DM and MM's Europe 2023 Diary

Day 2 - Singapore to Rome

Sunday, 5 November, 2023

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Our flight arrived just after midnight Singapore time. We landed among frequent lightning, although there was no rain at ground level when we landed. We had enough time to stop in at the Singapore Airlines lounge to sit and rest. Our Rome flight departed at 02:05, and the information in the Singapore Airlines app said it would begin boarding half an hour earlier at 01:35. We had drinks and I tried some of the tiny cakes. The rest of the food looked amazing like last time we were here, but we'd eaten plenty and had another meal on the flight to look forward to, so restrained ourselves.

We left the lounge just before 01:30, thinking we'd be at the gate pretty much as they began boarding. But as we walked the long distance to the gate, we passed an information board that said the gate was closing already! We rushed a bit and got there in time, but everybody els was already on the plane! Never mind, we made it okay, and settled into our seats for the long-haul leg. There was more lightning as we took off.

I had the beef option for dinner with some red wine from Douro, Portugal, which was very nice. After that we tried to sleep for as much of the flight as possible, since we'll be arriving in the morning in Rome and will want to stay awake all day. It was tough sleeping though and I didn't really get any. I started to get hungry in the middle of the flight and had a banana, before waiting for the breakfast service about two hours before landing. I watched a couple of movies: Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, and I rewatched Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, which I've been meaning to do for a while in preparation for thinking about plotting for Darths & Droids.

For breakfast they had the traditional eggs and sausage, but I chose to have the dim sum selection with rice and roast duck slices, which was very nice. We landed at Rome in very heavy rain with a good deal of turbulence. As we disembarked, the rain was bucketing down, and I feared we might have to deal with this on our first day, before our hotel room would be available for check-in. But by the time we had passed through passport control and exited the airport to catch the train to Termini station in Rome, which didn't take long since we could go through an automated passport check channel with our Australian passports and we didn't have any checked luggage to collect (so it must have been less than 15 minutes all up), the rain had stopped!

We bought tickets for the Leonardo Express train to Termini station, and after a half hour trip it deposited us there. M. stopped at a large cafe right in the station to get a coffee and her first cornetto con marmellata. Then we walked the few blocks to The Hive Hotel. But being just after 09:00, our room wasn't ready to check into yet, which we expected. We dropped our luggage though, and set off to walk around Rome for a few hours until we could check in at 14:00.

We walked first towards the Trevi Fountain, which was maybe 20 minutes away. But we stopped a few times so may have taken longer. One stop was to buy a comb (which M. forgot to pack) and a pair of nail clippers to deal with hangnails. The Trevi Fountain was a little busy, but we've seen it much more crowded when visiting in summer. There seem to be plenty of tourists around, though not as densely packed as the other times we've been here.

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain

From the fountain we walked towards the Pantheon, although we diverted north to check out Antico Forno, the bakery where we'd bought biscotti several times last time we stayed in Rome. We found it looking very similar to then, but replacing the old woman who served us then was a younger man. He didn't seem to speak any English, but that was okay and we got a cannoli siciliano for me, and an amaretti biscuit and a cornetto con nutella for M. I thought the cannoli was filled with chocolate custard, but it tasted more like Nutella, and a lot of it! The sugar rush definitely helped us continue walking.

Cannoli siciliano from Antico Forno bakery

We stopped at a store named G Local where M. wanted to browse and she found a nice reversible fake-fur vest that she liked. I said that I thought this was the same shop where she'd stopped to look in the window last time we were here eleven years ago, and I took a nice photo of her standing outside the shop in the rain with an umbrella. I found the photo on Flickr and yes, it turned out to be exactly the same shop!

We passed the Pantheon, where there was a long queue of people waiting to be admitted. We assumed they must open it to the public at 11:00, as it was a few minutes before that time as we walked past. Every time we've been in there we just showed up and walked straight in.

The Pantheon

We headed to Piazza Navona and walked around there to see the fountains and stopped in at the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, which was open for I think the first time the we've seen it. It was nicely decorated inside, but we didn't stay long.

Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona and Sant'Agnese in Agone

We headed to Campo de' Fiori to have a look at the market stalls there. I tried a couple of types of cheese from one of the cheese stalls, but when the man asked where we were from and I said Australia he said, "Oh, you can't take cheese back to Australia." Obviously he knew about our quarantine laws, probably from other Australians telling him they can't take cheese home.

It was getting close to lunch time and I thought we'd continue south to the Jewish Roman Ghetto area and try to find something to eat around there. But we passed a small cafe named 7 Grammi which had decent looking sandwiches on various types of bread and decided to stop there. M. had a bagel caprese, with tomato and mozzarella filling, while I had a focaccia with sliced beef and lettuce. They weren't very big but they sufficed for a quick lunch. M. had a cappuccino and I had a spremuta orange juice.

Ghetto plaques
Wall plaques in the Roman Ghetto

After eating we continued through the Ghetto and turned back towards our hotel. This route took us up the Capitoline Hill to Campidoglio

Campidoglio square on top of the Capitoline Hill

And past the Roman Forum then down to Trajan's Forum on the other side.

Trajan's Forum
Trajan's Forum

Passing through this we emerged in the Monti district, which is an area we haven't explored in past visits to Rome. We passed several nice looking restaurants, bakeries, and other food places. We stopped in at one to make a booking for dinner at 6pm. The lady said they normally only open at 7:30, but because today is Sunday they are open all afternoon, and she said she'd see us in the "afternoon" for dinner.

Back at the hotel a bit before 14:00 we checked in and went to our room. Finally it was time to clean up and have a shower after the long flights, plus several hours of walking around Rome! The hotel is a bit funky, with the name The Hive being reflected in various hexagonal decorations and also the fact that much of the building is built around a hexagonal plan, with the walls in the corridors meeting at 120° instead of 90°. The central atrium is hexagonal with a staircase winding around it. And the lifts are squashed into the space between that and the corridors, ending up a rhombus shape instead of rectangular, which is interesting, but makes them feel a bit cramped.

The Hive hotel
Central staircase at The Hive hotel

I began typing up some of this diary, but M. was in danger of falling asleep so we decided to go out for a walk. I found a "department store" a couple of blocks away and we went there, but it was really mostly just clothing, with a few strange knick-knacks. Across the street was the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore, which was open for visitors, so we went in to have a look.

Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore
Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore

This is a large basilica with several side chapels that we could go into. One held the body of Pope Pius V, and then downstairs in a small crypt near the main altar was a large silver reliquary near a life sized marble statue of Pope Pius IX. The reliquary may contain relics of Saint Jerome. There was a service going on in one of the chapels with people singing, and there were several confession boxes with priests ready to hear confessions in multiple languages. One box listed no fewer than eight languages in which the priest could hear confessions!

Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore
Ceiling of Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore

We were both very tired and decided to go back to the hotel so M. could take a nap before dinner. But when we got there we went up to the roof to look at the restaurant and bar, and decided to sit out there and have a pre-dinner drink instead to keep us awake until dinner time. M. had a "spicy cream" which had coffee and chocolate liqueurs, while I had a "sud negroni", which replaced the traditional Campari with limoncello spiced with pepper. My drink was really nice, clearly inspired by the traditional orange negroni, and with a strong kick of pepper.

Hive cocktails
Cocktails at The Hive hotel bar

After our pre-dinner drinks I gathered my jacket because the day had turned into a chilly evening and we walked back down to the restaurant we'd booked for dinner, da Robertino. There was only one other table of people there when we arrived, so it wasn't necessary for us to have booked. We ordered garlic bruschetta to start, then M. had spaghetti cacio e pepe, while I tried the spaghetti Robertino, which had anchovy and burrata and breadcrumbs. When it arrived, the waiter turned it over several times with a spoon and fork to mix the burrata through the pasta. Both the pasta dishes were pretty good. I finished off with a house made raspberry cheesecake, which the waiter referred to as "strawberry", we think because he got the English names of the berries confused.

Pasta at Da Robertino
Pasta dinner at da Robertino, Monti

After this early meal we walked back to the hotel to get an early night. Hopefully we can sleep a solid 10-12 hours or so to catch up on sleep and then our body clocks can be more or less in the right time zone from tomorrow.

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