Saturday, August 24, 2013

La strada per Roma (The Road to Rome)

On Tuesday night we actually did not finish our day with a relaxing dinner on the waterfront. We then went home and I tried to cram as many souvenirs and excess items as possible into Dave's extra suitcase for him to take home. Dave left on a 5:00 am train out of Vernazza to make his flight out of Rome. Later that morning, Megan and I packed our bags and made the perilous journey down our insanely steep stairs with our bags.

Our train out of Vernazza didn't leave until after noon, so we had plenty of time to shop for souvenirs and buy a lunch of foccacia bread, fontina cheese and freshly sliced prosciutto to take on the train with us. Then we said one last tearful farewell to the beautiful Vernazza waterfront.

As it was, we still rushed to the train station, struggled to figure out which train was heading to La Spezia and manage to hop on board just before it left (a few minutes before it was scheduled to!). We switched trains in La Spezia and then thoroughly enjoyed the chance to sit and do nothing for a few hours besides eat foccacia and prosciutto while watching the Italian countryside roll by.
We arrived in Rome and took a cab to our hotel, which was perfectly located right in the historical center, across the square from the Pantheon.

The Piazza della Rotunda was typically filled with people (day or night), including the usual street performers, couples snapping pictures, American travelers sitting in the outdoor cafe seating eating overpriced pasta, and tourists with their noses jammed in a map or a Rick Steves guidebook, trying to figure out which direction it was to the Campo dei Fiori (yes, that would be me).

We visited the Pantheon first, starting close to home. The current building was built in roughly 126 A.D. Almost two thousand years later it is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.

One side has the tomb of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy.
 Another side has the tomb of the great artist Rafael.
After the Pantheon, we headed to the nearby Largo di Torre Argentina, some Roman ruins that are adjacent to a cat sanctuary (forever after dubbed "the cat ruins" by us). We walked a little bit further to see the King Victor Emmanuel monument.

Then we headed to the grocery store in search of that most vital of all items: laundry detergent. This probably sounds silly, but I love browsing grocery stores in foreign countries. I think it is really interesting to see what everyday people buy and the differences in what is available versus what we have here in the U.S. One thing that they carry in Italy is McDonald's brand mayonnaise, in handy squirt bottle, ready to go on your french fries.
They have Top Ramen at the grovery store in Rome, but instead of being dirt cheap, it is 1.58 Euros for a single package. You really have to love your ramen at that price.
We finally found the cleaners aisle and managed to use my toddler Italian skills (and reading the pictures) to find a cleaner that seemed to have a good chance of being used for clothes (pictures of clothes on the back, etc.).

We also picked up a "Tronky" bar, made by the Ferrerro Rocher company. It became our new favorite. Aside from having the best name ever, it is a wafer-like filled with hazelnut creme. What's not to love?

We stopped at a trattoria near the Pantheon for dinner on the way home.
 Then we enjoyed the amazing view of the floodlit Pantheon at night as we walked back to our hotel. Bella!

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