Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Rome Trip (Day 4)

Day 4: Saturday, May 20
Velletri + Nemi (sort of) + Civita d'Antino
We had breakfast at our hotel again and then took the Tram to the Metro to Roma Termini train station to catch the 9:28am regional train to Velletri, where friends J & S from grad school live with their three kids (C, G, M). I stayed with J & S for almost two weeks back in 2001 when they were initially transitioning to Velletri and before any of the kids, and the last time we saw any of them was in Madison in 2003, just after G was born. It was great to meet the kids and visit with J & S over lunch, which was J's homemade gnocchi. Yum!

After lunch, J, Mr. E, and I left for Civita d'Antino, dropping G off to meet up with her friends along the way. J's mother grew up in Civita, which is where he did field research for his dissertation, and he still has quite a bit of family living there as well. He and S bought a house in Civita a couple of years ago. Civita is in the mountains of the Abruzzo region, so the weather was quite different from that in Velletri or Rome -- much cooler, cloudy, and somewhat rainy. Good thing we had brought some warm clothes, windbreakers, and an umbrella!

The original plan was to attend a wine-tasting event in Nemi, a small town next to a lake not far from Velletri. However, when we tried to park and catch the shuttle to the tasting, we ended up waiting for 45 minutes and finally learned that the shuttle was no longer running because the parking area had been washed out by the strong downpour that had fallen during the unexpected thunderstorm a few hours earlier (when we were getting ready for lunch in Velletri). So we changed plans and stopped at a nearby shop to pick up some wine and then made our way to Civita.

The rain picked up again when we arrived, and we got to see some amazing double rainbows thanks to the simultaneous sun shining through breaks in the clouds above the mountains.

Mr. E and J went out for a stroll around the town while I hunkered down at the house to stay warm and dry. The small town (just over 100 population) is very picturesque, and Mr. E captured some great images of both the built and natural environments. Once they got back to the house, we enjoyed some wine (Gewurztraminer and Brunello) and snacks (local cookies -- yum!), and Mr. E and J stayed up chatting after I turned in.


Rome Trip (Day 3)

Day 3: Friday, May 19
Tourist Sites Checklist + Colosseum & Ancient Rome Tour
I did a short run down towards the river and across one bridge to the next and enjoyed the quiet of the morning hours with minimal traffic. We both enjoyed the hotel breakfast buffet with a nice selection of proteins (eggs and deli meats), dairy products (cheese and yogurt), fruit, baked goods (crusty bread and rolls, sweet pastry), and of course strong coffee.

We managed to find the shorter path to the Piazza del Popolo this time, climbing the stairs opposite the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (GNAM), passing a fountain with spouting turtles, and cutting through a short path of the Villa Borghese.

The first tourist site on our checklist was the Piazza del Popolo, with its central obelisk surrounded by water-spouting lions.

Next we headed to the Spanish Steps, where we learned that eating and drinking is not permitted on the Steps after observing an encounter between some of the City police and a couple of other tourists.

Next up was the Trevi Fountain, which was so crowded with tourists and tour groups that we could hardly get near it. And for some reason, the water wasn't spouting, which was a bit disappointing.

On our way to the Piazza Navona, we had an unexpected encounter with a gladiator! We were also tempted by a self-serve coffee beans machine (don't usually see that on the street...) but decided we didn't want to carry that with us for the rest of the day.

We inadvertently ended up passing right by the Pantheon, which we had planned to see a bit later in the journey, so we took advantage of the opportunity to enter and admire the amazing play of light in the dome.

Just a block away was another destination, the odd and adorable Elefantino. We're not sure quite why this elephant is hoisting an obelisk on its back...

The Piazza Navona with its three fountains was next on the list, followed by the Torre Argentina ruins, which is also the site of a cat sanctuary.

By this time, we were both a bit warm and starting to get hungry, so we charted a course towards the Colosseum area with the goal of finding a lunch spot prior to our 2pm tour with City Wonders. On the way, we passed Il Vittoriano but opted not to climb the stairs for a closer look.

Lunch was comprised of salmon bruschetta and a salad with tuna for me and seafood linguine with a side of roasted veggies for Mr. E. It felt great to sit down for a bit after nearly 3 hours of walking, especially since we knew we had another 3-hour tour ahead of us in the afternoon. We finished up with plenty of time for a leisurely stroll to our tour meeting spot across from the Colosseum.

We had booked the tour through Trip Advisor/Viator, and the local operator was City Wonders. Our guide, Laura, was excellent, and we even got to begin the tour with special access onto the stage, which gave an amazing perspective of the entire interior of the Colosseum.

We went up to the second tier as we learned about the history of the Colosseum, the "recycling" of its materials in many other structures in Rome, and the renovation work to clean up and preserve the site.

When we exited the Colosseum, we passed some of the construction site for the new Metro Line on our way to the Roman Forum. Our visit to the Forum included an unexpected avian guest amidst the ruins. A striking and memorable part for me was the depiction of the menorah on one of the arches.

The tour wrapped up with a stroll around Palatino Hill, with great views out over the Forum and the rest of the city.

We opted to take the tram #19 back to the hotel. We bought our tickets at a local tabaccheria, which was right across the street from a Carrefour Express, and we also took advantage of access to the little grocery store to stock up on some items for dinner and the rest of the visit. The tram ride took nearly 40 minutes, but since jet lag was definitely starting to kick in a bit, we were glad not to be adding on to our 6+ hours of walking for this return journey.

Back at the hotel, we cleaned up and enjoyed drinks and snacks out on the balcony until the gulls got too pushy, forcing us to move inside for the rest of the meal. The sunset views were quite impressive again this evening. And Mr. E is a talented photographer!