What we did in Rome: Day 2-4

Thurs, Sept 16 (Day 2 – Continued)

Took taxi to Piazza Navonna, walked around.

Dinner at Da Francesco – best Italian food ever.  Caprese salad, bread, chianti classico, penna all’arrabbiata, pizza margerita.  Amazing.  I think we were the only non-Italians in the restaurant.

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Walked around some shops… tried to walk to Campo di Fiori but got turned around and ended back up at Piazza Navonna. 
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Finally find Campo di Fiori and it was full of Italian youth drinking beer and being loud, so we just stopped for a gelato and took a taxi home.

Spent 2 hours relaxing and planning tomorrow’s itinerary.

To sleep at 2 AM, Rachel up until about 3.

Fri, Sept 17 (Day 3)

Breakfast in hotel at 9:30 AM.

Taxi to Gallery Doria Pampheli, which Rick Steves describes as “an old palace packed with art”, which is pretty accurate. The gallery had just opened and we had the whole place almost completely to ourselves.

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Visit Pantheon – listened to Rick Steves podcast.

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Walk from Pantheon to the Vatican through street of shops.. mostly antiquey items.

Stop for lunch at streetside restaurant near the Vatican… shared 2 pastas.

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Statue near the bridge over the Tiber River.
Walk through the Vatican museum. (The Map Room was our favorite.)

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The Map Room of the Vatican Museum
Sat in the Sistine Chapel for about half an hour and listened to the entire Rick Steves podcast, which was really helpful to help us make sense of all the figures on the ceiling.  We were both pretty blown away by it.

Walked through the Basilica of St. Peter’s (part of it was closed off for a mass). 

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Took elevator to bottom of dome (inside the church), loved the mosaics on the walls up there.  

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From there, Kevin took stairs to the top of the dome (323 steps).  Rachel waited at the bottom and hoped I didn’t have a heart attack (I didn’t). The walk to the top was pretty difficult – I had to stop a few times on the way up… but it was worth it for the views.

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Close rear view of the statues atop St. Peter’s Square.

Walked through St Peters Square and got a Gatorade and a taxi home.

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St. Peter’s Square.  You can see the dome at the center that I climbed up,
and the statues above the columns that I photographed from behind.

Rested in hotel for a while before dinner.

Dissapointing dinner at il Pomodorino near the hotel… Eggplant calzone, fettucini Pomodoro and margarita pizza.  Nothing was  good.  We got there at 8 and it was amazing that by 9 when we left, the restaurant was getting crowded with Italians.  People just kept coming in, one group after another.

So tired… ready for bed!

Sat, Sept 18 (Day 4)

Slept late til 945 am.

Breakfast in hotel 1030 am.

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View from top of the Spanish Steps.
Walk to Piazza Navonna area. Walk around and window shop.  Stop for coffee and water.

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Hanging with the big guys.

Walk back to shopping area near Spanish Steps.  Lunch at Hosteria 31.   We asked to sit outside and then the waiter got pissed off when we wanted to move inside when it started raining.  Rachel had ravioli with ricotta and spinach, I had spaghetti bolognese.  All was delicious.  We walked back to the hotel in the rain, up the Spanish Steps.

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Showered and changed, took a taxi to the Great Synagogue of Rome in the Jewish Ghetto for Yom Kippur Services.

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Ready to go to Shul.

The taxi driver dropped us off outside an area closed off by police barricades.  There was only one entrance, where a young guy asked for our passports.  I told him we wanted to go to services, and he let us in.  There was another police barricade, with more guards standing by, and lots of people standing around outside the gates of the synagogue.  We went up to two different entrances, and they both sent us around to another entrance.  At that entrance, they asked what we wanted.  When we told them where were from and that we had an email from the rabbi about coming to services without tickets, they let us in.  They made me leave my bag and my phone at the security booth, and then gave me a full pat-down and check with a metal detector.  They made Rachel open her pashmina shawl (that took her so long to get wrapped just right in the hotel room!).  Then they let us in.  I asked if they make everyone go through this security, and they said “only those that we don’t know”. 

Inside the gates, there were more people standing around, many wearing tallit.  Rachel had to go in one door to go upstairs (where the women were) and I could go in the main entrance.  I got a tallis and headed in.  All the main seats were reserved, and there were open seats on the sides.  The rabbi and cantor were on the bimah saying the prayers, but almost everyone else in the shul was just reading along to themselves or talking to people near them.  Lots of double cheek kissing.  Some men in suits, some in jeans.  No Americans. 

Comments from Rachel about the shul visit: “I went up the stairs to the women’s balcony and the first section that I tried to go into, all the seats were reserved… so I went back to the staircase and to another section where it was just hard benches and women were just sitting and fanning themselves and looking bored.  Very few people had prayer books and no one was praying, and a couple women were hanging on the mechitza looking like they wanted to get out of jail.  (The mechitza was made of metal and had small patterns so it was hard to see through it clearly.)  After about 10 minutes of sitting, I decided this wasn’t the Yom Kippur I wanted to have.  Thankfully, I was able to see Kevin downstairs and I gestured to him that we should meet outside.”

Eventually Rachel and I went outside and we were both ready to leave.  We ran into a young Israeli couple there but everyone else was Italian.  We walked out of the gates and as we walked out of the area, passing several kosher restaurants, we went through two more police checkpoints.  The entire “Jewish Ghetto” appeared to be about 2-3 blocks long.  There were lots of people hanging around in the streets in this area – we assumed they were all Jewish, but many of them were outside the synagogue gates just hanging around.  There must have been a couple hundred people in the streets around the shul.

We found a bar (with wifi!)… I ordered a local beer (Birra Moretti) and a water for Rachel.  We also ordered three kinds of bruschetta – one with tomato, one with artichokes (delicious) and one with salmon (not so good).  After sweating all day, the beer tasted so good!

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Rachel on the way out of the Jewish Ghetto.  Not sure who the guy is… any ideas?

We walked from there through some interesting neighborhoods and lots of shops until we got back to Da Francesco, where we ate on Thursday night.  On the way, I stopped for a coffee while Rachel went in some shops, and we stopped at a little bar to look at some photos on my laptop.  I had a campari with fresh squeezed orange juice, which was delicious.

Before dinner, we stopped in a small grocery store where we got some fresh baked cookies for Rachel and a bag of small biscotti for me.  It’ll probably be for the drive to Montalcino on Monday.

We waited about 40 minutes for a table at Da Francesco… standing outside and watching the Italians walk by.  So many interesting looking people and outfits.  We finally got a table inside and ordered homemade spaghetti with pepper and grated pecorino cheese (incredible), pizza with mushrooms (Rachel loved it) and I got pizza that was half plain and half with prosciutto.  All delicious.  We had a nice conversation with an older Swiss couple next to us – he’s a filmmaker – mostly does video for Swiss films and TV.  We ended dinner with limoncello…  since they were served in shotglasses, Rachel attempted to drink it as a shot!  There was a little left in her glass, which she sipped.

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Margherita pizza with prosciutto.

We walked a bit, ending up at Piazza Navonna where I got another gelato and we sat and people watched for a bit before taking a taxi back to the hotel.  Another long day!

Tomorrow’s plan… Travastere and relaxing at Caffe Greco (coffeeshop).