Rome Day 1
Months before, using an Internet website, we attempted to get all of our train reservations in order. With 5 people, we couldn’t all stay in one sleeping car. We booked a two person compartment in first class for Jane and myself. For the three kids, we couldn’t find anything for three people, so we booked them in second class in compartment for four people. We weren’t sure how this was going to work out, but it was all we could figure out at the time.
When we got to the tracks, we found that the kids were about nine cars away from us. This made us feel a little uneasy, but there really wasn’t much we could do about it. I had thought about bringing my Motorola walkie-talkies with me, but I wasn’t sure if they were legal in Europe. I turned out that NOBODY had these, so I guess it’s a good thing we left them behind. They probably interfere with police or fire radio over there and might have ended me up in the clink.
Our car was at the end of this very long train. We were in Car 99 to be exact. When we got to the car, Jane addressed the cabin attendant in French, but when he started to speak, it was obvious that he was Italian. Then it really hit us both that we were finally going to Italy.
After we settled into our compartment, the attendant came around and asked what time we wanted reservations for dinner. We made them for the early seating and asked if he could please include the three kids on the reservation so we could all eat together. He obliged. I took off down the moving train walking between dozens of cars to tell the kids when to meet us at the dining car for dinner.
On the way, it was interesting how you could tell the French from the Italians. The French were always very reserved and quiet. The Italians were all over the place. Talking, laughing, having a great time. Almost falling over when the train would round a corner. It was just plain fun watching them.
When I finally got to the kids, they were sitting in their compartment looking a bit lost. The fourth spot had been sold to a young woman. I was happy to see that. I told Jane that if they ended up with some big hairy man in the cabin, I’d trade out with Casey and sleep over with the kids to make sure they were safe. Christian seemed happy with how things turned out. Erin was upset that we were in first class and they were in second class. Oh well.
I had them come with me to our compartment so we could all go to dinner at the same time, together. More grumbling about the difference in accommodations, which I really didn’t think were terribly different. We had a sink in our compartment, but that was really the only major difference. You know kids.
We all went to the dining car, and took up two tables. Jane, Casey and I sat at one, and Christian and Erin shared a table with a woman from Australia. Erin, who is normally very quiet had a very animated conversation with the Australian woman, who was planning her first visit to the US. We all ordered Italian food, and got a bottle of wine. I used my cell phone to call home and talk to my Mom, passing it around to the kids so they could all say hello.
After dinner we said goodbye to the kids and went our separate ways to our own compartments. When we arrived at ours, the attendant had changed the seats into beds. I took the top bunk. We turned out the lights and laid in our bunks and watched out the window as France went by and we came closer and closer to Italy.
I’ve been in a sleeper car before, and I usually don’t sleep well, but that night I slept surprisingly well. It might have been the wine. In the morning, around dawn, I woke up and Jane was already awake looking out the window at Italy, looking very pleased. She snapped this picture of me. Note the bare knee, and the pants up in the rack, plus the mattress hair:
The attendant brought us a breakfast of croissants and cappuccino. After we finished, Jane made the long journey to the kids car to make sure they were awake and getting dressed.
Soon, we pulled into the Termini train station in Rome. We exited our compartment, and I gave our attendant a tip. He seemed grateful. We met the kids outside their coach, and started wheeling the luggage toward the crowded station.
For Rome, we decided to rent an apartment. There is a website called rentalinrome.com. They have a lot of properties, and since we were there for five nights, we made the minimum required stay. In Rome these days, it is hard to find a hotel for less than €100.00 per night, and with two rooms, that would end up being a lot of money over five nights. We rented the Principe Eugenio Apartment. It had beds for five people, a full kitchen and private bathroom for €130.00 per night.
Jane used to live near the Termini station and had a pretty good idea of where the Apartment was. She also wanted to walk by a place where she used to live, so we decided to go on foot, rolling our luggage behind us though the busy streets of Rome.
When we got into the neighborhood, I started to get a little concerned. By L.A. standards, this would be skid row. I started cursing the Internet. But, Jane told us not to worry, that all of Rome was this way. I started to realize that we were in a city that was thousands of years old. Of course it is going to look a bit worn.
We found Jane’s old place, and looked at it for a bit, then pressed on. We finally got into the general area, across the street from Piazza Vittorio. But, all the buildings on each corner looked alike. We had a picture, but we couldn’t figure out where exactly our building was.
Luckily, the Rental in Rome people had sent me an email saying that “Miss Cristina” would be waiting at the apartment to give us the key, and included her cell phone number. So, we used my rental phone to give her a call.
She didn’t speak any English, so Jane tried to clear 26 years of cobwebs to talk to her in Italian. She told Jane that she would come down and meet us on the street.
We waited at a corner for a while, and I kept studying the photo of the outside of the apartment, and tried to match it up with what I saw in the Piazza. I finally figured out that we were about a block away from where we should be, so we walked some more.
We were about to cross the street and go to the apartment in the photo, when Miss Cristina walked up and identified herself. I guess it was easy for her to spot a family of five Americans standing on a corner with about 1,000 lbs of luggage. It turned out that the photo was not of our apartment, but of the one across the street. Later Jane laughed about it and said it was very Italian to do that kind of thing. She said she could just see them coming down, taking the picture of the wrong building and saying, “Eh! Close enough!”.
After walking through the very old looking neighborhood, I was kind of afraid of what we might find upstairs. But, once we got inside the gated door, it was very nice. There was marble from floor to ceiling, and an elevator, which they refer to as a lift. We shuttled our luggage up on the lift, and then took it up to our floor. Inside two beautiful wooden doors was a very nicely decorated and clean apartment.
Miss Cristina went over the particulars, showing us (in Italian) how everything worked. We had air conditioning, a stove, a toaster oven, a refrigerator, an electric water heater that had to be switched on, a TV with VCR and other modern conveniences. She gave us the keys, and left. That was the last we saw of her or anyone from Rental In Rome, which is actually the way I like it.
A photo I shot out the window of our Apartment in Rome. The park like area is Piazza Vittorio.
After Miss Cristina from Rental In Rome left us, we unpacked and tried to decide what we wanted to do first. I’ve always wanted to see the Coliseum, and the description of our apartment on the web was as follows:
“This luxurious apartment is located in Via Principe Eugenio in the centre of Rome at a few steps from the Coliseum”
I wasn’t born yesterday, so I figured that when they didn’t say how many steps, it was probably quite a few. Still, I was game. I wanted to get a feel for where we were at. So, we got the cameras and headed out the door.
We walked for quite a ways, past shops and bars. I began to notice that the concept of a bar is totally different in Italy than it is in the US. In Italy you could go to a bar and buy ice cream (gelato).
At some point, Jane wasn’t sure which way to go, so she stopped an old man walking up the street and asked him for directions to the Coliseo. The funny thing about Italians, is that they are so expressive, that I knew exactly what he was telling Jane. “Just walk up this street, that way. It is simple and direct.”. We followed his directions, and within a few seconds, I got my first live view of the Coliseum.
I’ve lived near Hollywood all my life, and for a brief time, worked in the movie industry around very famous people. None of that really has much effect on me. But, I’m a sucker for famous places. For me, seeing the Coliseum in Rome was like seeing the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty. There is just something about seeing these things with your own eyes. I was not disappointed.
The only problem was, that I must have gotten into something nasty on the train. I felt a dark rumbling from deep within. I needed to find a bathroom, fast. We got over next to the Coliseum, and I saw the universal sign for bathroom in Europe, “WC”. I was wondering what kind of awful conditions must be inside. After all, the Coliseum is thousands of years old, what must the public toilet in such an ancient landmark be like?
Once again, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a beautiful, modern restroom, with lots of private stalls that had doors from the floor to ceiling. Not only that, but a huge roll of clean toilet paper. I locked myself in and wondered how old those “tips for tourists” publications warning of all kinds of nasty conditions.
It was apparent, that I wasn’t going to get better on my own. I needed to find a pharmacy and get some Imodium AD, or the Roman equivalent. We went into the Metro station and bought a week pass for each one of us, and took the Metro back to Piazza Vittorio, and headed for the big lighted green cross. Inside, Jane spoke Italian to the pharmacist, while I danced around and looked embarrassed. I was amazed to learn that Imodium in Italy is called Imodium, and works as well there as it does here. I was better after a few hours.
We spent the rest of the day investigating the neighborhood we would live in for the next five days. There were lots of these telephone stores. Inside there were phone booths where you could make international calls for a few cents per minute. Some had Internet access. There were bars on every corner selling espresso and cappuccino. Clothing stores, shoe stores. We went to an open market, and bought a few things to put in the kitchen. We bought things like cheese, eggs, some Quaker oats, milk, etc. This was the kind of place where people would haggle and bargain. It was fun watching Jane speaking Italian with these very animated people.
We went into a Pizzeria and bought some squares of different types of Pizza, and brought them back to the apartment to eat. We were all tired, and went to sleep to the sounds of the city, including the metro rumbling under us.
The view out the window looking to the left from our apartment in Rome.