Rome – took some getting used to
We left Florence by train, travelling to Rome in executive class. First class was fine as well but I was curious about travelling executive and wanted to experience it en route to Rome. Our luggage has grown by a suitcase by now so we accepted the offer of a porter to pile our luggage onto his cart, drop us and the luggage off in a cafe at the station, come back to get us when it’s time to board and put the luggage on the train. I am kind of done moving luggage around on our own and hauling it up into the train compartments. In any event, we were assigned to car #1 that in this case was waaaay down the binario (track) the entire length of the train so we were glad we had hired the porter.
The executive car had only about 8 seats, quite a distance from each other and similar to but larger than business class seats on an airplane. Everything could be lifted, reclined, adjusted (at least in principle, not everything was in working order), a food tray popped up of the arm rest (broken on my husband’s seat) and you know, something to drink before boarding, 4 course lunch menu with wine, linen napkins etc.
I booked our seats across from each other but we might as well have been in different cars. The seats were too far apart to carry on a conversation without engaging everyone else in what we were saying.
The other passengers were three Italian men in their 60’s, clearly regulars on this line as they were greeted personally by the staff and seemed to know each other although they were not travelling together. All were dressed Italian men style, narrow leg pants, fitted jackets, scarves and dressy coats. Stylish bunch even for that age group.
This was going to be a short train ride, about an hour and a half between the two cities. We settled with our books, iPhones and the newspapers and looked over the menu to decide what we wanted for lunch. We assumed that they will be coming by to take our order. No one did come and we saw the Italian men waiving the waiter over to order their meal. That was kind of strange, why wouldn’t they come and take the order without being summoned?
After taking the order from the Italians the waiter disappeared for a while and by the time we got to order our lunch we were about an hour into the one and a half hour ride. I was advised that they ran out of the risotto I ordered so I substituted with pasta but by then we were kind of rushed with the lunch and definitely with the very full glass of wine that was served with it.
The other passengers were talking among themselves in Italian and I enjoyed the animated conversation although didn’t get a word of what they were saying. They were a friendly bunch and every now and then engaged us with a few words in English. As we were getting ready to leave at our stop in Rome they announced that they wanted to leave a good impression of Italian men and helped me retrieve my coat and things from the top rack as they chatted with us in half english, half Italian. One was from Sicily and urged us to travel there and gave us plenty of suggestions for where to go and what to see and he was particularly passionate about outdoor opera performances in one of the towns he mentioned.
Travelling executive was a fun experience, although I don’t think I would do it again unless it was going to be a long train ride. In any event, we bid goodbye to our new found friends and left the train to begin the next part of this epic Italian adventure.
A black Mercedes was waiting to drive us to the rental apartment, the weather was perfect, it was exciting to be in Rome and things were looking up. But, not so fast.
Our daughter was already in Rome waiting in the apartment and advised by text that there were some plumbing issues that will be fixed “tomorrow”. We arrived at the rental and after the stunning apartment that we had in Florence, this one was a let down. Low ceiling, small rooms, no view, uninspiring kitchen and….plumbing problems. Well, perhaps they can fix the plumbing tomorrow and maybe I can see the apartment in a different light later.
The apartment was located up on the hill above the Spanish Steps. Our street was not particularly charming and lacked the cafes, restaurants and local fruit and vegetable vendors that I expected.
We decided to leave unpacking for later and walk to the Spanish Steps at Piazza di Spagna, supposedly not too far away. We eventually reached our destination and Rome felt big, crowded, not particularly walkable and very touristy. The Spanish Steps were barricaded off for construction so we couldn’t even take decent pictures with all the construction equipment in the way. We walked around for a while around Via Condoti, Via del Corso and Via Borgognona navigating through the crowds before starting the climb back up many (many) stairs to get back up the hill and to our apartment.
Back at the apartment things were not getting better and after four days of problems with plumbing we were offered another apartment, in the Prati rione across the river near Piazza Cavour. This second apartment was an improvement. Very large (160 square meters), high ceiling and tall old style windows with wooden shutters, three bedrooms and three bath. The plumbing worked and we decided to stay. I wasn’t about to move again and wanted to get on with exploring Rome. We are to stay here for 6 weeks. The upside about this place is that bed linen and towels are changed every week and the location is good, close to most places with restaurants, cafes and charming bakeries, pastry shops and vegetable markets nearby.
We are fully settled now and as I am walking around exploring Rome I am shedding my first impression and slowly falling in love. We have seen some of the historical sites, visited the markets and walked through the unique neighbourhoods. I have already taken a cooking class from a talented local blogger and attended a few operas held in ancient cathedrals. And, of course, we have eaten fabulous foods.
Rome needs to be savoured one bite at a time, experienced neighbourhood by neighbourhood, market by market. Getting off the main avenues into small side streets, walking down alleys, eating at local eateries and sitting (or standing) in cafes that have been around for more than a century make you see the beauty and fall in love with this special place.
Although we had a bit of a rough start, things are shaping up beautifully. Stay tuned for reports on my Roman adventure coming up.