To offset the anticipation of Spring, Syann and I went to Rome. It could have been Naples, Sicily or southern Spain. We took the discount from Easyjet. We both had ongoing coughs and were worried about passing or affliction on to 120 punters who had to listen to us for 3 hours in the confined space of a plane. We set off at silly o clock in the rain, parked at the Pink elephant and took their bus to Gatwick. Stood in the queues, got in the plain and watched dawn rising over the channel, snow over the alps and little boats over the Med as we came in to land at Rome. We took a coach to the city and got out at the station and started on the learning curve of finding our way to the Mimosa Hotel. New cities are fun. People, scooters, classical ruins. We found the Pantheon, and our hotel just behind it.
We went off to Antonio’s restaurant for lunch. The hotels recommendation, very good and a bit expensive, but having Artichokes in Rome is almost obligatory. Looked around the neighbourhood for the first afternoon, the Pantheon, Bellini’s Elephant, a few churches then Ice cream at Dusk amid the buskers in the Piaza de Navona. If I had written this last month I might have given you the names of the churches, but then probably not. Second day, lets get some heavy culture over with while we still have the energy. We walked up past the Spanish Steps, off limits, being cleaned. To the Villa Borghesi park where we rented a couple of lousy bicycles and rode to the Museo Borghesi and went round looking at the mainly Baroque art. Bellini seems to be the main star. We rode past the Zoo and to the Gallery of Modern Art. Ate our sandwich and shared a beer in the sun, before immersing ourselves in culture for a few hours. Tottered out and decided not to see the Museo de Arte Etruscia. I love Bronze age art, but we were bushed. We returned the bikes, got ripped off in the timing and walked back , this time past the Trevi Fountain where we ate an Ice Cream, but did not throw coins in in case we had to return.
The next day we ventured onto the MetRO and caught a bus to Tivoli and the Villa de Este Gardens. Incredible water engineering and Gardens. Lunch on the street of Tivoli and down the hill to the Villa Adriana where Emporer Hadrian built his retirement Palace a thousand years earlier.
Another lot of walking involved, but it was amazing and beautiful. back on the bus in time for supper at Antonio. We have earned it. Old mr. Antonio runs it with his Daughter and excellent son in law. Shades of the ‘Godfather’ as we and others got shunted around on tables to make spece for six men who just drank beers and conducted their business meeting, while a line of tables remained empty in anticipation for a party that did not arrive. The tables were dispersed just before we left. We had a man on our table who was from Milan and always ate there when in Rome. Syann booked me in to visit the Sistene Chapel. I received a text giving me the details. The next day we went to the Vatican. I waved my phone and went along the fast queue into the Vatican museum. The text was not enough and I had to access the website and get the real number. I could not get online and the helpful man at the ticket office tried too but no avail. So I bought a ticket for €16 on top of the €26 Syann had spent on me the day before and ploughed along with the considerable crowds looking at all the Catholic Churches Booty until we reached the Sistene Chapel with 2000 people in it all in groups listening to their instructors through their devices. I looked up for 5 minutes and then got out. I found Syann next to the river. We went to a modern restaurant that evening. Called the ‘Fishmarket’ in English, it was run by young people for young people. Children every where. Very trendy and good. Completely different from Antonio’s. The next day we rented a couple of bicycles for the day and rode up the Tiber. We went down to the riverside in a disgusting part full of Hyperdermics, and human detritus, but it cleared up as we left the centre of the city and moved past rowing clubs, floating restaurants, suburbia, onto a beautiful cyclepath, sportsfields and eventually farmland. I nearly got a Whipsnake tangled in my wheel. About a metre long, Google it.
We ate our picnic on a willow tree next to the river possibly 10 miles out of town. Then rode back more slowly as the food, the warmth and our lack of fitness kicked in. The next day we caught the train up to Viterbo. Two hours away. Fantastic views of Lazio. We befriended a lady from Morcombe, who settled there five years previously. She took us to the tourist burough The found us an hotel and explained how to get to the Hot Springs. We had to wait for ages for the bus. Found that the Thermal swimming pool was closed on Tuesdays, so we signed up for the Spa. The Doctor, a pretty girl of about nineteen asked us medical questions and took our blood pressure, then we entered the luxurious marble corridors, put on our bathing costumes and had a real jacuzzi with coloured lights and music. Fun when your ears are under water, sitting on marble chaise longues and getting bubbled. We then walked through alternative hot and cold troughes. Good for our varicose veins? The whole episode reminded us of a Fellini Movie. Back on the bus, we saw people wiser than us swimming in hot springs in the fields. Small town so we looked at every restaurant and eventually chose ‘Quatro Staglioni’ Maitre was lovely and the food was imaginative and delicious.
The next and our last day, we walked round the town looked at the Etruscan Exhibition in the museum. A bit wasted on us who do not read Italian, or understand the voice overs of the interactive bits. Caught the two trains back to the Airport. Close on time but there was a hold up and we missed our flight back. They sent me an email, but I could not receive it on the (dumb) smartphone. We and our Japanese friend who had also missed the flight eventually bought tickets for Norwegan Airlines for a small fortune and got back at One am. Did not have to pay extra at parking and got home at three am. or so.