Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Rome Trip - First Day!

So much to say, so much to share! I'm going to break this trip out into several posts, so stay with me as I write about the trip, the race, the experience, and - most important - the opportunity to savor Rome and all she has to offer.

First class plane ticket! Oh, yeah! Nothing like a Boeing 767 with individual, fully reclining seats in first class to ease the pain of an 8 hour flight to Rome! Well worth the money. After dinner and wines were served, and after the cheese and cracker cart and the ice cream sundae cart passed through, they dimmed the lights, I flattened my seat into a bed and managed to get a good 4 hours of sleep before awakening. We were served a quick breakfast of fresh fruit and pastries before landing in Rome. The 4 hours' sleep was just enough to see me through the long day ahead of me.

Arrive in Rome, Thursday, April 7:

I had about 55 Euro left over from my previous trip, but knew that wouldn't be enough to get me through the first day or so. The ATM machines at the airport were down, so I had no choice but to use the AMEX money change booth to exchange my emergency $200 for Euros. Ouch! Their commission is robbery!

Cab ride to the hotel, luggage stashed until later, when I can check in, and I headed toward the Colosseo Metro station about a mile walk from the hotel.

A word about the hotel. I've stayed in this immediate vicinity twice before, and at this hotel once before. It's the absolute perfect location, central to everything in the city. This is a very nice little boutique hotel tucked on a quiet little alley, hidden in a lovingly restored medieval building with discreet signage and entrance, and a perfect little restaurant where I could retreat for a little break and sip an espresso or a glass of wine each day. And it's within walking distance of the marathon start/finish line, too! Score!!

My beautiful room at the hotel: room #102.

I decided that as many times as I've been to Rome, I would use this trip to visit the lesser-known areas of the city. I've been to all of the major tourist attractions multiple times and knew I didn't have the desire or the patience to visit them again. My mantra this trip would be "Savor Rome." I intended to sleep in, enjoy a leisurely breakfast (included with my room), and then set out each day in a different direction, looking for those things that were off-the-beaten-tourist-path. I had a newer edition of the Michelin Rome Guide and a Michelin pocket map, so I was all set to explore.

But first things first. A Metro ride to the Fermi station in the EUR and then a walk to the Palazzo dei Congressi to get my race packet. It was quite painless and easy to take the Metro. I purchased two one-way tickets at the news stand just outside the Colosseo station, walked inside, and immediately a train pulled up and off we went.

My walk to get to the Colosseo Metro station took me down Via Dei Fori Imperiali which edged the Roman Forum ruins and offered me spectacular views across the ruins to the temples on the palatine in the distance.
Roman Forum ruins

Roman Forum in foreground, Capitoline in background.

After a short ride that took me underground for a few stops and then above ground for the last few miles, I arrived at the Fermi station, walked the 1.4 km to the congress center, and got there just as they were opening. There were hardly any other runners there so there were no crowds and no lines - but also that meant that the excitement and buzz that usually accompanies a race expo hadn't yet built. I was in and out within minutes. Maybe just as well, since I wasn't sure how long I'd last - I really wasn't feeling any jet lag, though - and was eager to get back to the city center and get lunch, get into my hotel room and take a shower.

Entrance to the congress center

Entrance to the congress center

Palazzo dei Congressi. They were still getting the exterior displays set up when I arrived.

I noticed an espresso bar on the corner, just across the street from the congress center and decided to step up to the bar and order my first of many, many authentic, excellent Italian espressos. I was in heaven!!

Oh, yeah!!

Then back to the Metro station, back into Rome city center and lunch. There were several things I had been craving. The espresso ordered at that espresso bar was the first. The second was prosciutto and melon. Oh my! So as I walked back from the Metro station to my hotel, I passed a trattoria and, upon seeing it on their menu, stepped inside to check this second item off my cravings list.

Prosciutto and melon, oh my! And sparkling water. And wonderful Italian bread.

That craving satisfied, I continued the short little block to my hotel where they had my room ready and I was able to get checked in, take a shower, change into fresh clothes and head back out in the daylight - the best way to avert jet lag.

Next up: an afternoon spent making quick visits to the must-see Rome landmarks...just because.

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