The Hotel Columbus is extremely convenient for Vatican visits, being almost literally on the doorsteps of Piazza San Pietro. The rooms are of a reasonable size, and are comfortable. Separate beds, though -- you have to push your beds together if you are accustomed to sleeping with your partner. No A/C, which is okay, since you can open your windows. I can live with the noise from the A/C compressor of the hotel across the way -- and of St. Peters' clock bells every 15 minutes throughout the night. Unfortunately, they just don't have the concept of window screens here, and the mosquitos don't have the common courtesy to respect window boundaries!
Breakfast: There are croissants; breads; a cornbread-like cake; another dry, dark cake. There are a selection of cold cereals. Orange and grapefruit juices. Some very nice coffee. Hard-cooked eggs (which makes Brigid happy!), salami, head cheese, ham, and a couple of kinds of cheeses. Preserves in little factory-made jars at the table.
This morning's destination is the Vatican Museum. There's one improvement over the '98 trip: the "Whisper" system, which allows the guide to broadcast her narration to the tour members. I'm not going to go into detail, otherwise. Essentially, nothing has changed in the exhibits since our last visit.
We leave the museum at noon, and walk over to restaurant Perilli in Prati, for lunch that's included with the tour (wine and soda also included again). This is a beautiful, clean place with very friendly staff. And best of all, lunch consists of a buffet of antipasto-like items. Some of the best stuff:
Next up, we take the Metro to the Colloseo stop, for a tour of (what else?) the Colloseum. Our local tour guide is Francesca, an excellent guide who is native to Rome, but speaks with an American accent (her vocal tone is reminiscent of Megan Mullaly in her role on Will and Grace). Again, little has changed since last time. There's now an elevator, but we took the stairs. They've put in a wooden platform down the long axis of the arena (not generally open to visitors). The Forum is the same as ever. The Pantheon is undergoing restoration, so between that and some church event, half of the inside was unaccessible. That's okay, the main attraction is the view of the interior, and that's mostly visible.
Francesca leaves us here, and we grab some gelati at a place Robin recommends (facing away from the Pantheon entrance, take the street to the right (Via dei Orfani, I think). The gelateria is down that street about 100 yards on the right. I try pistachio and chocolate. This pistachio is as good as I remember from the previous visit to Italy! The chocolate's good, too. Brig has peach and lemon -- also good.
We regroup for a walk to the Campo de Fiori, where we break for dinner. Seven of us descend upon Ostaria da Giovanni ar Galletto (a Rick Steves recommendation), where the waiters are still eating their dinner (Hey, it is only a little after 7PM!).
We start with Antipasti Romanesc, which consists of
We streamline the meal by skipping the pasta course.
We order two main courses and switch off:
With wine and acqua gassato (sparkling water), €33.
Following dinner (there's some incident with the waiter on the way out -- he seems to be hot for Brenda!), Robin leads a nighttime tour of Rome. This is the same as last time: Piazza Navone (where a fashion show is about to start), the Trevi Fountain (Brig and several others toss €0.01 coins -- hey, I guess it worked last time), and the Spanish Steps (still just a big gathering place for friends to hang out and possibly share a little wine).
Back on the Metro to Ottaviano station, for a 10 minute walk back to the hotel.
Breakfast is at 6:45 AM tomorrow, for 7:40 boarding of the bus to Montecassino! Yikes! Recharge the camera batteries, do this journal entry, and go to sleep!