Sunday, December 18, 2011

the end of the vacation

Two months after our return from Spain and Italy, I've finally finished editing and posting all of my trip pictures—the ones worth posting, that is. I whittled them down from over 9000 images to about 550. Not bad for 4 weeks away. And this is the last blog entry for the vacation!

Our last Saturday in Rome covered a few obligatory tourist sites and pretty much none of the places to shop that were on my list. First, we walked up to Piazza del Popolo. Although we poked our heads into Santa Maria del Popolo for a second, we didn't linger. There seemed to be a wedding either getting ready to start or in the last stages of winding down, and the Chigi Chapel looked like it was under construction anyway. So we continued up a set of stairs to the Villa Borghese Gardens. There, we took a few pictures from the terrace and walked around for a bit. Post-gardens, we headed to the top of the Spanish Steps and proceeded to walk down them. The place was crawling with tourists and really pushy, obnoxious rose sellers, so we didn't stick around any longer than we needed to to get the pictures I wanted.

Lunch was next; we went to an okay pizza and pasta restaurant near our apartment, for lack of better ideas. In the afternoon, we took a little break, got gelato at Grom, and went to see the Trevi Fountain. This was our second visit to the fountain, but it was our first in the daytime. It was definitely more crowded than it had been at night. (The actual square it sits on is way smaller than you'd expect for such a landmark.) To get my pictures, I had to work around hoards of people, including tour groups with their guides holding umbrellas or sticks with scarves tied to the ends. It was challenging, but I got a few pictures worth posting. When it was all done, we even managed to get close enough to toss our coins in.

Dinner that night was at L'Asino d'Oro, a restaurant with a chef from Orvieto. It had been on my list of places to try anyway, but our new love of Orvieto and its food cemented our need to go there. (You know, when in Rome... eat food from Umbria...?) It turned out to be a good move, even though it was a little out of the way. The food was tasty and maybe a bit more inventive than what we had in Orvieto. Of course, my favorite thing was the pasta with the black truffles; I was glad to have one more version of it.

281/365 fontana di trevi

Because we had switched my itineraries for Friday and Sunday, Sunday became our Ancient Rome day. We decided not to go to the Forum, after seeing how long the lines were. (I'm not convinced that Rick Steves' suggestion of buying tickets at Palatine Hill is up to date; it looked like there was only one entrance for Palatine Hill and the Forum.) Anyway, if we were going to wait in line and see one thing, it was going to be the Colosseum. That line turned out to be pretty badly organized, but we eventually made it in. (Hint: if they tell you to fill in the corners around the right hand side of the line, do not do it. You will end up much farther behind those who stay where they are, because you end up fighting with many more people for the single ticket window furthest to the right.) So... we got into the Colosseum, looked around, and took more pictures. It was big, old, and pretty cool. And it mostly made up for the annoyance of the line.

Theoretically, we could have used the same tickets from the Colosseum to go to the Forum too, but I had had enough of the crowds for a while. Unfortunately, things weren't really looking up when it came to our lunch. It wasn't crowded, but we had the single worst meal of the trip at Urbana 47. Since it was Sunday, it was apparently brunch day. That wouldn't have been a problem, but they had the most confusing prix fixe menu ever. Add to that the insanely bad/slow service, high prices, and really mediocre food. We were glad when we finally left.

Back to the area around Via dei Fori Imperiali, we did some more looking around the ruins (see below). From there, we walked up to Piazza del Campidoglio, and finally to an overlook on the Victor Emmanuel II Monument, via a Rick Steves' shortcut. (At least he came in handy once that day...) It was rather chilly and windy by that time, so we made our way back to the apartment to get warm again.

We also had to track down a pay phone so that we could call and confirm our dinner reservation for that night at Glass Hostaria in Trastevere. It was kind of a pain, but it was totally worth it. The restaurant was one of the better meals of the trip, for which I was incredibly thankful after our craptastic lunch experience. The dishes at Glass were perhaps the closest to American fine dining that we found in Italy, probably because the chef worked in America for several years. Everything was done well, several of my favorite ingredients were featured, and portion sizes (split by the kitchen, since we were sharing) were perfect. We later found out that they have a (well deserved) Michelin star.

282/365 ruined

For our last day in Rome, my plan was to go back to Trastevere by way of Aventine Hill and Testaccio. When I was figuring out the itinerary, I assumed that we'd take the Metro, but we ended up walking instead. In fact, we never took any public transportation while we were in Rome. Places were generally much closer than they appeared on the maps, so we just walked everywhere. (Better for avoiding pickpockets anyway.)

So our first stop was Aventine Hill, where we found the keyhole with a view at the Villa del Priorato di Malta. The place is a private garden belonging to the Knights of Malta, but the view through the keyhole is St. Peter's Basilica, perfectly framed by the shrubbery. I waited in line three times to get the shot, since I had to use some trickery/trial and error to get my camera to expose it correctly.

After Aventine Hill, we walked down to the neighborhood of Testaccio, where we looked around a food market and eventually had a lunch of panini and arancini at 00100 Pizza. From there, we walked over the river to explore Trastevere. On the whole, I didn't take as many pictures that day as I probably could have; I think I was getting a little burned out after several weeks of sightseeing. But we saw the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, and we were able to make dinner reservations for that night at Osteria La Gensola.

La Gensola was where Dan and Carmen went for Dan's birthday two years ago, and it came highly recommended online as well. We got our seafood and some more pasta, which was good, but it didn't quite compare to the previous night's dinner at Glass Hostaria. Still, a respectable last meal for the trip.

283/365 trastevere

That brings me to the journey home. We woke up in Rome at 7:30am local time on Tuesday and didn't get home until about 12:30am San Francisco time. In between, we walked from the apartment to Termini train station, took the Leonardo Express train to the airport, rode in a shuttle bus or two to get to the terminal and gates, and waited for our plane, which was almost two hours late. We were getting worried that we'd miss our connecting flight at JFK in New York, but we made it. The pilot had made up some time in the air, and we were greeted with bright orange envelopes to expedite things once we landed in NY. There was even time to go to the restroom before we had to get on our flight to SFO. Finally, upon arriving in San Francisco, we collected our bags and took BART back into the city. It was a long day of traveling, but we were happy to have made it home.

The picture of the day? It was from a little walk around the Rome airport concourse, looking for something worth photographing. There wasn't much that captured my interest, but I got one final picture of the ubiquitous Italian Pinocchios.

284/365 last chance souvenirs

Then it was Wednesday, and I had zero desire to go anywhere or do anything. I'm not even sure if I touched my trip pictures that day to get started on editing. I did not, however, get a break when it came to taking pictures. Something had to be done, so I shot some of our souvenirs: the linen napkins and small watercolor prints that we bought in Florence. At some point, I'll get frames for the tomato and olive prints and hang them in the dining room. The tiny one of the countryside will probably go in a scrapbook or something. It was only 1 euro anyway.

285/365 pieces of florence

Back to the land of the living on Thursday, I went for a walk with Carmen and Elsa down Valencia Street. A new home store, Aldea Home, had opened while we were gone—a nice surprise. So much good stuff there and certainly worthy of a picture.

286/365 aldea home

And Friday was the day when we gave Carmen, Dan, and Elsa the little souvenirs we had bought for them in Italy. The packages had made it back with us mostly intact, so I took a quick picture of them all together. For Carmen, we got a Vespa figurine from Orvieto; for Dan, a police cat bottle opener from Rome; and for Elsa, a couple finger puppets from Florence.

287/365 fun for the whole family

So that was the Europe trip! If you'd like to see more of the pictures, the entire set is here. I hope to make a nice Blurb book with all of them sometime in the new year, but I'll settle for finishing the 365 project in the meantime.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip! The pictures are incredible! Bonnie