Rome – Florence – Venice, March 2019

We take a taxi to the Orlando airport and catch a flight to Atlanta to meet up with our friend Kathy who is flying in from Philadelphia and will join us again on this trip.

Our flight is uneventful; Kathy is on time and we all head to our Atlanta-Rome flight, hoping for an upgrade. When we arrive at the gate, I speak to a gate agent. He takes our boarding passes and says he’ll be in touch.

About five minutes later, he calls our name and voila, we’re in business class. Turns out the flight is oversold by eight seats in coach, which really worked in our favor.

We had dinner and slept for about 5 ½ hours, arriving on time into Rome at 8:45. The flight attendant passing out newspapers looks really familiar to me. He says the same about me. He’s been on this route for a while so it’s possible he was on our flight from Rome to JFK back in November of 2003.

Thursday, March 4th

Weather: chilly and overcast, intermittent rain showers throughout the day.

Cristof, our driver from Limo Service Rome was waiting for us and we were off to our hotel, the Nazionale e Montecitorio. Jack, the one-eyed cat who lives in the Piazza, was there to greet us when we arrived. We are very happy to see him.

Since we had had a good sleep on the flight, we unpack, get settled, have a short rest and set out for our first stop on the “It’s All About The Food” tour. First stop, Tazza D’Oro for espresso and caffe latte, then on to the Pantheon (where we watch the rain pour down through the oculus) and Piazza della Rotunda to soak it all in. We’re here!

On to Piazza Navona stopping for some of Kathy’s favorite Tempo tissues with menthol (such little things make us happy). Along the way we stop at a little market for a box of cat food for Jack. For the next three days, he is ensured a little snack at least twice a day as we come and go.

Giolitti for gelato (riso and chocolate for me, pistachio and riso for Kathy) was next, stopping to make a dinner reservation at Trattoria Antonio’s (recommended by travelswithdeb on AOL, Debra on slowtav).

A short nap and then to San Carlino, a church that has been on my list and we have yet to visit. It does not disappoint and we are happy we have made the uphill trek in the chilly, rainy weather. The church is very small but is a work of art in every detail. I would like to continue on to Santa Maria della Vittoria to see Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Theresa but we are all too tired so back to the hotel and a rest. Next trip.

We have an early dinner reservation for Antonio and arrive on time. As we get our wine, water and bread, the place starts to fill up. Unbelievably, in walks our flight crew from Delta! We all recognize each other and chat for a few minutes.

We enjoy puntarella (yummy), a pasta special (flat diamond shaped) with ricotta and pork, artichokes alla romana and tiramisu for dessert. During our meal, bags of fresh bread are delivered and a guitar duo starts to play around 8:30. When we leave the place is packed and there is a line out the door.

A short, cold walk back to our hotel, we pass out quickly.

Saturday, March 5

Weather: Chilly and mostly cloudy with intermittent rain showers.

We enjoy breakfast at the hotel, very good coffee, pastries, cold cuts and rolls, some fresh fruit. After a quick visit with one-eyed Jack outside, we are off.

We head out towards the Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtle Fountain) along via dei Cesari to do a little ecclesiastical window-shopping. I want to stop in to Gammarelli for a pair of the colorful cardinal socks I’ve been reading about but the “sock shop” is closed.

We stop into a little jewelry shop to get a battery for Kathy’s watch. The couple inside are very nice with the man getting to work in the back, as we successfully talk about the weather in broken Italian to the woman. We talk about how cold it is and has been in Rome recently.

We take a short detour through Campo dei Fiori, as we have never been there before. There is lots of activity with many vendor stalls and a beautiful flower market. A little dachshund nearby seems to know how cute he is and poses not just for us but others who are taking his picture.

After a short cappuccino and restroom stop, we find the Turtle Fountain and snap some pictures. As it’s almost lunchtime, we begin our unsuccessful quest to dine at Filetti di Baccala. After about 40 minutes of searching and trying to follow directions we’ve received from a passerby in Italian, we find it only to see the metal door pulled down, they are closed.

We head back to Campo dei Fiore, now famished, and settle on a little outdoor café for some delicious panini, fanta and wine. As it’s sunny right now, we enjoy a leisurely lunch. I have read that this square had become very touristy but we did not find this to be the case. We pay our bill and head out to the Cat Sanctuary at Torre Argentina.

We arrive at the Cat Sanctuary, and they are open so we head downstairs for a visit. With no volunteers present today, there are few people to manage all of the things that need to be done yet a kind woman (I’m sorry to say I didn’t get her name) spends about 20 minutes with us talking about what’s been happening. They have a new floor in two of the rooms and the rest of the place is getting one as well, thanks to a generous donation that had recently been received.

She tells us about all of the great things they are doing there, and we visit with some of the ailing kitties; one has two broken hips. They are a no-kill shelter so they do their best to care for all who are there. We leave a donation and pick up some souvenirs and brochures on the way out. Lenny snaps some pictures of the cats out among the ruins, no sign of Papillon, the elusive kitty I adopted by mail after our last trip.

We stop for gelato at Giolitto on the way back to the hotel. As we arrive, Jack is sitting on a carpeted bellman’s cart that sits outside next to the front door, and he greets us. All of this feline business makes Kathy and I homesick for our kitties (six and three respectively).

After a nap, we enjoy a passeggiete along via del Corso along with thousands of others. It’s Saturday and the street seems to be pedestrian only right now. Lenny stops into Messaggerie Musicali to do some CD shopping while Kathy and I walk on to Perla to pick up a Nomination charm for my bracelet. I choose an interesting option, Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she-wolf. After shopping for some CDs ourselves, we head back to the hotel in some nasty weather (sans umbrellas). By the time we reach the Piazza Colonna it is hailing. In hindsight, we should have headed directly to the Pantheon but we didn’t think of it and ducked into our Hotel to safety.

We drop off our packages, change and stop downstairs to enjoy drinks in the hotel lobby, campari and soda and cokes. Then we are off to dinner at Due Colonne on via del Seminario (near our hotel) where Kathy and Lenny had veal saltimbocca on our last trip and want it again. The ambiance here is nice, good lighting and great jazz playing on the stereo. For appetizers, we have eggplant appetizer, gnocchi with gorgonzola and rigatoni amatriciana. Lenny and Kathy enjoy their veal but the pork I order is so fatty that I can’t eat it. We have panna cotta for dessert. We walk briskly back to the hotel as it is cold, cold, cold!

Sunday, March 5th

Weather: Cold, mostly cloudy with intermittent showers

After breakfast, we take a cab to the Borghese Gallery for our 11:00AM reservation. With no traffic, we arrive about 10:15 and mill around the lobby, checking out the Borghese details on the computers that are available for visitors.

The audio guides we get are very helpful as we make our way through this small, beautiful museum. The building is as impressive as the art inside. We are all impressed in particular with Bernini’s Rape of Persephone and David. It is sheer luck that the final room we enter houses Apollo and Daphne, as this is the most spectacular piece here (in my opinion). I find that for me, it rivals Michaelangelo’s David and I can’t take my eyes off of it. As we approach our two-hour limit, we head for the bookstore and pick up some souvenirs including a reference book of the gallery that I’ll look forward to reading when I get home.

We take a very chilly walk through the Gardens, heading to the Spanish Steps. We are hoping the steps are adorned with their Easter azaleas but on arrival see they are not; it is still too early in the season. After seeing them this way in 2001, they seem bland and somewhat boring without them.

We find a cab at the stand in Piazza di Spagna and head over to Hostaria L’Orso 80 on via dell’Orso for lunch and what turns out to be one of the best meals of our trip, their antipasti della casa.

We sit, order wine and water, and the plates start coming.

Prosciutto Omelette Eggplant #1 (grilled) Roasted Peppers Mushrooms Three giant Artichokes Cauliflower Eggplant #2 (marinated) Mozzarella di buffala Celery and cheese in vinaigrette (my favorite) Meatballs Fava Beans Fennel Some pasta special with seafood Eggplant #3 (tiny and roasted) Bread

It is a feast, and we enjoy every last bite. Kathy and Lenny have dessert, tiramisu and mont blanc cake, I am too full.

We walk home through the Piazza della Rotunda past the Pantheon. As Kathy and Lenny nap, I have a visit with Jack downstairs and then walk the via del Corso through the majestic Piazza del Popolo (first time) to Santa Maria del Popolo (also first time). Having read Angels and Demons last year, I wanted to see the Chigi Chapel and the pointing statue. I wander the church and then head back to the hotel in the rain.

We skip dinner after our bountiful lunch and I visit Kathy in her room as she packs for our departure to Florence in the morning. We then head over to Giolitti for one last gelato. It is late so they offer up three flavors instead of two and we enjoy cones with whipped cream on top.

We walk to the Pantheon again with our gelato where it is virtually deserted. I love this place. To quote from City Secrets Rome, “Regardless of time of year, be it sunny weather or rain, no matter from what direction one approaches or happens upon it, there is no other site that so overwhelms, excites, startles or amazes.”

We head home on this chilly Roman evening.

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