Tuesday morning found us awkwardly sprawled across the seats of the Split - Ancona overnight ferry. After attempting to watch the sunrise over the Adriatic Sea (it was more like a slow change from all black to all foggy grey) we got into the Italian spirit by crowding the exit along with the rest of the jostling and gesturing passengers. We had both spent time in Italy before-- Carla spent several months here studying-- so we only allowed ourselves three days there before our flight to Prague. We had originally meant to spend a night somewhere in small-town Italy before heading to Rome but given the rainy, cold forecast and tight timeline we decided to just take the direct train from Ancona to Rome.
Once off the boat in Ancona we trekked a couple miles across town to the train station only to learn that the next train to Rome left in about five hours. It was hard to be frustrated when I realized that meant I'd "have" to spend an entire Tuesday morning hanging out in a coffee shop in Italy, reading and going through travel photos. We first decided to walk around the neighborhood and see what Ancona was all about but, unfortunately, there wasn't much aside from nondescript buildings and somewhat dirty streets. A few hours and several espressos later we were on the way to Rome.
We arrived in Rome early that evening after spending the afternoon riding through the beautiful, mountainous and rainy Italian countryside. Paolo, our airbnb host for the next three nights, met us at the station and gave us keys to his place. We would be spending our nights in his bedroom while he slept on the couch. The pre-war apartment was very cool, with high ceilings and a balcony overlooking the sleepy Roman neighborhood. After a whirlwind 36 hours of travel originating in Dubrovnik, Croatia the morning before we decided to kick back at the local wine bar on our residential street. The wine was delicious (and cheap) and the friendly waitress sent us home with a couple of underpriced recommendations.
The next two days were mostly spent walking around the city and taking in as many sights as possible in our limited time. Our first stop was the Capuchin Crypt, an overwhelming and chilling work of art-- the medium being thousands of exhumed human skeletons. There is an indescribable feeling standing under a ceiling decoration made of identical shoulder blades, several hundred years old, or a seemingly never-ending stack of skulls. If nothing else, it’s a different way to look at human life. Photos are not allowed but we have included one from National Geographic. Other notable sights included the spectacular Trevi Fountain, impossibly intact Pantheon and the ruins of the Roman Forum. Rome is one of the few cities in the world that is a bustling modern city and a museum in itself at the same time. You will find yourself wandering down a side street looking for good pizza and the next corner will open up into a plaza that has been a city gathering place since London was a provincial backwater. We also enjoyed just walking around our city neighborhood and taking in daily life, among beautiful boulevards and miniature cars that buzz around like flies.
Of course, no description of Rome would be complete without the food. New Yorkers tend to be strangely arrogant about their pizza, which is more ubiquitous than it is good. Rome, on the other hand, turns out excellent pizza for a few bucks a slice at just about any busy bakery. We stuffed ourselves twice on perfectly done truffle oil and mushroom pizza, cut from a giant slab fresh out of the oven just two doors down from our apartment. We were also lucky enough to stumble across a busy restaurant on Wednesday afternoon that we later found out is a well-known local favorite (Paolo congratulated us). The ricotta with truffled honey and arugula appetizer was as good as it gets.
On our last day we spent a long afternoon sitting at a sidewalk cafe and working on the blog. That is, Carla worked on the blog and I completed a bottle of wine and read Thomas Pynchon's V. That night, we sought out some good pasta and met a friendly couple from Boston at the table next to us. After talking to Chris and Frank over dinner, we all went out to a nearby bar (recommended to me by a friend) and drank for a few more hours. Afterwards, Carla and I stopped by the lit-up Trevi fountain for one last look. We would have loved to spend more time in Italy but we were both excited to see Prague for the first time the next day.
// eurotrip to date: 11 flights, 5 buses, 6 trains, 4 ferries, 3 road trips, 12 countries