ASCOLI PICENO…THE ITALIAN SOUL

After a somewhat longer hiatus than I planned, I am back!!!  First post of 2014 is a guest article written by Stefano Tulli from Ascoli on the Road!  After reading about this amazing Italian city, I can’t wait to visit this summer to experience it first hand.  Enjoy!

1Ascoli Piceno is an amazing and still unknown destination in the very center of Italy…What? Haven’t you ever heard of it?? Follow us and we are sure you’ll get in love with our hometown..

Ok, I don’t know anything about Ascoli..why should I consider it as an option to my trip to Italy??

First of all.. Ascoli Piceno is the perfect essence of everything you are expecting from a trip to Italy.. Ascoli Piceno is a very ancient Italian city, older than Rome! Every corner of this town is art, history and culture..

2Are you looking for Italian history? Ascoli Piceno is divided into 6 districts, each one having a historical beauty.. Roman bridges, arches, amphitheatres, the typical Cardo and Decumano organization of the city map..

Moreover..reach Ascoli Piceno in July and August.. you will witness a great medieval experience, with an ancient joust called QUINTANA (different from Siena). The whole town celebrates the local medieval history with a series of historical events aimed at commemorating Saint Emidio, the local saint..

3Are you looking for Italian art and architecture? Ascoli Piceno is called the travertine city..the 2 main squares are simply breathtaking. The Cathedral, the museums, the ancient houses, the old streets… Ascoli is a great city for art lovers and it’s also demonstrated by the development of a great architecture and design university which hosts many overseas and Erasmus students every year!

Do you want to taste great Italian food and wines?? Well…the most famous local product are the “Stuffed Ascolana olives” and we are sure you have heard of this great fried olive once in your life. Not yet? Trust us and trust every tourist who has tasted them..unforgettable! Probably you will also want to drink something. Apart from the great local wines, you will also taste the incredible local liqueur..the Anisetta Meletti , which has a very delicate and special aroma coming from the quality of the Aniseed, carefully cultivated in certain areas around Ascoli Piceno..

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Are you looking for a relaxing experience, far away from tons of tourists that visit the most famous places? Well..Ascoli Piceno IS your destination.. Food, art,, history, culture, lifestyle..Hundreds of Americans, russians and northern Europeans had the chance to visit Ascoli and most of them never came back to their hometown..falling in love with our romantic, beautiful and elegant Ascoli Piceno

5“Ok.. Ascoli Piceno could be an option..but how do I get there??”

Easier than you think.. Less than 3 hours from Rome and 1 from Ancona or Pescara Airports, Ascoli can easily be reached by train with the Milan – Lecce/ Bari train: stopping in the city of San Benedetto del Tronto, you can arrive in Ascoli Piceno in less than 20 minutes..

“Well, seems like I can have a trip over Ascoli Piceno..what else should I know and when is the best period?”

Again, the answer is easier than you think. Do you love summer time? Ascoli Piceno is 15 minutes from the Adriatic Sea..Do you love winter? Great mountains are only 30 minutes away from downtown. Are you an autumn lover? Wow.. excursions, walks and pictures during this period are amazing in our city. Do you want to reach Ascoli in spring? Ok, just listen to our final words..there’s nothing better than having a walk in a historical Italian city, taking great pictures and relax in an amazing square drinking your favourite cocktail waiting for the colours of the sunset illuminating the historical buildings of Ascoli Piceno..

Hope you will now be convinced…We are waiting for you!

Guest post written by Stefano Tulli — Ascoli On the Road

www.picenontheroad.com

ascoliontheroad@gmail.com

Scintillating Sicily (In The Godfather’s Footsteps)

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Buon giorno di Sicily! I have to say that while I was excited to visit Sicily to do the tour of The Godfather trilogy filming locations, I didn’t expect the island to be so visually stunning. I think this may be the prettiest place I’ve been so far. Sicily is a cross between Tuscany and the French Riviera.

I love “The Godfather”. I own the trilogy on DVD and can quote most of the lines in the movie. I’m not even sure when this love affair started but it’s one of my favorites (along with What’s Love Got to do With It).  Wait, I just realized that I love violent movies…hmmm.  And here I’ve been thinking I’m a RomCom kinda girl.

Anyway, when I saw there was a tour of The Godfather filming locations in Sicily, I jumped at the opportunity and the tour did not disappoint.  If you haven’t seen the movies then stop reading this post and go watch it now. I’ll wait…

While the film states that the Corleone family was originally from the town of the same name in Sicily, the movie was not actually filmed in that town (it was too developed for the scenes that were to be shot). So, Francis Ford Coppola filmed scenes from the first 2 movies in the town of Savoca.

The village of Savoca is so small, so typical, so “not for tourists”.  I instantly fell in love!  Bar Vitelli was the first thing I saw and my heart seemed to jump out of my body…it was so moving, so exciting!!!!! The Bar is just like in the movie…the table where Michael, Fabrizio and Calo sat…even the door curtains, it was absolutely amazing.

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On the walk to the church where Michael and Appollonia married, the view was breathtaking. Only 100 people live in this tiny village!

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Below is the church where the wedding took place (you don’t see very little of in the movie).

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After looking around inside, I decided to make the same walk Michael and Apollonia did after their wedding from the church to Bar Vitelli.

From here, we drove to Forza d’Agro, another small village where a different church is located. It appears in The Godfather (you see it when Michael goes to Corleone for the first time along with his bodyguards); and in The Godfather 2 (in the scene when Vito escapes to America hidden on a donkey while Don Ciccio’s men threaten the neighbors; also you see it later in the film located when Vito returns with his young family to visit Corleone and settle some old scores).  The courtyard in front of the church was filmed in The Godfather 3 where Michael and Kate are dancing after they reunite.

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This village has about 700 residents. The views are stunning and you can see the volcano in the background. It actually erupted while we were there but you cannot see the lava until the sun has set.

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I wish I had more time to spend in Sicily! There is so much more I’d love to explore. If you are planning a trip to Italy…or elsewhere in the Mediterranean, add Sicily to your travel list. Be sure to take The Godfather Tour…I promise you won’t be disappointed! Happy travels!

Photo of the Day: Pretty Positano

Legend states that the Greek god Poseidon created Positano for Pasitea (a nymph he lusted after).  I have yet to visit a city/town/village in Italy that I haven’t fallen in love with (well…Naples let’s not dwell on that).  During our drive along the Amalfi Coast, we stopped in Positano for lunch and were treated to this amazing view!  Clearly Poseidon knew how to woo the ladies because this.place.is.awesome!  So, um…Call me, Poseidon!  I’m looking to move 😉

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Photos of the Day: Pompeii Uncovered

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Who knew Pompeii would be so freaking awesome?!?!?  Certainly not my high school History teacher because he never told me the E True Hollywood Story of what this city was actually like!  This place is stunning…and their civilization was actually very advanced (who knew they had cafes???)!  What impressed me most was how well-preserved the city is and the interesting “fun facts” about life back then (which isn’t too different from life now).

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Street signs in Pompeii

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They also had a lot of “extracurricular activities” going on.  Here’s an excerpt from my original post on Pompeii:

3.            Pompeii was full of freaks.  Apparently, Pompeii was where the party was at.  They had 80 bars and 25 brothels.  With the open sewer.  I am not able to get past the open sewer so let’s just address that now.  It’s gonna come up…often.  Anyway, the freaks did come out at night and they were doing things that Rick James couldn’t even dream of.  Modern Pompeii is full of people selling erotic calendars, statues, playing cards, etc (see below).  Now, I originally thought these sexual position scenes may have been their version of “art” back then.  But, the guide pointed out that they posted these scenes in the bedrooms of the whorehouses as a “menu of services” (just like McDonald’s).  You know I was looking to see what the “goings on” were (purely for research purposes only).  You ain’t ready for that.  A menu of sexual services.  Seriously.  After getting your drank on at one of the 80 bars then crossing and falling into the open sewer, you go over to Octavia’s and ask for a #3.  Love it.

You know you want to read the other 4 fun facts about Pompeii 🙂  Planning a trip to Italy?  I highly recommend you hike Mount Vesuvius then visit the spectacular remains of this interesting city.  Then reward yourself with cruising down the Amalfi Coast!

Photos of the Day: Titillating Trieste

triesteLocated on the coast of the Adriatic Sea (close to Slovenia), Trieste is a northeastern Italian city that combines beautiful sea views with an Austrian flavor (it was one of the oldest parts of the Habsburg Monarchy from 1382 until 1918). If you get a chance to visit, take a break at a cafe surrounding the harbor…and definitely visit Castello Miramare (one of the most beautiful castles I’ve ever visited).

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Castle in #trieste

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Fabulous Firenze

English: Michelangelo's David (original statue...

Michelangelo’s David (original statue) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FRIDAY

Buongiorno!!!  After finishing up work a bit early on Friday afternoon, William (aka Sweet Willy) and I took the train from Genoa to Florence (which was a 4.5 hour train ride along the beautiful Mediterranean and Tuscan countryside).

The train ride was uneventful until we changed trains in La Spezia to transfer to the regional train to Florence.  Of course, I picked the car with crazy in it.  Why does this always happen to me???  When you buy a train ticket in Italy, you are required to validate the ticket in one of the yellow machines on the platform.  If you don’t validate your ticket, you are subject to a fine up to 50 Euro.  So, the train operator lady comes into our railcar to verify that everybody has a validated ticket.  There are only 4 people in our car (me + William + African guy + Italian guy). 

She gets to the Italian guy first who looks completely normal.  He was wearing glasses and reading a book.  All smiles when we got on.  Little did I know that glasses can obscure crazy eyes.  I mean, crazy folks aren’t usually smiling & reading a book.  So, the train operator lady asks him for his ticket…then tells him that he either has the wrong ticket or it’s not properly validated (it was hard to translate).  He was like, “no, no, no…the machina Italian words, foccacia, Italian words, primavera, Italian words” and train lady was like, “yeah, you need to pay 50 Euro because this ticket isn’t properly validated.”  Why did she say that to that man?  Because that set him off and he continues to repeat himself basically saying that he got the ticket out of the fast ticket machine and it’s not his fault if it’s missing something.  The train lady is not sympathetic and now they are both getting heated.  Next thing I know, train lady was like, “pay this fine or I’m calling the police.” Crazy Italian guy was like, “Call’em.  You don’t know me.  I’m real.  I’m wild.  It’s the machine’s fault.  Kick rocks!”  

At this point, he starts cursing in Italian and talking to himself after she leaves.  Then, he turns around to plead his case to William and myself (speaking Italian a mile a minute) and we just give him a blank look and the crickets (for those of you who don’t know what “the crickets” are, it means being so silent you can hear crickets chirping).  We weren’t about to get caught up in that mess.  He got the police on him now.  We can’t help you, buddy.  Get your Euros, pay the lady and shut up.  You ain’t gonna win this fight, Giuseppe.  But, you know what?  You can’t reason with crazy.  Why did 2 police men come and he STILL gives the same story about the “machina” messing up his ticket?  They wanted identification and to talk to him in “private” (which was out in the corridor where he is still completely visible and continuing to go off about the machina).  It was high drama and lasted for at least an hour and a half (crazy folks don’t have watches or a sense of time) and the result was that he paid the 50 Euro fine while continuing to fuss and teach me Italian curse words.  I would’ve taken a picture but I didn’t know if crazy Italian man would go all Kanye on me and try to take my camera.

So, we finally arrive to Florence around 6:30pm and get to our hotel where they give you an actual key with a big gold-plated key ring (like we are about to do a breakdance battle) that you have to turn into the front desk when you leave the hotel.  If you ever go to Florence, and are looking for a nice budget hotel with a friendly staff, I highly recommend the Hotel Privilege. 

After we checked in, we went to dinner and had a great meal of lemon flavored penne & meatballs as well as gnocchi with drunk cheese and the house Chianti to drink.  Then a fabulous dessert!

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Angie's Pub

Angie’s Pub

After dinner, we walked around Florence and ate gelato.  Then stumbled upon a really cool lounge named “Angie’s Pub”.  It was packed and they were showing the movie “Scarface” on the wall in the back room.  William and I had a debate on whether or not a patron who came up to the bar was a man or a woman.  My viewpoint was that it was a woman (I didn’t get a good look at her face and couldn’t hear her talking but she seemed built like a woman).  William was insistent that it was a transvestite.

Sweet Willy: That is a man
Me: No it’s not. She looks straight woman.
SW: Look at her! She’s got an Adam ’s apple and a deep voice. That is a man.
Me: Maybe she’s had a hard life. That don’t make her a man.
SW: Are you deaf? His voice is deeper than mine!

So, we agree to disagree because I wasn’t convinced.  However, when William came out of the men’s bathroom, the “lady” was entering so um….he was right.  Then I start to wonder what type of bar we are in because I had already started to notice a certain element but it really seemed to have a broad range of patrons.  And we had a great time talking to people so it really didn’t matter.

SATURDAY

William and I get up Saturday morning and I am really dragging.  It’s been a rough week of long hours at the office and little sleep.  But, I wanted to be up to see as much as we could on our last day in Florence.  So, we check-out of the hotel and make our way to the train station.  It was weird how dead the city was at 11am.  When I visited Florence during the summer 2 years ago, it was packed.  I think the cold weather puts people off sightseeing.  But, that turned into a major advantage for us because we didn’t have to wait in any lines and got to see a lot.

William: Why do the pigeons look homeless?
Me:  Because they are? They look fine to me.
William: Their feathers are all dull and that one looks like it has a tumor on its foot.

First stop was Santa Croce Church.  It’s a 14th century Franciscan church decorated with centuries of precious art and holds the tombs of some great Florentines (such as Galileo Galilei 1564-1642, who was from Pisa but lived his last years under house arrest near Florence because he defied the church and declared the Earth revolved around the sun; also, the tomb of Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1475-1564, famous sculptor of Statue of David and the Pieta and painter of Sistine Chapel).

Santa Croce

Santa Croce

Then, we walked towards the Duomo. Florence’s Gothic cathedral has the third-longest nave in Christendom. The façade from the 1870s is covered with pink, green, and white Tuscan marble. So, you know why I love to look at it. Maybe I can suggest we do the next Boule here?

Duomo

Duomo

Afterwards, we made our way to the train station to check our bags so we could sightsee unencumbered.  We then made our way to the Accademia where we were able to see the Statue of David…if you have never seen this amazing statue in person, buy a ticket to Florence now and go see it.  When you enter the Accademia, you have to walk down a hall then when you turn the corner, you see this magnificent and very large statue.  It’s a sight to behold.  And it is beautiful!  But you can’t take pictures.

Once we left the Accademia, we stopped by this café and had the BEST pasta. I had the gnocchi with Bolognese sauce while William had spaghetti with tuna and peppers. We had planned on leaving for Rome mid-afternoon but once we stopped by the street markets, it was a wrap because the shopping was great. We ended up buying some great souvenirs for friends and family and William bought a fab new coat.  While we were at one store, the sales lady let me know that a pigeon had taken a dump on the back of my coat. Sigh. Really Petey? I defend you when Will calls you homeless but you gonna just use my coat as your Port-a-Potty? That’s how they do in Florence now?

We also noticed that dogs could go anyplace.  Not only the restaurants but into the high-end stores!  Most of them were so well-behaved. It’s a shame Riley will never get to experience that because I can’t be put on a Watch List since he doesn’t know how to act.

After shopping and realizing that time is about to expire to pick up our checked luggage, we start walking back towards the train station and realize there were more markets. Then, it was like the heavens opened up and I saw the most fabulous coat!  It was hand-stitched with fox fur trim.  The sales guy says, “I’ll give you a 50% discount so it’s only $1900.”  Wait…what?  $1900 U.S. dollars?  What currency are we talking about because I can only afford that denomination in pesos.  He confirmed U.S. dollars so I was like, “that’s okay, playa.”  Still, I couldn’t resist trying it on.

Me:  Man, I love this coat. Will you get it for me?
William: Uh, sure. Let’s ask about their layaway plan. I’ll see if they will let me pay 20 Euro a month for 4 years.  If I put down 50 Euro in good faith, they may let you walk off with the coat.
Sales guy: *crickets* [then puts his hand out to take the coat back]
Me:  I really love that coat.  I need it in my life.
William: Yeah, that  coat is hot.  You’d have a closet full of death with the fox-mink. With the leather you just bought and this fur, you’d have your own pet cemetery. Because you know they had to kill those animals to make that coat you love.
Me: *crickets* {walking away dejected}

We rush to the train station, get our bags and just make the train to Rome.  We meet 2 ladies on the train who are artists from NY but own second homes in Umbria that they visit every 3 months or so.  I just had one question…how can I do that?

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Sensational Sorrento

Beautiful, bellissima Sorrento.  What an absolutely breathtaking place!  We stopped at a furniture factory on the drive to Sorrento where they made custom-made tables, chairs, music boxes, jewelry boxes, etc.  The work was beautiful!  Here is a picture of my brother standing on top of one of the tables.  The owner told him to stand on it to prove its durability.

There was also this cute little dog who would not let me take his picture.  Every time he saw me coming, he was like, “nope” and ran off.  Finally, I was able to catch him and zoom in.

The views in Sorrento were spectacular!

  

        

Love, love, love Sorrento!  It’s a beautiful & laid-back city.  I love the quaintness & small town feel.  This region is known for Limoncello (a very strong lemon-flavored liquor).  Sorrento is where the legend of the “3 Sirens” originated.  The Seirenes (or Sirens) were three sea nymphs who lured sailors to their death with a bewitching song.  The sound of their singing would drive them mad (kinda like the first few weeks of American Idol) and they would crash their ships into the mountains.  However, Odysseus was hip to their game and put wax in his ears so he was able to sail thru with no problems.  The legend goes on to state that the sirens were so upset about Odysseus out-smarting them that they tossed themselves into the sea and formed the 3 small islands pictured below.

Sorrento is a great anchor city to stay while you visit the Amalfi coast.  The island of Capri and other beautiful towns (Positano, Ravello, etc) are nearby.

The Gritty G: Genoa, Italy

I left Milan and took the train to Genoa where I would be working for the week.  Renee and I had already peeped out crazy at the train station this morning.  In fact, Renee had dubbed this person “Bushwick Bill” because the resemblance from afar was uncanny and this person just started going off for no reason. However, upon closer inspection, Bushwick Bill turned out to be Bushwick Belinda. Crazy has no gender, y’all.

The train ride to Genoa was actually very peaceful. We rode thru the alps and I got to see a lot of snow! A couple of towns looked like something out of a fairy tale.  However, once I got to Genoa (or “Genova” as it is called here), things changed. New Nikki is still trying to hang on and be positive. It’s still January! I check into my hotel — The Grand Hotel Savoia (which is actually pretty cool — each room is different and is furnished with antique furniture).  You can read my hotel review here.  The view from the room is nice too!

After I check-in, I decided to explore the city and find a good hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant & some gelato. Sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong.

I start out walking around trying to get acquainted with the area so I know where I need to go tomorrow. So, I’m walking and passing some nice sites which I am sure would be stunning when it’s sunny —

       

But, I start to notice something. In 1 hour, I have seen more Africans and Asians than I have in the 9 days I’ve been in France & Italy. Not only that…they are the majority of the people I am seeing which is why I even noticed. Native Italians are scarce. I’m hungry and trying to find an Italian restaurant is proving difficult.  If you want Chinese or Moroccan, you’ve got your pick. It was so weird seeing a majority of people who were not “Italian”. I almost thought about hosting a telethon or something because they seem to be extinct!  I’m guessing it’s because it’s a Sunday.

Anyway, I’m walking and I’m hungry. At this time, Old Nikki is making an appearance because I’m irritated that I can’t find an Italian restaurant that is open. I’m reduced to walking the back streets trying to find something. Now, in hindsight, this may not have been my smartest move because let me tell you…I saw the underbelly of Genoa. But, hunger makes you do strange things. I’m walking and I see every ethnic group except Italian.  You’ve got hair salons, knock-off bags (seriously…it was like Canal Street), folks playing craps and drinking beer…overall, it was the ghetto. You didn’t see dogs wearing their designer outfits here. I can’t find a gelatteria but, I did find some woman going off on a guy, a guy getting his hair cornrowed (seriously?), liquor stores, every ethnic store you can think of and Black Widow Records.

Oh, and I can’t forget about the sex shops…everywhere. But, they call them “sexy shops”.  That’s right, I had to attach a picture because I knew y’all wouldn’t believe me. This is just one of the (what I am sure) are dozens. You can buy your porn right on the main drag or the dark alleys (which surround the city and offer you all kinds of things you don’t want your mama knowing about). I mean, when you have signs notating that you can buy your porn soft or hard, I think that may be a bit much. A selection of porn but no gelato? You see where I’m going with this?

Between all the ethnic groups and sex shops, I had to ask myself how long I slept on the train because maybe I missed my stop? I have never seen Italy like this. It’s like the HBO/Cinemax version of Epcot. A bit of Africa, China, Amsterdam, and India.

After walking around in the ghetto (and getting lost still searching for some daggum gelato. I mean, come on, Italy! How are you not going to have gelato but you got Moo Goo Gai Pan???), I feel like I’m a survivor. In fact, I’m penning my rhymes now that I got street cred and submitting my track “Where the D@$n Gelato?” to Black Widow Records [“You got General Tsos but no Gelato…that’s wackity wack.”] LOL. Shoot, next week, I may be rolling with the B-Dub crew. Kinda like their Tupac or something. That’s right. Y’all don’t know about the Italian Bankhead.

Nikki’s Nest: Grand Hotel Savoia (Genoa, Italy)

The Grand Hotel Savoia

I’ve had the pleasure of staying at The Grand Hotel Savoia three separate times over the course of a year.  This magnificent 5 star hotel was built in the 1897 by the Fioroni family.  Due to its close proximity to the port, the Grand Hotel Savoia received the most important European upper class travellers waiting for boarding on the ships.  Per the hotel website, “The Guest book, with signatures of important personalities of that time, is not only the evidence of the glorious past, but still represents the role of first importance that the Grand Hotel Savoia played on the stage of the Italian Hotel Industry.”

Location

Located in the Aquaverde square, “Il Grande Hotel Savoia” is in the historic centre of Genoa and convenient to the train station (which is just a 5 minute walk from the hotel) and the port (which is about a 10 minute walk).  The nearest airport (Cristoforo Colombo) is only 7 km from the hotel.  And, starting Feb. 1, 2012, the hotel will offer free airport shuttle service!

 
What’s great about the location is that you are within walking distance to almost everything (or you can take the Metro or cheap taxi).  If you take a 10 minute walk, you can visit Aquario di Genova (Genoa Acquairum), Palazzo Reale, Galata Museo del Mare and the shopping area of the city.  Trust me, there are so many delicious restaurants, you want to make sure you get out and about.

My second room at the Grand Hotel Savoia

 Rooms

 “A style that tells…” This is how the hotel introduces their room decor. 

 “You will see typical elements of Liguria’s architecture in the wardrobes; the images on the inside walls remind us the city and its history. Old trunks and relics of far-away countries are reminiscence of the golden age of the great transatlantic trips. The rich  stuffs have colours inspired to the nature: sea, sky, slate (Genoa traditional stone), sand and sun are tightly tied up to Liguria; These are perfect suggestions for relating the hotel to the territory that surrounds us. Every single room is different from the others, and each one tells us a different story…”

They offer 5 classes of rooms:  Classic, Deluxe, Executive, Junior Suite, and Family Suite.  All rooms have air conditioning, coffee maker, LCD TV, free Wi-Fi, laptop safe with internal plug, creams-baths set.  There is also free access to the SPA center.  I’ve stayed in 3 separate rooms, each one slightly different than the last.

 

My first room at the Grand Hotel SavoiaMy first room at the Grand Hotel Savoia

The "Gym" Suite...this looks so fabulous!

Amenities

Fitness

The hotel has a small gym.  It has the basic treadmill, bike and elliptical along with some weights.  I found it to be sufficient for a good workout.  In fact, I used the gym quite a few times during my stay.

Spa

The Grand Hotel Savoia has a spa which looks pretty nice but I cannot attest to the quality of services.  The wellness center has a sauna, Hammam, aromatic showers, massages and swimming pool.

Terrazza (Terrace)

The terrace (located on the seventh floor) offers a panoramic view of Genoa and an overlook of the Genoa Gulf.  You can relax in the jacuzzi or just sip a glass of your favorite drink while taking in the sights.  I absolutely loved it!

 For Kids

The hotel has a kiddie area called “The Garden of Pirates.”

Restaurant

The restaurant is called Novecento and it is absolutely divine!  Breakfast is superb and dinner is really good too.  Genoa is known for its pesto so you will find a good variety of pesto dishes offered.

Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed the Grand Hotel Savoia and would definitely stay there again.  You cannot beat the comfort, location or price.  I absolutely loved the uniqueness of each room, the customer service from the hotel staff and amenities.  Consider pre-booking via their website (I found they offered the best deals directly).  Breakfast (and sometimes Delta Skymiles) is/are included in the rate.  If you ever visit Genoa, I highly recommend this hotel. 

Nikki’s Rating: 4 (Fabulous)

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 = Absolutely Wonderful)

 

 

Rome in a Day…the Remix

It’s my second trip to Rome and I am eager to share the experience with my friend, William (aka “Sweet Willy” because he’s just so darn cute).  We arrive at the Roma Termini station and walk about 15 minutes to our hotel.  As we are walking:

William:  Did you just see that car?

Me:  What?

William:  The General Lee Smart Car…did you just see that?

Me:  I have no idea what you are talking about.  I’m looking at hotel signs.

William:  We have to go back so I can take a picture because nobody will believe this.

*we walk back to take the picture*

William:  That’s nice.  An eco-friendly racist.

Me:  Really Rome?  That’s what’s hot in the streets?  Did we just time travel to the mid-80s?  Bo & Luke can’t jump into a little ass Smart Car.  Cooter doesn’t know how to fix this!  He’s got 3 wrenches and an oil can.   Did Daisy give up the Jeep and start taking public transportation?  Uncle Jesse and I can’t take all this.  It’s too much.

We finally leave the Italian General Lee and find our hotel.  Upon check-in, I ask if we can store our bags the next day while we are sightseeing.

Me:  Can we store our bags after we check-out in the morning?

Buddy:  For how long?

Me:  Just a few hours.

Desk Clerk:  How many bags do you have?

Me:  [thinking *Man, what is the problem?  You can either store the bags or not.  Isn’t that standard service at a hotel?* but New Nikki responded] 4

Desk Clerk:  *long sigh & acting put upon* I guess

Me & William: *side-eye*

After we get settled in the room, we decide not to go out since we needed to be up early to do a lot of sightseeing.  So, William does some work and I turn on the tv and see this program called “Il Canto”.  Y’all ain’t ready for Il Canto.  It’s like American Idol + America’s Got Talent + So You Think You Can Dance + Top Chef + Project Runway + The Bachelor.  The program is like 6 hours long with people of all ages, group sings, dancing, judging, and guest appearances.  I still don’t know what it was.  There was this kid who looked to be maybe 12 and I think he won his part of the singing competition (but who knows because it was like he was there in concert or something).  You could not tell him that he wasn’t a star.  He had hand gestures, facial expressions and teeth spaced about an inch apart.

Me:  Wow, I can’t take it.  He is doing runs like he’s Mariah.

William:  You know he just got beat up backstage.

Me:  Why?

William:  Too nerdy.  He can sing…but once he leaves the stage, Giuseppe is waiting there with the beat down to take his lunch money.  If he was in NY, they would just roll up on you like, “yo son, that’s a nice coat.  What size is that?  A small?  Really?  That’s just my size.  You can give it to me or I’ma take it.  It’s on you, B.”

A little later:

Me:  Did that little girl just sing an R. Kelly song?

William:  You can’t keep Kells down.  I wonder what the legal age of consent is here?

Then, we decided to make-up translations to the interviews since we couldn’t understand what they were saying.  When the host was interviewing a sound guy after some little kid did a horrible rendition of Aretha’s “RESPECT”, we translated it as follows:

Me (as the host, Bruno):  Silvio, what did you think of little Pashmina singing “RESPECT”.  Did you find out what it meant to her?  And, did she take out the ECT?

William (as the sound guy, Silvio):  Bruno, she sucked.  And, this show has run into my overtime so you know you are paying me time and a half, right?  This ain’t a telethon.

Me:  Silv, don’t worry about the OT.  Clearly you need the money because those skinny pink jeans ain’t doing you no favors.  Now get back on the soundboard and make sure my mic sounds nice.

After two hours of Il Canto, the Sleep Monster got us and it was a wrap.

We get up, have breakfast and check-out to start our self-guided “Rome in a Day” power sightseeing tour.  We start off by going to The Forum and see a guy dressed up as a Trojan.

William:  Where are Trojans from?

Me:  Trojania?

The Trojan asks if we want to take a picture so we oblige…

 

…then, as William is pulling out some coins to tip, Mr. Trojan was like, “That’s gonna be €10.”  After looking startled, we realized we just got hustled.  By a man in a costume.  Chuck E Cheese doesn’t charge you for pictures!  Of course, Chuck just walks around leering at you so I guess you have to pick your poison.  Yes, I have issues with Chuck.  Don’t judge me 🙂

It’s the start of the day and we are trying to be positive.  We pay for the Roma Pass (which is a smart buy for sightseeing in Rome) then pick up an audio guide and a map.  The Roman Forum really is spectacular with all the ancient remnants.  However, it only has fragments of buildings & statues so it’s hard to know what is what.  The map was even more confusing.  The numbers didn’t correspond to the information boards outside some of the sites.  Then, we attempted to use the audio guide.

William:  I think we are at site 7.

Me:  Okay, push play and let’s see.

[The audio guide has a British man giving a 20 minute soliloquy about columns and statues and if you look into the sun you can see Caesar or something we cannot find for the life of us.  It almost felt like we had a learning disability because the sites are numbered so any 2-year-old should be able to do this.]

William:  What is he talking about?

Me:  I don’t know.  I thought you knew.

William:  No!  And, he is still talking.  It’s been what?  45 minutes?  Why can’t he just give an executive summary and say, “to your left is an arch, now turn your ass around and walk?”

Me:  Really?  That’s how they do in New York?  You have ADD.

In the end, we used Rick Steve’s Italy guidebook and just took pictures.  The Roman Forum was ancient Rome’s birthplace and civic center.  This was the place where anything important happened in ancient Rome.

     

After walking thru The Forum, we head over to Palantine Hill. This is where the emperors chose to live and it was once filled with palaces.  It includes the “huts of Romulus and Remus”, the Imperial Palace, the House of Livia and Augustus and a view of Circus Maximus.

   

William:  Are those olive trees?

Me:  Looks like it but I don’t know.

William goes to pull an “olive” off the tree.  Meanwhile, I see Woodrow (Petey the Pigeon’s cousin) picking at food on the ground and he passes right over the “olive”.   Of course, he is getting the side-eye because I haven’t forgotten what Petey did yesterday in Florence.

Me:  Uh, did you just see that pigeon take a bite of one of those “olives” and leave it right there on the ground?  Don’t eat that.

William:  Why not?  I’ll wash it off.  You gotta build up your immune system.

Me:  Really?  You need to follow Woodrow’s lead and keep it moving.

Then, he notices citrus trees that seem to have some sort of fruit like oranges hanging from it.  But, as none of it is hanging low enough for him to get, William has to content himself with the “olive”.

William:  This could keep me from getting scavies.

Me:  What the hell is scavies?  A new hybrid flu of rabies and scurvy?

William takes a bite of the “olive” and discovers that it may not actually be an olive but it’s too nasty to figure out.

Me:  See?  Did I not just tell you that Woodrow was even like, “I’ll pass”.

We leave Palantine Hill and make our way to the Colosseum.

   

The Colosseum is a 2,000 year old building where ancient Romans used to watch gladiators, criminals and wild animals fight to the death.  And, it is one of the most beautiful structures in the world.  I could just sit and stare at it all day.  The first time I saw it, I was overwhelmed…imagine being in a place where people walked thousands of years ago!

Outside the Colosseum, there are “tour guides” prowling around trying to sell you on purchasing some of their time to walk you around and tell you the true little known “facts” about the site.  Since we had already been hustled once that day, we decided to pass and read what Rick had to say.

As we are walking around, we can overhear other tour guides and it occurs to us that we could do this as a side business too.

William:  You know, we could set up our own tour company and give them the “real” experience.

Me:  Yeah, we just need to market it right.

William:  We’ll just be like, “yo son…you wanna know the real deal of why Caesar got shanked?”  And, “This right here is where Jesus told everybody to get their souls right.”

Me:  Really?  We still doing the NY state of mind right now?  And, what are you going to do when you get Mr. I Know My History fact checking you?

William:  Throw him off the tour.  I’ll just say “Were you there?  You don’t know me.  I’m a descendant of Caesar.  He was my great, great, great to the 20th power granddaddy so shut up.”

Me:  *crickets*

William:  *ignoring the crickets*  We can get on the computer and create some tour guide certifications.  Tell them that we majored in “tourification” and we aren’t just some random tour guides off the streets.

Me:  So now we are “tourologists”?  How many of those olives did you eat?  Is this the scavies talking?  Does it cause dementia?

William:  We could even take them into the basement of the Colosseum.

Me:  The basement?  You mean the ground floor where they kept the folks that were about to killed by animals?  That’s closed off.

William:  Exactly.  That’s gonna make our tour hot.  It’s rogue…going where nobody can go.

Me:  Uh huh.  That tour will last 30 seconds.

As we are walking around, we come up with a scheme to offer to take people’s pictures for them so they will take pictures of us.

Me:  Maybe after we take their picture, we tell them it’s €10.  Get our hustle on like the Trojan guy.

William:  I wonder what he does for “Take Your Daughter to Work Day”.

Me:  Probably has her out there hustling too.

As we leave the Colosseum, I am focused on getting back to the entrance to The Forum so I can get my passport back since I left it to secure the audio guide device.  Now, William is all laissez-faire about this as it wasn’t his passport.  He offered up job ideas should I not be able to get back to the U.S. (William:  That tour guide idea is hot.).  We get turned around and I’m looking at the map trying to find the entrance.  As we start walking to the entrance, we come across these “mimes” that paint themselves up and stay as still as a statue.  Some are better than others.  This guy was great!

A couple of meters away from him, we see a duo performing.

William:  Are those Native Americans?

Me:  Uh, I see the feathers on the headdress and I hear the music but I don’t think the Romans stole this from them too.

William:  I’m confused.  Why are they here?

Me:  Outsourcing?

William:  Are they selling cds?

Me:  Everybody got a hustle.  Maybe they are signed to Black Widow Records in Genoa???

We finally get to the entrance of The Forum and as they give me back the passport, I realize that it wasn’t even mine.  It was William’s.  HAHAHAHAHA.  Apparently, we inadvertently switched passports when they were returned to us at the hotel.

Me:  So who is being a mime on the street when they can’t get back to the states now?

William:  You could’ve done tours.

Me:  Well, you know Atlanta is the #1 tourist city in the U.S.

William:  Get out.  Where did you get that statistic from?

Me:  GET OFF MY TOUR!  YOU DON’T KNOW ME!  YOU AIN’T A TOUROLOGIST!  WHERE ARE YOUR PAPERS?  YOU GOT THAT TOURIFICATION CERTIFICATE?  NO?  THEN YOU LEAVE THE STATS TO THE PROFESSIONALS.

William:  You need serious help.

By this time, we are headed towards the Pantheon.

 

Once we arrive, we see non-Italian ethnic groups selling purses and scarves.

William:  You think that is real Prada?

Me:  Is the Prada on Canal Street real?

We go inside the Pantheon, look around and take pictures.  Now it’s time for a gelato break.  Which must occur every few hours or you can get low blood sugar 🙂  After getting my gelato, we walk toward the Trevi Fountain.  People throw coins into the fountain to guarantee a return visit.  The coins are collected to feed Rome’s poor.

 

Then, it was on to the Spanish Steps.

After leaving the Spanish Steps, we walk around the posh shopping district and window shop.  Then we come upon a guy selling nuts…13 for €5.

William:  €5 for 13 nuts with some salt sprinkled on them?  Are they serious?  I can get that at home for $1.50.

Me:  These are special Roman nuts.  You don’t know ‘bout them, son.  They may be like Red Bull and give you wings.

At this point, we are completely exhausted and have to climb 1400 steps to walk back to the hotel.  We end up stopping by St. Peter in Chains Basilica since we didn’t make it to Vatican City.  That was another 1000 steps to climb.  St Peter’s in Chains is where they keep the chains that were used on Peter during his incarceration.

It also hosts Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses.

On the way back, there was a guy playing typical Italian songs the accordion.  William wanted to get a picture with him.

William:  Uh, he smelled heavily of liquor.

Me:  That’s how rock stars do.  They have to get lit up to rock the stage…or in this instance, the steps.

Afterwards, we go to the hotel to get our bags…which were sitting in the hallway.  What kind of security system is that?  No id, just sitting out for anybody to take.  We were lucky they were there.  The desk clerk is still getting the side-eye as I type this.

Sweet Willy and I are so tired by this point, we suck it up and decide to pay for a taxi to the train station for our 4 hour ride back to Genoa.

Overall, it was a jam-packed weekend but we had a great time and got to see a lot.  Special thanks to Sweet Willy for flying all the way out to Italy for the weekend to keep me company and hang out in the IT.  I had a blast!