At the end of September 2021, Derek, our son, and Dani, his girlfriend, came to visit. It’s been 18 months since we’ve seen Derek or any family member, so you can imagine that we were quite thrilled to see them. We had a wonderful time with them and visited some new sites and some familiar ones.
Pickup in Rome. Derek and Dani flew into Rome and were set to arrive early in the morning. So Jim and I drove down the day before and stopped at Tarquinia, an hour north of Rome on the coast. The city is known for their Etruscan tombs and Etruscan Museum. I’ve seen a lot of Etruscan stuff, but I was surprised at the beauty and quantity of these tombs! In this necropolis there are 22 different underground tombs that you can look into with beautiful painted walls. Each tomb has a modern building covering the tomb with steps going down. Lighting was not good (to protect the paintings), so I’ve included one from the town’s museum, which was moved for accessibility and protection. I’ve also included a picture of a decoration from one of their temples. Keep in mind that these are from the 4-6th centuries BC!
The next morning Derek and Dani arrived on time. After more than a few hugs we were off to Sorrento where we planned to spend 5 nights.
Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, and Capri. None of us had ever been to this region so we were excited to explore the cities, the views, and the sites. While approaching Sorrento Jim stopped for a view of the city… the view was a great first impression, the traffic not so much!
We headed to Capri Island the next day… joining a boat trip from Sorrento, went around Capri, a short swim break and then a stop at one of the marinas. We visited the town of Capri, filled with shops selling beautiful (and overpriced!) souvenirs. Jim and I enjoyed wandering through the small streets while Derek and Dani headed to another marina to check out some of the boats. The wait to see the famous Blue Grotto was over an hour, so everyone on our boat agreed to skip it. Instead the captain stopped at two of the lesser known, but equally beautiful grottos, and Derek, Dani and many of the others jumped into the water to check them out.
The next day we headed to Pompeii where we spent hours wandering through the city. “Pompeii is a vast archaeological site in southern Italy’s Campania region, near the coast of the Bay of Naples. Once a thriving and sophisticated Roman city, Pompeii was buried under meters of ash and pumice after the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The preserved site features excavated ruins of streets and houses that visitors can freely explore.” (from Google) I was struck by the size of the city and how well preserved everything is. There were so many details here and there that really gave you a sense for life in an early Roman city. I definitely want to spend more time here.
And the next day we had another boat trip planned – leaving from Sorrento and going along the Amalfi Coast. My knee was too sore at this point, so Jim and I opted to stay in Sorrento while Derek and Dani headed back to the boat. They had a great time, seeing several small towns and popping into the water at a few swimming spots. Each evening of our trip, we had dinner at one of the restaurants that featured local delicacies and a good wine list.
Chianti. We had planned for one more day in the Sorrento area, but we were all ready to move along. So we headed towards home, stopping for a night in Castellini in Chianti. This small town holds special meaning for Jim and me. In 2016 we stayed here and used it as a base to explore this part of Tuscany. One evening after dinner as we wandered through the town, we paused to look at the available real estate in one of the realtor’s window. That was the evening that we realized that living in Italy would be affordable for us and planted the seed to “retire in Italy someday”. At the time, we expected that to be a decade or so away, but why wait???
We were in Chianti, so naturally we visited a winery and some of the nearby towns.
Next stop, Lucca! Derek and Dani were likely tired of hearing us talk about what a wonderful city Lucca is to live in and they now had an opportunity to check it out. They stayed in Lucca for a week… we spent quite a bit of time in town, but also used it as a base for day trips. I’ve included some photos of our time with them, but they also visited a nearby cave in the mountains, took a cooking class, and visited the Irish Pub (in Lucca???) multiple times. You’ll need to ask them if Lucca lived up to the hype from Jim and me…
Derek and Dani then left Lucca and wandered around Europe for another two weeks, visiting Prague, a small German town, a few places in Switzerland, Chamonix, and Milan.
It was wonderful to spend time with Derek, to really get to know Dani, and to show them some of the aspects of Italy that we enjoy so much. We are looking forward to future visits from our family and friends!
A month or so ago Jim told me that him and Pasquale would be heading to Montalcino for “Benvenuto Brunello” on 21 November and asked if I’d like to go with them. Pasquale owns a local restaurant and is a wine sommelier. Jim and Pasquale love to talk about wine, shop for wine, and drink wine. At this event they would be tasting the recent releases of Brunello di Montalcino, considered to be amongst the best wine of Italy. Nope… no interest in a 2.5-hour drive there, tasting a bunch of wine, then a 2.5-hour drive back all in the same day.
Two days before the big event, Jim asked again. He suggested that it would be helpful to have a “designated driver” but I protested – they don’t actually drink the wine; they taste it then spit it out. (Hence my lack of interest in attending.) But then Jim said that they would still be absorbing some of the alcohol into their system and they planned to taste a lot of wine. So, I agreed to go. And I started planning some places where I could drive to see some of the beautiful scenery of southern Tuscany known as “Val d’Orcia”.
At 5:45am Pasquale came to our house, I got into the backseat and tried to make a bed in the back of a Mini Cooper. 2.5 hours later I woke up as we were close to Montalcino and was excited to see fog (oh, cool pictures!). Then realized that there was A LOT of fog. Perhaps I would get some cool pictures later in the morning?
We had breakfast and coffee, they headed to their wine tasting which started at 9am (another reason for my lack of interest in attending) and I took off for a leisurely morning of driving around the countryside to look for beautiful scenery. I stopped about 3 minutes later and took my first pictures – with the edge of Montalcino on a hill top and layers of fog. Perhaps it was going to be a good day after all!
And a few minutes later, I took a picture of showing all of Montalcino with some wispy fog.
In the meantime, Jim and Pasquale stopped for another coffee and had the opportunity to enjoy the foggy valley.
My first destination was Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta, a small chapel in the countryside. This is one of the locations that photographers love and I was inspired from pictures like this and this and this. Although it was longish walk to get there (which sounded painful with my bad right knee), one of the pages showed a great spot where a photographer with a long lens could get great views. Not happening with this fog, so I prepared myself for the 15-minute walk and was “welcomed” by a gate that made it clear that you were to walk and not drive to the peaceful chapel.
Within a few minutes I found myself on a dirt “road” with plowed fields on both sides covered in fog. And no people anywhere to be seen. It was a little eerie…
And then I finally reached my destination, but it did not look like the pristine “inspiration” photos that I saw. We are talking major constructions!
So, I spent some time, played with some different compositions, and came up with a few nice pictures of the chapel with a foggy, dreamy feeling. On the way back, I did see two different couples who were likely envisioning the perfect Instagram shot. I just gave them an update on how much further and let them discover the construction on their own.
I then proceeded to drive around the countryside stopping often to take pictures of the beautiful landscape. There were so many beautiful scenes… it really was so lovely to just take them all in. Here are a few more shots that I took – click for full size.
I planned to head to the Abbey of Sant’Antimo. Jim and I had seen it twice before, even attending one of the services where the monks chant throughout the mass. But this morning I had made too many stops, so I needed to head back to Montalcino to meet Jim and Pasquale. Here are a few pictures from those prior trips.
I headed back to Montalcino and found Jim and Pasquale. They had tasting 60 wines! We started the long drive home and they chatted about this wine and that wine. Until they fell quiet and rested. The day was a success – they enjoyed many of their old favorites, each discovered a few new ones, and noted those that they did not like.
We look forward to more visits to Montalcino, hopefully for a longer stay next time!
Ilene and Gary were invited to a dinner in a vineyard and asked if would like to come along. Of course! The winery is located outside San Miniato, a small town about an hour from Lucca, so we decided to spend the night there so that we could enjoy the dinner without the concerns of a longish drive home. The town is long, narrow, and perched on a hill. We enjoyed lunch then wandered through the town. I usually research towns before heading there, but I focused mostly on the winery, so was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful seminary, cathedral, and tower. And the views of the Tuscan landscape!
The seminary was started in 1650 and continually expanded until 1713. The exterior has beautiful fresco, including 30 sets of religious “mottos” (not quite scripture quotes). I was particularly pleased to find a sign that had the translations of these mottos in four languages, including English. I can imagine that the students spent time outside memorizing each and contemplating the meaning of them.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta e San Genesio required quite a climb, but was well worth it. The exterior is quite plain but the interior art, architecture, and marble are beautiful – and the ceiling is gorgeous! While inside the Cathedral, we realized that the walls were fake marble (or should I say “Faux Finish”) but while reading about the Cathedral I learned that the columns are also fake. I also read “On the 22 July 1944, an artillery shell from the United States military went through the church via the rose window on the southern side of the transept, and exploded in the right aisle, killing 55 people. The cathedral was full of citizens who had been gathered in the churchyard by the Germans.” So sad! Next time, I’ll remember to research the towns properly BEFORE heading there…
The Cathedral was quite a climb, so I skipped the next climb up to the Rocca di Federico II. Jim took my camera with him and took some beautiful pictures of the tower and the countryside. This tower served as a lookout to watch those moving between Florence and Pisa. During World War II German soldiers detonated charges inside and it was destroyed. It was rebuilt in 1958.
Time for the dinner that we had traveled here for! The vineyard is called Pietro Beconcini Agricola. They grow several types of traditional Tuscan grapes but also Tempranillo, a Spanish grape. After owning the property for about 7 years, the owner still couldn’t identify some of the grapes on his property. A DNA analysis showed that it was Tempranillo. The thinking is that a pilgrim from Spain left some seeds on the property as they traveled the nearby via Francigena path. Because the grapes were growing nicely on his property, he decided to plant additional Tempranillo vines. They now sell three wines made from Tempranillo – Fresco Di Nero (an Early Harvest wine), IXE (their mid-priced wine) and Vigna Le Nicchie (their Prephylloxera wine). Jim is always hunting for Prephylloxera wine, so this made him very happy!
The Festa Del Tempranillo was held for three nights, with some of the tables set up within the vineyards. We each received a glass of the three Tempranillo wines and typical Tuscan food, including some some slices of Bistecca alla Fiorentina. The wine, food, live music and beautiful setting made for an exceptional evening.
Special thanks to Jim and Ilene Modica for sharing some of their pictures with me for this blog post. I suggest that you check out Ilene and Gary’s blog at Our Italian Journey. She’ll be posting about our trip to San Miniato and the dinner… and I’m sure that you’d enjoy reading a different version of the same story!
Tuscan summers are a bit too hot for me but for a field of flowers, I will grab my camera gear and face the fiercest summer sun. They always seem to lead to adventures as well…
Update on 1 August 2021 – Ilene has posted about flowers in Tuscany with pictures from our joint trips. Be sure to check out her blog called “Our Italian Journey” and the posting about the flowers. If you’ve ever considered an extended trip to Italy, you could learn a lot from Gary and Ilene!
Massarosa – lotuses and lavender
This small town is about 30 minutes from Lucca and has several farms that grow flowers commercially. Visitors are encouraged to discover these locations, take photos, and enjoy the spectacular scenes. Jim and I set off one Saturday morning for Massarosa to find lotuses, lavender, and sunflowers. I was very pleasantly surprised when this gorgeous lotus field was less than five minutes down a paved path from the parking lot!
Then we head off to find sunflowers using their published map. We found two fields, but we were toooo early and none of the sunflowers were blooming yet.
Next stop… lavenders. Well, this also proved to be a bit difficult. But after driving down impossibly narrow streets and across fields (that I THINK that we were allowed to drive through), we discovered a most wonderful field of lavender.
I was so excited about our new discoveries that I returned with Ilene, a friend from Lucca, just a few days later. She was wowed by the lotuses, then we set off to find the lavender again. This time, I would turn before “those greenhouses” that Jim and I saw and he was certain that we would easily find the lavender farm again. We wandered through even more backroads and across another field, had a few close calls with parked and moving cars until I declared “There will be no lavender today!” When I returned home, Jim informed me that I should have turned AFTER “those greenhouses”. Perhaps we will try again…
Castelluccio di Norcia
Ilene’s landlord told her about this very small town in Umbria that also has fields of flowers. I was blown away at the pictures posted on this town’s website. I left one picture on the screen and Jim thought that it was a painting, not a photograph.
I recognized that these are professional pictures, most likely taken during the very best year from the best vantage points at the best time of the day. But if I could see these fields and get a few pictures – even if they weren’t quite a beautiful as the published pictures then I would be very happy. (To be clear, I did NOT take the pictures above. They are from https://www.castellucciodinorcia.it/fioritura-castelluccio-di-norcia/)
So plans were made to travel to Umbria with Ilene and Gary. The drive would be about four hours and we would stay at a town nearby for one night. The first afternoon/evening we would find the fields of flowers and enjoy the flowers with the afternoon/evening light. The second morning, we would return to the fields of flowers to see them again in the morning light. And of course, we planned to stop at a few quaint towns for our lunches.
We set off on Wednesday morning on time. The ride was pleasant, driving through Tuscany and into Umbria. We stopped in Montefalco, a small town that specializes in a wine called Sagrantino. We wandered through the town, ate pizza and sipped on Sagrantino. Along the way I spotted a field of sunflowers, Jim stopped, and Ilene and I popped out of the car to snap a few photos. I finally got my sunflowers!
We arrived in Norcia, the nearby “larger” town, where we would be staying for the night. We drove to the hotel using Google Maps, only to learn that the check in was at a different location and our rooms were at a third location. The town was small, so it was just a small annoyance. We checked in, relaxed for just a few minutes, then we were heading to these picturesque fields of flowers. I knew that the drive would take about 30 minutes and we would be going through mountains. It was quite a challenging drive, but Jim seems to take the crazy driving in stride. We saw many beautiful scenes, but no where to stop along the narrow roads. At this point, I was hoping that the drive was worth it!
We finally arrived and Ilene declare “This can’t be it!”. We got down into the valley, near where the other visitors parked and walked into the field. Here’s one of my first pictures:
Yep… a few poppies and a few purple flowers and lots of brown/yellow/greenish grass. We wandered around a bit and found some nicer areas, but we were all disappointed. We chatted with an English-speaking visitor and she confirmed that this year was just not as beautiful as other years. I tried to stay positive that it would be prettier in the morning light.
So, we returned the next morning and the light was better. We walked to a few different areas and saw a bit of the beauty that we were expecting.
We also enjoyed watching a shepherd command his sheepdog to move the sheep across the road. Once the dog got started, it took only a few minutes to move the entire herd. Fun to see in “real life” – not an exhibition or show, really moving sheep around!
Mandatory selfie in field by Ilene… We had a lot of fun!
Norcia, as described by Jim
When JoAn told me that we were going to visit Norcia in Umbria, it did not register that this was the one of the cities that was almost complete destroyed by an earthquake in 2016. I remember seeing the devastation in the news and thinking how can they recover?
On arriving in Norcia, we were following JoAn’s directions (with the aid of Google Maps) and we ended up driving through the city looking for our hotel. Not thinking about the earthquake, I was surprised by all the new construction work going on. Later as we walk around the town the realization that we are walking on streets that were completely filled with rubble five years ago started to set in. There are still many buildings boarded up and reinforced. There are parts of town that are fenced off. Outside of town there many temporary buildings for shops, restaurants and homes. In town we see the remains of the cathedral where restoration is years away from completion.
But to my surprise, I did not sense despair. The atmosphere is one of survival and hope. Even with COVID, the resiliency of the people is evident. Many shops and restaurants have reopened in the city. There are streets where the restoration is completed. In the main piazza next to the ruins of the Cathedral there was a big screen setup to watch the Euro 2020 soccer tournament.
When we see news stories of similar destruction around the world it often seems far away. But this visit brought the reality of physical and human impacts into focus. I would like to visit Norcia again to see the progress and support the people in a small way.
The thought of visiting Rome without the hordes of people became our compelling reason to visit Rome. We headed to Rome on Monday, May 31st on a train and returned Friday afternoon via train. We were a little wary about traveling via train because of COVID, but we took our wipes and kept our masks on. I’m fully vaccinated, but Jim just had his Johnson & Johnson (one and done!) vaccine this week. The train personnel were very diligent about everyone following the COVID precautions, so we were able to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery through Tuscany and Lazio. They even handout out packets with masks, antiseptic gel and some weird thing to go into your nose.
I hope that you enjoy reading about our short visit to Rome, including the current state of sightseeing with the decrease in COVID restrictions.
Day 1: Pantheon, nearby church (a hidden gem!), and the Trevi Fountain
The Pantheon is one of my favorite spots in Rome. At first glance it may look somewhat simple and plain, but when you consider when it was built and its current condition, it is astonishing! This church was built around 125 AD (yep, that’s almost 2000 years ago) and was made out of an early form of concrete. It is a perfect sphere resting in a cylinder. The oculus, the only source of natural light in the Pantheon, is a round opening in the center of the dome. When it rains, the water freely falls into the Pantheon and quickly drains away.
During the medieval ages, the Romans stopped making concrete – they lost the recipe! 1500 years later our modern method of making concrete was discovered but some say the Roman approach was better. Until the 20th century, the Pantheon was the largest concrete structure in the world. Michelangelo studied this dome before starting work on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Oh, and Raphael is buried here. Wow!
The picture taken from outside the Pantheon was from a restaurant where we ate our first lunch. No lines, no wait. They were clearly anxious to have tourists return. We noticed that their coperto was quite high and so hesitated. The coperto is the cover charge that is for each person and is sometimes used to run up tourists’ bills unexpectedly. A euro or two is to be expected, but I think that this was 5€ each. They assured us that there would be no coperto (desperate times!) and we enjoyed a lovely lunch looking at this beautiful site. We finished our lunch and checked our bill carefully. No coperto but the small water bottle was 5€. SMH.
One block behind the Pantheon is the Church Santa Maria sopra Minerva. I had never heard of it before, but I discovered that there was a Michelangelo sculpture in it and I wanted to see it. We found the church and outside was an obelisk standing on an elephant. Very odd, so I read more about it. It turns out that there are more ancient obelisks in Rome than in any other place in the world – 8 Egyptian and 5 Roman. The elephant was sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1667. Bernini created the Baroque style of sculpture; he was also an architect, city planner, and painter. He was considered the most important artist in Rome during his lifetime. If you are wondering why I had time to research all of this on the streets of Rome, it is because the church has very odd hours – 5pm to 6:45pm most days. I had forgotten this, but we arrived about 4:45pm, so we didn’t need to wait long.
Inside the church, there was a riot of colors, shapes, and smells. Got to love these Gothic churches! And next to the very busy altar stood Michelangelo’s Christ the Redeemer or Christ Carrying the Cross. The experts say that it is one of his lesser works, but a “lesser Michelangelo” is still a masterpiece! And from Wikipedia “Christ is shown by Michelangelo unclothed in a standing pose. Christ’s sexual organs are exposed in order to show that his sexuality is uncorrupted by lust and completely controlled by his will, so that in his resurrected body he shows his triumph over both sin and death. During the Baroque period a bronze floating loincloth was added.”
The Trevi Fountain was nearby so we headed there next. The last time we were in Rome, we enjoyed the fountain at night so an afternoon visit would give us a different look. There were quite a few people around the fountain, but most were trying to keep their distance from other groups. We found a bench and were able to enjoy the fountain and this classic tourist destination.
Day 2 – The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
We had visited the Vatican in 2014 and were astonished at the beautiful art that fills every inch of the museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We took an organized tour, which was the only way for us to reasonably get a ticket. The “tour” of the Museums consisted of walking down long hallways hearing about beautiful treasures but not really stopping to see it. (at least according to my memory) Then the real point of the tour… the Sistine Chapel. They gave us a description before entering because they are not allowed to do so inside of the chapel. We entered and it was literally wall-to-wall people. We had 5 to 7 minutes before we needed to meet our tour group outside. Next stop was St. Peter’s Basilica. We had a decent tour of this huge church and were left on our own in the church. We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the church, including going up to the dome and onto the roof. I realized that there was so much more to see and experience that I wanted to return “someday”.
So with the Vatican re-opened but tourists at a minimum, we headed back to the Vatican. We purchased the tickets to the Museums & Sistine Chapel online directly from the Vatican at a low fee. We spent hours wandering through the museum and enjoyed the beautiful art that surrounded us. Then it was time to enter the Sistine Chapel. We spent more than 30 minutes in this rather small space, listening to an audio guide and just gazing at this masterpiece. You aren’t supposed to take pictures, but I took one photo of the crowd to include in this blog post:
I took lots of pictures in the museum but I’ll just share a few from portions that I particularly enjoyed. The Vatican has a “Gallery of Maps” which consists of 40 frescoes of maps, detailing the Italian regions and papal properties that existed around 1580. The Pope had these designed so that he could understand his properties without having to leave his home. The maps were accurate for the most part. It was especially fun to look for “our” map (the region of Etruria or Tuscany as it is known now) and we even found the town of Lucca on it. Oh… and check out those ceilings! The paintings show scenes about the regions of the maps that they are close to.
On this visit, we learned about “porphyry” a kind of purple granite. The word “porphyry” comes from the Latin word for purple, which was the color of nobility to the Romans. Porphyry was Imperial Rome’s most prestigious stone for columns, vases, alters, busts and other objects. Imperial porphyry had only one source, a desert in Egypt, in one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Today it is quarried from many locations and isn’t considered quite as prestigious. It is even used for paving stones in some places now!
One more picture of the Vatican… an external view of St. Peter’s Basilica and the beautiful St. Peter’s Square. Yep… that’s an ancient Egyptian obelisk!
We planned to enjoy the church next, but we had spent too much time in the Vatican Museums and we had plans to meet a friend who lives in Rome. We decided that we would return later in the week for the Basilica. We visited Angelo, an Italian friend that we met in Virginia at Pazzo Pomodoro, our favorite restaurant. He and his family had returned to Rome during 2019 to be closer to their extended families and raise their girls in Italy. It was great to spend time with Angelo, to hear about his journey home, learn about Roman Pinsa (yummm!), and get his approval on my much improved Italian speaking skills. He had served as one of my first Italian tutors… every Friday night stretching me a bit further in my speaking skills. We look forward to seeing him again in Rome or for his family to visit us in Lucca!
Day 3 – Villa Borghese
The villa was the summer and party residence of the noble Borghese family, built in the early 1600’s. Today it is a rather small museum filled with wonderful sculptures and paintings. The museum is most famous for its collection of Bernini sculptures and Caravaggio’s paintings. The villa itself is also concerned a masterpiece. They normally allow 360 people to visit for a two hour window; with COVID they limited the group to 100 people. As with the other sites that we visited, there was plenty of space. And two hours seemed just the right amount of time.
The Villa is set inside a beautiful park that is often compared to New York’s Central Park. The day that we visited was a holiday and it was filled with families enjoying the beautiful day. We bought some sandwiches from a vendor by the zoo (not recommended!) and ate them on a park bench (recommended!), watching people walking, riding bicycles, 4 wheeled buggies, and lots of other vehicles.
Day 4 – St. Peter’s Basilica and the giant white building
We returned to the Vatican in the morning to visit St. Peter’s Basilica. There was literally no one in line. And when we entered, we saw that there were few visitors. I estimate 100 people – in the world’s largest church. My hope was to see Michelangelo’s Pietà in relative peace. When I had seen it before, there were crowds of people waiting their turn for a few minutes viewing time. This day, it was just me and the Pietà. Magical!
Since my first visit to Rome, I’m been wondering about the giant white building with huge sculptures on top. What is it??? Actually, it goes by several names: “Victor Emmanuel II National Monument”, “Altar of the Fatherland” and “Vittoriano” – but many people just call it the “Wedding Cake”.
Victor Emmanuel II was the first king of the unified Italy in 1861. The building is intended to commemorate him. There is a HUGE statue of a horseman in the center of the building that represents him. It also has a collection of museums relating to the unification, the Italian language and recent military history, the altar of the fatherland and the tomb of the unknown soldier. There is a viewing platform near the top that is accessible by an elevator, AFTER walking up about a million steps. The view of ancient Rome (Coliseum, Forum, Circus Maximus (race course)) was spectacular.
Mostly everything about this monument is huge. Many Italians do not like the monument because it is too big, doesn’t fit into the architecture of the rest of Rome and many historically important buildings were destroyed to build in.
Piazza Navona – every day!
The last evening of our first visit to Rome in 2014, we were looking for a place to eat dinner and wandered into Piazza Navona. We were pleasantly surprised to find this gorgeous and huge piazza. We got a table on the piazza, ate a lovely dinner, and enjoyed looking at the beauty of the piazza, the people and the street performers. It set the standard for wonderful experiences for our last evening of our vacations to Italy. I don’t think that any others quite were up to this level.
Since hotels were plentiful and inexpensive for this trip, we decided to stay near Piazza Navona. I selected a Bed & Breakfast that ended up to be right around the corner from the piazza. We paid €68 for our room that normally costs up to €268 per night. The room was small but nice. The location was fantastic! The entry to the B&B was part of a Roman ruin and our curiosity grew. We found the entrance and learned about the history of the Piazza – it was a stadium that held races during the Roman times. We enjoyed visiting the Piazza during different times of the day and enjoyed two dinners and some gelato there. And yes, that it yet another ancient Egyptian obelisk in the piazza.
We also discovered a neighborhood market. I loved the the fruits and vegies, especially the Roman artichokes – a local specialty. They even had a statue of Darth Vader???
The more I see of Rome, the more I realize that I have so much more to see.