Tuesday October 6 -Travel from Mallorca to Rome

We left Mallorca in the early afternoon, driving to the airport and dropping off our rental car with plenty of time for our 2:30 flight. Lo and behold, when we arrived at check-in we were informed that the flight we had booked to Barcelona did not exist anymore! Wonderful. Fortunately, there was room on the 1:30 flight and we could still make it. That was the second “surprise” for this particular travel day. The connection we had booked from Barcelona to Rome had also been changed, to an hour later. So what should have been a 2 hour layover in Barcelona with our original bookings was now 4. (Both booked through Expedia, if you want to know.)

Other than that the day was pretty dull, exactly the way you want all air travel to be.

We arrived in Rome and took a cab from the airport to our hotel, The Albergo Quirinale, on the Via Nazionale. Our cab driver told us the hotel was “the best in Rome” which it was not. Subsequently we did not take his restaurant recommendation (also the “best” in Rome). We attempted to have dinner at a very fancy place that was nearly impossible to find, but apparently did not meet the standards of the maître d’, who showed us the menu before giving us a table. He was clearly saying “See how expensive we are. You don’t look like the people who would eat here.” We used the no vegan options of the menu to reject him instead!

We ended up having dinner at a place fairly close to the hotel, hidden down a side street, called Mater Matuta. It had a very interesting menu and a modern atmosphere. My second was not very good, but we enjoyed the other items we tried.

Wednesday, October 7th – Full Day in Rome

The next day we planned a long walk around Rome, with nothing more in mind than to visit some of our favorite places. Back in 2001 and 2002, we took our children out of school for a year and traveled Europe with them. “Our favorite places” were many of those we visited during that trip, which were also many of my favorites from when I lived in Rome between 1976-1980.

First, we walked up to Piazza della Repubblica (going uphill from our hotel) and then we walked down the Via Nazionale to our old neighborhood, specifically to Via Bacina, where we lived with the kids for about 6 weeks in January and February of 2002. The salumeria was no longer there, and the city market that was just up the street looked pretty empty. It was fun to remember the places nearby that were part of our daily existence – especially the view of Trajan’s Forum that greeted us upon stepping out our doorway.

From Via Bacina we stepped out into the world of the Via dei Fori Imperiali. With Trajan’s Forum now behind us, the great Roman Forum was ahead. Construction lines both sides of the Via near the Colosseum. Extensive work is also underway on that. Everywhere was crowded, unbelievably crowded, with tourists.

We circled the Colosseum and headed back to the Piazza Venezia. We stopped for a caffé and a bathroom break, but when we stepped out of the caffé and started up the Via del Corso, it started to rain. At first, we were okay but it was intensifying when we noticed that people were taking refuge in this huge palazzo across the street. The Doria Pamphilj … I knew there was an art collection there from some reading, so we decided to visit it while it rained.

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Wow. Were we glad we did! I had never visited this museum/palazzo in all the years I have been in Rome and I couldn’t believe I had missed it! There was a wonderful audio-guide narrated by one of the descendants of the family. Historical information and family anecdotes, together with fabulous rooms and an extensive art collection – the experience of the visit was one of the best. We toured the room to the accompaniment of thunder, and emerged an hour or so later to the return of a sunny sky and bright, clean, fresh air.

Time for lunch, and overly hungry, we got sucked into a tourist restaurant on a side street near the Pantheon, and had a disappointing lunch surrounded by too many tourists. We skirted the Pantheon square but did not visit the building, instead headed for Piazza Navonna. We found it full of tourists but crowded too because there were so many artists in the square selling paintings of Rome. We ducked into the church Sant’Agnese in Agone (by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s rival Francesco Borromini) and found a statue of Innocent X (the first Doria Pamphili pope and a man who was not a fan of Bernini – the artist who created the sculpture in the middle of the piazza outside. That is supposed to be the explanation for the fountain figure shielding his eyes from the sight of the church! We heard about the bad blood between Innocent X and Bernini in our audio-guide of the Doria-Pamphilj. Bernini had been the official court sculptor of the pope right before Innocent X who had almost bankrupted the office. In the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is a bust of Innocent X by Bernini – an absolutely fabulous work of art – which Innocent X disdained as being “too realistic.”

From the Piazza Navonna we found our way to the Trevi Fountain. Never have I felt so fortunate to have seen it many times before and likely to see it again, because it was completely off limits for restoration. There was a glass wall constructed all the way around it, so you could still take a picture of yourself in front of it, but with scaffolding and no water…I realized that only would you photograph it like that if you thought you would never be back.

From there we went to the Spanish Steps, and lo and behold, they were cordoned off, too! No explanation was given and the Trinitá dei Monti church at the top was covered with a construction skin, with a huge ad on it! Awful! There should be a scaffolding alert blog on the internet for people planning a trip to Rome so you know what to avoid. Again, despite the construction, there were hoards of tourists in groups, taking pictures of empty steps and a big ad.

(Later, I read an article that the firm Bulgari, the jewelers, who have had their shop on the Spanish Steps for an excruciatingly long time, were paying for the restoration, for their own anniversary. It is almost as bad as the proliferation of corporations naming everything in the US.)

At that point we gave up and walked back to the hotel. We were going to stop to see a Borromini church (San Carlino) next door to the Quattro Fontane, but it was also closed.

That evening we went next door to the Saint Paul’s Within the Walls church for a show called Three Tenors. It was very entertaining with good opera selections and well-known Neapolitan songs. Afterwards we had another very unsatisfactory meal, in our hotel restaurant.

Hoping this might be something special for you, as well as new, https://mapsengine.google.com/map/embed?mid=zaLk3mTvqSL8.k0cqQ7ATcBuQ“>here is a link to an annotated (pictures and text) of our walk in Rome. You can click on the pins to see pictures I took and my editorializing about each place.  PLEASE!  Tell me what you think of this new feature.  (PS I did it in Google Maps with a function called My Maps.)

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