Rome: What can we see in one day? Aventine Hill

If you liked the first post, “What can we see in one day?” which centered around some of the most popular sights & sites featured in the movie Roman Holiday, you might want to venture to another of the 7 hills in Rome, Aventino, just a stop or two past the Colosseum stop on the Blue or ‘B’ line of the metro.

Note: Don’t be afraid of taking the metro or bus.

Let’s assume you are staying somewhere near the main train station, Termini; if you aren’t, you will want to know how to get there for your other train rides. Rome only seems to have two main train lines, the ‘A’ or the ‘B’. It’s really simple and easy to use.

Take the ‘B’  towards Laurentina. This ‘B’ line or Blueline heads towards a great little shopping neighborhood, Cavour, then on to the Colosseo (Roman Colosseum), then Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). Get off here at Circo Massimo for a lovely walk around this ancient chariot track.

Circus Maximus
Just to the left you see Flavian Palace ruins.

Look up at the ancient ruins of the Flavian palace, which was destroyed by fire, flood, and demolition. I highly recommend taking the time to imagine chariots racing around the track 7 times while an emperor looks down from his lavish viewing area — the palace, on Palatine hill, was very grand in its day and is simply huge. Circus Maximus is in the valley, then there is Aventino hill.

Flavian Palace Ruins
Not impressive in my photo, but absolutely HUGE in person.

On the opposite side of Circo Massimo is the monument, Roseto di Roma Capitale. There you will find a street that will take you up into the Aventino neighborhood, look for Via di Valle Murcia, and head up the hill. You will walk near the walls on your right and find the Giardino Degli Aranci, a quiet small park with an incredible view. We happened on an open-air piano performance here, with families and their children relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. This has medieval architecture and is leading to the next building, the Basilica of Saint Sabina, the mother church of the Dominicans. This church is unique because of its simplicity and selenite windows (as opposed to stained glass).

Next to the Basilica of Saint Sabina, is a Basilica that is closed to the public, and owned by the Priory of the Knights of Malta. Did you know that the Knights of Malta are the oldest surviving chivalric order? Read more at https://theculturetrip.com/europe/italy/articles/the-story-behind-the-aventine-keyhole/

Now next to that is… the Keyhole of the Knights of Malta — a small viewing portal in a gate in the wall that aligns perfectly with a view of St. Peter’s Basilica. Read up on the Knights of Malta, the crusading knights founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century while you are waiting in line. Expect to wait in a line, donate a little, and spend a couple of minutes enjoying the view. For some, it’s underwhelming, for others, it feels like being transported back in time. For your wait, there is a snack vendor and your fellow folks waiting in line — interesting case studies in modern culture.

Take the Via di Porta Lavernale, all of the way down the hill to catch the tram, the number 8, heading across the river over into Trastevere. Since I can’t tell what time you began this day, I am hoping that it’s lunchtime — so here is one of my tips for a great restaurant for lunch in Trastevere. It opens at noon and it doesn’t have an Italian name, but it is great for those who love Carbonara done several different ways, and done better than anything you can get near the Spanish steps.

The restaurant is called ‘Eggs’ and you will have to use your map to find it — it’s close to the Trastevere Mastai stop (first stop across the river).

Have lunch, wander around, then head back on the tram and get off at Marmoratta and walk toward the ancient Pyramid of Caius Cestius. There is also an old protestant cemetery if you are in the mood for wandering around, looking at headstones. This is right in the walls of Rome. After exploring, head to the metro station. This is the Pyramide stop, which is the stop just after the Circo Massimo stop you got off to see Circus Maximus. Keep heading towards Laurentina for two stops and get off at the San Paolo stop. Cross a street or two to get to the Basilica Papale San Paolo Fuori le Mura, the Papal Basilica of St Paul outside the walls. This church burned down and has been restored. Some of the most amazing alabaster windows can be found here as well as a stunning mosaic. Part of the old, original doors are still there, inside and the folk art feeling of the ornamentation is informative of the period.

Head back to the station and decide if you are ready to go back to your room for some rest before a late Italian dinner. Now that you know how to get to Travetere you can make reservations or add a little more to this itinerary to stay over on this side of town.

Back near the tram is the Testaccio neighborhood, with a farmers market, two piazzas that are mostly used by locals and a church that isn’t always open, Santa Maria Liberatrice.

IMG_20200118_152153_172_Side mosaic
Just one of the beautiful representations in this “small” church on the Aventine Hill in Testaccio.

 

A local Roman has recommended a restaurant in the Testaccio neighborhood, Felice, as having the best Caccio e Pepe — the Roman pasta dish that is simple and eponymous.

I hope you enjoy this sample itinerary of seeing some other Roman spots!

 

 

Bullet List Rome: Cultural Differences

20191106_124837 Barberini
Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini

As far as I can tell, Italians are warm, friendly, and open generally speaking. The cultural behaviors that we love so much– the hand gestures, the emotional outbursts– are in evidence daily. Here is my list of differences that were new to me:

  • Fish and steak are charged by the 100 gram — so if you see €20 on the menu, that is not the price you will pay at the end — but rather you will pay €20 per 100 gram — so that piece of fresh fish might cost €40.
  • Toilet seats — or rather the lack thereof. Be prepared with disinfectant wipes and portable toilet seat covers, which are also not available. If you can manage not to sit — even better!
  • Grilled vegetables — listed as Miste Verdue griglia do not arrive at your table hot, or even warm. They come room temperature or even cool. That often goes for the side potatoes too!
  • Espresso is cheaper at the bar and costs around €3 more at Tavola or table. Go ahead, order it, watch it being made, and drink it right there standing up! When in Rome, do as the Romans do,
  • Don’t order a latte, rather order a Caffellatte. Latte just means milk in Italian and you get some funny looks when you order a milk.
  • Buona sera (Bonah Sayrah) happens right about noon and lasts until about the time you leave a late dinner at the restaurant. First thing in the morning is Buongiorno.
  • Old men and their shoe shops. So far, I have seen a few shoe shops that sell only Italian made shoes and each of these has an octogenarian greeting and running the money. These guys are over-the-top charming, one joking with us, flattering us, and kissing my hand even though he knew we didn’t speak Italian. The younger workers, I like to think that they are the great-grandchildren, make apologies, translate, and overall this creates the charming family environment that moviegoers expect.
  • Italian maids are amazing, don’t understand English and have full access to your room to tidy it up; once late morning and once while you are supposed to be out to dinner, plus someone else brings water, someone else checks the minibar, someone else checks to see if the maids did a good job…it’s like grand central station.
  • Roman water is good, unless you have a tendency to kidney stones. It has calcium — not the good bone-building kind, so one drinks a lot of bottled water. Frizzante is the most bubbly–the waiter will ask if you want gas, there is natural slightly sparkling mineral water, and there is still water. You are able to purchase water in glass bottles to avoid single-use plastic.
  • Birkenstocks have a tendency to get “side-eye” from Italian men. Women simply ignore them.
  • Skip the line by purchasing tickets and vouchers in advance from the hotel — you can even purchase from a hotel if you aren’t staying there, making impulse tours easy! There are always folks on the street selling tickets too — they are well marked so you don’t accidentally buy from the wrong guy.
  • Metro ticket machines — look at the pictures of the money it is taking — sometimes it quits taking bills and you can tell that by the picture of coins.
  • Don’t accept roses from the guys on the Spanish Steps — unless you want to donate.
  • Eat the roasted chestnuts. Look for evenly roasted chestnuts, the vendors paying attention to even roasting have the chestnuts arranged in a single layer. Wait until after 6 to ensure enough roasting has happened. Then walk around with 600 other people looking at the luxury shop windows and Roman landmarks.
  • Don’t get into the fountains. These are national treasures and meant to be enjoyed visually by everyone.
  • Be respectful of the churches — turn off your phone notifications and sound, wear pants not shorts, or skirts/dresses that aren’t classified as mini. Talk in a quiet voice, take in the art, make a small donation, and feel free to pray for world peace and contemplate.
  • Buy local. Italians make some of the best shoes — so look for “made in Italy” try them on because some are designed better than others, and in small shops sometimes you can make an offer. Italians have access to wonderful produce, so get as much fresh fruit juice (spremute) and fresh room temperature vegetables as you can get!
  • Learn some Italian — it’s really easy to get the hang of it! Grazie!

Bullet List: Rome Style Decoded

 

What makes women in a particular city, say Paris, look so Parisian? Likewise, what makes women in Rome, look so Italian?! Here are some decoding bullets:

  • Jewelry (big, bold, and lots of it!)
  • Scarves
  • Trendy or beautiful shoes
  • Loose locks of hair
  • One really big statement piece
  • Clear style statements of confidence
  • Hosiery
  • Mani/pedis are a must
  • Fully styled professionals
  • Luxury denim is styled upscale
  • Lips and Mascara

Here are some other style helpers:

  • Umbrella
  • Helmet that coordinates with scooter
  • Leather (Italian) handbag
  • Leather (Italian) jacket

Here’s what I don’t see on the streets of Rome worn by Romans:

  • Pajamas
  • Flip flops
  • Wrinkled clothes
  • Bottom cleavage/muffin tops

So let me describe a few of the beautiful Italian women I have seen so far, but haven’t gotten photos of:

Woman #1: 60s/70s — Black hair — skinny skinny

  • Hosiery with large criss-cross design, flat black suede shoes
  • Black sheath dress trimmed with short fringe
  • Black leather jacket
  • Giant pearl and gold necklace, earrings, multiple rings

Woman #2: 40s/50s — brown hair — average build

  • Wide-legged, over-dyed, oversized denim cropped jeans in a melon color
  • Matching oversized straight cut car length jacket in same melon denim
  • Extra-long print scarf down to her knees in a print of melon/neon green/red
  • Ankle boots, mid-height heel, trendy in light tan (Italian leather, I would bet)

Woman #3: 60s — salt and pepper hair — athletic build

  • Cropped gabardine pants in dark green
  • Open-toed suede shoe in cognac with a chunky stacked heel (Italian leather)
  • Silk print blouse — three shades of green with some purple for good luck
  • Leather jacket in cognac (Italian leather)
  • Cream-colored helmet & matching cream and black scooter
  • Silk chiffon scarf in pale green
  • Leather brief portfolio in cognac (Matchy-matchy I love it!)

Each of these women had a certain striking air of confidence, and of assertiveness. I got the sense that they didn’t put too much focus on matters that didn’t directly involve them. I also sensed that they weren’t looking for style approval, but rather that style was their medium, under their control.

 

Historical Crosswalk: Arco di Tito

The Roman Forum is jam-packed with architectural finds, such as the Arch of Tito. Normally, I just associate these names with characters in movies and don’t really know why Tito is important enough to have his own arch. Tito, like the other guys who have an arch, conquered and looted, bringing wealth back to Rome.

What is interesting from a historical intersection is that Tito conquered Jerusalem. He is the one responsible for the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. That’s why there is just a big wall. Tito proceeded to take all of the valuable stuff back up to Rome and had the Arco di Tito built to commemorate his power and wealth.

Best items to pack: All-star tools

One day before we boarded a plane for Rome, we found out that our apartment was not ready for us to move-in yet. We would be staying at a beautiful and conveniently located hotel for up to 6 weeks. A little bit of a surprise to which we couldn’t prepare since we were already staying in Washington, D.C. for the two weeks leading up to our departure. Meaning, we had already packed for a two-week trip, with about another two weeks in Rome, after which we expected to receive the first batch of our clothes and office equipment, with the second, larger batch coming in about a month after that — or so.

already packed

Anyway, that cut out the packing anxiety completely. We were already packed and committed. Fortunately, I have some on-the-road tools that have become my all-stars for road trips. NOTE: These all-stars must be in checked baggage. I realize that the trend is to take everything in a carry-on, but at my age, I rely on various comforts and for long-term trips, over two weeks, on an abundantly filled suitcase.

Here is my bullet list of All-Stars and how they have made our hotel living work:

  • Scissors: used to cut black electrical tape, stray threads, open pockets on hubby’s new blazers
  • Black electrical tape: used to cover all of the led lights in the room (TV, 10 light switches, thermostat)
  • Foldable sharp knife: open jammed suitcase, open packaging, slice lemon for sick hubby, slice olive focaccia bread, slice cheese
  • Cosmetics organizers: two hanging organizers, one train case, three clear plastic zippered bags (one shown)
  • Samples of Products: shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, lotion, serum, moisturizer, sunscreen (already don’t like the smell of the shower gel–I have an aversion to the smell of lavender, need special shampoo/conditioner, love expensive serums but hate having $100 of product leak out during flight, it’s nice when you can get your special products in travel size–but can’t always find travel size plus samples are usually free, etc.)
all stars
Traveling all-stars.
Light switches
Each switch has blue LED light shining throughout the night to ensure no sleep occurs.
TV
Light from TV shines in eyes all night long.
Thermostat
Dumb light on Thermostat shines directly in eyes when sleeping. Absolutely must cover with black tape.

How to Use the ICE train

When I first moved to Frankfurt, Germany, I wanted to see everything in Europe on a budget! The best way to travel is by train. There are the local trams, the Regional trains, and the ICE or Inter City Express high-speed trains. Each train has a very well-organized process and it helps to have it quickly explained. For instance, once you purchase your ICE ticket, how do you know where to get on the train to find your seat?

This short video below shows you how to quickly find out!

 

 

20190619_080537 ICE Train in Binz

Traveling While Sick: Tips & Observations

The morning of my flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Frankfurt, Germany I started an earnest sinus infection/summer cold. Here’s what I did right and what I would change if I had to do it all over again…

This is what worked well:

  • Scheduled 24-hour layover in new hotel
  • Hall’s cough drops in a carry-on bag
  • Advil in a carry-on bag
  • Z-pack antibiotics (proactively prescribed from fantastic nurse practitioner)
  • Giant bottle of water to take on the plane
  • Best carry-on bag design
  • Cash
  • Shopping in airport
  • Very-close-to-airport hotel

What I would change:

  • Type of hotel
  • Should have been located near some restaurants

So, I stayed at a sister brand hotel– it was really new, and really cute. Hip. Trendy. Lower cost. Here’s why:

  • No in-room coffee
  • No executive lounge
  • No room service
  • No restaurant
  • No wi-fi in room

I learned on this trip just how spoiled I am with a full-service hotel, meaning the big, full service with a restaurant, a snack room, an executive lounge, room service, coffee-at-will in my room. In these big hotels, I can work in the room, in the lounge, in the lobby, but in these trendy scaled down hotels, it is designed for a different crowd. Folks who have kids, don’t work from their room, are not spending any time in their room except to shower and to sleep.

So, I dragged myself around the coffee bar/check-in a few times during the day, looking so pathetic, the guest manager/clerk helped me microwave my soup, find the spoons, and made me coffee. I ended up sleeping throughout the day and night, recovering from the crud that had ushered me out of Africa.

Moxy Hotel, Frankfurt, Germany
Welcome to the 2nd Floor!

Note: I have found incredible hospitality at the hotels that I have stayed at — caring people, ready to help. Because I have been a road warrior, I have had several instances of being quite ill during my stays throughout the United States and Europe. Here’s a shout out to every room service person who helped me with hot water and lemon, disinfecting the bathroom [don’t ask], the folks in the restaurant who prescribed lime juice with salt for my throat so I could deliver training to a crowd, and proceeded to procure it for me from the kitchen, and I could go on…Everyone at these places deserves to be treated kindly and with respect. I love you all in the hospitality industry!!!!

 

Shout out to the room decor designers! This is what I was waking up to when I was so sick in Frankfurt, Germany at the Moxy Hotel.

cute boy mural

Travel: Broken Foot Edition

Ace bandage helps!
Waiting on picnic bench while Hubby tours the mine.

One of the annoying little things that can happen on any given expedition out of your front door is an accident. There are all kinds of accidents that happen every day, you get stung by a wasp–swelling up, you eat something that makes you sick, or you step one wrong way, causing some weird injury that impacts your ability to do what you want to do.

This happens while traveling, although usually not to me.

You see I am a bit of a “being safe” nut — full of helpful anxiety about germs, street food, and neighborhoods that are off the beaten track. I walk tall, don’t drink much alcohol (if at all), and am inside of my hotel room at a reasonable hour. I avoid public demonstrations, threatening people (both them threatening me and me threatening them LOL!), and going out without a scarf, a sweater, and a cross-body bag. I pack bandaids, acetaminophen, diarrhea medicine, vitamin C, and sunscreen. All of this so that when I travel I can walk all over the city fearlessly and fun-loving!

But accidents do happen. And one happened to me on Monday of Week 3 of my 5-week vacation. I was at a wild animal park/sanctuary, and I stepped down from a tall step onto some cardboard that had been placed, I had imagined at the time, over a former mud puddle. The dirt was dry, there was no mud, I didn’t even stop to think about taking this large step. My weight landed on my right foot, which then slid over the hidden large rock, and proceeded to hyper-extend, popping as I landed with a thump. My phone flew out of my hand; I managed to land on my knee, then my well padded hind end; shaken up, to say the least. I am not in the habit of falling, tripping, nor stumbling. I think of myself as being quite spry, although not at all athletic.

As you can see below, this did not stop me from petting the baby cheetahs!

3 Cheetah kittens sunning at Rhino and Lion Safari Park, South Africa
Sweet kitty kitty cheetah cheetahs.

I am so grateful that I didn’t know at the time that I had broken a bone in my foot since I have extreme anxiety about visiting hospitals, especially hospitals in Africa. Now, I say this since the local hospital that was pointed out to me in Zimbabwe was built from cinder blocks back in the 1950s–I would guess. (Realize that I do believe in contributing to any and all aid organizations that help third-world countries get medical supplies and other assistance.) We have resistant strains of bacteria and viruses in the U.S. and I am certain that it is no different over here in Africa.

So, grateful. No trip to the doctor [until 6 weeks later when it became apparent that it was more than a bad bruise]. But….with swelling, bruising, and pain that continues every step that I make a full two weeks later, I now have a new understanding of making the most of a trip. [And now, 9 months later, I realize how important it is to avoid injury!]

—–

It is now a full month later and I still have pain in my foot and rely heavily on my hiking shoes — no other shoe feels comfortable. I have a bruise on the bottom of my foot, another one on the side, and the worst bruising on the top of my foot. You know what this means…Dr. Podiatrist here I come!

Broken bone in foot

Also another P.S. regarding healthcare and Africa: Thank you to my nurse practitioner J.S. for not only prescribing  medicine to prevent malaria, but also having the foresight to prescribe a Z-Pack — as it happened, the morning of my 10-hour flight from Johannesburg to Frankfurt, I woke up with a sore throat, coughing, –some sort of bronchial sinus cold that I am prone to–the meds are saving my butt. I am in Frankfurt, showered, napped, and on day 2 of the Z-pack and can function. Even if the flight was rough, thank you Halls Extra strength by the way. I will cover being sick in a foreign city in a hotel layover room in a future post!

 

 

South Africa: Simon’s Town Penguins

Beach with Penguins Milling About_July2018Certainly one of the highlights of my visit to South Africa was the morning before our flight. We decided to book a private car to Simon’s town. Yes, this was an additional and unexpected cost, however, in the big scheme, we already spent the time and money to get down here. And sometimes, the best way to maximize your time and your trip is to be flexible.

I would never have thought about using this private driver option in the past. I haven’t been accustomed to traveling other than for work. But when hubby and I were in Macedonia, the only way to get to Kokino was to hire a private car (one that was referred to us by friends at the local U.S. Consulate). This turned out to be a fantastic experience — as those of you who are used to doing such a thing probably already know.

So, we booked Jeremy, our driver from the African Pride Hotel, now a Marriott Autograph Hotel, to drive us through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood (another thing we wanted to do but due to my dumb foot injury couldn’t do on our own), then drive us to Simon’s Town, to see the penguins, then straight to the airport.

You might think this sounds rushed, but you wouldn’t be right. We had a great breakfast, met Jeremy at 8:00 a.m. and drove through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, with it’s brightly colored buildings, with a running dialogue. As it turns out, Jeremy was born and raised in Cape Town. We heard about the real estate issues, the cultural differences, etc. from an on-the-ground POV.

We had a lovely drive out to Simon’s Town, a naval base town, with more local history about a fire, the devastation to the local snakes –Cape Cobra and others– and how the college students studying geology, botany, and zoology hike along the trails. We drove past some of wine country, and then to the home of the African Penguins, formerly known as Jackass Penguins.

We walked the short walk from the parking lot, through a neighborhood street, to the Penguin beach. We paid, went through the turnstile and headed to the walkway. I thought that we would — wait!!! Wait!! There they are!!! Penguins!!!

I couldn’t believe it — right there. Not 10 steps from the start of the walkway — it keeps people off of the penguin’s beach—there were penguins. Not one or two penguins, but at least 10 penguins and the further down the walk we went, the more penguins we saw, until we arrived at the end of the walkway, viewing the beach, the Indian Ocean, large rocks, black Commorants with orange beaks and claws, and a hundred penguins.

My husband and I were delighted. I have to say that the light earlier in the day is absolutely magical. The African Penguins shimmered and their inimitable shadows waddled towards the water. Soon, the sound we were hearing was becoming clearer.

One penguin would point his beak straight up to the sky and start the sound, then another, and another. It sounded like donkeys braying. Ah. Now I am reading the sign. That’s how the name Jackass Penguin was first assigned to these birds. I am a little slow when it comes to connections.

Bottom line: This was one of the top highlights of our trip to Cape Town.

 

 

 

South Africa: Capetown Table Mountain

Table Mountain Gondola
The view from the tip of Africa.

Table Mountain: You want to take the gondola (at least we wanted to take the gondola up the mountain) so keep your eyes on which line you are in — but no matter how long the line is,  it will move quickly and the view is worth the wait. You can pre-purchase tickets using a QR code, so check that out! As you snake your way around and up to the gondola, don’t miss out on the photo op! Plan a fun pose and strike it with your fellow adventurer! Inside the gondola car, the floor slowly turns so that you can get a 365-degree view. Be aware, they pack the car full!

Wrong way little buddy!
Dassie in line on Table Top Mountain, South Africa.

Dassies: part rat, part marmot, all rodent — our driver says beware, they can carry rabies! We noticed a fair number of these critters on top of Table Mountain. Especially near the cafe. No dassies were foaming at the mouth when we were there.

View at the bottom of the earth!
On top of Tabletop Mountain, Capetown, South Africa.

Atlantic Ocean: Beautiful views of the Atlantic ocean, rivaling the views of Diamond Head in the Pacific Ocean on Oahu. Also, when you are looking at the ocean, a simple quarter turn reveals beautiful mountain ranges with fog and clouds. This view reminds me of Kokino in Macedonia. Either way, getting up to the top of Table Mountain is worth the line.