This is a blog about our holiday to Europe in 2014. We started off our travels in Venice, where we began a cruise of the Adriatic and Aegean seas, ending in Rome. We then travelled from Rome to the Netherlands by rail, stopping in various places along the way. We are: Me - Gill, my husband - Grant, my daughter - Paula; my father - Neil and his partner - Astrid. We are South Africans, from the lovely province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Our friends Lisa and Trevor joined us from the UK for the cruise portion of our holiday.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rome, Italy

We docked in Civitavecchia at about 5 am. We had breakfast at Oceanview and then met our  
Rome-in-Limo driver for the drive into Rome.  We headed directly to the Vatican, where Grant, Paula and I left the tour - Dad and Astrid spent the morning doing a tour of Rome, while we chose to do our own thing, the idea being that we would revisit some favourite places and geocache along the way.  

We got on a Hop-on Hop-off bus and set off for our first stop, the Trevi fountain.  We absolutely love the Trevi and were looking forward to seeing it again, and hopefully finding the geocache we were unable to find last time.  Well, we were 50% successful.... we found the geocache, but the fountain turned out to be the biggest disappointment of our holiday!  

It was undergoing renovations and was almost completely obscured by scaffolding.  Oh dear!  To ease our sorrows we stopped for gelatos, which we enjoyed as we walked to the Spanish Steps.  

Column of the Immaculate Conception

We didn't manage to find a geocache at the Spanish Steps, but we enjoyed looking around and getting into the tourist buzz.  I spotted a street vendor selling roasted chestnuts and as none of us had ever tasted roasted chestnuts I insisted that we buy a bag.... hmmmm, maybe they are an acquired taste... because we thought they were pretty hideous!

We strolled to the Piazza Barberini, where we found a geocache and drank some water from one of Rome's lovely drinking fountains.  

Back on the bus and we rode to the Circus Maximus via various sights, including the Colosseum.  I still think the Colosseum is one of the most beautiful sights internationally... it just does it for me!

From Circus Maximus we walked to the church that houses the Mouth of Truth.  I had a bee in my bonnet about seeing the Mouth of Truth.  Well when we got there is was really hot and there were incredibly long queues, so I decided I wasn't that desperate to stick my hand in the mouth and I was happy to make do with a photo from outside the railings.  Unfortunately we didn't find the geocache at the Mouth of Truth.  

By this point we were a little tired, hot and "over" the HOHO buses (they were very full, and uncomfortable.. I think we are spoilt after the private tours we have enjoyed!)  So we decided to take a slow walk to our hotel.   We enjoyed walking along the banks of the Tiber under shady trees.

Walking down Via Giulia - the street where our hotel is located - was fascinating.  It's a medieval street, with so much history.  

The Fontana del mascherone (pictured above) - legend has it that long ago the family that owned the palazzo behind this fountain would have wine gushing from it when they had parties.

Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte, Via Giulia. The present church was built in 1737 replacing an earlier 16th century one. It was run by a fraternity that collected the dead bodies of unknown people found in the countryside to give them a Christian burial. An essential requisite if you wanted to go to heaven!

When we got near to our hotel we stopped for lunch at a little cafe, where we had a couple of paninis and beers.    It was then a short, pleasant walk to our lovely hotel, the Relais Giulia.  We had a good rest, before our food tour.  

In the evening we did a 4 hour food tour of the Trastevere neighbourhood. The food tour was amazing!  The highlight of our visit to Rome and definitely one of the highlights of our holiday.  It was a walking tour, which was just as well as we needed the exercise to burn off the enormous amount of food consumed!  

We met our guides Anna and Jason and the rest of the group on the Isola Tiberna (Island on the Tiber) and then set off.  Our first stop was a restaurant called Da Enzo Al 29, where we had a starter of prosciutto with melon and prosecco... delicious.  

Next we went to the amazing wine cellar of the Spirito di Vino restaurant, which used to be a synagogue 100s of years ago, parts of the building date BC!  

It was really incredible to experience it and we had very delicious antipasto and wine there. Next up was the Innocenti bakery, where 3 generations of women produce delicious cookies, such sweet people and an incredible, vintage sort of bakery.  

Really yummy cookies!  Then we went to a fantastic delicatessen, Antica Caciara, where we sampled delicious cheeses.  It was a fascinating place.  

Our next stop was I Suppli where we were presented with.... suppli (duh!), a typical Roman street food - a core of tomatoey, mozzarella deliciousness, surrounded by rice and deep-fried - heavenly! 

Loved this - the person upstairs had sent their basket down for their purchases to be loaded into!

Then it was on to Forno La Renella pizzeria and bakery where we got to go into the back and see the wood-fired ovens and bags of flour etc, before sampling the most delicious pizzas... by this time we were stuffed quite full and we hadn't even had mains yet!  

But off we trundled to a lovely restaurant for 3 different types of pasta and wine, it was too yummy to pass up, so we found room and indulged very happily.  

Our next stop had nothing to do with food, but it was amazing!  We were taken into an ancient pharmacy located in a monastery.  It was the most fascinating place ever!  It was run by Carmelite monks in the 17th and 18th centuries and has been left exactly as it was when it closed.  It really was one of the most fascinating places I have ever visited.  Photography was not allowed, and it isn't open to the public, so we felt really privileged to be able to see it.  

Our final stop was at a gelateria where we learnt how to spot a genuine gelato and we then got to sample the most incredibly delicious gelato - a brilliant way to round off a fantastic evening.

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