We left Traverse City on Thursday October 26, flying from Traverse City to Detroit, and then on to Rome. Jocelyn met us at the TVC airport, and Milda welcomed us at DTW. The two Delta flights were fine; we had paid extra to secure bulkhead seats, which give more legroom and a place to stand up, but nothing can replace a bed to lie down when it comes to bedtime. None of us had much sleep, since it's hard to doze off when the plane is shaking a bit (so you really want to keep your seatbelt fastened securely), and just about the time that you might doze off, you're preparing to land. It's 9:15 AM in Italy, but your body says 3:15 AM. Fortunately we had an easy day ahead of us, so by the following morning, we were kind of back to normal.
Audley Travel had arranged to have a guide and driver meet us at the Rome airport, and he was there as soon as we exited from Customs (which was a breeze). Our luggage came down the conveyor belt right away, and we were off to our hotel, the Sofitel Villa Borghese. Fortunately, we could check in right away, so we dropped off our gear, and walked down the street to have a pasta lunch. The weather is sensational: mostly sunny, with morning temps around 50 and highs around 70. The air itself isn't that great, and outdoors there are a lot of people smoking.
So we all took naps for a couple of hours on Friday afternoon, showered and later explored the surrounding neighborhood before finding a restaurant for dinner. We slept well that night. The people-watching is quite good. We are surprised at how crowded it is, given that it's not tourist season. There are a LOT of tourists around, from all over the world. There are many weekend visitors from other European countries. Apparently people can get really cheap airfares from cities further north (where winter is already showing its face), so families just pop down here to see the sights for a couple of days.
On Saturday morning we met our Audley guide, Silvia, for a four hour walking tour of the city. We were with her from 9 to 1, and she took us to several famous sights in the city. Highlights included the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Piazza Navona. The crowds at the Trevi Fountain were huge, so it just seemed like we were part of the masses. There are ruins from all centuries all over town, with contemporary structures interspersed. In general, the city streets of Rome are fairly clean, considering the volume of humanity here. They do not have the amenities for tourists that TC has. Specifically, public toilets are few and far between. That can be a problem when you've been drinking lots of water. We cope by popping into gelato shops or bars to use the facilities. In addition, the sidewalks are not wide enough for so many pedestrians.
After lunch on Saturday, we visited an outdoor produce market, and then took a long walk back to the hotel. Jocelyn and Milda wanted to do some shopping for their grandchildren, so John & I made our own way back to the hotel, pausing to look at the map numerous times, but never getting lost. We obviously had a look of confidence, since a family from London stopped us to ask for directions! We didn't get back until about 4 PM. John was still full from his lunch, so his only evening meal was gelato, while the 3 women went out for Caprese salad and shared cannelloni.
Breakfast at the hotel is excellent, with a wide variety of healthy choices, plus some that are not so healthy - cheesecake with chocolate anyone? The fresh fruit is very good. And since the dining room is on the top floor of the hotel, the view of the city is magnificent. The first morning, there was a large tour group here, but today there were only about ten people around.
Sunday morning we had another guide supplied by Audley, also named Silvia. She came with a driver, who took us all to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. New fact: the word amphitheater comes from the fact that there are two ("ambi" or "amphi") theaters put together to form one arena. Silvia explained a lot of the inner workings of the Colosseum, and took us around the several levels. Then we crossed over to the Forum, where she escorted us through security, pointed out where we could explore ourselves, and left us at 11 AM. She didn't really explain the significance of our surroundings, so we meandered around for another hour or so before finally finding the exit. From there we walked to the other side of the Tiber River (tons of trash along the sides of the riverbank), and stopped for lunch. Once again, we separated into two pairs to return to the hotel.
It's not a lot of time to spend in a city, but to be honest, I'm just not a city girl anymore!