A Travellerspoint blog

Italy

The City is Eternal, but the Snow is Just Temporary

A cold and snowy visit to Rome.

snow 3 °C
View Roma for Superbowl 2012 on GregW's travel map.

Usually if a flight pulls away from a gate at anything other than the appointed time, its because you are running late. My flight down to Rome was one of those rare occasions where a plane pulled away early. The pilot and crew had gotten everyone on ahead of schedule so we could get away early. "Hopefully to miss the snow," explained the captain.

Snow? In Rome? That doesn't seem like travel as usual.

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It wasn't. In fact, the snow that fell on Rome was the first snow since 1986. The radio was telling folks to stay off the road, and I saw more than my fair share of cars rattling down the cobblestone streets of central Rome with chains on their tires. It was a unique way to see Rome for the first time.

The snow had finished falling by the time we landed, so the pilots rush to get us off the ground was for nought and the snow didn't impact the flight at all. We were 20 minutes early, though, which would give me an extra 20 minutes of site seeing in Rome. All I had to do was get into town. That's where the snow hit me.

I was already in a poor mood from the wait in line for customs (we arrived just after a couple jumbos from China and India) when I arrived at the train station. The train into central Rome was delayed by 30 minutes, and once it finally got going dropped us only halfway towards central Rome, at Roma Ostiense station instead of at Roma Termini. I had to transfer to the metro, and then try and drag my roller suitcase 20 minutes through the snow covered pavement and cobbled streets of Rome.

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Once settled into my hotel (right by the Trevi fountain), my mood improved. Despite the cold, snow and ice, the site seeing was good when bundled up against the cold. It did provide a few hitchs - for example, the Colosseum was closed due to the snow, there were a few streets shut down due to falling ice and I did slip on the ice, fall and jam my thumb. However, it did provide a unique view of many of the famous Roman sites I had seen many times in photos and on travel TV shows.

Snow in the Coliseum

Snow in the Coliseum


Columns at the Foro Di Caesar

Columns at the Foro Di Caesar


The Forum from Via dei Fori Imperiali

The Forum from Via dei Fori Imperiali


Columns at Largo di Torre Argentina in the snow

Columns at Largo di Torre Argentina in the snow


Largo di Torre Argentina in the snow

Largo di Torre Argentina in the snow


Lights along Via del Corso

Lights along Via del Corso


Spit it out!  Piazza Novona

Spit it out! Piazza Novona


Trident wielder, Fountains at Piazza Novona

Trident wielder, Fountains at Piazza Novona


Quirinale steps

Quirinale steps


Arch and fork in the road showing the snow in Rome

Arch and fork in the road showing the snow in Rome


Spanish Steps, icy and treacherous

Spanish Steps, icy and treacherous


Statues along Via Del Fori Imperiali

Statues along Via Del Fori Imperiali


Tiber River at Night

Tiber River at Night


Trevi Fountain at night

Trevi Fountain at night


Villa Medici, atop the Spanish Steps

Villa Medici, atop the Spanish Steps


Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano

Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano

Santa Francesca Romana o Santa Maria Nuova

Santa Francesca Romana o Santa Maria Nuova

By the end of my four days, much of the snow had melted, however the cold was still there. The snow and cold provided a unique view of Rome, but I would like to see it in a more traditional setting - perhaps with some sun and warmth next time. Definitely will want to come back.

So on my last night, walked around the corner from my hotel to the Trevi fountain. I took off my gloves, shivered a touch from the cold air on my skin, and then dug into my pocket. I pulled out a Euro coin, turned my back to the fountain, and tossed it over my shoulder.

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Rome, I'll be back.

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Posted by GregW 12:58 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Rome and Ruin: Superbowl XLVI in Rome, Italy

SPQR: Superbowl Party Quakes Rome!

snow -3 °C
View Roma for Superbowl 2012 on GregW's travel map.

"I don't think I have heard this much English since I arrived in Rome!"

I overheard that as two people squeezed passed me through the pre-game throng. The place was packed with Americans, mostly students. Despite the fact that it was getting close to midnight on a Sunday night, the crowd continued to grow and showed no signs of easing up.

The reason they were there, and that late on a Sunday, was for Superbowl XLVI, and the place they were gathering was the Scholar's Lounge on the Via del Plebiscito in Rome, Italy.

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The Scholar's Lounge is a multi-room Irish pub with a fine selection of beers on tap and an international menu. It is as one imagines an Irish pub should be - wooden paneling, pictures of Irish poets, books lining book shelves and lots of whiskeys lined up behind the bar along mirrored shelves. It also, in the manner of many pubs nowadays, had multiple TVs to show all the latest sports, including American football.

Superbowl XLVI featured the New York Giants against the New England Patriots, playing in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Patriots were heavily favoured, however the New York Giants had beaten a heavily favoured and previously unbeaten Patriots squad in the Superbowl in 2008.

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As we got closer to midnight, the cramped quarters became even more packed, and I had to fight to find a space just to stand. Soon every inch of floor space was filled with people watching the Superbowl.

Getting to the bar became a chore, having to try and push through the crowds. At half-time, I switched from pints to bottles of Peroni, and ordered three large bottles so I could try and make it through Madonna's half-time show and through the end of the game without having to try and fight my way back to the bar. Luckily I was able to find a small space, which even included a small shelf to put my extra bottles on and provided a decent view of on of the big screens.

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Despite the crowds, the Scholar's Lounge was a great place to watch the game. It had an excellent atmosphere, lots of fans and a beautiful setting. A few less people might have made getting to the bar a bit easier, but one can't complain too much.

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The game came towards the end with the Giants having the ball. Afraid that New York would run down the clock and kick a game-winning field goal, the Patriots allowed the Giants to score a touchdown run, giving the Patriots 57 seconds to try and win the game. However, the Patriots were unable to move down the field, and the Giants ended up winning the game 21 points to 17.

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My own game plan worked out well as well. I was able to run through the entire second half without having to go back to the bar, and as the game ended still had half a bottle of Peroni left.

The crowd thinned out as the lights came on and I finished off the last of my beer. I walked out into the cold Roman night, wandered past the nearby Palazzo Venezia, up the street past the Trevi Fountain and back to my hotel. Another exotic location to watch the most American of events in an Irish pub.

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- - -

For more of my experience of watching Superbowl in international locations, check out my Superbowls Around the World Table of Contents.

Posted by GregW 12:30 Archived in Italy Tagged sports superbowl superbowls_around_the_world Comments (0)

Photos from Florence

The spoils from site-seeing during a Florence, Italy long weekend

sunny 17 °C

Florence is in Italy, and people go there to ... eat Eggs Florentine, and ... err, um, look at Florins. And, see stuff... Ah, I don't know.

I went down to Florence for a long weekend because my Dad was passing through. We had a great weekend catching up, and I did a little bit of sight-seeing on the side. It was all a little last minute (for various reasons), so I did no research into Florence before going, and really can't be bothered now that I am back. So unlike my past blogs where I at least try and impart some knowledge about the place, I am going to skip it this time.

Just look at the pretty pictures.

Dome on Duomo

Dome on Duomo


Duomo Facade and Tower

Duomo Facade and Tower


Duomo at sunset

Duomo at sunset


Close up Statue Duomo Square

Close up Statue Duomo Square


Fancy Italian Cops

Fancy Italian Cops


Opa

Opa


Our Father on Duomo

Our Father on Duomo


Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella


Rooftops of Florence

Rooftops of Florence


Panini and Vino

Panini and Vino


curving Streets of Florence

curving Streets of Florence


Little red fiat, Streets of Florence

Little red fiat, Streets of Florence


Tortured Souls Duomo

Tortured Souls Duomo


What you lookin at?

What you lookin at?


Little yellow birdie, Streets of Florence

Little yellow birdie, Streets of Florence


Cross in Sun

Cross in Sun

Actually, I knew one thing about Florence before going. You could find this guy there... and he is everywhere!

David in Shadow

David in Shadow


David on the wall

David on the wall

Thanks for reading my travel blog photo essay on Florence.

Photo essays - the last refuge of the lazy blogger.

Posted by GregW 06:25 Archived in Italy Tagged photography Comments (1)

Glamour and Gasoline part II: Living in a Dan Brown Novel

San Remo, Italy offers up the medieval warrens of Pigna hill.

sunny 24 °C
View Monaco Grand Prix 2009 on GregW's travel map.

I caught a train in Nice to Menton, where I planned to transfer to my eventual destination, San Remo.

Here is the first point in the trip where not researching a trip more bites me on the behind. I had read on the internet that you could travel between Nice or Monaco and San Remo by changing trains in Menton. I read this on a unofficial Formula One message board in a message that was 3 years old. So I bought a ticket to Menton, and got off the train.

I don’t know if the message was wrong, or in the 3 years since it was posted trains between France and Italy changed their terminus and transfer point, but to get from Nice to San Remo, the place to change trains is in Ventimille. I learned this quickly upon departing at Menton, though not quickly enough to jump back on the train I had just departed that was bound for Ventimille. Instead, I had to wait 20 minutes to catch the next train another 2 stations down the line. While waiting, I took a photo of the pretty station.

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After a seamless transfer in Ventimille, I arrived in San Remo. San Remo train station is buried inside a mountain. To get from the tracks to the main station, you have to walk through a long tunnel for what feels like a dog’s age. Both being buried so deep underground and with its modern architecture, it feels more like a fall-out shelter or the lair of some master-mind criminal in a James Bond film than a train station.

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One bit of research I had done before departing for Italy was to use Google Maps to get directions from the San Remo Train Station, even using the “walking” feature to map out the route for me. It was only 2 kilometres, not far to walk. What Google Maps doesn’t do, though, is figure out if the route they are giving you involves going up and down and up and down numerous hills.

Sweating profusely from the exertion of work out, I arrived at my hotel. Villa Maria, Mary’s Place. My room had a picture of the Virgin Mary above the bed, and there was a small chapel out near the road at the entrance to the hotel. Welcome to Roman Catholic Italy. The room was quaint and had a nice rustic feel with its period piece furniture and wooden shutters keeping out the afternoon sun.

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I took a quick tour around the town, and treated myself to two dinners that evening. The first, let’s call it the piccolo, consisted of a panini that I grabbed at a small cafe on the Rondo Volta. Its amazing that tomato, mozzarella, mint and oil olive on toast can taste so good, and it made an amazing pick me up for a hot afternoon, refreshing and energizing and not too heavy. The later meal, let’s call that one of the grande, was consumed 4 hours later at 9 PM, a time I consider obscenely late for dinner but which most of Europe seems to consider reasonable. It was a carpocio starter and a perfectly cooked tuna steak on the main drag of town.

I retired to bed tired from the night before and a full day walking, expecting to get a decent night sleep. The bed was comfortable and the room the perfect temperature with the cool night breeze coming in through the shutters. It was not to be a peaceful nights sleep, though. My room faced out onto a road. I’ve lived in cities for the past 12 years and had always consider myself to be able to sleep through the noise of traffic. I discovered something that first night in San Remo, though. Apparently I can sleep through traffic noise as long as it is consistent in its volume. The road my room looked out on had a car drive up it every half hour or so, but otherwise was silent as a church. The noise of the car would wake me up because it was such a sudden switch from the previous silence. I would lay awake for a bit before finally drifting off to sleep again 20 minutes later, giving me 10 minutes before the next car came tearing up the road and waking me up again.

Once light started to break, then the birds joined in the noise-making. There were screeches, caws, whistles, hoots and something that sounded suspiciously like an elephant trumpeting. The birds kept they calling infrequent and variable enough to keep me awake, and made me long for the constant noise of car traffic outside my London flat. With my previous restless night on the train and 3 nights of disruptive traffic noise to deal with, it appeared that this mini-holiday would not feature much in the way of deep sleep.

Saturday morning was beautiful and sunny, and after splashing some water on my face went out for a walking tour of San Remo. Given I hadn’t planned anything, though, it was to mostly be a wander without direction, following whatever happened to catch my fancy next.

The oldest part of town is Pigna hill, with parts of it dating back to the Medieval times, including the San Siro church. The streets are still narrow and twisting, and there are points when you are walking through them that you actually pass through the medieval walls of the city. Walking through the twisting and hilly old town, I often felt like this what it must be like being in a Dan Brown novel, where around every corner there is some ancient, 800 year old building holding lord knows what secrets. The only thing missing was some crazed, albino monk chasing me.

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Like Nice, everyone is on scooters. I thought for a moment this was a scooter farm, but it actually is just a parking lot.

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The central of San Remo is a little more modern, but still pretty twisty and older.

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Like most places in the Riviera, they have a fancy Marina full of fancy boats.

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All that walking worked up quite a healthy sweat, and the Mediterranean Sea was calling to me with her cool blue waters. There are a few sand beaches in San Remo, probably man made I would guess. Most of them require some fee to get in. The one beach I found that had free admission was jammed packed, so I decided to splash out in true Monaco-glamour style, and pay to use one of the other beaches. €4 later I had admission to a beach and a blue beach chair in which to sit. On setting up the chair, the beach boy (for you know us big spenders don’t set up our own beach hairs) noticed a moth on the chair. “It’s good luck, to have a moth,” he said. I just figured it would eat the fabric of the chair, and shooed it away.

The water of the Mediterranean was more than cool, it was COLD. I shivered as I waded into the water, deeper and deeper until the water started to lap at my upper thighs. Male readers will know this moment, when you know the next step will take the water up between your legs and immerse your groin in the cold water. It is truly a breath taking moment when that happens, and I think most men pause momentarily before taking that next step. But we all must wade onwards. I took that step, and felt the air get sucked out of my lungs. I stood motionless and took three quick breaths in, refilling my lungs after the sucker punch of the cold water. Rebalanced and starting to adjust, I continue to wade into the water, sucker punched again as my chest goes under, and finally one last time when I dive forward and my head feels the cold water’s blast.

After adjusting to the cold water, though, it felt nice. The Mediterranean there in San Remo certainly isn’t like the warm water of the Caribbean, where you can soak for hours in a relaxing bath, but after a day of sweaty site-seeing, it was nice to have a quick, cooling dip in the water, and made the sun feel even nicer upon climbing back out and taking my place on my beach chair.

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As I sat warming myself, the moth returned, landing first on my knee, and then flying up and landing on my right arm. This time, I didn’t shoo him away, instead I let him sat for as long as he wanted, which wasn’t long at all, just a few seconds.

“Hopefully enough to pass some luck on to me,” I thought.

If only.

Continued in Glamour and Gasoline part III: Fast Cars in Rich Places

Posted by GregW 11:24 Archived in Italy Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

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