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Old 04-03-2008, 11:34 AM   #1
Mike Jones
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: UK
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Rome 2007 - Mike & Amanda's Trippie - Part 2

Day 2 – TUESDAY 23rd OCTOBER 2007

The bed was very comfortable, and overall we slept well, although the total lack of any background noise meant that even slight sounds from other guests in the common areas tended to disturb me – I woke a couple of times after 3.00am, briefly, but dozed on until 6.45.

We shower and prepare our kit for the day (I take a small, lightweight daypack around with me, even on UK days out, so that we can carry water, notebook, jackets etc). I am annoyed to discover that our power adapters don’t mate with the room sockets (they did in Florence) and pop out to reception to ask if they have any spares.

A middle-aged guy is on duty. He tells me, with a clearly American accent that sadly they don’t. He does, however, write down in Italian exactly what we require, so that we can try an electrical goods shop in town. We look at the weather forecast on his pc and decide it should be a good day overall.



It’s 8.30 when we leave the hotel, through a secondary gate onto the street at the back of the building. From here, it’s a short walk, vaguely in the direction of the Metro, to a traditional café, ‘Mary Café’ where we stop for breakfast.



Roman cafes have a particular protocol for ordering food and drinks. Firstly, having ‘buongiorno’ d the staff, you decide what you are having from the displays on one side, before paying for it at a separate till area, usually on the opposite side of the café, if space permits. Having received the receipt, you turn around and theoretically present it to the server behind the food stand …. In practice, if it’s quiet, they overhear what you ordered at the cash register, or the lady on the till shouts it across to them, and they are already on with it.

It’s not long before we’re tucking into our Americano coffees and panini’d ham and cheese croissants (it spoils the shape a bit, but you try stopping them – they stick everything under the panini grill! It stopped me ordering sweet cakes on a few occasions, just in case!)

The cost is 5.40 Euro. We learned in Florence that Americano is our preference in Italian cafes – sometimes we like espressos, but they are tiny by anyone’s standards (and extremely strong, although that raises no complaints from either of us) – the modest amount of water they add to their version of an Americano makes a slightly longer drink, somewhere between a UK espresso and a strong, filter coffee in strength. Typically they cost one Euro or less – Café Mary charge 70 cents.

I’m not totally comfortable with the shoes I’ve chosen this morning, so while we are within easy reach, we head back to the hotel so I can make a change to something dead certain before heading off on a long day’s wanderings. On the way we stock up on large bottles of water, wine and some more beers, from a supermarket round the corner.

It’s now 9.15. We walk into the city centre along the same route as yesterday, across the nearest bridge, along the busy Via Flamina, and through the gates into Piazza Popolo once more, which feels much more welcoming in the sunshine today.



This time we take the central road out of the square, the Via Del Corso and stroll towards the Vittoriano. There are some beautiful buildings and basilicas along the way – we decide to go inside one of the most imposing, the ‘Chiesa Des Santi Ambrogio e Carlo al Corso’ – which sounds rather prettier than ‘ The Church of Saints Ambrose and Charles on the Via Del Corso.’ Because of the narrowness of the streets and the impressive height of the church, combined with the stark shadows, getting a decent photograph is challenging.



This magnificent church was built by the Lombard family between 1665 and 1669 (which seems incredibly short when you see the size of the place and the lavishly detailed finish throughout). It has a nave, two aisles – and virtually no people! Just a lone priest walking about at the rear of the building, silently praying and reading a bible, and us! This would be a cathedral anywhere else we’ve ever visited!







We leave at 9.55. The contrast between the virtually silent church and the bustle of the Corso is shocking. It’s bright, mild, and promises to be reasonably warm later. We stroll eastwards, towards the heart of the city., passing familiar stores along the way:



A commonly recurring problem arises, when we could both do with a restroom. There don’t seem to be any public loos anywhere (we later discover that there is apparently just one for central Rome, but we never find it!) and stopping to take on more fluids as a ploy for using a café’s facilities seems self-defeating. Back in Manchester, or New York etc, we’d head into the nearest department store, but Rome tends towards small, high quality designer boutiques and doesn’t really have any to speak of. The nearest we get is a modest, 5 storey building further along the Corso which is the home of a posh store called La Rinascente. It would fit neatly into a corner of a typical John Lewis or Selfridges! We climb to the third floor where they have a smart but minimalist toilet provision and then slink away under the withering glances of the Armani-suited staff.

Heading onwards, the Corso passes an open square called Piazza Colonna, which has as it’s focal point a massive, carved monolith, the Column of Marcus Aurelius, erected in 180 AD to commemorate various, northern European campaign victories, and astonishingly carved over its incredible height with scenes from the campaigns. I presume a statue of the Emperor himself once capped it, but a later Pope replaced it with a statue of Saint Paul.



Opposite the piazza, on the eastern side of the Corso is a beautiful, 19th Century shopping centre, the Galleria Sordi, with a lofty, columned arcade onto the pavement.

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