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Six Days in Rome – 3/24 to 3/31, Day 2 April 25, 2010

Posted by hslu in Food, Restaurants, Travel.
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Six Days in Rome – 3/24 to 3/31, Day 2

Friday, March 26, 2010

We had our free lunch at the hotel at a 2nd floor conference room. The guests were mostly Europeans and Americans. Bao and I were the only two Asians for the entire time we were there. The breakfast included coffee, juices, at least six kinds of pastries, cheese, salami, cereal.  Looking out, we saw dome tops of a church about 3 blocks away and a tower a little further out.

The weather was nice and we had the whole morning to ourselves. Our first of three tours, Ancient Rome, started at 3 PM and the tour company; Vastours; was about a mile away. We decided to go to the tour company and register with them first.  Along the way, we’d get some Euros, checked out the church nearby and tour the Repubblica Building.

It turned out that walking in Rome is a bit more challenging than I thought. I usually have very good sense of direction in a city. I’ll use landmarks to guide me, find the street names and figure out where I am. The entire had no tall buildings to guide me. There were narrow streets at many intersections which were like a network of maze crisscrossing at every directions. On top of that, it was not common to have street sign at each intersection. Some street didn’t have street signs and, when they had signs, the signs were on the other end of the street. We had to ask for directions and showed them the map to find out where we were and where we wanted to go to. When we finally got there, I didn’t have the right paper with me and the tour company guy told me to make sure bring the voucher back at 3 PM.

On the way we saw the church which is one of four most important churches in Rome:  Basilica Papale de Santa Maria Maggiore. However, it wasn’t open to public. We also saw Repubblica della Piazza, a semi-circular building, along with a beautiful fountain called Fountain of the Naiads. It was the first fountain we saw in Rome.

Basilica Papale de Santa Maria Maggiore

Repubblica della Piazza

To the north of the piazza is the remnant of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri; a church built inside the open pool of a former Roman Bath; Baths of Diocletian, the grandest of all Roman bathes.

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

On the way back to our hotel, we walked by many restaurants and cafes but decided to stop by an alley Cafe  of the Repubblica della Piazza to have lunch. The Dagnino Café was very busy with office workers who came and grab a croissant sandwich, pizza or some packaged food for lunch. We sat outside and took our time to enjoy a light lunch. I ordered a glass of white wine. Bao had water. I had home-made lasagna. Bao had seafood salad with basil flavored olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The seafood plate had too much squid with no very little vegetable. Lasagna tasted good and very moist inside but the portion was too small. In addition, it had very little sauce which was way different from what I used to have in the States.


Home made Lasagna at Dagnino

Seafood Salad at Dagnino

We went back to the hotel, got our tour vouchers and went back to the tour company. The bus started right about 3 PM with about 20 tourists. Our tour guide was an Italian and she told us that we’d visit the Capitoline Hill, the Coliseum and Basilica of St. Paul’s outside the Walls.

Our tour bus passed by Pallazzo Venezia, the formal palace for popes starting some 500 years ago and then dropped us off at the foot of Capitoline Hill, one of seven hills in Rome. . The first thing we saw was flight of steps, called “Cordonata steps,” leading up to Piazza del Campidoglio and Capitoline buildings. The original designs of the steps, the Piazza, the Capitoline buildings were conceived by Michelangelo in the sixteen century but was constructed over a period lasting 400 years. We walked up the Cordonata steps (unlike the steps we usual see, these sloping steps were designed to allow horse and donkeys to walk) to the Piazza and around the building to the other side of the Capitoline Hill.

Immediately around the corner of the Capitoline building was the Monumento Nasionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, or Vittoriano to the Italians. This magnificent building was completed in 1935 to honor the first king of a unified Italy. Our tour guide told us that many Romanians and Italians do not like this building because it looked like a wedding cake. But I liked it because of its beauty and sheer dimension.

Monumento Nasionale a Vittorio Emanuele II

Vittoriano was built of pure white marble from Northern Italy, It had majestic stairways, tall, slender columns with elaborated designs of leaves and scrolls, beautiful fountains, a huge sculpture of the first King of Italy on a horse and topped with two sculptures of winged goddess, each on a chariot drawn by four horses. The entire building was 443 ft wide and 230 ft. The building was very impressive and was the grandest building I’ve ever seen.

In front of Vittoriano at the bottom of the Capitoline Hill was one of the most important archeological areas in the world: the Roman Forum. This was where the Imperial Rome Empire began more than 2000 years ago! Wow!

Ruins of Roman Forum

Skyline above the ruins of Roman Forum

We saw ruins of the Roman Senate building, government offices, monuments, temples, arches, memorials and countless statues. It was too impressive to describe it by words.

The next stop was the Constantine Arch and the Coliseum. The Constantine Arch was erected about 1,800 years ago to commemorate the victory of Constantine the Great over a western Roman emperor by the name of Maxentius. Constantine was the first Christine Roman emperor who tolerated other religions in ancient Rome.

The lower building with small windows used to be a shopping center in Roman time

The Coliseum was breath-taking in its monumental size and grandeur. Our tour guide told us that the design of the coliseum was highly efficient to allow up to 50,000 spectators around the elliptical shaped arena.  Our tour however didn’t include a tour of the inside the Coliseum so that we’d come back later if we wanted to go inside. Nonetheless, the Coliseum clearly demonstrated the superiority of Roman Engineering more than 2,000 years ago.

Our tour guide in the center of the picture

Roman Street was paved with stones of various sizes

Amphitheatrvm Flavivm

Comstaintine Carh

Our third and last stop was a visit of Basilica of St. Paul’s-outside-the-walls or commonly known as St. Paul-without-the-walls; the so-called Aurelian Walls built 1800 years ago around the city of Rome by Roman Emperor Aurelian to protect the city. The basilica was founded by the Constantine the Great over the burial place of Apostle Saint Paul. This was the second of the four most important churches in Rome that we’ve visited. I was taken aback by the Façade of the basilica, the statue of St. Paul, the 20’ tall doors, the intricacy of the design, the interior of the church, the beautiful paintings of the ceiling and the dorm and the columns.

St. Paul-without-the-walls

St. Paul

A pair of angels at each side of the 20′ tall front door

Ceiling decoration

On the way to St. Paul’s Basilica, our tour guide told us that the Church’s gift shop carried the most delicious chocolate that she had ever had in Rome. After the tour, we stopped by the gift shop and bought enough chocolate for my staff at the restaurant and a few for ourselves. Sure enough, the chocolate was creamy, rich, smooth, delicious and wonderful. It was far better than Godiva or some of the imported Belgium chocolates that we’ve had before. If you are in Rome and you like chocolate, you have to stop here to get some for yourself.

Vastour Bus

Traffic Jam in Rome at 6:20 PM on a Friday evening

Our tour ended at about 6:20 PM and the tour bus took all tourists back to their hotels. We decided to get off the bus near Basilica Papale de Santa Maria Maggiore, the church that’s two to three blocks from our hotel. When we got off the bus, we saw many people congregated in front of the church and we kinds of  凑个热闹 “cou4 ge1 re4 nao4,” or joined the fun, and went there to see what’s going on.

Ha! The church door was opened and we’re told that the church has a regular mass service every Friday afternoon. We got inside the church and saw two to three hundred people there. We admired the beauty of the church and stayed there for about 10 minutes. However, but couldn’t make out any of the words being said because the service was held in Latin.

Inside of the Basilica Papale de Santa Maria Maggiore

We went back to our hotel, walked to the Internet Point, checked our emails, and checked out the progress of XB’s online Chinese resume and his personal essay. We then walked to Roma Termini to see what’s available for dinner. We liked to see what common Romanians eat when they were on their way home.

There were several restaurants, cafes, a McDonald’s and sandwich shops in the busy building. Every eating establishment was full of people waiting in line to get something to eat. We chose a self-serve diner because we liked the choices and the freshness of their food on display. After we paid for our meal, we took a seat that’s about 10’ away from a piano where a young pianist was playing for cafeteria’s guests. I took a picture of the pianist and he later took a picture of me probably because he didn’t see many Asian tourists before.

Sel-serve restaurant in Roman Termini

Dessert option #1

So many choices.

Many Italians ordered the pork

Our Dinner on a tray

A boot-wearing pianist

Evening at Roma Termini

Underground Shopping at Roma Termini

We ordered a half bottle of wine for €2.7 and a fruit Torte for €3. The Prosciutto E Melone was €5.9. The big plate of Spaghetti Alle Vongo (small clams) was €5.4. And Zuppa Ceci (Chickpea Soup with carrots, celery, and pancetta) was €3.8. We also ordered a plate of Butter Spinach for €3.90 to get some green leaf vegetables. The simple meal was great and cheap. And it came with free entertainment!

We then walked around the shops of the basement of the train station because many of the shops were still open for business. While Bao was shopping, I found out that in Rome, one needed to have changes to go to the bathroom. Roma Termini was still busy just like when we first arrived here. However, we didn’t want to venture out too far away from the train station. We then got some espresso and gelato before called it a day.

We had to get up early tomorrow because our second tour started at 8:30 AM at the tour company. We had asked the tour company to pick us up at the hotel around 7:45 AM.

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