Saturday, January 16, 2016

Rome - Day 1

It took a long time but we finally crossed the pond. After 18 hours of travel (in part thanks to the first snow storm of the season) and countless in-flight croissants, we arrived in Rome (Italy, not Wisconsin). Although we were concerned that our luggage was going to get lost, it did manage to arrive on our same flight. After leaving Chicago on a cold morning, it was great exiting the plane on a warm sunny morning.

It doesn't matter how much airlines advertise leg room, there is never enough, less so if the person in front of you decides to fully recline the seat (good luck trying to get out to go to the bathroom). Needless to say our legs were a little stiff and some walking was desperately needed. Thinking back to that what we did that first afternoon is kind of a blur, perhaps because of the jet lag but we eventually made it to a restaurant in Trastevere. There are a lot of restaurants along the cobblestone streets of this area so finding a place to eat is relatively easy. Menus are posted outside and as soon as you stop to browse through it, the staff will try to engage you so that you sit at their establishment.
Trastevere street scene
After a great dinner, we just wondered around the lively streets and eventually made it to the Tiber River. There is a nice wide riverwalk on both sides of the river that seems like a great place to ride a bike. On the James Bond movie Spectre, a car chase ensues along this riverwalk concluding with the with car falling into the river (see a few seconds in this video).
Ponte Sisto and the Tiber River
Standing in Ponte Sisto we could see in the distance the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. Since the night was comfortable, we kept walking along the river. Castle of the Holy Angel came into view after the river bend.
Castel Sant' Angelo
Castle of the Holy Angel and Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II

From the Castle it was a short walk to the Vatican. I've seen pictures of the St. Peter's Square crowded with thousand of people so it was striking finding the whole place empty at night. The only people we saw along the area were homeless who take shelter on the buildings near the square. It is rumored that the Pope has ventured quietly out at night to take care of those in need around the area.
St. Peter's Square as seen from Via della Conciliazione
It was close to midnight when we headed back to the apartment for a much needed rest...

Lessons from the first day:
  1. if you wait for the bill at a restaurant, you will never leave.
  2. not ordering wine during dinner (and maybe lunch) is not kosher and asking for water does have a high price, probably as high as a glass of wine.
  3. walking at night along the Tiber River river requires an umbrella. Those things that look like swarms of bats flying around are birds and they seem to target practice on anyone (or anything) moving (or standing) along the banks of the river. I wouldn't want to be the guy that has to clean this car:

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