Itinerary 4 . Italy / Switzerland / Germany . Nov 5-21 . [In edit]

Venice, Italy
Venice at dusk

Row of docked Gondola's

Rome, Italy

Friday, November 5, 2010
8:43 am


Arrived at Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Rome on a bumpy 767.  Having exited the plane on the tarmac where we boarded buses to the terminal, the short walk and crisp morning air felt good after 8 hours confined in economy class since JFK in New York.  After a brief trip home to Indy for a week to check in on the office, this starts a 10-day itinerary through Italy.  The train ride in to Termini Station in Rome has to be the ugliest on the planet, and I felt bad for Rome and it's first impression on visitors.  Not atypical of historic European cities, the outskirts of Rome -- no doubt forrested during the time of the empires -- is today a wasteland of blighted industrial tracts, debris-strewn fields, and Rome's equivalent of Paris' infamous banlieues, or suburban ghettos.  I'd heard of this before, but was unprepared for the pervasiveness of what I saw.

My hotel strategy for places from which I would depart by train is to locate as close as possible to city center train stations, and in this case, the Hotel Aphrodite, directly across Via Marsala from Termini Station.  A decent 3-star, the Aphrodite is located among an unending array of smallish hotels in the area, no doubt catering to train travelers or those entering the city by train from the airport.  The entry arrangement of the Aphrodite (presumably named for the Greek goddess of love), with access to the elevator and stairs away from view of the front desk, seems to be arranged for the discreet flow of the visitors of hotel patrons.

Saturday, November 6th, 2010
11:53 pm

I felt seriously refreshed this morning after sleeping in til 11:30 am following the long travel day and first day in Rome.  To end the day yesterday, I roamed the streets on foot til late last night, ending with a quick bite at a falafel joint (honestly the best term to describe the place), and then asking my way back to the Termini Station area.  After day one, my impressions of the city, with the exception of the Colosseum, were tempered. Today was a different story as I gave up on memorizing landmarks and purposely got lost on foot in the areas surrounding the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps. This is the Rome of mysterious dark, narrow alleyways opening onto bustling piazzas that might easily be imagined as Mussolini's Roman haunt in his early adult life.  Unlike the bright, cheery shopping and cafe corridors of Copenhagen, or even Paris, Rome's core historic center, with its sinister film noir aura, seems unaffected by modern changes since the 30's or 40's, and is somewhat reminiscent of scenes from the movie Tea With Mussolini despite that film's setting in Florence. Rome by and large is a city unfortunately best viewed through a cinematographer's lens, and preferably in black and white or sepia tones. The city outside the historic center or perhaps the immediate environs of Vatican City is a series of bleak, sprawling neighborhoods bi-sected by the murky, serpentine Tiber River, and matches neither the romance of Venice or Florence, nor the urban density of Milan in the north.


Had not envisioned palm trees and pastel-colored buildings in Rome.  Despite the prevalence of these features, the city bears little resemblance to a tropical location, with its inclusion of army-green streetcars, cobblestoned streets, ancient architecture, and piazzas.  Had I awaken to mysteriously find myself here and asked to guess my locale, I'd probably have thought Lisbon.  Rome would be the last place I'd guess, based on my previous perceptions of the place.

As when I first arrived in Paris back in early September, I decided to make the most of the full day in front of me to avoid jet lag. Knowing from forecasts that the first 2 days here would be bright and sunny, I made my way by subway to the Colosseum for a tour and pics. Rome's subway, while seemingly efficient, is dark and dank, and the crush of humanity makes for some rather unpleasant circumstances when packed onto subway cars like sardines in a tin.  As I stood on a subway car, arm lifted hanging onto a grab bar, I wondered if there was an aversion to anti-perspirant in Rome until I realized it was me (hey, I'd been up continuously for the previous 24 hours and couldn't check into my room before 1:00p!).

Sunday, November 7, 2010
7:00 am

Awakened by church bells in the distance, I first wondered if they might be from the Vatican before realizing I'm probably too far away.  I'd seen Vatican City on a map yesterday and it looked to be a good distance away from the city center and across the Tiber River.  The plan for today is to visit Zaha Hadid's MAXXI Center (Museum of modern Art, Twenty-first Century) and possibly the Vatican. One of the more purely modernist of Hadid's buidlings, MAXXI Center is a key site on my original itinerary, and is one of two Hahid works I'll review, along with her BMW Welt in Munich.   Hoping to get an early start to the day after a shower and breakfast at the hotel, which comes built into the rate.

View from Vacatian

Zurich, Switzerland


Munich, Germany

BMW Welt Exterior

BMW Welt Exterior

BMW Welt Interior


  1. Enjoyed November 6th entry, especially the last line!

  2. November 6th, Last line:

    We've been noticing that about you for years! Where have you been?