10/8/2003 Italy in Fall 2003 Day 1
Jim and Diana write:
Italy: Fall 2003: We are back in Italy for our semi-annual research trip.....our itinerary for this trip starts in Rome. We then will cross the peninsula to the Le Marche on the Adriatic Coast and stay in Macerata and Pesaro. The trip will finish in Ferrara (eastern Emilia-Romagna) and Treviso (in the Veneto, near Venice.) We fly home from Venice on October 24.

Day 1: Wednesday, October 8: Rome

Both planes (Boston-Munich and Munich-Rome) are packed and the flight to Munich is particularly uncomfortable. Diana resolves never to fly Lufthansa again. But we arrive in Rome on time (10:45 am), collect our luggage and meet the waiting driver for the ride into Rome. The ride into Rome from the airport takes about 35 minutes; once you pass through the old city walls, you are plunged immediately into ancient Rome....the route takes us past the Baths of Caracalla, the Circus Maximus, the back of the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, and the Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill), before we are deposited in the middle of modern Rome traffic.

Our hotel this time is at the north end of the Piazza Navona, just off a lovely street filled with antique shops--the Via Coronari. We have to carry our luggage for the last thirty yards because the door of the hotel is on a car free street. The hotel--the Residenza Canali ai Coronari--is in a renovated four story building and it lacks an elevator. Reception is on the second floor and we (with the help of the driver) wrestle our bags upstairs. Our room will not be ready until 2 pm so we store our suitcases, wash up, and head out to wait.

The weather is glorious....bright sunshine, clear skies, a light breeze, and temperature in the 70s--just about perfect. We head over to the Piazza Navona, find a bench and hang out for a while. While Diana stays on the bench and reads and people-watches, I head for a store to put some minutes on our cell phone and then do some exploring. At 2 pm, we head back to the hotel and get into our room. We are on the second floor (two flights up) in a very attractive room....actually rooms. There is a large bedroom with an armoire and a desk, a smaller room with a sleep sofa and another desk, a smaller room with just the frigo bar and a dresser, and a large bathroom. It is nicely decorated, but slightly dark in spite of having three windows; the streets outside are quiet narrow and the natural light is blocked by the surrounding buildings.

While Diana naps, I start to fiddle with the computer and, as happens frequently, become quite frustrated with my initial attempts to connect. After a while, I go downstairs to ask if there is some problem with the hotel telephone lines but I am told that people do connect frequently. The woman on duty advises me to ask her brother (who is an expert) when he comes in later in the afternoon.

When I go back upstairs, I am suddenly able to connect to my local Italian service provider, but at very slow speeds. I can download e-mails, but it takes me a long time to see the Washington Post front page and get the results of the California election and the baseball playoff games. When I go downstairs to ask the brother about the connection, he is unaware of the slow connection, but invites me to use their cable modem whenever I want. That sounds like a good deal and I tell them that I will come down later.

By this time, Diana has woken up and I am getting very tired....we find that morning arrivals after an all night flight are worse than afternoon ones. I take a short nap, we take showers, and then we head out for a walk about 5 pm. The weather is still nice but on shady streets, it is pretty cool. We walk around the neighborhood of the hotel (an area we are not that familiar with), just meandering without any specific agenda...except to explore streets that we haven't seen before. We walk to the river, cross the Ponte Sant' Angelo which leads to the Castel Sant'Angelo, stroll along the other side of the Tiber until the next bridge, cross back and do some more wandering through the back streets.....we check out some restaurants, stop to window shop at a store that sells decorated boxes and other stylish paper goods, get a snack of pretty good "pizza bianca" at a bakery, and stop to admire the courtyard and gardens at the Palazzo Firenze, now the home of the Dante Alighieri Society.

It is a very pleasant, unhurried walk and we are very happy to be back in Rome, but as it gets cooler and later, we decide to go back to the hotel. I take the computer downstairs to take advantage of the hotel's cable modem (which of course doesn't work right away). Finally we get it connected and I get my business done.

We decide to go for an early dinner...we both feel like we will start to crash if we stay out too late. At about 7:30, we go out and choose the closest possible place to eat...a restaurant which is all of 15 steps from the hotel entrance. Le Tre Archi is a brightly lit, welcoming place with a traditional menu of typical Roman dishes. When we come, there are only two tables occupied...both with tourists, but by the time we leave (an hour later), six or seven tables are filled, all with Italian customers.

The food is good, not great, but the waiter is very pleasant and we are pleased with the choice. Diana starts with a bucatini Amatriciana--tomato sauce with onions and guanciale, followed by grilled scamorza cheese and plate of spinach. I have my favorite dish, spaghetti alle vongole (clams), followed by a combination plate of fried stuffed zucchini flowers and fried brains, along with a dish of puntarelle (strips of Catalan chicory--something like celery--with an anchovy dressing...very Roman). Diana likes all her food; I am a little disappointed in the clams but the brains and zucchini flowers are quite good as is the puntarelle. Unfortunately, fatigue sets in just before the second courses arrive and I have a hard time making a dent in my food. The waiter notices and I try to explain (in Italian) that I am very tired, that the food is good, but that I just can't eat any more. He seems satisfied with the explanation.

Even the prospect of panna cotta for dessert can't tempt me into staying...we pay the check (less than Euro 40--about $46.00 US) and hurry back to the hotel. I may have read for five minutes before falling fast asleep.