Saturday, December 13, 2008


I had a Sunday off before I had to go to work so I took the fast train down to Rome. I don't know how fast the train goes (and tried to look it up online) but it's fast. Going through tunnels uncomfortably pressured up my ears and when we met trains on the parallel track there was quite an impact. I guessed 80 plus MPH based on how we passed highway traffic. Google maps says it's 170 miles Florence to Rome on the highway and it took 1.5 hours, so 100 MPH is a pretty good bet. It was relatively cheap (about 100 USD RT) fast, smooth and comfortable.

The train station in Rome is not the relatively laid-back affair it is in Florence... :-)

When I got there I jumped on this tour bus for a tour of the city. You can get on and off all day for a flat price and it's narrated so I figured I'd make one loop to see where I wanted to go and then jump on and off on the second circuit.

That didn't work out QUITE as planned though. I shortly (OK, eventually...) figured out that I had no idea where we were and the recorded narration didn't match what I was seeing. About then I saw a street sign pointing off toward the Trevi fountain, so I bailed from the bus...

It was a lot more crowded than in the movies!

After a quick lunch I got back on the bus and asked why I was so confused. The bus employee said that they didn't follow the route shown on the map. They followed the listing of stops printed on the map. The list of stops were like "Via della something across from the store". Which would work just fine if you lived in Rome I guess. For me, there was no way to know where I was. Also, I'd hoped to see where I wanted to get off on the first pass, but they didn't stop right in front of anything of obvious interest. You had to walk off a few blocks.

So, I told her all I really wanted to see was the Vatican and the Coliseum. Unfortunately I had just got back on the bus after those stops. So... another city tour is indicated. And a 20 minute bus driver break. And another 20 minute bus driver break. I really didn't care - I'm still riding around Rome so what the hell!

Finally she says "Two more stops is the Coliseum". Great... then her phone rings. There's a bunch of animated Italian talking and she tells me "We have a problem.... the road is closed so we can't go to the Coliseum now. We'll get there but we have to go around...", so we take off winding though these little streets in this huge bus. She gets out several times to direct - once stopping cross traffic and chasing some people off the sidewalk on an inside turn and another arguing unsuccessfully with a police woman that wouldn't let us turn the way she wanted. After about 30 minutes the phone rings and the road is open.... so they drop me off a few blocks from the Coliseum.

Which is incredible.

This is Emperor Constantine Arch which used to be the entrance to the city.

One COULD go IN the Coliseum... if one hadn't spent the day riding the bus until it closed.

The Basilica of Constantine, I think.
I still can't believe you can just walk into these churches... incredible.

City ruins.

On the way to the Coliseum is a monument to the first King of Italy and the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Great views..

There are a couple tricks to the train I now have all figured out, but one that threw me on this trip was that the train returning to Florence went to Milan. So it's listed on the board as Milan.... you would know it went through Florence if you were a regular... I went to the train office trying to to find what track I needed but the line was HUGE.. about 200 people with their luggage so I went and bought some water in a shop and showed my ticket to them. We didn't have enough common language for it to be perfectly clear to me, but they pointed to the right track and the first passenger I saw on the train confirmed we were headed to Firenze.

When I got back I was cold, wet and tired. I went to my hotel restaurant looking pretty ragged, I'm sure. The MaĆ­tre D' scurried over to me in his immaculate white suit and asked "Do you have a reservation?". He visibly relaxed when I said "No, is that a problem?" and told me that none of the 20 empty tables I saw behind him were available... I decided I'd rather sleep than eat anyway and went to bed!

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