Brief prelude- After a long over-night flight and we arrived Sunday night at Rome's Fiumicino airport. Compared to the underwhelming and confusing experience at London's Heathrow during our layover we were very pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and efficiency of Italy's flagship airport. Who would have thought that the Brits would be outdone by the Italians.
|The Victor Emmanuel II Monument|
Day One Activities- We decided to jump right into the frying pan with a visit to the Vatican Museum and St. Peters Basilica. We figured that if we could handle the crowds here everything else would be a relative walk in the park.
Among the morning Vatican highlights were:
- Going through the lines security to get into the museum only to have my dad discover that he left his new iPhone in the cab on the way over. Thankfully we had a great cab driver and got the issue resolved with minimal cost and impact to our schedule.
- Trying to push my dad in a wheel chair through the museum and quickly discovering that it does a pretty poor job accommodating those with special needs. At one moment I was having difficulty getting my dad up a ramp which resulted in a brief bottleneck jamming up the traffic. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to be on the receiving end of an insulting Italian hand gesture from one of the local security guards...his way of kindly imploring me to get my act together and stop gumming up the flow. You can refer to the 1:30 mark of the video below to see what I got.
- Even though we are in the relative low season the crowds were insane. To make matters worse the museum is set up to drive everyone to the Sistine Chapel which is a final destination. The result is that you can't enjoy many of the wonderful sites along the way (Hall of Tapestries, Maps, or Raphael Rooms) because you are being constantly pushed by the flow of traffic.
- Laocoön has always been my favorite sculpture. It not only captures one of my favorite stories from antiquity, the Trojan War, it also served as one of the principle inspirations to many of the great Renaissance artists like Michelangelo.
- The hall of busts, since it is somewhat detached from the major traffic, is a wonderful spot to enjoy the myriad treasures from antiquity that the Catholic Church had plundered over the years. So much marble!
- The Sistine Chapel, as expected was crowded and rushed. So many people shortchange themselves of a wonderful experience because they rush to the chapel. My dad tried to sneak some footage of the ceiling to no avail. This is one of the few spots in Italy where they stringently enforce the no photo/video rule.
The Sistine captivated our morning and exhausted my feet. We walked a few blocks north for a quick lunch of porchetta sandwiches at Angry Pig. It gave us a quick moment to sit down, fill up, and recharge our batteries. Soon enough we were back to Vatican City, this time to experience St. Peters Square.
Afternoon highlights included:
- Bemusing, or rather amusing, myself at how easily my dad falls for the street vendors. Between the 1/4 mile walk from the museum to the square he got suckered into buying some cheap water colors, a laser pen, and some post cards. He's such an easy 'mark'.
- Seeing the long line filing into the St Peters Basilica and deciding that we should make an attempt at sneaking in through the exit. My dad made it in but I was stopped. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to distract and heckle the Vatican Guard.
A busy day led to a memorable evening. After a brief break we headed out on foot from the hotel in search of some typical Roman fare. We settled on Dilla. It had a welcoming staff and an atmosphere that is now being more commonly mimicked in the States. We had some of the best bruschetta I've ever had. Why favorite toppings were the artichokes, mushrooms, and ricotta. I ordered the Cacio E Pepe and was somewhat underwhelmed. It was exceptionally rich and the noodles were a little too al dente for my taste. A brief walk to the Spanish Steps and our first day was a resounding success.
- Italian tip of the day- Always take advantage of the free breakfast provided by the hotel. They typically provide a healthy option of pastries and juices as well as a few attempts to satisfy American appetites with things like bacon and eggs.
- Most offensive action of the day- My dad asking for BBQ sauce to go with his porchetta sandwich.
- Food highlight- The aforementioned sandwich. Italian meals and dishes are exceptionally simple and what allows them to get away with this simplicity is the quality of their ingredients.
|The old man and the bruschetta shangri-la|
|Making friends on the Spanish Steps|
|Amazed at the beauty and the prices at Kiton|