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24 August 2009

Roman Holiday

written by: Don

I have always maintained: if you have never been to Rome, you have never been to Europe. So when we saw this fantastic deal on Expedia for the all inclusive package, including those jump-the-queue guided tours for all the ancient sites, we didn't need much time to make up our mind. Well, especially me who has never been there.

Thank you everyone for all the warm wishes for my birthday! You made me one happy bloke! :)

As some of you already know, Birgit and I spent the (extended) weekend in sunny Rome. Obviously we didn't miss out on all these ancient monuments that make Rome so attractive for tourists. There was the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican (although Birgit insisted that we do not visit the Sistine Chapel), the Trevi Fountain (along with many more), the Jewish Ghetto, etc. But my absolute favourite is the Pantheon. The one building that still stands, after almost 1900 years, with all the magnificent engineering solutions that flowed into the construction of the gigantic free-standing dome of a staggering 43m diameter - completely made of concrete & without any supporting metal frame! Genius!

Now, of course, Rome is Italy and Italy is la dolce vita, so we dived right into the sea of Italian Gelato! There is this old ice-cream shop called Giolitti, where the waiters stand behind the ice-cream bar and bark their 'prego!' at you, smash the spoons of soft ice-creams into the cups and then throw the spoons back into the pot of ice-cream like a dagger. A must-have Roman experience! Apart from Gelato, we also had our fair share of fantastic espressos, pizzas, pastas, carne and seafood - all combined with dining al fresco, at 10 in the evening, with antipasti, primi, secondi and dolce to round it up! I swear I put on weight there. The ristorante Maccheroni (thank you, Valeria, for the great tip!) on Piazza Coppelle was especially memorable, not the least because of the most eccentric waiter I have ever met, Andrea (male, of course), who greeted us so warmly:

Me: " We have reserved a table by the name Don."

Andrea: "Don Giovanni? He doesn't have eyes like you!" (using his fingers to simulate slit eyes)

He probably expected Al Pacino or Marlon Brando to show up, but a Chinese was the thing he expected. But he was fantastic, looking after us the whole evening with his very own way of courtesy.

Another memorable chapter of our short trip (which amazingly didn't feel short at all): Rome has recently introduced a bike-sharing scheme, and you can hire bicycles at unmanned stations all around the city and return them at any station of choice. Sounds like an amazing idea, so we were trying to get this one membership card you need to get ourselves off the ground - literally for three days - but none of the tourist info centres could tell us where to go, until we find out that only three places in the whole city issue those cards, and one is right there where our hotel was... In the end, we manage to get our cards on the last day and rode around the city like maniacs. But all the effort was worth it, definitely. You can't beat the amazing feeling of cycling around the Colosseum, thinking of how extremely old this building is and how people walked around it and died in it almost two millennia ago. And now here we were, cycling around it. What would those Roman people from those days think if they would see us now? Well, time to start working on the time machine I guess...



Dinah wrote on 30 August 2009:

Hi Don and Birgit...

Don, sorry we are late with our birthday congratulations, but I take it that you had a fantastic celebration in Rome. I read your blog with delight, I enjoyed my short visit to Rome but it was nearly 10 years ago with my cousin but feels like a recent holiday. Why didn't Birgit want to see the Sistine Chapel?? xx Dinah

Birgit wrote on 30 August 2009:

It wasn't that I did not want to see the chapel - I just didn't want to go through the ordeal of that endless queue winding through the entire museum where you are not even allowed to stop to look at something!

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