On Sunday November 28 we greet Marjy and Dan outside 230 via Nazionale. They traveled on Swiss with a quick one hour stopover in Zurich for a connecting flight to Rome. Marjy did not get any sleep on the flights so after having some light snacks they took a 3-4 hour nap. When they awoke we walked the half mile to Trevi Fountain which as usual was very crowded with tourists taking pictures.
We stopped at Taverna Barberini on the way home which was recommended to us by friends who enjoyed it so much that they dined there five out of seven nights while in Rome. When making the reservations we were told that they opened at seven however on arrival at seven the maitre’d who was also the only waiter told us that the kitchen did not open until 7:30. We had to wait 30 minutes before we got drinks and our order was placed. We waited another 30 minutes for food which did turn out to be quite good so we will return but at a much later hour. Monday morning we woke to torrential rain but Marjy and Dan were refreshed and eager to explore Rome. Jim found a Vatican tour for them with the I ❤️ Rome agency. We did not join them opting to do laundry and for Jim to catch up on Condo business as he still maintains treasurer duties for the building remotely. Late that afternoon Marjy and Dan returned from their four hour Vatican/Sistine Chapel tour exhausted and overloaded from following a large tour group around and vowed they would only do small or private tours in the future. While Dan & Marjy were gone Jim and Sandy checked out the famous Hassler Hotel Restaurant at the top of The Spanish Steps for a potential Thanksgiving Dinner venue. Sandy had her Red Sox cap on when she was stopped by a man who asked where she was from. When she said Boston he said so am I. The conversation progressed beyond the World Series banter and they found out that earlier in their lives they both lived on the same street and he was the neighborhood paper boy. They talked for a long time about mutual acquaintances in their old neighborhood. He then gave a recommendation for an old time Rome restaurant called Nino’s comparing it to Locke Ober”s in Boston. We decided to go there that night as we are still looking for a good place to eat Thanksgiving Dinner. It turned out to be overrated and pricey but we liked the waiter who was quite the comedian. We have been told that the good Italian restaurants save the best for locals and give lesser quality food to tourists so we think that we were victim to that or else paper boys have bad tastes in restaurants!
The next day Marjy stuck to her promise and booked a private all day tour of Rome with a guide and driver who was recommended by a frequent traveler to Rome. Sandy and Jim ventured out on a very jam packed bus to pick up our numbers for the All Saints Day run which takes place on November 1st, Jim’s 69th birthday.
We then take a bus to the Jewish ghetto and eat lunch at Soro Margherita. This is our second time back in one week. The restaurant was recommended to us by our current tenants and has quickly become our favorite. The seating is so tight that it is impossible not to chat up with other diners if they speak English as the tables abut one another. Our table mate today turned out to be a 40 something year old Aussie from Melbourne. When we placed our order with the waiter he simply said “I’ll have the same thing.” and the conversation of course progressed from there. No he did not turn out to be someone from our past but when he heard about our retirement lifestyle he said we would probably really like to live in Melbourne for three months. This intrigued us as we have yet to decide where to spend the spring months after wintering in Seville. As fate would have it, that evening we got an email from friends who are on vacation in none other than Melbourne and they suggested that we do the same. So Sandy has decided it may be on our list since we also have good friends in New Zealand that we would like to see more of and travel to Vietnam and Cambodia with them. Oh, such decisions we have to make. Marjy and Dan ended up having a wonderful eight hour tour around Rome in a much more civilized manner. That night we decided to eat in and play cards. We introduced them to Burraco which is a Rummy style game in the canasta family and discovered that Dan is a card shark and Marjy is a cheater 😜. On Wednesday we brought Dan and Marjy to the Jewish ghetto where we had a tour of the Jewish Museum and Great Synagogue of Rome which offered information on the Jewish presence in Rome since the 2nd century BC. It also houses a large collection of works of art produced by the Jewish community.
We ate lunch at our favorite Soro Margherita Restaurant and then walked them to The Monumento Nazionale which is an imposing building located in Piazza Venezia which houses many free museums and the tomb of the unknown soldier. Once in the building you can access two different viewing levels. The first level is nice but the top level accessed by a rear elevator for €10 is spectacular laying all of Rome at your feet allowing for a great orientation to this wonderful city.
Late that afternoon Sandy took Marjy to Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore which we have been two once with mention in our first Rome blog. It has a magnificent gold ceiling. There are fifth century mosaics and a reliquary said to contain a piece of the baby Jesus crib. The tombs of Saint Jerome as well as the infamous Boston Cardinal Bernard Law are here as well.
We then made our way to Palazzo Barberini. This is a 17th century palace designed for Pope Urban VIII a member of the Barberini family. It now is part of the National Gallery of Ancient Art. There is art work by Caravaggio and amazing ceiling frescoes depicting Greek mythology. The building is quite grand and has a magnificent spiral staircase. This is a hidden gem museum in Rome.
The current exhibition on display is art work from the Jacquemard/Andre Museum which is a lovely house museum we visited while living in Paris. Thursday November 1 was Jim’s birthday. We did a road race which we have detailed in a prior blog. That night Marjy and Dan treated us to a wonderful dinner at Brunello Bar and Restaurant which is located in the five star hotel Baglioni Regina. The food and service were excellent and it was a memorable experience. We have booked this restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner with four friends.
For Marjy and Dan’s last full day, Sandy and Marjy took an early morning high speed train to Florence. We met up with Madeline Leone, our upstairs neighbor in Boston for the last three years, who treated us to breakfast at her favorite local coffee shop. She then took us to the Ponte Vecchio to shop for jewelry at a couple of stores she is familiar with.
We exchanged ciao’s and went to meet up with a tour guide at The Academia who Madeline is friends with for a tour of Michelangelo’s slaves and the magnificent David. Next she gives us a wonderful and informative walking tour of Florence.
Our guide is Elizabeth Namack an American educated at Smith and Syracuse. She is married to an Italian and has lived in Florence for many years. She oversees the tour company signatureitaly.com. She has a background in art history and painting restoration. I highly recommend her for anyone who wants a boutique tour with highly experienced and knowledgeable guides. Our last stop with her was to one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica.
This is another hidden gem located adjacent to Piazza Santa Maria Novella. It was established by the Dominican Monks in 1221. Today they sell a variety of high quality herbal preparations and natural lipids from ancient recipes. We couldn’t resist purchasing their signature pot/pourri a mixture of herbs and flowers from the Tuscan hills. We are told it emits its aroma for 6-12 months. The scent will be a nice reminder of a memorable day in Florence that Marjy said was one of the highlights of her trip. Thank you Madeline and Elizabeth for this experience. We returned to Rome that evening and were treated to Dan’s signature dish of chicken tarragon accompanied by Portuguese rice and salad. We capped off the night with another contentious game of cards. Saturday morning we bid them goodby.