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Rome (Roma)

5-7: Depart Charles DeGaulle Airport 3:25 p.m.to Rome-Leonardo DaVinci Airport - arrive 5:30 p.m.

5-7: Arrive Rome! Catch the train from DaVinci Airport to Stazione Termini in Roma to Hotel Planet 29

Having "survived" the flight from San Francisco to Paris (we vow never to try to "sleep" overnight in an airplane again), we found the next flight to Rome in the rambling Charles deGaulle airport and climbed onboard the next leg of our trip to arrive in Rome. We arrived at Leonardo DaVinci airport and saw Jackdaws (Corvus monedula), a most excellent corvid, and Common Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) on our train ride into Rome proper from DaVinci airport. The train ride, aside from the birds, was a disappointment; I had hoped it would be scenic, but all we saw were rows and rows of big dilapidated apartment buildings. When we finally got to Stazione Termini, we headed for Via Volturno and our hotel. We had hoped that Volturno translated to Vulture (birds, birds, birds, is that all they think about?), but I think it is actually someone's name.

Directly across from our hotel (in fact we could see if the restaurant was crowded by looking out our window) was La Famiglia restaurant where we had our first meal in Italy. Babs had pesto (some of which is still on her blouse). The house red wine was molto bene! At many evening meals, we were serenaded by two guys ... one with an accordion and another with a really beat up bass fiddle. They played the same medley, restaurant after restaurant, night after night ... it was good though!

You can just see the start of the La Famiglia sign on the right next door to this door that fascinated Greg. Behind the door there was a large interior driveway and apartment courtyard.

We rested most of the next day to allow Babs to jet lag and then it was off to the Colosseum and Forum! We took the Metro (underground) to the Colosseum. Even though there are only two Metro lines in Rome due to all the under ground archaeological strata, the Romans couldn't make the Metro easy to use. We'd go down and end up going the wrong way and every time we came up out of the Metro near the Via Vulturno, we came out in a different place.

 
There were speakers set up all around the Colosseum for a free concert that Paul McCartney was giving on the weekend. Admission was free for the Colosseum so the place was packed...they required tickets to be allowed inside even though admission was free...we went onto the Forum.   Another view inside the Forum. It was a lovely and very warm day. There were actually very few people walking about. It was nice. We were shooting this from outside along the walkway that surrounds the Forum.
Greg at the Septimus Severus Arch. I hadn't realized that there was no charge to get into the Forum and we stopped at this marvelous arch before proceeding in. This gives a sense of the scale of things. It was erected in A.D. 203 to celebrate the emperor's victories in what are today Iran and Iraq.
 
Vestal Virgins temple to the left and Capitoline Hill behind the columns (I think).   Seated in a shady spot within the Forum, viewing houses outside.
Of course we were birding! European Blackbird (Turdus merula) at the Forum. A member of the thrush family Turdidae. It is related to our American Robin (Turdus migratorious).

Across from the Forum (Fori Imperiali including the Foro di Cesare) were what is left of the Forum of Nerva and Trajan.

Victor Emmanuel monument. Also known as the wedding cake because it is "gaudy". It was directly behind the Forum and could be seen from there. It is a tomb guarded by state soldiers. There were men dressed up as gladiators and even Caesar with a whip on the lawn just to the left of this monument. I can only assume that they were charging money to have your picture taken with them. There were also men dressed as gladiators by the Colosseum.

The next day we went to the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel. We'd planned to be there as early as possible knowing that there would be crowds, but nowhere near what we actually encountered! The Vatican Museum opens at 8:45 a.m. We were waiting in line from around 8:10 and by the time they opened, the line (at least 4 people deep) was around the block further than we could see. Needless to say, the place was jam packed. We took a right turn on the inside to see the Pinoteca (the rest of the crowd went left) first which was the best part of the day. The Pinoteca is a lovely display of smaller works chronologically arranged along with several tapestries. We could take our time and enjoy.

Then we had to rejoin the crowd, unfortunately, in order to become part of the mass procession onto the Sistine Chapel. I had thought that you could just walk directly up to the Raphael rooms and then onto the Sistine, but the Vatican had the crowd controlled and marched us all the way through every part of the rooms preceding the Sistine. It seems like every wall, every ceiling, almost every inch of the Vatican is decorated in some way. It felt like it took us hours to get there. The Sistine has just recently been restored and was quite lovely, but within the chapel it was literally wall-to-wall people. There was a Vatican guard at the front of the room clapping his hands and shushing people trying to make them stop talking! No picture taking was allowed but some did it anyway ... and with flash too! Hey, we can say we've done it now. Don't have to go back. We came out, crossed the street and fell onto chairs at a restaurant and collapsed. Remember, it was also quite warm in Rome--at least the high 70s. We then recovered enough to make me think that we could go into St. Peters...we walked over to it, saw an even bigger crowd, turned around and left. Needless to say no pictures were taken.

Crowds of people at the Spanish Steps.

By the time we went to see the Spanish Steps and the Villa Borghese, the weather had gotten overcast ... even a drop or two of rain.

 
The flowers were beautiful along the Spanish Steps, but just too many people.   The street of designers looking back at the Spanish Steps. (Gucci, Versace, etc.)
View looking down Designer's street from the top of Spanish Steps.
View of surrounding buildings from Spanish Steps

We had hoped to do a bit of birding at the Villa Borghese above the Spanish Steps. On the way up, I saw one of the smallest cars yet; it was so small that it could be parked with the Vespas or put in your back pocket!

 
The tiny cars in Italy were a hoot!   This one seats two, comfortably.

The Pantheon was not a site that we could get to on the Metro so we took a bus and got fairly lost. Had it not been for two English travelers we met we would never have found it at all. It was well worth finding! We also realized how much of Rome we had been missing by taking the underground to get to places instead of traveling above ground! Then again we might have missed the "violinist" ... and I use the term quite loosely ... that was sitting it the very warm Rome sun playing so badly we almost paid him to stop.

The Pantheon dates back to the early 2nd Century.
You can see the guy blowing bubbles on the left; he was selling a bubble blowing toy that also made "music"-mostly a squeak! The crowds still hadn't found us here yet.
Pantheon ceiling is made of poured concrete, a Roman invention. The hole opens to the sky and is the only source of external light within the Pantheon. The hole also lets rain in on the Christians and tourists.
The Pantheon's interior is simply too large to get in one shot. It is currently serving as a Christian church and there was a service going on when we arrived.
And the little restaurant we sat in for several hours just to watch the crowds. It was a very nice day. Relaxing.
A view from our table at the restaurant outside the Pantheon. There were an amazing number of female "redheads" in the crowds all over Rome--they were all dye-jobs of various shades of red from deep purple to clown-hair red. We would point them out to each other by saying "Red alert!".
I had been disappointed in not having seen any cats around the Colosseum or Forum as I had last trip and finally got a shot of this kitty as we were leaving after our day at the Pantheon.

Onto Florence!!!

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