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Day #4: Rome

This morning we had a 9:30 reservation at the Galleria Borghese, known first and foremost for its collection of Bernini sculptures and Caravaggio paintings. It was a relatively short walk from our hotel across the Tiber, though it involved hiking up the steps from the Piazza del Popolo.

The view is worth the effort:

You’re not allowed to take photos inside the Borghese. However, I couldn’t help myself from taking a couple of surreptitious snaps to remind me of a special exhibition they had on that interspersed the works of Lucio Fontana with their permanent collection.

This gives something of sense:

The exhibition really appealed to me for two reasons. First, I’ve always like the juxtaposition of modern / minimalist / contemporary art in traditional settings and vice versa. Second, I’m an admirer of Fontana (who’s “slashed” canvases are most familiar to me) — thus it was great to see a wider range of his oeuvre.

After the Borghese, we decided to stroll along Ancient Rome, which meant heading for the Coliseum with stops at a couple of churches along the way.

First, more Bernini at Santa Marie della Vitoria…

Next, a visit to the Basilica Papale Santa Maria Maggiore…

Then to the Coliseum…

A walk along the Forum…

And, a view of the Capitoline Museum.

I then found a little place for a late lunch a few blocks from the Piazza Navona, which had delicious pizza and pasta.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel as I had a few late afternoon conference calls to take and emails to write for work, which is something I try to avoid when traveling but haven’t been able to on this trip.

For dinner (which starts between 7:00 and 8:00 at most restaurants in Rome), we went to a Japanese sushi and noodle place that was excellent (when I’m Rome, I guess?!?).

My sushi:

After this, we went to the local pastry shop for some cannoli and other delights.

Day #3: Rome

Today’s highlights included two sights: the Vatican Museum (where we’ve been previously) and Castel Sant’Angelo (a new destination for us).

The Vatican Museum’s collection was spectacular as usual, but it was remarkably crowded (always a buzz kill), especially on the march to the Sistine Chapel (which I’ve always felt is a bit over-rated anyway, if I’m honest). Mercifully, we’d booked tickets in advance so at least we didn’t have to wait to get into the museum.


To me the highlights of the Vatican Museum were the delightfully affordable and delish lunch at an outdoor yet covered cafe, as well as the pleasure of getting up close to works located off of the main tourist paths, such as this evocative bust of a man:

After the museum, we contemplated visiting St. Peter’s Basilica. Then we saw the entrance line, which was snaking around the square in the rain. So, we quickly re-contemplated and moved on having “been there and done that” already.

We moved on to Castel Sant’Angelo, which was built originally as the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum.

Here’s a photo of the exterior (taken on a different, drier day) taken a bit later in the week:

It was an interesting place to visit although there’s not a tremendous amount of art or artifacts inside. The architecture (having been added to and modified over the years) was fascinating, and the views from the building were spectacular:

For dinner, we went to The Bulldog (a Dutch place with an outpost in Rome) for some non-Italian grub. After this we went to the local pastry shop, which we’d also visited for breakfast too.

Day #2: Rome

We arrived on Sunday to intermittent, light rain. Transit through the airport, getting our luggage, and finding our driver were all reasonably efficient, as was checking into our hotel (Le Meridian Visconti Rome). Since we’d all slept to varying degrees on the flight but still landed in the wee hours of the morning at home, we made a point of heading out to explore the city and get lunch ASAP.

We hit the major “walking tour” highlights: Piazza de Popolo, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Pizza Navona, etc., as well as a handful of (mostly minor) churches along the way.

We grabbed lunch at a little place off a side street. It wasn’t “amazing” as Italian good goes, but it was reasonably priced and everyone liked it.

We returned to the hotel in the late afternoon and then ventured out again for dinner to a local place near our hotel.

Libby’s meal took first prize there: gnocchi in a sort of boar bolognese sauce. It was magnificent.

I tried a pasta dish with a vincisgrassi sauce, which is béchamel-like and comes from the Marche region (where it’s typically made into a sort of lasagna dish):

It was good but not spectacular — nonetheless worth the try (as I’d never even heard of it before!).

A couple of blocks away, we visited the local pastry shop to sample some of their sweet treats (all excellent) and get a couple of espresso (kind of “meh” for Italy).

All in all, a good first day…

Day #1: To Rome

After a very busy week, we departed for the airport around 9:30am. Our flight to Detroit was uneventful despite some weather in the Detroit area, which thankfully missed both our arrival and departure. We had about a four hour layover, but we passed the time with an early dinner at P.F. Chang’s (where I’d eaten only a week ago on the way home from Beijing) and by strolling through the airport.

The onward flight to Rome was pleasant enough even in economy class, which admittedly I’ve grown unaccustomed to given my amount of travel for work in business class these days.

Day #10 & #11, At Sea

I don’t have a tremendous amount to say about these days beyond the fact that I’ve personally enjoyed our days at sea far more than usual. We followed the standard pattern of breakfast in the Lido, walking laps around the deck (roughly 3 miles per day), some enrichment activities, Emerson at the kid’s club, a nice dinner all together. I’ve also enjoyed lazy afternoons of reading and just hanging out — working at nothing, blissfully relaxed. A couple of highlights:

  • Dinner last night was very good at Canaletto — the pasta course being especially superb, particularly the pan fried gnocchi with short-ribs
  • Adrian, our cabin steward, is a wiz at folding towel animals. He made a point of especially inviting us to a demonstration today, and he seemed to be genuinely moved that we showed up for his event (he was one of two stewards hosting the show). He even invited Emerson by name onto the stage to help him fold an animal.

Meet “George” — Emerson’s towel animal creation…

  • Overall, this has been a good cruise, and I’m a little sorry to see it end. Traveling as much as I have for work this year, I’ve enjoyed the largely uninterrupted time with the family while sequestered at sea. I think everyone else has enjoyed it too; indeed, Emerson claims this has been her “best cruise ever,” though I’m not 100% sure why that’s the case.
  • Tomorrow, we’ll dock in Ft. Lauderdale and drive the 4-ish hours home. I don’t plan to post about that unless the return is especially noteworthy (good or bad). I may, however, write a summary of my work-related travel for the year, as well as talk a bit about our vacation home in North Carolina (which I’ve not really written about here).
  • Until next time…
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