We left our Durban home ready for our 6-week trip around Europe, including Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal at 09:00 on 8 June finally arriving in Rome at 10:00 the following day.
A part of the city wall from the 1st Century
As I have to travel assisted, we had an airport employee take us through Customs and Security but, when we reached the carousel to collect our luggage, we found it to be very crowded and our assistant asked if he could leave us there as he had to collect a passenger arriving on another flight. While walking to the carousel, we saw murals telling of all the wonderful improvements to the airport including the addition of 10 more carousels. Rome’s Fiumicino Airport is the busiest in Europe but, even with all these additions, for some reason the luggage from 2 flights was being offloaded on to the same carousel. We waited almost half an hour for our luggage to come through. The other flight was from Newark, US and a number of those passengers learnt that their luggage had not arrived. One couple, who phoned through to Newark, was told that some was left on the tarmac while other luggage had gone to Washington DC! It will come tomorrow which didn’t help this man as he needed his tux for the opera that evening.
Our cruise around the coast of Italy included 2 nights at a 5-star hotel in Rome, the Marriott Grand Hotel Flora. Although representatives of Viking Cruise Lines, the line on which we would be cruising, met us at the airport we didn’t get to go to the hotel immediately. In fact, it was almost 2 hours before we left for the hotel and it was a 1.5 hour trip to get there. We did get to see the hundreds of Oleanders in full bloom along the freeway and some interesting city sights. These included the Pyramid-shaped Mausoleum built for Gaius Cestius, a member of the Epulones religious corporation, a number of very old bridges over the River Tiber, lots of parts of the 1st century city wall and trading stalls along the river.
The Pyramid-shaped Mausoleum built for Gaius Cestius
A bridge once crossed by Julius Caesar
Trading stalls along the river
We were met at the hotel by a representative of Viking Cruises who gave us all sorts of ideas on how and where to spend our only full day in the Eternal City. Sadly, they were all rather expensive, although they sounded super. The most interesting one would have been in a private vehicle, she called a Limousine but it was a very smart Mercedes, with our own private guide, lasting 8 hours. The only drawback was that it cost $60/hour ($240/day). In SA terms, at the time, that was R4000++!
After 2 long haul flights and the time taken to get to the hotel there were just a few evening hours left so we went for a walk around the streets near our hotel. There was nothing very exciting to see or photograph but it was pleasant to be out and about. At the end of the street there was a cute little fountain in a circle. A number of electric scooters were parked around and near it. These scooters can be hired remotely using a credit card and one uses to get to where they wish or just ride for fun. On arrival or when the battery runs flat, the scooter is just left on the side of the road, even on freeways.
We looked in on a few cafes and small restaurants until we found one just a few blocks from the hotel. As it was after 6pm and we were rather tired we decided to a supper there. The pasta was made from Durum wheat which was perfect for me while Trevor had pizza. Both were excellent and the staff very pleasant. Interestingly, the owner was Italian, his senior waiter and manager, Lebanese, the chef an African lady, her assistant from The Philippines and the cleaner from Bangladesh!
We walked back to the hotel along a road which ran along the old city wall, showered and crawled into bed where we slept well.