Rome 03/2008 Day 3
Tuesday March 18, 2008
For breakfast, we do what will become our habit; coffee, foamed milk and fresh bread along with the optional yogurt or sometimes eggs.
Today we have a guided tour of the Vatican Museum scheduled at 10:30 AM through the museum itself. Before we left, I'd emailed for a reservation for a guided tour in English. The email address is not on their web site for some reason, but it does work: firstname.lastname@example.org .Tell them the date you want, how many people and the language of the tour. The tour costs 29.5 euro (regular admission is 14 euro), though the ticket says 25.5 I think there is now some sort of 4 euro surcharge.
We leave around 9:30 to walk over to the museum and about half way there I have a sudden sinking feeling; I've forgotten the print out of the email confirmation for the tour. We decide to press on since we have not paid for this in advance, the worst thing that can happen is we are turned away, miss the tour and have to wait in line to go through on our own.
We arrive at St Peter's square, go though the colonnade to the right and begin following the outside wall of the Vatican around to the museum entrance. Almost as soon as we leave the square, the line begins and it goes the full width of the sidewalk, for the entire way around; almost a 1/2 mile (we think, it seems longer).
I'm really nervous now, thinking we may not get in, but there is a separate line for "groups" and a guy with a clipboard. We approach him and say we have reservations for the tour, but not the confirmation letter. He frowns and asks "Name?". I tell him and there it is, my name on the list! We all breathe a sigh of relief.
We wait another 10 minutes (as we are really early) and then are allowed to go inside to buy our tickets. There is a special line for reserved tour tickets and we must wait in that one and then another to pay. It's possible to pay with a credit card so we do and then wait in a special section for our guide. While waiting, J and T try to go check our coats, but the "check" area is only for large bags, not coats.
The guide shows up and issues everyone a headset and receiver so we can hear her talking and she won't have to shout. Of course, the museum is very crowded and we will have to struggle to stay near her during the tour- if she gets too far away or into another room, we lose reception.
Our guide's name is Tzetana and she explains she will lead us through the various rooms ending at the Sistine Chapel where she will leave us. However, she will explain the details of the chapel before we arrive. Photos are allowed throughout the tour, just no flash. No camera, no photos at all allowed in the Sistine Chapel.
The tour takes us outside for a moment to see some of the gardens and get a little history of the building, then back inside where Tzetana finds a display of the Sistine chapel to go over the details. Then we're off; we go out into the central courtyard and in and out of so many rooms and halls I cannot remember them all.
By the time we arrive at the Sistine Chapel I am exhausted. David and I spend about 15 minutes in there listening to the guards admonish everyone not to talk with a loud Shhhhhhhhh! every 3 minutes or so. We agree to meet up later with J and T who want to spend more time in the chapel and in the museum. David and I want lunch and I want to see if I can find a local market I'd read about. J and T end up staying in the chapel for almost an hour and the have a have a "surprisingly great lunch (pasta, salad & boxed white wine!) in The Vatican Cafeteria". They then explore The Vatican Museum and gift shop for another two hours or so and meet us later at home.
Lunch at Dal Toscano
It's about 1:30 when we exit the museum and by then, the line is nonexistent. We look at my list of restaurants and sights and determine that we've probably missed the best of the market due to the time so we opt to go straight to lunch. The closest place on the list which isn't a pizzeria is a restaurant called "Dal Toscano al Girarrosto". The place is known for it's big hunks of roasted meats, and while we see plenty on other diner's plates, we order lighter fare. When we arrive, the place is about half empty, but quickly fills with a mix of mostly locals (businessmen, groups of friends, and even a few priests) and a small percentage of tourists.
We order a bowl of Pasta e Fagioli for David (excellent) and a Carciofo alla Romana for me. We also get Picatta di Vitello al Limone (Veal Picatta) for D and a pasta, Mezzemaniche alla Melanzane e Ricotta for me. The pasta is very al dente and also includes olives and a tomato sauce. It's very good, but I wish more more eggplant. Our orders meet with the approval of the locals at the table next to us; an eighty-something woman and her daughter. Lunch with a bottle of beer, a bottle of water and the bread/cover and additional "service" was 46 euro.
An aside about the bread/cover charge you see in most restaurants in Italy: We wondered if they charge you even if you do not eat the bread. Indeed they do. In fact, this restaurant was a bit confusing because the "baskets" of bread, small, medium and large, were listed on the menu with their corresponding prices. In this case, we did not eat any of the 3 slices of bread in the basket, yet we were charged 3 euro ($4.50). We asked the waiter about this and he said in a good natured way, "well, we don't charge you for the napkins and the plates!". I think this is just a fundamental cultural difference for us. I work in the restaurant industry and of course, we do not charge for bread, but we serve it. The cost is built in to the menu items instead of being separate. This would make sense if the menu items in Italy were correspondingly less expensive, but they are not. Personally, I think to charge for something a person does not touch or consume is unreasonable, but I understand this is way things are done there and I'm certainly not going to stop dining out when in Italy. Ok, rant over.
After lunch we walk back past St Peter's stopping to take a few more photos. Then, back to the apartment for a rest.
Late in the afternoon we David and I walk back up to the Castel Sant 'Angelo to buy our Romapasses. The Romapass allows entrance to two sites on their list for free and then discounted admission to others. It it valid for 3 days and includes a three day transportation pass good for busses, metro and regional commuter trains. It is not good for the Vatican museum or for the Leonardo Express to the airport. The passes are 20 euro a piece and we wanted to buy them today because we will need them for our first use at 9AM Thursday morning at the Borghese Gallery and tomorrow we will be gone all day. The purchase is easy and the castel looks so interesting I vow we have to come back when we can use the pass to enter. On the way back to the apartment we stop at a small house wares store and buy 2 dishtowels as there are none in the apartment.
Tonight's dinner is at Ristorante Pancrazio where we'd visited yesterday to look at the ruins of the Theater of Pompey. When we arrive, the restaurant is practically empty and we are sat on the main floor near a cool caged in "cave" with dusty old bottles of wine. Apparently, they only seat the downstairs when very busy (something they'd told me when I made the reservation).
D and J both start with a Kir Royale and T with a Beer. I am saving myself for the wine and the waiter gives me a hard time. We can tell he's going to be a joker and he is, mugging for photos, taking our pictures, bringing us postcards of the restaurants (the one for me says "My Love!!"-Enzo and includes his email address). The man has no shame.
For the wine, we order another Sicilian, this time a Nero de Avola called Passo delle Mule, 2005.
For antipasti, we order an Octopus Salad with Pesto and Potatoes, Steamed Clams, and Stewed Fava Beans with Peas and Artichokes. I very much like the octopus as it's perfectly cooked, J loves the clams and the fava beans are quite tasty.
For our primi, we order two pastas; Amatriciana Buccatini and Ravioli with artichokes. The waiter brings the pastas to the table and splits each onto 4 plates for us. Both pastas are fine, but the process of splitting them allows them to get cool by the time they reach the table.
For our main courses we have an order of Ossobucco, beef Tournedos w/Madiera and Fois Gras, and and some sort of Veal dish with melted cheese. We also get an order of mixed vegetables which comes to the table fried (suggestion of the waiter). Even though we all know he said "fried" we all envisioned something different. The ossobucco is good, the foie gras on the beef is a tiny quarter sized nugget and the veal is unmemorable. The fried vegetables are good, but we all wanted something a little more "healthy" so they go unfinished.
We did not have dessert (way too much food!) but did have a few glasses of Amaro, this time, the waiter's favorite (can't remember the name).
Dinner for four was 181.50 euros.
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Detail of colossal head in Courtyard
Above, Apollo del Belvedere
Below, Detail of his foot
Mosaic of Food
Scenes from the Raphael rooms above
Kristina taking pictures (by David)
One of the statues on the bridge to the
Our waiter, hamming it up with J.
Fried Mixed Vegetables.
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