Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rome: An Introduction

This is Rome. One of the greatest cities in the world for a wide variety of reasons, including it's extremely rich history, vibrant atmosphere, and bright future.

 It is a city like no other. It was once the center of Roman civilization, and is currently the center of the Catholic religion - something that cannot be forgotten walking around Rome, as this picture attests.

 Rome supports this role well, as the cornucopia of Catholic clothing stores shows.

 The city is busier and noisier than any big city, but feels very safe at the same time.

 Here is the symbol of the Rome city government. Romans believe their city was founded by twin orphans, Romulus and Remus, who were nursed by a she-wolf. In adulthood, Romulus murdered Remus and christened the city by the name Rome. Note the depiction of the twins with the she-wolf in the city symbol. What other city has a symbol anywhere near as awesome?

 Anywhere we walked in Rome, we came across Catholic clothing stores. Here are some examples.

 And where else will you see gentlemen walking down the street in what appear to be Friar/Monk robes? This is about a block from the Vatican, by the way.

 One of the main thoroughfares in old Rome is Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. We recommend you don't get a hotel on this street, as we walked it many times and there was ALWAYS a siren going, either an ambulance (hospital is at end of street), police car, or fire truck.

 Except for the only time we saw a fire on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. There were no sirens, save the fire alarms going off extremely loudly in the building that was on fire.

 In fact, we watched for quite awhile and a fire truck never came!!! While Rome burned...

 But we felt very at ease in the city. Despite it's reputation for theft, we never felt threatened or even encountered shady characters. We purposely avoided large crowds and would recommend being very aware when a motorcycle passes by. In fact, carrying your wallet in a front pocket is a great idea. Just in case - as we do know people who have been pickpocketed. Also, there are police EVERYWHERE. They even direct traffic during rush hour at every semi-major intersection. And at night, we saw police vans full of officers. They take security seriously.

 Ladies who like to wear high heels, be warned! They really aren't recommended in most European cities, and Rome is no exception. My wife was disappointed. Note the swollen ankles and band-aided toe from all the walking we were doing!

 Old Rome, within the old Roman walls, has an enormous number of tourists at any given time. This leads to many stands catering to us tourists, like this one.

 And this one. Paninis, water, pizza, and gelato can be easily found about every block or two. And virtually everyone speaks English - no need to learn Italian in old Rome.

 Some notes on the English spoken there, things we had forgotten since our last trip. First, businesses labeled "BAR" do not serve alcohol as they do in the US. A bar in Rome is a small restaurant/grocery store. Almost like a deli.

Another example of a Italian bar. Second, we got strange looks when we asked for the nearest night club. Again, we forgot that "night club" does not mean a club that has music and alcohol as it does in the US. No, in Italy a "night club" is what we call a "strip club" in the US. Lesson learned! :-)

Rome: Hotel Forum Approach

 Our first stop will be the hotel where we stayed, the Hotel Forum seen at the center of this photo. It is located at Via Tor de' Conti, 25-30. I was standing on Via Dei Fori Imperiali when I took this photo.

 The easiest way to get to the hotel is to access it from Via Cavour, a major street one block south of the hotel. Here is my wife walking on Via Tor de' Conti, from Via Cavour towards the hotel. This is the way we usually went to and from the hotel.

 Another shot of the hotel from a slightly different angle. The hotel overlooked the Roman Forum, thus the name.

 When we stepped out the front door of the hotel and looked straight across Via Tor de' Conti, this is the view towards the Forum. Note the white patio cover - it was temporary and was there for an upcoming military parade on June 3.

 The other path for approaching the hotel was from the other direction, starting at Via 4 Novembre and walking along Salita del Grillo which turns into Via Tor de' Conti. Roads in Rome often change names every few blocks.

 This is a particularly beautiful way to approach the hotel, though it is longer and has an uphill/downhill portion.

Other hotels can be found along this approach to the hotel.

 On the right are the ruins from prior city eras, I haven't looked up what this building was.

 Getting closer! Almost to the hotel...

 The Hotel Forum also has a parking garage, though we would not recommend getting a car in Rome. There is no need for it - everything within the Roman walls is walkable. The longest walk we had was from the hotel to the Vatican which took a little over an hour.

 Here is what our hotel looked like at night. Sorry, the camera struggled with the darkness so the shot is a little fuzzy.

The hotel also has a rooftop restaurant which overlooks the Roman Forum. Ready to go into the hotel and see our room?

Rome: Hotel Forum Room

 Let's take a look at our room! We were given room 306 which had a fine view (see next post). This is what the room looks like from the doorway. On our arrival, there were decorative bedspreads on the beds, so this photo was obviously not taken on the day we arrived but further into our trip.

 As we've found often in Italy, two twin beds is quite a common arrangement. This hotel was originally a convent, built in the 17th century, for the church located next door.

 A picture of Rome hangs above the beds.

 There was really not a good place to store suitcases, so I stored mine in front of the nightstand.

 This shows the layout of the hotel, and where our room was located.

 The desk in the room. We should have taken our belongings off before taking the photo (yellow bag, sunglasses, book on upper left), oh well.

 The tiny TV with about 10 stations available. From the fuzzy picture, I'm assuming they are received via antenna.

 This is the light switch by the door for the overhead light. The bulbs appeared to be either 40 or 60 watt equivalents.

 We only figured out one of these three buttons at the top of the door. the one in the middle is the breaker reset (we tripped it once!).

 The light switch for the bathroom is located just outside the bathroom. On the left is an electrical outlet - this is where we plugged in our iron.

 Here is the control for the air conditioner. We were grateful an air conditioner was available as the first few days in Rome were very humid! That coincided with the days when it sprinkled for a few minutes. On the days with no rain, it felt much less humid outside. Note there is no temperature control - only on/off and fan speed. The noises the air conditioner emanated were like nothing we'd heard before. It actually sounded like parts were going to come flying out of the ceiling at times. Listen to the video at the end of this post.

 The ceiling light, with what I would estimate to be 40 to 60 watt bulbs.

 This is where the air conditioning unit was obviously located, judging from the sound. Listen to the video below.

 The parquet floors.

 Another angle. While there looks to be dirt in the corners, it really did not look that bad in person. It is really decades of wear, not necessarily surface dirt. There are new hotels you can stay in if you want mint condition. But if you want true Italian flavor and 17th century ambiance, well it's not gonna look brand new.

 And there is the bathroom door. Shall we enter?

 The sink, toilet, and typical Italian tile.

 A bidet was located directly across from the toilet.

 It was great to find a hair dryer. Only drawback was that the button had to be held in to keep it running. That's by design, but we're not sure why.

 A shelf to the left of the sink.

 Knobs for flushing the toilet.

 The shower stall.

 Shower floor.

 Shelf in the shower.

Back of bathroom door.

 Now let's look outside the room. This is the hallway outside our door.
 The elevator was tiny and we could use the exercise anyway, so we typically took the stairs. Remember that the ground floor in European buildings is zero ("0"), so 306 is actually on the fourth floor.

 Going down another flight on a different day.

 The stairs themselves.

 A picture in the hallway.

A quick look around the room in video:

A sample of what the air conditioner sounded like. Note that the low speed did get quieter after it ran for awhile. We used it as white noise to drown out Via dei Forum Imperiali at night. The hotel staff had to know what this unit sounded like because we left it running when we left for the day a few times and they had shut it off by the time we returned.

Ever wonder what is on Italian TV? Here is a video showing the channels that were available:

So was the Hotel Forum accurately represented on the Hotel Forum website? You be the judge!