Hi folks here is my trip report which is much longer than expected -but then so was the trip! As you will see my husband is almost blind and cannot walk far without resting so we used public transport more than most do.
Rome and the volcano
My husband and I booked 4 nights in Rome in mid-April and ended up staying for 9! This would not have been a problem if we had known when it would end. Even so, we tried to make the most of our extra days and not to let the worry spoil things. We were blessed in three things – the staff at our hotel who reassured us that we could stay as long as we needed, our daughter who looked after the house, cat and family for twice the time she had thought and the weather, which was beautiful throughout.
Day 1 Mon 12th April
We flew to Rome via Paris,arriving at our hotel – The Hotel Delle Regioni on Via Del Tritone – at 6.30pm. We dropped our luggage, and went out to explore Rome. We decided to try to find the Trevi fountain, armed with the map in the back of my Eyewitness Rome guidebook, but went the wrong way, and ended up somehow at the top of the Spanish steps! The view was amazing and I took the first of hundreds of photos. We walked carefully down the Steps to the fountain and sat and enjoyed people watching for a while. Then we found a small trattoria and had a pizza each, remembering to wave the bread away. When the bill came I found I’d been charged for coperto, and I knew I should argue the case, but we were tired and I wasn’t 100% sure of my ground, so we let it pass, paid, and made sure we didn’t eat there again. We walked up to piazza Barberini to see theTriton fountain all lit up, then back to the hotel.
Day 2 Tues 13th April
Today was our Ancient Rome day. After breakfast, we went up to the metro station and, remembering Ron in Rome’s instructions, managed to buy 4 BIT tickets using the ticket machines. We caught a train to Termini, then changed to Line B and travelled to Collosseo. The sight of the Collosseum as we came out of the Metro station is one I will never forget.
By then it was 9.30 and the queue was really long. With my husband’s Blue Badge in hand, we walked up to the front of the Roma Pass entrance and asked the security woman if we could have free entrance. She referred us to the reservations desk where we were handed two free tickets without even having to ask! This was repeated at all the sites we visited – and I had free entry as his carer. I wish this applied to tourist destinations in England!
We spent a couple of hours wandering round the Collosseum, using the lift to access the upper levels. We enjoyed the display of gladiator weapons and costume on the ground floor.
We had coffee at the cafe outside the Metro which was not overpriced considering the view of the Collosseum, then set out to find the entrance to the Forum. This was further away than I had thought and we were glad to rest and drink some of our water when we finally found it. My guidebook did us proud, identifying all the ruins and it was amazing to think that we were sitting on pieces .of history.
We carried on onto the Paletine and finally exited close to the Collosseum and then went to find the churches of San Clemente and St Peter’s in Chains to see Michelangelo’s Moses. Then back to the metro, to Termini, where we caught the 110 hop on hop off bus, which was also free to disabled people and their carers. We stayed on the bus until it reached the Trevi stop, and then followed the sound of water until we found the fountain. The Trevi fountain is so spectacular, that we just found a seat and sat and enjoyed it. Eventually we tore ourselves away and found our hotel. That evening we were so tired, we decided to try the restaurant opposite the hotel, and had a great evening with good food and live music.
Day 3 Galleria Borghese Weds 14th April
We caught the 116 electric bus up to Galleria Borghese, arriving in time to check my bag, claim our free tickets (showing the Blue Badge) and enjoy a delicious cappuccino before our allotted slot. I am so glad we decided to come as the gallery is very well lit and the art and sculpture is simply outstanding. My husband loved it as he could get really close to the sculptures and see them properly. It is a small gallery and very disabled friendly. We had lunch in the cafe afterwards and then took the little dotto train through the park just for fun.
We caught the 116 back into the city centre and decided to try and find the Pantheon. We got off at the wrong stop, and wandered around for some time before finding it – but that is all part of exploring Rome. When we did find it – wow, it was worth looking for. How amazing to think that it has been continually in use since before the time of Christ. Then we walked through to Piazza Navona and sat in the sun watching the artists, before slowly wandering back .
Day 4 Thurs 15th April
We took the metro to Cipro, and followed Ron in Rome’s directions which I had printed out They were brilliant and we happily bypassed the queue and once through security, waited for our 10.30 tour. While we were waiting, I received a text from my mother in England, telling me that there was disruption to flights because of a volcano and hoping it wouldn’t affect us. I texted back that I didn’t care if it did as I wouldn’t mind being stuck in Rome. Be careful what you wish for.....
The Vatican was packed; our guide, Laila, explained that there were a record number of school parties in and apologised for the crush. Despite this the tour was wonderful with Laila bringing the art alive. The Sistine chapel was amazing, but my poor husband could not see any of it – even the art on the walls was too far away for him. His highlight of the tour was the modern art – he could get really close and see every detail.
After lunch at a pavement cafe, we walked along the river to the bridge of angels. Fellow Dr Who fans will know how I felt when my husband whispered “Don’t blink!” We treated ourselves to a gelato at the end of the bridge and walked slowly back to the hotel via Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. In the evening I visited the internet cafe next door to our hotel and was horrified to find that all UK airports were closed!
Day 5 Fri 16th April
Should have gone home day
We had booked a transfer back to the airport so we took it, but were not surprised to find our flight was cancelled ( as were all to Northern Europe) and we were told to go to ticketing. There were only 10 people in front of us , but it was 2 hours before we reached the front and were told that the next available flight wasn’t until Monday. All we could do was accept and ring the hotel to see if they would take us back. They had had a cancelation, and would charge us the same rate so we were very blessed as we saw long queues trying to find accommodation. We returned to a different room, determined to make the best of the weekend ahead. By the time we got back and unpacked there was just time to visit the Spanish Steps, and then walk through to the Trevi to see it at night.
Day 6 Sat 17th April
Bonus Day 1
This was the first day that we hadn’t had anything booked, so we decided to explore Ttrastevere. We caught a bus to Largo Argentina, then a tram to Trastevere. We visited Santa Maria de Trastevere which alone was worth the trip, and walked around a bit before returning by tram and visiting the Area Sacra and playing spot the cats on the ruins. Then to the Gesu – wow! Then the Aracoeli staircase and walking round the Victor Emmanuel monument to the Capitoline Museum . We explored half the museum – the statue of Marcus Aurelius and Romulus and Remus were wonderful. We had a nice hot chocolate in the cafe and then caught the bus back to our hotel to rest.
A couple of hours later we went out again to explore the Quirinale Hill. We went first to the four fountains, then to San Carlo church – a real little gem, and Saint Andrea del Quirinale, designed by Bernini. We walked down the side of the presidential palace, pausing to sit in the Quirinale gardens, to the Piazza Quirinale to see the Castor and Pollux statues. We returned via the steps down to the Trevi. In the evening I checked the internet and found that British airspace was closed till Monday at 01.00. I wish I hadn’t looked, because it cast a worrying shadow over Sunday.
Day 7 Sun 18th April
Bonus Day 2
We decided to go back to the Capitoline and look at the Palazzo Nuova, so we caught a bus there early and had it to ourselves! Then we went over to the other side to see the picture gallery, which I didn’t think was as good as the sculptures. As we left, there was an amazing parade of people dressed in ancient Roman costume. There were legionaries, gladiators, dancing girls, captives – a real triumphal parade.
We spent most of the rest of the day trying with the help of Viviana at the hotel to find out if there would be a flight next day. We also found a laundrette and did some much needed washing (we had packed light!)
Day 8 Mon 19th April
Should have gone home day 2
Up at 4.30 to get shuttle to airport and of course there were no flights, but we were through ticketing much more quickly, had new flights for Weds and were back at the hotel again in time for breakfast! By now we were trying to save money so we took the regional train back to Trastevere, then a tram to Largo Argentina, then a bus to the hotel. I noticed big signs up at the station saying “No trains to Northern Europe until Friday April 23rd”
Weather absolutely beautiful so took metro to Circus Maximus and basked in the sun before finding the Bocca del Veritas and taking a photo with Phil’s hand in its mouth. We walked slowly back to Piazza Venezia, then strolled down Via del Corso and took in the Edward Hopper exhibition on the way back. There was an enormous storm in the afternoon – thunder, lightning and the roads turned into rivers, luckily while we were inside.
At this point I decided to email work and had a most supportive email back.
In the evening we found a nice trattoria by the Trevi with a set menu, run by a black clad Mama, with 3 waiter sons. We saved money by drinking water, waving away the bread etc, and were rather taken aback when the waiter came over and said that Mama wanted to give us a free dessert! Pity the poor English!
Day 9 Tues 20th April
Bonus Day 3
Another really hot day and we decided to visit Castle San Angelo. We took a bus to Piazza Cavour and walked along the Tiber. We saw two mounted policemen riding along the riverbank and watched fascinated as one first struggled to control his mount and then was nearly thrown as the horse slipped and fell. To the delight of the crowd the policeman waited while the horse regained its footing and then put his arms round its neck and hugged it. He led it gently away while his companion waited for him.
We enjoyed the castle immensely and were so glad we had visited it. The entrance tunnel was a nightmare, as I had to guide my husband and tell him where each step was, but it was well worth it once we were in – those views! We were tired and hungry so treated ourselves to lunch in the terrace cafe.
In the afternoon, we walked to the Spanish steps to see the floral decorations and visited the Trinita del Monte church at the top. For a final treat (we hoped!) we took a 110 bus ride to see Rome at sunset.
Day 10 Weds 21st April
Home at last
Although our flight wasn’t until 5pm, we decided to go to the airport after breakfast We took the Leonardo Express and waited at the airport. At 3.30 we were checking in when “There’s a problem” and our flight was cancelled again! We went back to ticketing and asked if we could get a flight to anywhere in the UK and were offered Heathrow via Milan. Which we gratefully accepted! We finally arrived home at 2am on Thursday morning.
What a trip! And how lucky we were to be stuck in such a beautiful place.