Thursday, June 25, 2015

Train trip: Salerno to Rome

Obviously...the Colosseum.  Can you spot Elisabeth?  Flashing the peace sign.
Her deal this summer is to send peace to the world from each location visited.

The Wedding Cake.  Memorial for
Vittorio Emanuele II, the man who united Italy.
It simply made no sense to be this close to Rome and not introduce our granddaughter to this great city.  On the second day there she declared that she could live in Rome; a city to love. Train service in Italy is easy and, in my opinion, at bargain pricing.  Both the Trenitalia and the Italo train lines service this route; we opted for the Italo express trains.  Websites for both lines would not work to book or purchase tickets (possibly this was an issue because I was using Chrome as a browser rather than Internet Explorer); so we went to the train station in Salerno and purchased tickets in person.  This is a decent walk from the marina inside the commercial port.  The station is located very near the Porto Turistico Masuccio Salernitano marina but our boat is too big to dock in that marina; the maximum size boat allowed there is 15 meters and only a few at that.  Walking at a normal pace it takes about 45-50 minutes from Porto Nuovo in the commercial port to the train station.  We have gotten more exercise than desired while docked here!

Back side of Colosseum & Arch

Another Twizy!
Strange opening doors.
Saw these all over Rome.
The 06:57 express train from Salerno to Rome arrived in the newer Roma Tiburtina station at 08:53.  It traveled at 300 kph for almost the entire distance with only a single short stop in Naples central station.  For our American friends, that is 180 mph!  Much more comfortable than any airplane and goes from center of one city to the center of the destination city.  The only way to travel if you ask us.  Much more convenient than airlines.  And less expensive.  As 2 seniors and 1 child our total round-trip train fares for all 3 persons was only $143.81. Guess I was glad that the website did not work after all, because if I had purchased these same tickets online the fare would have been $42.56 each way for each person.  We saved almost $112 by going to the station and having an attendant assist us in the purchase.  She knew the tricks to finding us the cheapest fares; we would never have figured that out in Italian.

That sand in background is the Circus Maximus.
Photo taken at top of Imperial Palace.

Villa where the Vestal Virgins lived.
Palatine Hill homes in background.

Only hiccup was that we arrived at the newer Triburtini station and our return train departed the older Termini station.  This was not a problem for us because our hotel was distant from both train stations.  One was as good logistically as another from our hotel.  We took a taxi from Triburtini to the hotel and then used buses for the remainder of transportation needs.

Trajan's Column and Forum
Wearing her new jacket in the 90F heat!!
We enjoyed Rome for 2 full days.  The first day we managed to see the Colosseum and the Forums, Palatine Hill and the Imperial Palace, looking down on the Circus Maximus.  We enjoyed an over-priced mediocre lunch and then walked to the Pantheon.  Figured out a bus back to the hotel for a nap after all that walking on such a hot day.  

Entry door to Temple of Romulus and
Remus.  Lock still works and door
is on original hinges.  Amazing.

We stayed at the Hotel Sant'Angelo this time. 
The apartment where we had stayed last December has a 3-night minimum but this trip required only a single night in a hotel.  We were familiar with the area and knew this hotel was situated in a desirable location for the sites we wished to visit.  It was a good choice.  Our room rate included hors d'oeuvres and wine (juice and chips for Elisabeth) before dinnertime and a very nice full breakfast buffet.  We were able to book a room for 3 persons which included queen-sized bed in one room with a shower bath and a twin bed in the other bedroom with another shower bath.  For only $138, plus the mandatory city tax of $19.  I thought that was a real bargain.  There was a tabacchi down one block where one can purchase bus/metro tickets and a bus stop a short block behind the hotel.  Perfect!  By the way, Elisabeth still has the American frame of mind.  She found it hilarious that one goes to a smoke shop to purchase bus tickets.  And only to a smoke bus tickets are not sold elsewhere, except for an occasional tourist information kiosk. 

Inside Temple to Romulus and Remus.

Inside Temple to Romulus and Remus.  This
passage went somewhere beneath it.

Dinner was at a small family-owned restaurant a block or so from the hotel.  VERY reasonably priced and the pasta was superb -- not the sauce, which also was delicious, but the actual noodle itself was the best I have ever eaten.  Some Italian mama in that kitchen knows how to cook!      Dinner with wine cost much less than the over-priced mediocre lunch near the old Roman Forums and Colosseum.  

Pope's escape wall to run to Castel Sant'Angelo.
 One pope did run on top length of this wall seeking safety.
Do not remember the name of this wall.
I had purchased Vatican museum tickets online.   If you are not doing a VIP tour (heartily recommend The Roman Guy for excellent VIP small group tours -- -- but if you are on a budget then definitely buy Vatican tickets online.  I purchased our tickets two days prior to our visit to the Vatican, but would recommend purchasing earlier if possible in order to be assured of getting the time that you want.  We wanted the first 'tour' of the day and luckily managed to get 3 tickets.  The absolute worst way to see the Vatican is to arrive without tickets and stand in that queue.  At 09:30 that queue was almost 2 blocks long.  By 14:00 that queue was about 6 blocks long.  Buy the tickets online (only costs 4 euro per ticket more than the standing-in-line price) and skip that queue.  Go straight to the security clearance area to the right of the entrance and then go straight in.  After clearing the metal detectors, take your printed voucher to the ticket window on the left side and exchange the voucher for actual tickets.  Then...follow the crowds.

Shall we have gold on our ceilings?
And Oh.My.God!! were there ever crowds.  When we visited last December Bill's brother, John, thought the crowds were bad.  The summer crowds are at least 10 times what we experienced in December.  I would recommend visiting Rome during winter, fall or spring and avoiding summer if at all possible.  The crowds are horrendous and it gets quite hot.  Winter is much better for both reasons.  It rained a lot in December but that was better than experiencing such crowds and such heat.

That famous pine cone in Vatican.
Pigna (Rione of Rome)

Face in the fountain
beneath the Pigna.
The Vatican museum had changed some of the displays since December, removing some and adding others.  Some rooms were open this day that had been closed last time, and vice versa.  I'm glad we had the opportunity to make this second trip.  One thing that I found striking was the difference in the displays as one walks from the ticket entrance up a winding walkway to the museum entrance level.  This day there were lots of displays of indigenous peoples in jungles and Chinese.  It reminded me of this pope's focus on the poor people and less-fortunate people in our world.

Crowded stairway leading into Sistine Chapel.

Elisabeth wanted to see the pope mobiles and we eventually found that display.  Did not see any signs but I remembered how to get down there.  

We had a very simple and light lunch in the pizzeria and then returned through the Sistine Chapel to get to St. Peter's Basilica.  The crowds bottleneck getting down to the Sistine Chapel going through the various narrow doorways and increasingly narrow stairways.  We had gone straight to the Sistine Chapel when we first arrived so we could miss the worst of the crowds and that had worked well.  Then we backtracked though the museums.  

Memorial for Pope Gregory XIII.
Very ornate.
There really is just too much to see to absorb even a tenth of it.  While in the Sistine Chapel a 20-something aged young man attempted to violate the ban on photos inside the Sistime Chapel.  All photography is forbidden inside the chapel.  The Japanese paid a pretty penny to renovate the artwork inside this chapel and they own all video rights for the next 20 years.  Absolutely no photos are allowed, even without flash, and that includes iPhone photos.  This smart-aleck held his phone down low and took photos of his face with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the background.  And the guards (along with the surveillance video cameras) noticed that this guy was taking the photos. This young man was part of a group tour and the tour guide was standing right next to him and did nothing to stop him.  Within seconds 2 guards were with this young man and escorted him outside, forcing him to hand over his phone.  A short time later he returned to the chapel and continued on with his tour.  I assume with his phone after the offending photos had been deleted.  Seems like someone always wants to break the rules...whatever those rules might be.

Memorial for Pope Gregory XIIII
So plain.  Was this pope not popular?

After skipping through the Sistine Chapel as fast as we could maneuver through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, we slowly shuffled along with even more crowds to soon spill outdoors on the side of St. Peter's.  Ahhh...we could breathe again.  It was so hot with all the people crowded against one another in that building with no air-conditioning or fans.  I pointed out the papal apartment to Elisabeth.  She liked that it was the least pretentious building within view.

Memorial for Pope Gregory XVI.
The most ornate.
Surprisingly, inside St. Peter's was not all that crowded.  Outside there was a line a couple blocks long awaiting admission.  Not sure why that line moved so slowly when it really was not all that crowded inside.  It was nice to look at the beauty inside this basilica at our leisure.  This time we walked down to the papal burial area beneath St. Peter's.  No photos are allowed down there.  The required path had us exit St. Peter's at the queue to take the elevator up to the dome.  I tried to talk Elisabeth into going up there but she refused.  I would not have done the steps to the top but it would have made for a lovely scenic view of Rome if we had taken the elevator to the mid-level of the dome.  Guess I will never know that view because this will be our final trip to the Vatican.

Selfie with a dead pope.
Do not remember which one.
If the priests can do this, she can too.
Very distasteful, IMO.
We were a bit shocked at the behavior of half-dozen young priests.  They were taking selfies inside St. Peter's.  That seemed distasteful to me.  Not sure exactly what that bothered me but it just seemed seamy in some way to be grinning and taking photos of oneself in front of sarcophagi and statuary honoring deceased leaders of their church.  The worst was when they were taking selfies in front of the dead popes on display inside glass cases.  There are only a few popes on display in such a manner and this group of young priests did selfies with each one.  Elisabeth said if they could do it then she could do it too.  So, distasteful as it was, she took a selfie with one of the dead popes.  I'm sure her parents will be so proud when they see that photo.  Yeah, we are terrible grandparents for letting her do this.  How does one explain how wrong this is when a half-dozen priests are doing it?

In St. Peter's Square with St. Peter's Basilica in background.
Pope's apartment on right on the 3rd floor of the plain building.

Even though our day at the Vatican was spent in as leisurely manner as possible, we finished earlier than I thought we would.  This left us with nothing to do for 6 hours before our scheduled train back to Salerno.  It was a hot walk to the nearest bus stop for the number bus that we needed to get back to the hotel so we could retrieve the luggage.  Took us several blocks to find a tabacchi so we could buy bus tickets.  And a long wait for the right bus.  Why is it that every time we wanted a particular number bus that it was pulling away from the bus stop just as we arrived?  Every single time.  Then we would have to wait anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes for the next bus.  This time was one of those 25 minutes waits.  We stopped at a restaurant for cold drinks and air-conditioning; then retrieved the luggage from the hotel and took another bus to the Termini station with hopes that we might be able to change our tickets for the 20:25 express train to Salerno to the earlier 18:15 express train.  As long as it was a 2-hour express train, we wanted the first one available.  

HAH!  Not when we learned the price to change tickets for the earlier train!  It was not worth 101 Euro just to return 2 hours earlier.   Thanks; but, no thanks.  We opted to eat a very leisurely dinner and chat for 4 hours rather than pay that penalty and rate change.

In researching this trip I had run across warning after warning by travelers to be extra careful around the Termini station; crime rate in that area of Rome is very high.  No one posted about one of the reasons why the crime rate there is so high.  I assumed it was because of gypsies.  But, while there were some gypsies in that area, there were far more Africans.  These refugees have arrived in Italy with nothing except the clothes on their backs.  It is truly a sad, sad situation.  Below is a re-posting of what I posted on Facebook today about an experience at the Termini train station in Rome:

Earlier today on Facebook I posted a story about some African refugees being brought to Salerno by a Norwegian military ship a few days ago. This has happened several times yet there are very few Africans in Salerno. I *think* most of these refugees are finding their way to Rome since it is the largest city and might offer the best chances of carving out a living. Last evening while we sat in the dining areas of the Termini train station in Rome for 4 hours waiting for our train departure, we shared one dinner plate consisting of roasted potatoes and a roasted pig shin. Pig shin is really good and this one had a generous amount of meat, enough for all 3 of us. After we had finished eating and the plates had been moved aside as we chatted, an African man walked up to the table and quickly grabbed the shin bone off the plate; turned it up inside his hand so it did not show beneath his shirt sleeve; and quickly walked away.

This was a first! Never had anyone take bones from a plate in a restaurant! I explained to Elisabeth that this man is desperate and hungry. THIS is the person to give money to or for whom to buy a meal; not the folks begging on the street corners. She asked what he could do with that bone and we explained that if nothing else he could suck on the bone and he might get a few bites of meat off it; but most likely he would take it back to where he is living and boil it to get the most out of it.

We looked for this man but never found him inside the terminal. If we had found him we would have bought him a meal. The African refugees have a hard life in their new land. Even with that, they are better off here than in Libya.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful series of photos! Thank you so much for sharing this fascinating and very enjoyable tour!


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