Our early morning flight departed San Diego at 6:15am bound for Newark, New Jersey, we had about a three-hour layover before departing for Rome, Italy. We arrived in Rome about 8:00 in the morning local time. There were a tremendous number of visitors and very little supervision in the custom’s hall where we needed to wait in lines for an hour or so to have our passports stamped before entering the country. My brand-new piece of “It” luggage guaranteed for life against breakage was dented but survived the airport baggage service. We took a shared taxi into Rome to the Della Conciliazione Hotel just a few blocks from St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican. The hotel is fairly small with only 67 rooms but it is neat, clean and has everything we could need for our short visit here.
As our room was not yet ready, we took the short walk to St. Peter’s Basilica where we had a small wait to go through metal detectors before entering the spectacular cathedral. Marble covers nearly every square inch of the massive cathedral, from statues to the floors and walls. Thousands of visitors were roaming the church snapping photos everywhere. They call St. Peter’s the largest Christian church in the world as it covers 5.7 acres of land, 448-foot-tall dome, 163,200 square feet of floor space.
We stopped at a local restaurant near our hotel for a bite to eat before returning to our hotel. Many of the local restaurants set up tables and chairs under umbrellas in the streets and alley ways for guests to dine al fresco. For lunch we tried the pork sausage filled olives breaded and deep fried. Interesting flavor and texture but not necessarily something to rush back for. Kent had the gnocchi with pesto sauce and Mark had a very dry and a bit flavorless four cheese pizza. The pizza had a small amount of cheese melted on a nice piece of dough but no sauce and not much spice. We were sharing our plates so the waiter asked if we were brothers: if you are men and you eat off the same plate you must be related!
We were able to check into the hotel about 2:00pm and immediately collapsed on the bed and were fast asleep for about three hours. After our nap we took a nice walk to the Plaza Navona in the center of town by crossing the Tiber River on an ornately decorated pedestrian bridge. All of the railing posts had elaborate sculptures of dragons and gargoyles. It was lightly raining but lots of people were out walking the streets, eating in the outdoor cafes and restaurants.
For dinner we stopped into a very small pasta shop near our hotel. This small shop only has a license to sell a very limited number of items like pastas and drinks and is not allowed to serve food on real dishes. They serve the pasta in plastic bowls and the drinks in plastic cups. The owner was very welcoming and happy to chat with his guests. He said that he felt his beautiful city was now in a state of decline and he found it very frustrating. He was concerned about things like the poor condition of the roads and the fact that young people are too busy on their cell phones to speak to the people around them. When we told him that this was the same in San Diego, he could not help but translate it into Italian and tell some other guests at a nearby hotel. He was surprised that in America we might have problems with our streets.
We returned to our hotel by 9:00pm and retired for the night.