April-May 2005 in Italy and Malta
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April 24-27 Capri
May 6-7 Sicily, Scilla and Charybdis
May 7-8 Tropea (Capo Vaticano)
May 10-12 Abruzzi National Park
May 12 Tivoli, Villa Adriana
Arrival in Rome
When we arrived at Fumicino Airport (otherwise known as Leonardo do Vinci Airport), we could see nice blue sky on one side, and very dark clouds and showers on the other. We hoped that the blue sky side would win, but we were to be disappointed. The rain started before we were on the express train into town, but luckily it had stopped for a while before we got to Termini station. Termini Station is huge!
We had intended to walk to the Hotel Colosseum, as it showed on the map as being not far from the station. However, the airport express comes in on a special track, and the walk to the actual staion building is almost as long as the walk from the station to the hotel. Luckily, we had a cart for the walk along the platform! And more luckily, the rain had more or less stopped as we walked to the hotel past the men selling collapsible umbrellas for 5 Euros. But at 14°C, it was cold, for us who had left Toronto at 27°C.
The main street from the station toward the Roman Forum is the Via Cavour. Our hotel was on a parallel street that the map showed as one short block away. What the map didn't show was that the short block was up a steep hill, with stairs as one connecting street and a steep narrow alley as the other. But we got there eventually, to find that the rooms were not yet available. So we decided to go for an exploratory walk, not very well equipped for the rain.
First, we went to the nearby Colosseum, about 500m from the hotel. Just on the other side of the street, we passed a group of youths playing volleyball on a macadam court in the rain.
Outside the Colosseum, one can see along the main street that goes past the Roman and Imperial Fora to the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. Luckily, at this point, the rain had eased off, and we went into the Colosseum. Here is where we found that my UK Passport could be useful, as it turned out that senior citizens of an EU country could get in free. (Late in the holiday, we found out that this is true for Canadians as well, since Canada and Italy have some kind of a reciprocal arrangement. But by the time we found this out, we had paid quite a few Euros for Ina's admissions to various places, and I think a lot of the admissions people don't know it, anyway.).
Inside the Colosseum, one can go all round at two levels, the entry level and about half-way up. It's impressive how the Romans had arranged the access routes, few of which are now usable. And een though one knows about it from many years of exposure to pictures and TV, nevertheless it still surprises with its huge size.
We left the Colosseum with a view to seeing the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. We did that, but the rain came down in torrents before we got to the Forum entrance, and we waited (with several other people) under a triumphal arch. Finally, the rain slackened enough for us to venture out.
The first thing we came across was the entrance to the Palatine Hill. Unlike the Roman Forum, which is free, the Palatine Hill costs money to visit. But the notice said that Colosseum entry tickets were also valid there, so we went there first. It provides a very good overview of the Forum from above the ruins of a major palace. Apparently, many of the Emperors buit palaces on the Palatine Hill, each trying to outdo his predecessors. This means that there are lots of ruins on top of the hill, most of them little more than low foundation walls.
One very large ruin that is a lot more than foundation walls is the Palatine Stadium. When we first saw it, we thought it must be the Circus Maximus, but that turned out to be even a bit further south.
After wandering around the Palatine Hill for a while, and getting good exercise dodging a lot of muddy puddles, we went back to the Forum, where we could look back up to the Palatine Hill and the Palace we had been on top of when I took the two overview pictures.
By this time, we were getting tired (remember, we were just off the plane), and wandered back to the hotel, where we were able to get into our room. We agreed with our friend Alain, who had been with us since the plane, on a time for going out to dinner, but when that time came, the rain was torrential and the whole width of the road was a river. Nevertheless, we went out to a nice pizzeria/restaurant at the end of the block. We enjoyed it enough to bring the rest of the group there another night during the meeting. By the time we finished, the rain had abated, and getting back to the hotel for a most welcome sleep was much easier than going out had been.