Travel is Our Drug

Italy: When in Rome…

This morning we were up early to get everything together in time for Gabriele to come and do our check-out from the apartment at 10:00.  He quickly looked the place over and then offered to drive us to the train station.  Despite our insistence that it was a gorgeous morning and we were fine to walk, he persisted.  So we climbed into the car and held on for dear life as we sped across Florence toward Santa Maria Novella.

When we got to the train station, we grabbed some snacks – Pringles and a couple of candy bars; the breakfast of champions and hungover lushes – and hopped on the train.  As we pulled away from SMN, headed for Roma Termini, we had views of the city, which turned into rolling countryside.  We both slept most of the way, trying to purge ourselves of the greasy, alcoholic debauchery from last night.

We arrived at Roma Termini around 1:00 and it was enormous compared to Venice and Florence stations: more so like an airport than a train station, I thought.  There were shops and restaurants, newsstands and kiosks and hustle and bustle around every corner.

We still had a couple of hours until we were to meet our landlord at our apartment, so we decided to eat in the train station.  The first place we found was an American-style, T.G.I.Friday’s-like place called Roadhouse Grill.  I had a salad and K had a chicken sandwich and we shared a slice of cheesecake.  The meal was decent, but we didn’t really expect much from an American-style restaurant in the Rome train station, so we weren’t disappointed.

We tooled around the train station a bit, picking up snacks, finding an ATM, etc. and then got a cab to the apartment.

Dahl St. Peter’s Apartment:

We rented this place through Leisure in Rome and had a fantastic experience.  Check-in was easy, they communicated well in English and the apartment was just as advertised.  They did require a fairly large cash deposit to be given to the landlord at check-in (which will be completely refunded at check-out if we don’t destroy the place), but otherwise no issues.  I would certainly consider renting through them in Rome again.

The apartment was in a great location – in a pretty quiet residential area just a few blocks from the Vatican and literally right around the corner from the Cipro Metro stop.

We were on the third floor.  As we trudged up the stairs, lugging our bags with us, I looked around at the stairwell and started to feel a bit nervous about what we would find inside the apartment.  The stairwell was poorly lit, filled with very old, worn wood steps and railings, and severely scuffed floors.  Each landing had three double-wide wooden doors, all placed very close to one another, and we could hear sound coming from behind most of them.  I was feeling a bit anxious and fully prepared to walk into an apartment that looked nothing like the photos we’d seen.

We stopped on the third floor landing in front of our door, nervously opened it and… lo and behold, the apartment was everything we’d seen in photos and more.  The place was amazing.  And I, of course, didn’t take any photos, so my words alone will have to convince you.  (There used to be website photos linked here, but apparently this apartment is no longer rented out for tourists and the photos have been removed.  Pooper.)

We walked into a small entryway that extended as a hallway running the length of the apartment.  Directly ahead of us was the bathroom with a large glass stall shower, an enormous jetted tub, toilet, sink and bidet.  In the doorway to the bathroom was a small closet area for linens and a safe.  Directly on the right side of the bathroom was the bedroom, open to the hallway, and just big enough for the queen size bed, a double closet and two bedside tables.  On the other side of the bedroom wall/closet was the living room/kitchen area.  The living room area was small with a three-person sofa and a small TV.  The kitchen had a stove, refrigerator and all of the dishes and amenities we needed – including a bottle of wine in the fridge.

THEN…outside the kitchen was an enormous rooftop terrace overlooking the apartment complex courtyard on one side and the street on the other.  On the terrace was a comfy table and chairs set and, tucked away under the awning, a washing machine.

The place truly was fantastic.  A very chic and modern gem hidden behind the old, worn facade of the hallways and stairwells.

After we settled in, we took the Metro to the Spagna stop right at the Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps.  In terms of Metro systems, Rome’s seemed to be okay.  It was super easy to buy tickets at the electronic kiosks in the station.  The kiosks have an English option, and it was easy to pay with either cash or credit card.  Unlike some other European Metro/train ticket kiosks, this one gave us no problems with using a credit card without a chip in it.  The station was fairly clean, the train cars were nice, and everything seemed to run on schedule.

We wandered down, past the Spanish Steps and the Fontana della Baraccia and kept walking, headed toward the Trevi Fountain.  We hadn’t eaten since lunch in the train station, and as we walked past restaurant after restaurant, breathing in the intoxicating garlic scent wafting out into the streets, it got more and more difficult to keep passing by, so we finally stopped.

Ristorante Sant’Andrea:

We stumbled upon Ristorante Sant’Andrea on our walk between the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.  There was a nice outdoor seating area with several umbrella-covered tables.  People seemed to be really enjoying themselves and the smell coming from inside was amazing, so we decided to stop.

The outdoor seating was full so we were seated at a small table inside.  I ordered a risotto with meat sauce and cheese and it was seriously TO.DIE.FOR.  (I feel like I should put a disclaimer here that I am not by any stretch of the imagination a foodie, so take this advice at your own risk.)  I don’t know if I was just starving or what, but I scarfed the entire dish and wanted more.  It seriously hit the spot.  K had some sort of spaghetti dish and thought it was good, but wasn’t nearly as bowled over as I was by my food.  For dessert, I had the very un-Italian bon bons soaked in Bailey’s and K had lemon sorbet.  Both were pretty good.

Back outside, stuffed and happy, we continued on our way.

Trevi Fountain:

As we got closer to the fountain, it got more and more zoo-like with larger crowds and more noise.  We were able to hear the roar of the water and people talking long before we actually got to the fountain.  We approached the fountain from the backside, and when we finally rounded the corner and saw it, it was really beautiful all lit up, illuminating the white stone of the fountain, the murky water spilling over its edges and into the pool at its feet.

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The area immediately around the fountain was just crawling with people – tourists snapping photos, yelling and laughing, walking curiously past.  And amongst the hoards of tourists were all sorts of local beggars and peddlers.  There were guys trying to force flowers into my hands, telling K he was a bad man if he didn’t buy them for me.  There was a guy trying to force us to pay him for Polaroid photos he snapped of us standing by the fountain (without ever asking if he could take our photos for money).  There was a guy with amputated legs, using his hands to push himself around on a skateboard, begging for money.  It was an absolute madhouse.

We stood at the side of the fountain for a bit just people watching and admiring the amazing sculpture work on the fountain.  We took a couple of self-photos (which really pissed off the guy who was trying to sell us the Polaroids) and then moved on.

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For the record, we did end up paying the Polaroid guy for his photos.  We gave him a couple of Euros, and then he was pissed that we didn’t give him as much as he wanted.  Then it took us a while to shake him from following us, begging for more.  I’m not heartless, but damn dude, we didn’t want your photos in the first place.  Take your guilt trip somewhere else.

From the Trevi Fountain, we walked back up toward Piazza di Spagna, harassed the entire way by the flower selling guys again.  I must have sounded like a broken record barking out, “No, grazie.  No, grazie.  NO THANK YOU!” over and over and over.  All to no avail.  Then they started in on K, telling him that I wanted flowers but said he wouldn’t buy them for me.  On and on this went, them lowering their prices and trying again, until they finally told me they were free.  I’m probably a jerk, but as soon as he said, “free,” I grabbed the flowers out of his hand, told him thank you and took off, walking as fast as I could away.  We made it up to the Fontana della Barcaccia and took a few photos before the guy caught up to me, asking for his “free” flowers back.  Strangely enough, they stopped harassing us after that.

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Fontana della Barcaccia:

This fountain was sculpted by Bernini and is meant to be a sinking boat.  There are four streams of water coming out the ends of the fountain, which can actually be drunk from.  In fact, there are several fountains throughout Rome with clean drinking water flowing.  So we took our turn with many other people taking our drinks from the fountain.

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And because I am a science nerd at heart, and very wary of believing public fountain water truly is clean for drinking, I prayed to Pacini (the guy who discovered Cholera) to keep my intestines clear.  Okay, I didn’t really do that.  I’m not a heathen.  But I was pretty sketched out by drinking water out of a fountain in the middle of Rome.

In the immediate background, behind the fountain, was the Spanish Steps.  It really was an awesome sight all lit up at night, people sprawled, relaxing and enjoying themselves in the warm night air.

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We hung out for a bit, enjoying the warm night ourselves before catching the Metro back to our apartment.  We watched a little TV and are ready for bed.  Tomorrow is the Vatican!

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