April 15, 2017
We arrived in Civitavecchia at about 5 am. We had our last breakfast in the Lido and got ready to leave.
Disembarking from the ship was very easy. Our group was called at about 8 am, we gathered our luggage from the holding area and we were off. It was Easter weekend and the cruise port was hopping! Get it?! Civitavecchia is about 60-90 minutes from the center of Rome and it is a no-frills kind of port. There is nowhere to sit and wait, or have a coffee. Fortunately our driver from Rome Cabs was early so we didn't have to wait too long.
We have used Rome Cabs for transfers every time we have visited Rome (to the airport or cruise port) and they always provide professional, excellent service - always on time or early.
We arrived at our hotel by 10 am and were able to get our room right away. Our hotel was booked through the cruise package we purchased. We stayed at Hotel Relais di Papi. It is close to the Vatican. It's an odd hotel but every hotel we have stayed in Rome has been odd and we kind of like it that way. However, it's better to stay in a hotel in Rome first and then get on the cruise ship. The other way around makes one realize how amazing the bed and shower was on the ship!
We dropped our bags in our room and took off to explore. My step count for the day was over 30,000.
We've never stayed on the "other side" of the Tiber River and we enjoyed seeing new neighborhoods. Except we kept getting turned around and back tracked a lot. We headed toward Castel St'Angelo and crossed the beautiful marble bridge, Ponte St. Angelo. The bridge was built in 134 AD and has spectacular sculptures of angels down both sides.
We headed toward Campo de'Fiori. It used to be where executions were held but now it is a market every day. We poked around, picked up some delicious fruit cups and headed toward Piazza Navona.
The hotel did a great job of marking the sites on the map they gave us but we still kept getting turned around. We must have walked around Piazza Navona at least 3 times before we actually got in it!
Piazza Navona has beautiful fountains and statues. The most significant is the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini.
I was fascinated by the police or guard of some sort walking around smoking a pipe. I couldn't get a good photo of him though. There are a lot of police and armed guards all around the city and especially at the tourists sites. In some locations they have the streets blocked off so that vehicles can't get through. It's a sign of the times and I'm glad they are there.
Next stop, one of our favorite places in Rome - the Pantheon. I love this place. When you stand inside and look around it has almost a mystical quality. It was very busy inside and the crowd was "shushed" by some overhead voice at one point. It might have been God. It was amazing to hear the loud buzz inside go to complete silence.
All the sites were busy in Rome but the Trevi Fountain was a zoo! We had to jostle our way in and pounce on a spot as soon as someone's butt lifted off. It's imperative that we get our coin in the fountain so you do what you gotta do! Coin in left hand tossed over right shoulder equals a return to Rome. Success.
We were used to "cruise eating" and we hadn't eaten in hours. Time for a pizza break. We stopped at a place called Sugo d'oro on our way to the Spanish Steps and shared a Margherita pizza. So good!
There are so many people in Rome! We learned that the Romans usually head to their beach or country homes for the Easter weekend and leave the city for the tourists.
We usually visit the Spanish Steps when we are in Rome. I've never understood why people come here but we come anyway. Maybe it's for the Fountain of the ugly Boat (that is its real name). I don't remember there being so many flowers in past visits. I'll have to dig through my old photos.
We trekked back to the hotel and went through Piazza del Popolo. It was highlighted on the tourist map so we thought we should check it out. It's a piazza.
We had a great day exploring and covered a lot of ground. There are 104 steps from the entrance of our hotel to the floor we are staying on. There's an elevator (aka Lift) but by self declaration, it's old and truthfully, I felt safer on the stairs. The stairs were also old but you know what I'm sayin'.
We changed and caught a cab over to Piazza Testaccio to meet our food tour with Eating Italy. We did a tour with them last year (different neighborhood) and it was fabulous so we thought we would try another one. It was also fabulous. We've learned that food tours are a great way to explore culture and history through food. We try things we would never have known about on our own, we meet nice people and we learn a thing or two.
Testaccio is a real Roman neighborhood, it is not a tourist neighborhood. While we waited for the tour to start we watched the kids playing soccer in the square. I was especially enamoured by the muppet looking dog keeping an eye on the 'hood from his window.
Friends from the cruise ship, Bob and Reggie, were able to join the tour and we were surprised and delighted to see them in the square. There are only 10 people on Eating Italy tours which is perfect. There was a couple from South Africa, a couple from Texas, a couple from Austria, Bob & Reggie (BC) and us. Our guide, Sebastiana lives in the neighborhood and was the perfect hostess.
The food tastings were all delicious (aside from the tripe - that creeped me out). James said it was pretty good. I choked one piece down.
Every stop along the way (except the gelato stop) includes an beverage (alcohol if you are so inclined).
Last stop GELATO! This is where we learn how to tell fresh gelato from gelato made from powder. This gelato shop was my favorite. James liked the one we visited last year better. Not me.
In this video Sabastiana is explaining that we need to choose two flavours that go together. You will also note that dogs are welcome in the shop.
It was such a fun evening. I highly recommend food tours! I'll post some of the food photos in a gallery below.
We took the Metro back to our hotel. It was close to the hotel but we got turned around and ended up walking in circles. No problem, we have a lot of food to walk off.