Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Roman Holiday

Last week we began a short 3 day class on Transnational (or Organized) Crime. The biggest thing I learned from that class was that those who don't believe art theft is a victimless crime are gravely mistaken. Funds from stolen art goes directly to support other major crime syndicates like drug, human, and arms trafficking, and terrorism, to name a few. Art crimes also rob us of knowledge that is crucial in understanding our history and providing information and technology that can be practically applied today. Just some things to think about...

On Wednesday I headed to the airport in Rome to pick up Todd who was kind enough to come visit me for a week! :-) We got a hotel room at the Hotel Champagne Palace, a 4 star establishment near Termini Station with tiny bathrooms decorated with a repulsive amount of red marble and free breakfast consisting of the most generic pastries, cereals, and "juices" you can imagine. But hey, it's complimentary, right?

Here you see what we dubbed as the "Generi-berry Croissant," a croissant stuffed with the most generic red fruity-ish filling imaginable. But to be fully honest, they sometimes had a chocolate equivelant that was rather delicious.

The temperature in Rome was in the upper 90s, so we pansied out for some of the day trips we had originally wanted to go on and opted for spending the afternoons in our air conditioned hotel room watching movies (and Rome the TV series...how appropriate!) on the computer and catching up on the sleep missed for waking up early and beating the heat to the tourist attractions.

Probably my favorite part of the trip was the FOOD!! Oh my, did I eat some excellent food last week, with the exception of the first night (Weds). We were dying of hunger and went to the first restaurant that looked decent after being turned away from a sold out showing of the new Harry Potter and found ourselves in the Bar Washington eating tortellini that tasted like it was made by Chef Boyardee himself, all for a whopping 10 euors a plate. To compensate, we attempted to try some gelato but were severely disappointed by the low quality in the gelateria we chose. Not a great start to a Roman Holiday, that's for sure.

Thursday was VERY hot and we spent the early morning visiting the Galleria Borghese (2nd time for me, 1st time for him). I wanted to spend more time with a personal favorite painting of mine that I had more or less been hurried past during my first visit, Raphael's La Fornarina. That is one amazing painting, and reproductions do not do it justice in any way. It is supposedly a painting of Raphael's mistress--one he uses as a model for many of his Madonnas. If you are interested in historical fiction, the book The Ruby Ring by Diane Haeger is an interesting read.

La Fornarina by Raphael, 1518-20

The afternoon was spent away from the sun, but in the evening we managed to get tickets to the once daily English showing of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The movie theater was sold out again and there was no air conditioning. Sitting for 3 hours in a room packed with as many people as humanly possible who are all sweating and fanning themselves compulsively, just to see the new Harry Potter movie? You bet!

The highlight of Friday's excursions included an originally disappointing attempt at a fancy date night. We had read in a guide book of a nice restaurant near the Vatican that we decided to try out. It was near my favorite gelato place, which was a plus! So we got dressed up and took a shady taxi (one of those ones that's really just some guy with a car who hustles you on the street and ends up being cheaper than a legitimate taxi but could also drive you into the middle of nowhere and harvest your organs for sale on the black market) and were dropped off at the correct address only to find it had recently been converted into a cheap Mexican restaurant instead. Overdressed and not in the mood for an Italian's attempt at enchiladas, we wandered (in heels, mind you) to find another restaurant and stumbled upon my gelato place...which was already closed. An excellent evening quickly turned into a miserable disaster.

After a change into the flip flops I brilliantly brought along and a few stops on the Metro, we made our way to the area around the Fontana di Trevi and picked a random restaurant whose menu looked good. And suddenly the night became a fantastic success! We decided to splurge on the chateaubriand for two garnished with vegetables and potatoes, with red wine to follow the complimentary champagne and some of the most delicious bread ever! Too stuffed for dessert, we ended with the complimentary limoncello and decided to walk back to our hotel and enjoy the night air and stumble on random monuments along the way. This was one of my favorite nights in Rome!

Yummiest dinner ever!

Outside of our restaurant, Il Vineto

Bernini fountains are the coolest!

Amore at the Trevi Fountain :-) Probably the greatest picture ever taken!

Stumbling upon monuments while trying to find our way to our Home in Rome: Trajan's Column

Saturday there was a nice breeze so it wasn't as horribly hot outside, which was wonderful because we managed to dominate the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill before 2:00! Todd had already been to these places but they were new to me, and you know how I love to take pictures! So we have plenty of those to keep us busy and to share with anyone who wants to see them all! I've included a few in this blog, but anyone who wants to see more can look in my facebook album, and I have even more just on my computer.

In the Colosseum. I have like 5 million of these pictures, but I'm just putting up one.

Being my usual feisty self

The Arch of Constantine

Palatine Hill

The Roman Forum. I had to wait like 10 minutes to get to the place to take a good picture!

Taking a break from all of my walking on a lovely Corinthian capital

After our day of being avid tourists we decided to continue the trend and check out an attraction that was advertised in one of the maps our hotel gave us. The advertisement claimed that the Time Elevator was an incredible 5-D experience (what on earth is 5-D?!) where you learn about the entire history of Rome in only 45 minutes of adventure! So why the heck not? We were in the area, and decided to see what on earth 5-D was and take this Time Elevator.

Good heavens! What a silly thing it ended up being! This "experience" was much like a low budget attempt at the Star Tours ride at Disneyland, only focusing on Rome's history. We were secured in the same kind of moving seats, only there were 3 screens and they weren't large enough or convincing enough to create the illusion that we were actually flying over Rome or fighting gladiators. It instead created a very real motion sickness in many of the tourists. The movements also were not necessarily in sync with the screen, and I think this whole 5-D claim had something to do with the wind and rain and rats attacking our feets (fans, water from the ceiling, and air shooting at our ankles) and I'm sure would have been more effective if they had been timed correctly. Some were very delayed to the point of not making any sense because you forgot what they were supposed to represent. But overall it was a cute idea and young children would probably really like it.

After our interesting adventure on the Time Elevator, Todd and I decided we had to make up for it with as giant of a gelato as we could find! We found an excellent and crowded gelateria that definitely overcharged significantly, but oh man, was it delicious! And fancily presented as well! I thought it sort of looked like a unicorn, with the colors and the cones, etc.

Sunday we met up with Lauren who had been in Rome as well with her dog Tulip and we headed back to Amelia. I had to show Todd our favorite restaurant in Amelia, Porcelli, and of course Tropicana which I can now safely say has the best gelato I have found in all of my Italian travels. And I have eaten a LOT of gelato. Usually at least once a day! :-) I was thinking I should maybe write a book rating all of the gelatos and recommending flavors and venues.

Monday was a lazy day and I took Todd to little Amelian sites, like the Duomo, the park, and to see the view from the top of the hill, and told him a little about the history of Amelia and its walls. My Italian sister Emilia came home from her own trip to Rome that night and made us a fantastic homecooked dinner that I will definitely be recreating on my return to the states. And she had Todd try some of Isa's homemade limoncello, which is by FAR the best limoncello in existence.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and Todd left on the 6:25 bus this morning to catch his flight in Rome and head home to San Francisco. I didn't have too much time to be sad though because my class headed out for a day trip to Narni in the morning. We had much fun touring the town and seeing some of the more famous sites, and I will be writing a whole new blog about those adventures very soon! Keep an eye out, but for now, ciao from Amelia!


  1. What a great trip...it's not so much all the things that you have seen this week, but that you've had someone to share the experience with. Besides that Italy is a better place now that you have graced them with your presence!

  2. Your life reminds me of the intro to Kung Fu Panda where people are being blinded by your pure awesomeness...

  3. Wonderful recap, my love. :-) It was the best week I've had in a very long time. I'm so glad I got to share part of your Italian experience with you. I miss you so much already and I love you even more. xoxoxo