As some of my readers know, I recently returned from my cruise through Italy, France and Spain. We flew out on May 10 and arrived at the Fiumicino airport (AKA the Leonardo da Vinci Airport). I would have to say that Leonardo would be very disappointed that such a unmodern airport has come to bear his name sake. However, it didn’t really matter, I was tired and just wanted to get to the hotel to get some food and rest. When we arrived at the Grand Palatino Hotel, the service was very poor. No one was willing to help, we had to approach them and ask and even then, they seemed reluctant. For the price we were paying to stay there, they should have been tripping over themselves to come help. We arrived at the hotel around noon and check in wasn’t until 3pm so we decided to grab a bite at the hotel’s restaurant. There was no one in sight. Literally we walked around the restaurant peering around corners into other rooms before some guy was like “Can I help you with something?” Hmm, i wonder what a bunch of tourists peeking around a restaurant means? Anyways, we were finally seated and given menus in English, luckily. We made our orders and it took forever for anything to come. I had a ricotta stuffed ravioli served with “scampi.” When it came, they just looked like normal shrimp with their heads on. I didn’t realize that this wasn’t really scampi until later, but I’ll get to that when I actually describe my encounter with “real” scampi. Thought they were giant ravioli, I couldn’t forgive the fact that the shrimp was not fresh (it had that powdery consistency that seafood shouldn’t have if it is fresh) and for €18, I expected it to be a little better than what it was. Of course, i was also to learn that in Europe a lot of places serve fairly small portions. My sister is not a fan of pasta (ironic since we were in Italy, but she’s never liked pasta) so she ordered a duck breast dish. It was bad to put it mildly. The duck breast was completely dry and the vegetables looked and felt like they had been boiled in oil with oil poured on top prior to being served. For such a “high quality,” elitist kind of restaurant, that was disappointing and we would not be coming back.
Our first day there, as I said were dead tired. I had slept one hour. I woke up 6am Calgary time. We arrived in Italy at 11am local time (3am Calgary time). However, they wouldn’t just let us rest. No, they made the most of the money we paid by having a quick tour of the area around our hotel and our guide showed us restaurants we could eat at that were close to the restaurant which i found to be really nice and considerate of the guide to do that for us. She also bought us some gelato. So yummy! I was very happy even thought I was tired. We turned in early that night without dinner because we had to be up at 6am the next day to start off for the Colosseum. We were told that we would be getting a wake up call. It never came. Apparently the computer system responsible for that was broken…wow…okay…great job hotel, great job. Luckily my parents got us up in time.
Our hotel was located near the historical part of Rome therefore it wasn’t far for us to walk to the Colosseum. A word of warning: don’t take a picture with the gladiators wandering outside. They will charge you. And if you really want to take a picture with them, ask them how much they charge before you do get a picture otherwise they will charge you something ridiculous after like €40 and you can’t say no. Although I wonder if just deleting the picture will do it. Anyways, as beautiful as the Colosseum was, I couldn’t forget all that had happened there and it made me a bit sad to walk through there. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have to fight. Especially for those poor unarmed Christians…
After the Colosseum we headed to the Roman Forum, which was also within walking distance. It was a pretty hot day to be walking around in the open air, but the greenery and flowers were beautiful. We got to see a lot of Roman Pagan Temples which were only preserved because of it’s conversion into a church when Roman Catholicism reigned supreme.
After that, they gave us the afternoon off to explore Rome on our own.
The next day we explored the religious side of Rome. Our first place to visit was the Vatican Museum which then led to the Sistine Chapel, From there we went to see San Pietro’s Basilica.
Again in the afternoon, we got free time to explore Rome.
Technically, after each of the excursions mentioned above there were additional excursions that we could go on, but by that time in the day we were all too tired to go on anymore and didn’t want to spend anymore money. I would have liked to have seen the opera, but as half my family was against it and were unwilling to pay €100 to go, I didn’t go either.
From there we headed to Civitavecchia, the port of Rome, where our cruiseship would set sail. Well, no, technically it had already picked up some passengers in Barcelona and then got here. I think it goes on a circuit, so you can get on in Barcelona or Rome/Civitavecchia depending on which one you want to spend a few days in or is closer or which ever city you like better.
Now here’s the unfortunately thing. The photographs I took for these three days is completely gone. There was a malfunction with my camera and I lost all 130ish pictures. I’m really mad and sad at this, but at least my sister’s got some of the pictures.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s part detailing the visit to Florence, Pisa, and France.