Day 13: Return to Rome

Ok, I loved Naples. I’m sure you all probably got that from the previous Naples’ posts. And again, I just want to reiterate that if you have the opportunity to visit, DO! You won’t regret it.

Anyhoo, after a long day exploring some buried cities, we had a very restful (and much needed) night of sleepful bliss. The following morning we were up early to enjoy our last espresso and cappuccino overlooking Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples before heading back to the train station. We had an early morning train back to Rome. One thing I will caution you about as far as travel in Naples is concerned is the taxis. It’s very easy to get ripped off, as one of the Husband’s colleagues did. However, we had our transportation arranged through the hotel, including the taxi from the hotel to the train station on our final day. And we were very happy with their service– only 11E for that ride, which was worth it in not having to lug our luggage down to the dock to catch the bus. We used Italo trains just as we did for our arrival in Naples and again had a smooth, lovely ride back to Rome.

Upon our arrival back in the capital, we checked in to our final hotel, the Hotel Farnese. This hotel was located on the western side of the city, conveniently near the Vatican (about a 20 minute walk). The hotel was lovely. It is small, but has lots of flourish including classical decor that adds a touch of class to each area. Our room was on the third floor, was quite spacious, and had a great bathroom. The ceiling in the bathroom had been painted and lit to resemble an oculus that sat right over the jetted tub. The staff at the Farnese was extremely friendly, the cost is low, and the breakfast is delicious and has a great selection of fruit. The only caveat was that the elevator was quite small and slow. The Husband and I had to split up at check out in order to get both suitcases down, but all in all, I would highly recommend the Hotel Farnese.

After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, we crossed the Tiber River and headed over to the Piazza del Popolo. The large square was home to public executions for centuries but now houses some lovely fountains (and obelisk!) where tourists and locals can congregate.

overhead shot of the piazza

fountain from one end of the piazza

fountain from the opposite end of the piazza

a remnant of Egypt from the 2nd millennium BCE

Passing through the piazza, we then continued on to find the Spanish Steps. This is a very crowded, and in my humble opinion, overrated site in Rome. I mean, come on, it’s just a bunch of steps! But we went. We climbed. We took pictures.

the steps

What would a Roman site be without an Egyptian obelisk??

climbing the steps

the view from the top

the crowded but refreshing fountain at the bottom

One of the many modern-day gladiators wandering around ready to be paid for the opportunity to pose for your camera. He was no Russell Crowe, I assure you.

After visiting the steps and watching a very entertaining shouting match in which an irate cab driver WENT OFF on a police office, we continued on to our next destination, the Capuchin Crypt. This crypt is part of the Church of the Immaculate Conception. It was constructed by the monks of the Capuchin order who wished to create a space to remind viewers of just how fleeting our time on Earth is. Beginning in the early 1600s, the monks would use the bones of their deceased brethren to decorate various rooms. Today, visitors first walk through a small museum detailing the religious order and displaying many sacred objects, including relics that belonged to several of the Capuchin brothers who were elevated to sainthood. After passing through the museum, visitors then walk through five or six small crypts where thousands of bones have been laid out in different arrays. Some complete skeletons are still dressed in their monk habits. Most bones have been separated from their bodies to create elaborate scenes. Skulls are used to line walls. Ribs are used to construct chandeliers. Legs, arms, fingers, etc are all set into patterns on walls and on the ceilings. Unfortunately, they do not allow photographs, so no really cool pictures to show you, but I do recommend you go if you have the chance to visit. It is simultaneously disturbing, grotesque, sad, thought-provoking, and moving.

After having visited the crypt, we decided to walk back through some of the Borghese Gardens near the Villa Medici. This area is near the top of the Spanish Steps, is quiet, shaded, peaceful, and offers some great views of the city of Rome from above.

Surprise, surprise…

a cute little pond area

overlooking Rome

including St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance

After our walk around, we decided to head back to the hotel to rest for a bit before dinner. A nap and a change of clothes can do wonders for refreshing oneself! Having gotten some down time, we headed out to check out Vatican city and grab some dinner. We walked around the walls of the Vatican to find where we needed to go for our early entrance to the museums the next morning and then proceeded on into St. Peter’s square. Being that is was now evening and the basilica was closed, there weren’t that many people around and a great breeze had kicked up. We had a lovely time strolling through the square and seeing the fountains and sculptures around. For dinner, we ate al fresco at a convenient little restaurant right across from the street from the Vatican museums. Hostaria dei Bastioni had delicious food, wonderful service, and a lovely atmosphere. During our dinner, there were only a handful of other diners which is a shame since our meal really was very nice. I assume because of their location they do a very brisk business during lunch hours. The owner of the restaurant served as our waiter and his wife popped out a few times to help with another table later on. They were both very friendly and welcoming. Their house red was a Lazio wine that was fantastic and a great way to enjoy being back in Rome. For an antipasto, we split the prosciutto and mozzarella, which was good, but not the best of our trip. I then had the spaghetti all’amatriciana (fresh pasta with a bacon and tomato sauce) while the Husband had fettuccine with an orange cream sauce and eggplant parmesan. Everything we had was great! To finish of our meals, we walked around the corner to the Gelateria Old Bridge. They are very popular at night, so don’t be surprised to find a line! The gelato was pretty good, but I’m guessing a lot of their popularity comes from their portions being enormous! Gelato in hand, we took a nighttime stroll back through St. Peter’s Square and then down past Castel Sant’Angelo (an ancient tomb that later became castle and hiding place for the popes during troubled times). With that little bit of exploring done, we headed back towards our hotel to get some rest before our day at the Vatican.

St. Peter’s at dusk

the greatest church in Christendom

Jesus and his apostles atop the church

the square, complete with obelisk

a view of St. Peter’s from down the street

St. Peter outside the church

the church at night

one of the fountains in the square

an old Fiat 500— one tiny car

Priests! In Vatican City! I couldn’t believe it!