We left Manchester very early and security queues were long and bothersome. I found myself in the middle seat both times which was Bad Thing #1 but then, The man sitting next to me and his wife across the aisle were moved to where they could sit together so at least we could spread out and it was a bit more comfy.
We got into Rome about 2:30 and trekked our way through the airport to where the train station is. I'm sure I saw a sign that said there was a regional train alternative to the more expensive express but the machines didn't show it nor did the rather rude man at the ticket counter admit it either. I'm not entirely confident but it seemed we didn't have a choice and spent the 32 euros for the two tickets. It takes about 35 minutes into Rome Termini from the airport.
We took a taxi because we were tired of dragging our bags around even though we only had carry on luggage. The hotel, Bailey's Hotel isn't too far from the main train station and is on a narrow one way street, Via Flavia. Our room is on the top floor next to the tiny elevator but we don't hear a thing from it as there's a little corridor into the room from the door. Nice large room and working wifi!
We headed out to see if we could find something to eat. It's close to 5 and restaurants close for a while and reopen in the evenings. We did find a little place that had some sandwiches, a pasta dish and a burger and a few other things that could be reheated and we had that since we were starving though it was hardly a "foodie" welcome to Rome!
We continued to walk as it got dark and headed towards the Spanish Steps. Graham wasn't impressed. To be fair, it doesn't look like much from the top, it's better from the bottom with the stairs rising in front of you and no, it's not one of the WOW sights of Rome but it *is* one of the famous views. At least, from the bottom. We stood at the top for a bit, glancing at some of the artist renditions of various Roman views and watched the people and then got a cab back to the hotel. We relaxed in the room for a bit and then went to the hotel bar for a couple of glasses of Vino Rosso to cap off the day!
The next day, The sun was out and it stayed out ALL DAY! This is epic for us. Everywhere we go we generally get maybe one day of sunshine and it's forecast nice all week! I can't get over it! To make sure we saw as much of Rome as possible under sunny skies, we thought it would be a good day to do the open top bus tour. I know they're a bit expensive but we like them.
First, breakfast in the hotel. Not bad. They had lots of cold items, including bakery goods, and a big pot of scrambled eggs which was nice though the eggs tended to be a little rubbery. The juice was little more than sweet coloured water, though.
We walked to Piazza Barberini where we could catch the tour bus. At the Termini station stop there were vendors milling around beside the bus trying to sell scarves, hats and even bottles of water to the tourists on the bus.
The tour covered all the main sights though it's not always easy taking photos from the top of the bus. The bus is either shaky or you get the bus rails in the way or what you want is on the other side and then you just get the backs of the heads of the other tourists in your pictures!
That's ok. It is a good overview of the sights. At one point the bus stopped and stayed there quite some time. It seemed to be an accident though not sure if the bus was actually involved or stuck behind one. A police officer finally arrived, blew his whistle and things seemed to get moving shortly thereafter.
We got off the bus a stop before the one where we got on because I knew the Trevi fountain was nearby. We found the fountain and took photos but Graham didn't want to throw the traditional coin in because he said there are other places he wants to see first and may not want to come back to Rome! He's not counting it out but was just hedging his bets! I've been three times now so I'm not bothered.
We elbowed our way out of the crowds and took a side street away from there, stopping to look at some of the souvenir shops and for coffee. I knew that the Piazza Colonna was along Via del Corso nearby as we'd seen it from the bus earlier . The column is that of Marcus Aurelius, showing scenes from his campaigns, and dates from 163 C.E. The statue on the top and the fountain under are from the 16th century.
From there we found ourselves in the nearby Piazza Montecitorio where there is an Egyptian obelisk which was apparently brought to Rome by Augustus.
On the outskirts of that piazza, we saw a very cool store called Eclectica where you had to buzz a doorbell to go in. it was filled with all sorts of memorabilia and antiques. There were even medals and items dating to WWII but with a difference, there was a lot of it relating to the Nazis and Mussolini. You don't see as much of that elsewhere, not that I've seen but it is a part of Italy's heritage and history.
Just past there was a nice little wine bar and we decided to have lunch there. It was a leisurely lunch as is traditional in Italian restaurants. We had Italian beer, and I had a plate of pasta carbonara, my favourite. (Enoteca Capranica, see review)
Finally, we came to the Piazza della Rotonda, where the Pantheon is. It's one of the oldest Christian churches in Rome and was a pagan temple before that. The dimensions of it are beautifully perfect, as high in the middle as the diameter of the dome. Though the interior has been redesigned over time, the marble floors still date from ancient Rome. The church itself is circular as well with a portico outside lined with columns. It's one of my favourite buildings in Rome (see review)
Walking from there along the cobbled streets, we looked at some market stalls and I bought a triple print that I can frame as one large picture. We found Piazza Navona next and walked around there a bit, taking pictures of the big fountain, Bernini's famed Fountain of Four Rivers, and sampling amazing gelato! There are a lot of artists set up in the square along with entertainers. One guy was sitting in a chair, his head obviously under the jacket but a hat and sunglasses were balanced over that and it looked like an invisible man sitting there. Another couple was dancing the tango. The piazza is lined with restaurants and there's a church on one side. This is another busy and popular spot at night.
By now we are flagging a bit and though we found our way to a street where we might have been able to catch a bus, we couldn't figure out where the bus stop was so we ended up in another taxi. The traffic was rush hour strong and it took a while to get back to the hotel. I'm not entirely sure the cabbie didn't take a round about way but perhaps it would not have made a difference no matter which route he took at that time of day. We got back in one piece, that's the main thing and I feel much better after a shower and rest.
We went out again later to find a nice restaurant, one we saw mentioned in a Trip Advisor review of the hotel actually, though they didn't put the name of it in. They said "left out of the hotel, down about 70 yards over on the right is xxxxxxxx" obviously meaning to put the name of it in after and didn't get to it. We went down the road and decided on one of two that were side by side. It was a good choice! We'd had steaks that were some of the best I've ever had. The "primo" course of soup was served in something the size of a small mixing bowl and it was really good but there was far too much of it. Definitely a meal to write home about!