but then you’re now at a train station in the town of Civitivecchia but the cruise port is still a mile away.  Ugh.  And as I read about on the internet, there really isn’t a taxi scene there.  So you walk.  And walk we did.  Did I mention it was effing humid and hot at this point too?  I didn’t?  It was effing humid and hot.  Larry & I continued the schlep of our luggage along the coast, walking along the beautiful coast and the quaint little shops and restaurants, surely disturbing or amusing the patrons.  Whatevs.   I knew where we were going, at least I hoped I did.

Train Ride to the Coast

Fortunately, I did know where I was going and we made it to the Castel Columbus (or something), where the massive cruise port is.  At this point, things get a bit easier for you, as you just have to wait for the frequent shuttle buses for your particular cruise line (Celebrity, for us), load up your luggage, and then get driven to the embarkation area.  There was a bit of confusion by most of the people waiting at the shuttle bus station though, as it seemed they were all first-timers too.  Two buses came by that weren’t for us but finally a big Celebrity bus came and my sense of relief started to finally come.  It was even air-conditioned.  Praise the gods!

The embarkation terminal was a relief as well, as we could finally drop off our fucking luggage to a porter.  At that point, we just had our carry-on bag with our IDs and such and it was time to check-in for the cruise.  This took a bit of time but who cared at that point, as the ginormous Equinox was right there awaiting us, as were the many drinks we were about to consume!  The staff ends up taking possession of your passport, with your Celebrity SeaPass effectively becoming your ticket in and out of each of the countries.  It’s also your drink card.  That fucking card is magic.  After completing check-in, we boarded the Equinox and truly, finally, the next phase of our vacation was at hand….we were on a muthafuckin’ SHIP!   Upon arrival, you’re even handed a glass of champagne.  FINALLY.

Arrival at the Cruise Terminal at Civitivecchia

A steward then grabs you and takes you to your room – we ended up on the 11th floor (yes, 11th – there are actually 16 stories to this bad boy, I believe) on the Penthouse Deck in room 1649, which was situated on the port (left) side of the ship near the back.  We booked Concierge Class which means you pay for a bit more pampering as well as nicer rooms.  Our room was amazing.  The balcony….oh, the balcony.  It’s so wonderful to sit on a balcony while looking out over the water.  It was spacious too, so you could recline a bit while sipping on a drink.  Another perk of Concierge Class when leaving is a chilled bottle of champagne waiting in your room – yeah, we finished that bad boy up.  🙂  After finally stopping the geek-out of how cool our room was, Larry & I both called our families to let them know we were onboard and ready to sail.  We then started our initial exploration of the ship, ending up first on the pool deck area and grabbing some food at the grill as we were STARVING.  The drinking began in earnest at that point too.  We had a Classic Drinks Package, meaning we could drink as much as we wanted but certain higher-level brands of alcohol were off limits.  It didn’t really impact us that much for the cruise, honestly.  I think though (speaking in 2012 and about to go another cruise in May 2013), we’re ready to go to Premium level. It’s such a nice thing to not worry about another bill at the end and having to worry about it.  Plus, if you love alcohol?  Yay!

Exploring the Equinox

There was a very cool party atmosphere around the pool area as the Equinox began to actually leave the port, and by that point, I was in heaven.  It really was such a great start to the vacation, especially after the hectic activities getting there.  Totally worth it all, and as you will see in the other pages to follow, lots of exciting destinations and experiences awaited us!

2011 Mediterranean Trip Pics Index