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Brooklyn Biker Home
Tuesday, 7 October 2003
The End
Mood:  crushed out
Now Playing: Home We Go!
This was our last day in Italia. We packed up our luggage at the hotel in Assisi and left it with reception for pickup later in the day.

Another view from our hotel in Assisi.

It's a glorious day: sunny, cool, but not cold, we decided to try the town once again, this time without the weekend crowds. It was quite beautiful and enjoyable without the mobs. Our first destination was the Church of Santa Chiara (St. Claire), built in the 13th century. Apparently, Claire was a follower and contemporary of the ubiquitous St. Francis. The church looks very modern with it's flying buttress supports but it was built in 1247!

Chiesa Santa Chiara.

Then we walk to the other end of town to see the main attraction: the magnificent Chiesa San Francesco (Church of St. Francis). But on the way, we stop to see a hotel that intrigues us: Hotel Berti. It apparently is named for the family of our friend, Lori Berti (just kidding). Not only that but Lori's daughter is Chiara, so double bonus!

The Chiesa is beautiful! The entire town of Assisi is built into a mountainside and the church is the jewel of the crown that is the town. It's actually two churches, one built on top of the other and both supported by a series of massive arches. When Saint Francis, who dedicated himself to a life of poverty and simplicity, died, his followers immediately set out to built a church dedicated to him. But as things often turn out, his philosophy of modesty is not evident in the splendid construction and dedication of this outstanding church. In it are fabulous frescoes by Giotto and other masters.

The Chiesa San Francesco.

Photos were not allowed inside, but Matt took a quick grab shot.

We headed back to our car, parked in one of the satellite lots (cars are not allowed in town) at the far end of town, picked up our bags at the hotel and headed back to Rome. It was another fabulous drive through mountains and valleys, past the town of Perugia and finally back to Rome.

Our hotel this time is the Alemandi which is right outside the Vatican wall, but still convenient to the Centro Storico, our old stomping ground of last week. They even park our car for us which makes us very happy as there is no parking to be had virtually anwywhere in Rome.

Off we go into town (on foot). Our destination is Baffetto's pizzeria (once again, you might remember). It's our last night in Rome. The moon is out and's beautiful and bittersweet. We cross the Fiume Tevere (The Tiber River) as we walk into town. It's an incredible sight.

The River Tiber as we strolled into the old town.

A quite romantic sight as we crossed the river. The moon was out and so were we.

We met a lovely young (very young) couple sitting next to us, Shari and Michael from New Jersey. They've just arrived; we're leaving. Unfortunately for them, their luggage is lost and they've been wearing the same clothes for several days. We trade experiences and favorite gellaterias and we join them for a walk to sample the ice cream at three different locations. We leave them near their hotel but we have a long way back to ours.

We hop a bus but it drops us on the wrong side of the Vatican and at 11pm we start walking around the entire Vatican and finally reach our hotel. What a night!

Sampling gelato: Stacey, Michael and Shari.

The next morning we're up at 6! Our bags are packed. Our car is waiting out front and we're off to Leonardo DaVinci Airport. Security is tight as we slowly make our way through many different checkpoints. But we're finally up in the air at 10: 45 and nine hours later we're back in New York....back in another world. It was three and half weeks of a trip we'll never forget. And we both promise to return to Italia again (and again).

Posted by nybicyclist at 5:39 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 7 October 2003 5:48 PM EDT
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Monday, 6 October 2003
To Gubbio and back
Mood:  special
Now Playing: The ups and downs of Umbria
We decided that today Assisi would be quieter than yesterday, as October 4 is St. Francis's Day and EVERYONE wanted to come here to celebrate, so it was a veritable Disney World! Now it's Sunday and the holiday is over.

We get to town about 10:30 am and find the first parking lot full. There were about 10 tour busses there, too. Hmmmmm. OK, we'll try the next lot. Phew! Lots of room, so we park and trek up into the heart of the town. OH, BOY, were we ever surprised to find that today was a festival, flea market, selling day of some sort where almost every inch of space was taken up with one kind of truck of another selling all kinds of local and not-so-local wares. They had dozens of trucks selling candy, cheap clothes, kitchen wares (with demonstrations via microphones), one was selling fireplaces with fires burning, local produce and many of the trucks were selling porchetta sandwiches. How shall we describe this delicacy? They have a whole roast pig - yup, whole roast pig (no head, though) - which they slice and put onto a hard roll, salt, wrap in a paper and hand over to you for $2.00. It may not sound delicious, but it is. Healthy? We left eating healthy in NY 3 weeks ago. Luckily we'll be home Tuesday and will get back on track. But until we had a porchetta right away at 11:30 this morning, and then, shamefully, when we returned to Assisi this evening and the damn fair was still on, we had to have just one more! At least we shared them.

Slice it up, salt it, slap it on a roll. Have a pork sandwich. Matt couldn't get over it.

Stopped for an espresso and a pastry in this beautiful pasticerria.

The shop windows draw you in!

Garlic, onions, peppers and more being sold in the streets of Assisi.

We decided not to stay in Assisi all day because of the mobs of tourists and shoppers and to take a drive further into Umbria. We checked our Michelin book and thought that the town of Gubbio looked interesting, so that's where we headed. Traveling solely on back (really back) roads we head up into the hills and down and up finally arriving in this medieval village.

We took back roads from Assisi to Gubbio and the views were staggering.

Even though it was raining, Matt had to get out to take a picture of the view.

Gubbio is built into the slopes of Monte Ingino, and is truly a sight to behold. We find ourselves once again speechless, except to say it's awesome, unbelievable, gorgeous, etc., etc., etc. The highlight is the enormous piazza at the very top of the town that overlooks the entire valley. This is where the Palazzo dei Consoli and the Palazzo Ducali are, so they form two of the three boundaries of this wide expanse. They were built in the 13th century or thereabouts, as was the whole town which is really remarkable. Narrow streets built into the mountain, so each street is either a steep ramp, or has steep steps to get up and down.

The Palazzo dei Consoli in Gubbio.

A panoramic view of the town below, shot from the Piazza Grande.

The Piazza Grande in Gubbio.

Matt at the steps to the Palazzo dei Consoli.

A typical street in Gubbio.

We walked around the beautiful narrow streets. This was quite a bit less touristy than Assisi which is loaded with shops. It seems to be a medieval town that has been left untouched by the ages. Simply breathtaking.

This little puss came running over to us.

A red scooter with red flowers.

On our way out of the old town we wandered into the newer part (which seems pretty old as well) and came across a school concert of some sort. Parents and friends and onlookers jammed the piazza as high school kids performed parts from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. And they were quite good to boot. Once again, we remarked that Italian and American teenagers look very much the same.

High school kids performing The Four Seasons.

Kids getting ready to perform in a piazza in Gubbio.

Still, in another piazza, other kids were putting on a choral performance. We just enjoyed standing and watching proud parents and family watching their kids perform.

A junior high school chorus performing.

We took the "quick" way back to Assisi and that road, too, was astoundingly beautiful. It had been raining on and off. The sky was filled with menacing clouds that hung over the valleys and mountains. We passed achingly beautiful farms and farmhouses, cows standing patiently, plowed fields waiting for next years crops ... magnificent!

When we got back to Assisi, we were greeted with this scene. A beautiful end to a wonderful day.

Tomorrow, back to Rome. We booked a hotel near the Vatican. Tuesday we'll have to be up early to get to the airport on time. Our flight is at 10 am. See you tomorrow.

Stacey and Matthew

Posted by nybicyclist at 4:35 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 6 October 2003 4:49 AM EDT
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Sunday, 5 October 2003
Driving into the countryside
Mood:  mischievious
Now Playing: Making Assisi
Contrary to our usual behavior we were up early and out by 8. To breakfast and then a walk (the only time we used the bus or metro in Rome was the first day we arrived; otherwise it's been walk, walk, walk), a long walk, to pick up our car near the Spanish Steps. We drove back to our hotel, parked in our vicolo (alley; not much wider than our car), climbed 96 steps, picked up 4 heavy bags and descened. Then we were off. We decided to head north and east to Assisi in Umbria.

We got on the Autostrada, stopped at a fabulous rest stop. Don't confuse this with the rest stops on the Thruway or Turnpike. Wow! A coffee bar with pizza and sandwiches. And then a restaurant with beautiful salads, fresh fruits, cheeses, pastas with fresh sauces, meats prepared any way you like them and chefs standing by to cook your food to order. Also, wine, beer, juice, whatever. Quite amazing. In addition to all that a fantastic store with all kinds of delicacies to go. We bought some salami and prosciuto, a bread, some cheese and as quickly as you could say "subito" we had the makings of a picnic.

We stopped along the Autostrada and ate our bounty and drank our wine.

Us picnicking on the road to Assisi.

We continued along the Autostrada, but missing an exit, we got off and decided to go local. And that was a good mistake. The road twisted and turned and took us through some ancient and tiny mountain towns. One we stopped in for a panoramic view, was Giove. Beautiful.

People actually live here.

And this is the view from their windows!(Minus Sacey, of course)

We reached Assisi, which is the home of the 13th century convert to Christianity, St. Francis. He's the founder of the Franciscan monks. It seems he grew up a rich boy, gave up his riches, converted to Christianity, chartered a course of poverty and simple living. He also loved animals so we decided he was probably a good guy. The town has a 1 BC Roman Temple of Minerva (still standing) and a magnificent Basilica built in St. Francis' honor at the time of his death. We'll visit that tomorrow since we arrived late today without reservations. We did manage to find a room in the next town over in the Hotel La Viole and it's lovely, with fantastic views of the valley below.

Here's the view from our hotel window.

We met two lovely women from Seattle and Oregon, Diane and Susan, who we chatted with for a while over dinner at a nice restaurant: La Fortrezza.

That's it for today. Time is running out on our Italian trip. We'll spend another day here tomorrow, exploring and just chilling. Monday, we head back to Rome and Tuesday we fly off.


The Roman Temple to Minerva from the first century B.C. That's Minerva on the left.

An evening view of the Piazza Comune in Assisi.

Matt at dinner in the ristorante La Fortrezza.

Stacey at dinner in the ristorante La Fortrezza.

Posted by nybicyclist at 6:11 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 5 October 2003 6:18 AM EDT
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Saturday, 4 October 2003
Last Day In Roma
Mood:  blue
Now Playing: A romp in the park
Before we begin our blog, a quick greeting to our brother (and bro-in-law), Lee --- HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! LOVE TO YOU FROM US IN ITALIA!
So, tomorrow is today and we write once again. We decided that today we'd do the Villa Borghese. It's one of Rome's two "Central Parks." It once belonged to the Borghese family but has now been given to Rome to be used by the citizenry. Of course, we WALK there, once again through our favorite Campo de' Fiori where we stop for a piazza bianca which is, basically, pizza dough baked into a rectangle with only some olive oil. It's then cut to your specs and weighed and handed over for a quick pick-me-up into heaven. We thought that would be a snack, but it was lunch for Stacey, while Matt was able to force himself to have a panino later in the park.

Here's how they sell peppers in the farmer's market at Campo de' Fiori.

In order to get to the Villa Borghese, you have to climb a massive staircase from the Piazza del Popolo. Once at the top, besides having a panoramic view of all of Rome, you find yourself in this beautiful park that could be anywhere OUT of the city. It's quiet, there are few cars and motorbikes and there are miles and miles of walking paths. There's a lovely pond, much statuary and a few caffes to have an espresso or sandwich. It's truly an oasis in a bustling, noisy, fume-ridden city.

It's a long climb from the Piazza del Populo to the Borghese ranchero.

But it's worth the view of Roma from up above. St. Peter's on the horizon, right.

Here's the Piazza as viewed from the top of the steps.

Matt strikes a classic pose inside Rome's Villa Borghese

The Villa is an oasis of green and quietude in a noisy, bustling city.

On our walk home we are on a mission. To stop at the gelateria that we found yesterday that had the best ice cream to date. And Stacey ate her first gelato, after tasting Matt's yesterday.

But, on our way, we have to look in EVERY jewelry store for that one perfect bracelet for Stacey. And we find it!! Just what she wanted. Matt's SO happy! Can't you just imagine? But, as always, the walk is very interesting and uncovers many new sights for us, including the Chiesa S. Ignazio which our jewelry salesman told us about. It is rather gorgeous. We're glad we stopped in.

I finally found what I was looking for!

Many churches of Rome are decorated with incredible paintings and sculptures. This, the Chiesa San Ignazio on a beautiful, little piazza of the same name.

Last night's dinner was specialita sarde (specializing in cuisine from Sardinia). Tonight it was Taverna Giulia which specialized in cuisine from Liguria....the region of Genoa. That's pesto, baby and mama mia! That's a good pesto! Also mushroom soup the likes of which we've never tasted before. Another great dinner, what can we tell you?

Your travel guides at Taverna Giulia. (Photo courtesy of our waiter).

Tomorrow we pick up our car, leave our beloved Rome and head for the hills! It looks like we're going towards Assisi, but that's tonight, and things can change pretty fast around here! Keep posted.

S & M

Posted by nybicyclist at 12:48 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 7 October 2003 4:38 PM EDT
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Friday, 3 October 2003
Walking around Roma
Mood:  lazy
Now Playing: Wanderlust
Oct 2, 2003

This was a strange day. We wanted to do something but couldn't decide on we started with our regular routine: caf? and a pastry, then the internet....then we figured we'd do some shopping. First, though, we were gonna check out some restaurants for tonight. But we left the guide books upstairs (yes, UPstairs). So we started out looking and never found them.

So we wandered. And wandered. Actually, we love wandering. And Rome is made for wanderers. Back streets, narrow alleys, leading to other back streets and narrow alleys and the occasional grand piazza. Endless exploration. Found ourselves back in Campo de' Fiori (Field of Flowers) know, the place with the farmer's market. We stopped for some great sandwiches which we ate standing up outside the Forno (oven), the name of the wonderful takeout shop on the piazza. Then wandering around the market, we met Prospero, an old flea-market salesman, selling Chop-O-Matics.. A real character with a big Jewish star around his neck. He had a great selling routine, demonstrating all the things you could do with his gadgets. He was adorable and he won our hearts immediately. See if you agree:

A wonderful Roman/Jewish character, Prospero, with Chop-O-Matic in hand. It REALLY worked. We bought it!. We'll probably never use it.

Prospero, showing off his potato twirl necklace produced with another little tool he was selling. You couldn't help but love him!

Matt's transfixed by the European cars and scooters. Can't stop looking at them, seeing what the latest models are, pointing out various makes to Stacey (who, by this time, is very tired of this routine). Of course, he's always been a fanatic for European cars, particularly French and owned two Citroens (the famous 2CV or "duex chevaux" ["two horses"] in the 60's. There were big demonstrations in Paris a couple of years ago when Citroen finally gave up the ghost and stopped making them on an island in the middle of the Seine. But one still sees them all over Europe. And we've seen them in Rome as well. Here was a red beauty right near our street.

A beautiful red 2CV Citroen.

Well, we continued our wandering and found ourselves back in Piazza Navona. By now, we know the Centro Storico quite well, thank you. Navona is a beautiful square. It maintains its original buildings and shape (oval) being built on top of an ancient Roman playing field. Today, there is an art exhibit by handicapped artists. Stacey, the art teacher, is very taken by the high quality of the drawings and paintings.

Beautiful artwork by handicapped artists on Piazza Navona.

Time for an ice cream break. Can you believe that Matt is having an ice cream a day. What happened to his low-fat diet? When he return, OK? Hey, he only weighs 90 on our bathroom scale, so what's the problem??!! (90 kilograms, that is.) Besides, when in Rome....

And he buys the smallest cup available.

This time: ciocolatto e fragola (chocolate and strawberry). You can get two flavors even with the smallest serving. Cool!

Piazza Navona is a beautiful plaza with wonderful fountains. The pigeons like it also and make great subject matter for your photographer. Also, the contrast of old fountain and new ads are a bit strange. We even saw giant Canon ads on St. Peter's Square. They were so gigantic that the Pope could read them while appearing before the crowd of worshipers....that was bizarre indeed!

Stacey meets an old friend in a shop on Piazza Navona.

The clash of crash commercialism and classical beauty. Calvin, go home!

It seems this guy is a bit perturbed about where this pigeon decided to settle.

Once again, we walk. The scooters are everywhere you go. You cannot escape them. They're noisy, come out of nowhere and don't stop for anything or anybody. At a red light, they scoot to the front and when the light turns green (or even right before it turns), off they go with a hoot and a holler!

Everywhere you want to be....there they are!

One thing that's really nice about Italy is the sense of "famiglia" (family). We very often see young people, particularly women, escorting elderly relatives. Out for a walk or just sitting, it's a pretty sight and a common occurrence. Not something we see in the states.

A young woman and her nonna (grandma) perhaps?

Window shopping seems to be a favorite pastime. And the shops are everywhere! If you're a shopper, you'll LOVE Rome!

Um, don't think it's gonna fit.

We finally got back to our apartment at 7:30, just in time to change and get down to the restaurant that we decided on: Il Drappo - The Drape (??). It specializes in Sardinian food. Don't ask us what that actually is, but we can tell you, this dinner was memorable. A lovely giardino and wonderful, wonderful food - not to mention the vino was bello, anche. We're very happy. And very tired.

Matthew at Il Drappo, enjoying some rosso vino from Sardegna.

Stacey in the garden at Il Droppo.

Tomorrow is Friday, our last day in Roma. We've been here a week and could easily spend another week. We're enchanted and promise we'll return. Saturday, we're off in a rented car for a couple of days in the Lazio countryside (Lazio is the region that surrounds Rome). Then home on Tuesday.

More tomorrow.

Posted by nybicyclist at 5:12 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 3 October 2003 5:17 AM EDT
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Thursday, 2 October 2003
Bicycling in Rome
Mood:  accident prone
Now Playing: Rolling Along
Each day it's harder and harder to get out of bed. Could it be all the walking we've been doing? Duh! So today we decided to rent bikes!! Now biking in Rome probably won't be any more difficult than biking in New York, right? Well, except we won't have helmets, bike gloves or padded shorts, mirrors or bells. Nor will we have good bikes. We won't even have halfway DECENT ones. But, being the hardy souls we are, we do it anyway!! And BOY are they clunkers! Lesson number one of the day: if you're going to rent bikes, go to a bike store, not some hole in the wall that mostly rents scooters and has a few bikes for people like us. But we plug along through traffic of motorbikes, busses, taxis, cars on cobblestone and brick streets. It was a bit harrowing, but we made it to the Vatican - this time during the day to really see St. Peter's (senza la Papa) and then to see the Sistine Chapel.

Biking, Roman style. We did, however, see many more bicycles in Roma than in Napoli or Palermo.

St. Peter's itself is so extravagant, so ornate, so beautiful. It's awe inspiring, really. The first thing you see upon entering, in the first chapel on the right, is the Pieta. This is truly a magnificent piece, although one can no longer get too close to it. We did manage a photo, though. Then we continued to walk around the inside of the basilica to gape at the very ornate and beautiful frescoes and sculptures and decorations on every inch. Truly remarkable.

Michelangelo's masterpiece, The Pieta.

Notice the statue of the angel at the bottom of the column.

Pictures will not do this justice.

When we left St. Peter's to go to the Vatican Museum, we got back on the bikes (we can't say OUR bikes) and rode close to the entrance, but decided to have a bite to eat, first. Our second lesson of the day - don't eat close to the tourist site. It was edible, but too expensive for what it was. But we did get a glimpse of some high school-age kids as they were leaving school, and we were impressed by how American they look.

Kids look the same all over, don't they?

We finally make it to the museum, and walk through dozens of rooms filled with the most fantastic frescoes, tapestries, mosaics, marble, sculptures of marble, gold and silver by artists such as Rafael, Michelangelo, and their ilk. It was awesome. But then, at the end, we finally come to the Sistine Chapel and the ceiling - not to mention the walls! It is so exciting just to be there and breathe it in. Fortunately, we get pieces of information from various tour guides as we eavesdrop, to aid us in interpreting all the biblical allegories that we just don't know enough about.

The fabulous Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo worked on these paintings for 8 years. Can you imagine what his neck felt like each night after work?? By the way, no photos were allowed, but Matt, using his candid technique, shot anyway.

After all that walking again, we luckily have those trusty (ha) bikes to take us back to the apartment, where we ask the man in the shop if he'd pay US because they were in such bad condition. Of course we had to pay, but it was actually better than having walked all the way there and then all the way back. For some reason, we find that we just prefer walking instead of taking public transportation. But on the way home we stopped in to Despar (the local supermercato) for a loaf of fabulous bread, some gorgonzola and some lovely olives to have with wine as a little snack before our dinner later.

We made it back to our neighborhood!

Even the new is old in Rome: here an apartment building down the block from ours. It has some sort of portrait on it and it has to be from the last least.

And so ends another Roman day.

Ciao amici.

Posted by nybicyclist at 5:45 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 1 October 2003
Rome .... what was.
Mood:  caffeinated
Now Playing: Il Coloseo etc.
Another beautiful day in paradise: sunny, white fluffy clouds, 75 degrees, not too humid: perfetto! Today's finally laundry day and we found one about 100 yards away. While the clothes are swishing, we down our espresso (i.e. breakfast) and then Stacey goes to dry and Matt goes to the internet store and uploads yesterday's BLOG.

Then we're off to complete yesterday's walking tour: we want to see the Colosseo and other ruins in the area. We walk down some back streets, staying clear of the noisy and traffic-filled Via Vittorio Emanuele II. Right away we come upon a little farmer's market in the Campo de' Fiori (Field of Flowers). This market, we've read, is here Monday to Saturday till noon (or when the vendors sell out) and it's a fabulous sight -- Fish, veggies, fruit, some clothing and all those beautiful Romans buying and selling.

And guess what SHE's selling.

Grazie, signora.

We continued our walk along back streets enjoying just strolling through these narrow lanes as much as our official walking tours of the monuments and ruins. You get to really feel the city this way. We found a great pizzeria for lunch and noted that the Italians have very racy advertisements.

They serve you a slice by asking you how big you want it. Then they cut it, weigh it and charge accordingly.

Very suggestive billboards, don't you think?

Some more walking and we found ourselves, once again, in the Jewish ghetto....the streets are so convoluted that we weren't aware we were walking in the same areas as several days ago. Here, suddenly appeared kosher restaurants and the synagogue once again.

Kosher Pizza in Roma. Note the police car keeping guard (we think).

We're on our way to the Coliseum but we stumble upon the Circo Massimo (The Circus Maxiumus). Today it's just a dusty, oval field about 3 football fields long. We try to imagine the 250,000 Romans who would attend sporting events in this once mighty arena. It was stripped bare when Romans of later ages took the marble and blocks to use in their own construction. Here and there, some of the marble seats remain....nothing much more except the basic shape.

Stacey surveying the Circo Massimo.

Matteus Caesar gives the thumbs up from his seat at the Circo Massimo.

We keep wondering about the history of Rome and that it housed almost a million souls at its height in the years 100 to 300 A.D. and how and what happened to leave it in such utter ruins and populated by a mere 500 when the Goths and the Vandals completed their sacking and pillaging. You can almost feel and imagine the grandeur and its eventual slide into obscurity. An empire gets too big, too arrogant, too soft, too decadent and then crumbles. Is there a lesson for modern times here?

We wander a little bit over to the Coliseo, the largest of all the remaining architectural wonders of ancient Rome and we are awed by the size of this arena (arena means "sand" and the floor of the Coliseum was covered with sand. It was a "quick cleanup" of bloody remnants of the sadistic spectacles put on by the emperor and the wealthy for the pleasure of the Romans who attended in numbers up to 50,000!)

Il Coliseo.

Awesome in its construction.

Colossal! Um, the building, that is.

A nice shadow on the side of a building in the late day Roman sunlight.

Not having enough walking, (only about 10 miles already today) we turned ourselves toward Via Veneto, which is like our Park or Madison Avenues: very swanky, very rich. Fancy sidewalk cafes and restaurants are inside glass enclosures so the snooty ones don't have to hear the traffic or breathe the fumes. People are striking Feliniesque poses, chatting on their cell phones, with their sunglasses pushed up on their foreheads and their regular glasses over their eyes, scarf or sweater wrapped around their shoulders. Very pretentious.

We head back to our hotel. We're very, very tired.

A domani!

Posted by nybicyclist at 4:25 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 1 October 2003 4:46 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 30 September 2003
The Heart Of Rome
Mood:  hungry
Now Playing: We're Walkin'....Yesiree!
Today we did an official Frommer's walking tour. Tour number two: The Heart of Rome. Starts off on the highest of the Seven Hills of ancient Rome. It's supposed to take four hours but we're such window shoppers and caf? sitters that we didn't quite get to do the whole thing; about half - before the balls of our feet departed for other parts.

Still, it was wonderful: walking through old Rome (it's all old) and then, here and there, ancient Rome dating back thousands of years!

We got started late as usual: breakfast down the block from our apartment at Caf? Papparazzi.

Morning caf? at a little place around the corner from our apartment.

Then off we headed to the starting point of our tour. We love to stop and look at the people, just to sort of breathe in the feeling of the city. It's really true that Italians talk with their hands; not a stereotype.

Talking with their hands and always a lot of emotion.

And Che Guevarra seems to be a very popular guy: he's on shirts, tattoos and Vespas.

Che's everywhere in Roma!

This is what we mean about being tempted constantly.

The tour starts at the President's residence in the Piazza Quirinale (the president is Ciampi; the Prime Minister is Berlusconi). The off to the Fontana di Trevi (again); then we reach the Piazza della Trinita di Monti.This is said to be one of the beautiful piazzas in Roma: it has an Egyptian obelisk; it's at the top of the Spanish Steps and it has a French church built in 1502 by the French monarch, Louis XII; later, Napoleon restored it when he occupied Rome in the early 1800's. Did you know that Napoleon was in Rome? We didn't.

The Egyptian obelisk and the French church in the Piazza della Trinita di Monti.

When you walk down the Spanish Steps from the above piazza, you descend to the Piazza di Spagna; nothing to do with Spain except the Spanish embassy was nearby once upon a time. In the 19th century the steps were a place to see and be seen especially by young muscular men and beautiful women hoping to land jobs as models. Stacey vividly remembers picking up mail from home in 1968 (on her last trip to Roma) at the American Express office there. She'd walk over to the steps to read her mail from her parents and from a new boyfriend, Matt. The old office is still there.

Fond memories of molti anni fa (many years ago).

Our tour took us through many other places (which we won't bore you with). But we did come across Berlusconi's official residence in the Piazza di Colonna. A small demonstration against new condos was being staged by some folks from the World Wildlife Federation who wanted to preserve the environment where development was being planned.

I caught this fellow chatting with the protesters. "Don't be afraid to get on a bike." Right on!

One thing we notice all over Italy and Rome too: lots of begging; old people, mothers with infants and children, many people begging with their dogs snoozing at their feet.

An old woman begging on the Via del Corso, one of the main shopping streets.

We headed over to the heart of Rome: the monumental Palazza di Venezia, in front of which, is the statue to Vittorio Emmanuelle II, the first king of united Italy. This enormous edifice, which also has the tomb of the unknown soldier, contains a balcony from Mussolini gave his speeches. The construction of this destroyed many ancient edifices. Along its side is the Forum of Trajan and the Basilica of Ulpia built around the 100 A.D. Trajan's battles and life are depicted in bas relief around this tower. Trajan was the deified predecessor of Augustus Caesar.

Once considered an architectural wonder of the world, this is what remains of the Forum of Trajan. In the background a Roman "shopping mall" which had upper and lower floors of shops selling wares from the far reaches of the Roman empire.

We were dead tired and headed back to our apartment. First we stopped at a super market for snacks which we enjoyed on our terrazza. It was a fabulous day and a beautiful, magical night.

Now to bed.


Posted by nybicyclist at 4:33 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 September 2003 4:36 AM EDT
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Monday, 29 September 2003
Pussycats in Rome
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: E tu, gatto??
So, from the Notte Bianca (White Night) of last night when we really did have a great time with
all the activity in the streets to Stacey waking at 8:30 this morning to Black Morning today. No
electricity. OK it was our first night in the apartment and perhaps, we thought, we hit some
forbidden switch. So, after waking Matt at about 10, we go through each and every switch in the
house, including the circuit breakers. The only thing left to do is call the people in charge. BUT
before we do that, Matt, the intrepid techie that he is, quietly, while still in bed, uses his
Handspring palmtop and searches in using the words "Italy Electricity" and lo
and behold, we find out that there's a BLACKOUT: all of Italy is out! in the entire country!!!
That's 2 in 2 months for us, folks!! But the worst part was that there was no hot water for
showers!! Well Matt'll take a cold shower - he's used to that - but no shower for Stacey today.
Not so bad - had one last week, anyway. Ha, ha.

We left the apartment by 11:30 to search for something to eat. You know all those coffee bars
that Italy's famous for? There are 2 on every block making the most delicious espresso and
cappuccinos. Except when there's a blackout, those electric espresso machines don't work! But
we trek along and eventually find that slowly the power is returning and finally get our coffee.

Being Rosh Hashana and being located right next to the ancient Jewish Ghetto, we decided to
start out for the Sinagoga Romana (Roman Synagogue) to see what was going on.
This synagogue was attached (by whom is not said in the guide book) in 1982 and since then has
had Carabinieri protecting it (with machine guns). Built in 1874, it was intentionally designed
not to look like a Christian church. It was built with Babylonian and Persian details. The
Roman Jews are out in force, carrying their talis bags and, as the rest of Rome, very fashionably

The Sinagoga Romana in the Jewish Ghetto.

After the synagogue we headed for the Pantheon. It's just phenomenal. Here we are standing in
Rome of 2003 looking at a structure from 2,000 years ago, built by the ancient Romans.
Pantheon means "all the gods." It's the largest single concrete structure ever built!
(i.e before the 20th century). How did they DO that?? The columns, the marble, each door
weighs 15 pounds, the dome! It's so beautiful, so large, so remarkable. It's considered one of the
architectural wonders of the world. Indeed.

The Pantheon>

On to lunch. There's a cute trattoria that we passed on the way, so that's where we eat. Pasta for
Matt, salad for Stacey, but we do share a 1/4 litre of wine. It's Italy, after all.

After a rest, back at the apartment (remember, 96 steps up?), we once again head out. Could you
believe that Matt got hungry again? So we stopped for a slice near our apartment. This for a guy
who never eats pizza at home. But it's so good. And why go all the way to Italy if you're not
gonna eat the food, he wants to know.

The pizza is to die for.

We miss our cats very we headed off to see the ruins of 4 ancient Roman temples
(smack dab in the middle of the city) just a few blocks away. This is where Caesar alledgedly
was assassinated. Now, however, it's home to hundreds of cats (who are fed and cared for by
Roman cat lovers. It is said that many of them are adopted and now live all over the world. No
wonder. They're really loving and friendly.

Hundreds of cats in an area that used to attract emperors

We then went to see the Fontana di Trevi (Three Coins in the Fountain) which was crowded with
tourists. Spectacular!

The Trevi Fountain at dusk.

We had pizza again for dinner at what many people say is "Rome's best" - Pizzaria da
We had to wait to get's very popular. Now we know why.

Pizza ragazzi at work

Pizza ragazzi at work

Buona notte a tutti nostri amici!

Posted by nybicyclist at 5:12 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 September 2003 4:42 AM EDT
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Sunday, 28 September 2003
Bella Roma
Mood:  bright
Now Playing: Yuntov With The Pontiff
Arrivederci Napoli - we loved you. Now on to Roma. But before we left we took a quick, last walk around the Chaia shopping street and shorefront down to the Castel d'Ovo, then up to the Royal Palace and back to the hotel to check out.

Goodbye beautiful Napoli!

A Panoramic shot of the Bay and the Castel d'Ovo

The Metro took us to Stazione Centrale and we boarded our Intercity train to Rome. It was a two hour trip of mostly unspectacular landscape, then some very high mountains, the Appians (we think) and into Roma Termini, Rome's main station. There we caught the #64 bus to our hotel, several miles away. We were shlugging two very heavy suitcases, another tote, my knapsack and a shopping bag filled with ceramic plates (fromSicily). The tiny bus was mobbed with people....this was not a pleasant ride. But at least it was short. Francesca, from the apartment rental agency, met us and we proceeded up to our 1-week let on our apartment, aptly dubbed Cento Scalini. Ahem .... 100 steps. Yep, count'em: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ..... with all that luggage. This was surely a test of our physical fitness.

However, the apartment is very cute (the building is not; it's more like a 5 story tenement); a bit rustic with a beamed ceiling; a lovely living room with a terrace and table; a bathroom with bath (previous to this we've only seen showers, not tubs), a lovely bedroom with double bed. The bedroom also opens onto the same porch. And a nice kitchen. There's even a washing machine, but it looks more like a tiny automatic washboard and we can't figure it out for the life of us.

Our cute Rome apartment ... at the top of 96 stairs!

It's 5 pm. We'll hang out here for a while and then go out for lunch; haven't eaten since breakfast at 9am in Napoli. We have 7 days here so we're in no hurry to get things done. This will be a leisurely exploration.

Ciao for now.
Matteo e Anastasia

..... well, so much for resting. It's a beautiful evening and we walk out at 6pm for a drink at a bar,
Bar Paparazzi, just up the block. Two lemon vodkas, "fresca per favore", and we're
feeling pretty OK. We walk further up the street, Via Vittorio Emanuele II, and we hit a
beautiful bridge (of the same name) and cross the Tiber river and walk on to the Vatican.

Yuntov With The Pontiff
This is where it gets a little bit crazy. It's Rosh Hashana and two Jews from Brooklyn are in
St.Peter's. A service is being conducted and it's mobbed inside with visitors. About a mile away
(well, far away) at the altar, someone is leading the service. It ends and the guards close off all
the aisles. People are standing and looking toward the center aisle. Then wild applause breaks out
and shouts of "Papa, Papa" erupt. And sure enough, the Pope comes rolling up the aisle in a whee
chair, waving and smiling at his admirers. What are the chances of this happening to us we want
to know. It must have something to do with the New Year we figure. But we are quite amazed
that of all the times we happened to stroll over there, that's when the Pope was giving a service.
Go know!

Some views of the Vatican and St. Peter's

Truly amazing ... Here comes the Pope. Did he know we were in town?

Out for dinner now. We just found out that tonight is the White Night.....all museums are open all
night, concerts are in all the squares, the subway and buses are free. We've struck it rich for sure.

The White Night celebration: streets were mobbed with partying people, street performers, musicians, vendors. The restaurants remained open all night! Then the BLACKOUT struck at 3:30 in the morning (we were sleeping by then)...we woke up to no electricty in our all about it in tomorrow's BLOG! Stay tuned.

Dinner was a few blocks away and was wonderful (again). Rome was out in force for the White Nights....the streets and piazzi were overflowing with people, strolling, sitting on the fountains, hanging in the cafes and restaurants. What a fabulous scene! We were going to stay up all night, but by 11 we had had it and back to our 96 step walkup to sleep and explore Rome tomorrow.

Our strolling musician, Luigi, serenading Matteo on Rosh Hashana.

Ciao .... again, e buona notte.

Posted by nybicyclist at 10:56 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 28 September 2003 11:12 AM EDT
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