June 11, 2003:
Today is our last day in Rome, and we split up to do different things. Kish went shopping, and the boys and I headed off to see some of the famous churches . But first, breakfast at the Hotel Carriage — which means, for me, rivers of sweat as I try to eat something. I’m not sure what it is, but eating in that room at that time causes the pores to open and the sweat to flow like crazy.
The Hotel Carriage has some good points — reasonably priced (for Rome), excellent location only yards away from the Spanish Steps and the Metro, good restaurants in the vicinity, a pleasant enough staff — but it gets incredibly hot on a hot day, and stays hot into the night. It’s a nice enough place, but I wouldn’t come here again in the summer.
After my sweaty breakfast, the boys and I headed off to St. Giovanni Lateran and San Clemente. St. Giovanni is bigger and fancier (although its neighborhood is questionable), but I preferred San Clemente. (After visiting St. Giovanni, the boys and I took a wrong turn, and we walked through what appeared to be a market for fenced goods.) St. Giovanni is magnificant, but not very memorable. San Clemente is is less ostentatious, but much more memorable because it is a 16th century church that sits on an 11th century church, which in turn sits on a 4th century building devoted to the cult of Mithra. One of the fascinating aspects was that debris from the Roman Empire period — marble heads, chipped cornices, pedestals, etc. — was used as a kind of fill when the 16th century church was built. Apparently there was so much of the stuff floating around it was like quarry stone for construction purposes. What a comedown from the Roman Empire days!
After San Clemente the boys and I took a long, hot walk to find the Appian Way (big deal!) then took the Metro back to our hotel. On our last ride, I finally got the automatic coin-operated ticket machine to work, and felt a sense of great accomplishment. It like the Rome Metro, although it is hot down there. However, it is easy to find your way around.
Russell, Kish and I then had a nice, leisurely lunch which Richard took it easy. After the lunch, Richard and I walked around to see the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Vatican again (although we couldn’t go in because Richard was wearing shorts) and then wandered back to the Pantheon, after stopping at two churches that were spectacular but not in any guidebook. What a bummer for a church to be beautiful and moving and awesome, but not quite enough to make the cut for Frommer’s in view of the competition! Rome is a city of churches, and it becomes a bit numbing after a while.
After Richard and I got back, we walked down to the Forum ruins one last time. Seeing the ruins as the sun sets is the best time, I think. We then had a pleasant dinner at a neighborhood restaurant, sat on the Spanish Steps for a spell, and had some gelato before returning to the hotel. Tomorrow we leave Rome, and I face the challenge of Italian driving. I have to admit I have some trepidation about it. We’ll see.
My top Roman sites:
1. Ruins of ancient Rome
2. Sistine Chapel
4. St. Peter’s Basilica
5. Trevi Fountain
I would definitely return to Rome, but would like to come when it is not quite so warm. I bet the average temperature has been about 85 degrees while we have been here. That makes it difficult for a city largely without air conditioning or ice. Other than the heat, though, Rome has been great!