First day in Rome

Arriving at the airport

We arrived at Leonardo da Vinci (Rome-Fiumicino) Airport at around 12:30 pm or so.
Our luggage was a pain in the butt. It really sucks dragging two bags even when they’re fastened together, especially on stairs and non-working escalators, of which there are many in Italy.
We then took a train from the airport to Termini, the main train station in Rome.
We had to stand most of the trip. I noticed lots of loud people talking on cell phones. When we sat down finally, we were across from a scraggly Italian dude with an Elmo bag drinking wine from a tiny bottle.
When we arrived at Termini, we tried to walk to our hotel which looked close on our map, but there were no street signs and we were not sure where to go with our big, heavy bags and the cars whizzing by looked like a death trap so Nicole easily convinced me that we should take a taxi from the taxi stand outside the station..

Taxi cab ride – a rip-off

We got ripped off. We ended up paying 35 Euros – too much for a cab ride from Termini to Hotel Lirico, which we later found out was practically around corner and only should’ve cost 5 to 10 euros. Clearly, the driver took us for a ride. He was friendly and spoke English, pointing out sites along the way and telling us that it is his dream to live in San Francisco (maybe he tells everyone that? “It is my dream to live in Des Moines”) In retrospect, I realize that he was probably distracting us from the fact that he was swindling us. He seemed to expect a tip, but I was suspecting that he overcharged us and I didn’t give him one.

Hotel Lirico

We arrived at Hotel Lirico and we showered because we were super gross. The hotel was alright, although the bathroom walls were a bit moldy.

We decided to go see the Capuchin Crypt, an old monastery where the monks had too much time on their hands and too many dead bodies, because they decorated 6 rooms entirely with human bones, making elaborate chandeliers and such out of the bones. On our last trip in September of 2004, the site had been closed for a few months for renovation. We were hoping that it had reopened since we were last in Rome.

At the front desk, the hotel clerk hadn’t heard of the Capuchin Crypt (“Cappucino?” :-)) but we showed him the phone number in our guidebook and he called for us and found out that it was open until 6pm.

Piazza Barberini

On the way to the Cappucin crypt, we stopped for a snack and each had doughnutty pizza things called “pizza semplice” (not that great), at a place near Piazza Barberini. Over on Via Veneto, we saw a crazy dude yelling at passersby on the street. We saw this very same nut job at the same place in September. Ah Rome, the eternal city.


Around that area, we passed by a Lamborghini shop:

The Capuchin Crypt

The Capuchin Crypt took only 10 minutes, but it’s something to see, as long as you aren’t terrified by skulls. I didn’t realize that you could make a chandelier out of bones. Much has been written lately in the productivity blogosphere of “life hacks”. These friars were preoccupied with “death hacks”. These guys were a bit on the morbid side – one of these skeleton-laden rooms had a Latin inscription to the effect of “What you are now, we once were. What we are now, you one day will be…” What a lovely thought to get us into a vacation mindset. My guess is that these monks didn’t get invited to a lot of parties. We donated 5 € and were on our way. The picture above is the outside only I’m afraid, since like in a lot of churches in Europe, no photographs are allowed inside.

Trevi Fountain

Picture of Marc at Trevi fountain
Picture of Nicole at Trevi fountain

A short walk across town, we revisited the Fontana di Trevi (Fountain of Trevi), took the requisite pictures and threw the requisite coins into the fountain. The place is perenially mobbed with tourists and I think almost all are Americans. I read once that the fountain was not a tourist destination until it was made famous in the movie Three Coins in the Fountain. At the Fountain, I lay my head down and was actually asleep for a few minutes. I hadn’t slept on the plane so we were quite tired after being awake for 24+ hours..

Dinner near Piazza Navona

Next we stopped at the Pantheon again on our way over to Piazza Navona for dinner. After checking out a few menus, we decided on Bramante on Via della Pace, near Piazza Navona. We were greeted enthusiastically by owner Giuseppe who gave the impression of being, uhh…, light in the loafers (not that there’s anything wrong with that). He had bleached blonde hair, a tight black tank top, and drop pearl earrings (noted by Nicole – “drop pearl earrings” is not in my vocabulary). We were seated outside after about 5 “Buona Sera”s and shaking of hands. Shaking of hands at a restaurant – I think that’s a first for me. Not an Italian custom either as far as I can tell, because this occurrence was a one of a kind.

For an appetizer, we had bresaola, which is thinly sliced raw beef, like carpaccio.
Nicole had spaghetti all’amatriciana (spaghetti with pancetta, onions, and tomato). I had polpettone (meatloaf) and potatoes in some sort of creamy wine sauce.


After dinner, we had gelato @ the venerable Giolitti, near Piazza Colonna (just off Via del Corso, site of La Colonna di Marco Aurelio). Nicole remarked on the particularly crunchy chocolate chips in my straciatella (vanilla with chocolate chips), but it turned out that she broken her spoon and was tasting tiny little bits of plastic. She had pistachio and fragola (strawberry). Then we had a fairly long walk back to Hotel Lirico, where we slept quite well after 30+ hours of being awake.

2 thoughts on “First day in Rome

  1. Pleased to have found you.
    We’re off to Rome in a week or 2 and a friend told us to go to the monastery made of skeletons, but she’d forgotten the name of it. It took me a while of searching after typing in skeleton monastery in rome, but here I found it.
    Thank you.
    We’re very much looking forward to our first trip to Italy.

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