“All roads indeed lead to Rome, but theirs also is a more mystical destination, some borne of which no traveller knows the name, some city, they all seem to hint, even more eternal.” ~ Richard Le Gallienne
Arriving at Aéroport de Marseille Provence (Marseille Provence Airport) we intend to fly Ryanair for the first time. Tracy has seen several reality TV shows which featured Ryanair’s uncompromising rules which allows the airplane to offer its cut-rate fares. When Casey and Megan were still in the US we had sent Ryanair’s strict carry-on baggage rules: one carry-on bag no larger than 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm (21.6″ x 15.7″ x 7.8″) plus one small bag of up to 35 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm (13.7″ x 7.9″ x 7.9″). (Tracy and I purchased new backpacks specifically to meet Ryanair’s requirements.) But even this these notoriously small bag requirements, Ryanair does not guarantee that your bag will be allowed in the cabin. If there is no more room in the overhead bins bags are stored in the hold for free. Oversized luggage will be charged at substantial additional fees. The reality show Tracy watched had numerous incidents of displeased passengers with oversized bags being billed additional fees or denied boarding and some passengers missing flights due to Ryanair’s strict check-in policy. Ryanair has a 98% on-time departure record that comes with a requirement to have passport visas verified, passing through security screening, and admission to the boarding area at least 45 minutes before departure.
We were pleasantly surprised. Although we showed up substantially early (concerned about an overflowing airport due to the train strike) we passed through easily and were treated very professionally by the Ryanair staff. Horror stories aside, we were pleased with traveling Ryanair and decided to make use of their discount flights in the future.
It was a quick flight to Ciampino–Aeroporto Internazionale (Rome Ciampino Airport) [about 12 kilometer (7.5 mi) south of Rome] we took the bus to the tram into Termini Station and a street car out to our hotel. Tracy found a wonderful hotel in a suburb of Rome, while it was about a 30 minute ride outside central Rome, we had large comfortable rooms, a breakfast buffet, and paid “locals” prices at wonderful family trattorias in the hotel’s neighborhood. We were treated wonderfully, paid a quarter of the cost for meals in Paris, and we kept wanting to return to try different dishes on the menu. All that and the carafes of vino della casa (house wines) were inexpensive and delicious.
The Metropolitana di Roma (Rome subway) with only two “crossed” lines are not nearly as comprehensive as Paris, but most of the major sights are accessible off the subway. Although Tracy and I have used the Rome bus system, we didn’t use it this trip.
We had a great time exploring the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Although the rain would start and stop during the day, it helped to minimize the crowds. It really is a “small world,” our friends Ron and Cyndy Coscuna just happen to be in Rome and we met them near the Fontana del Pantheon for lunch and later watched the rain fall through the oculus in the ceiling of the Pantheon.
We did get caught in a torrential downpour after leaving the Pantheon. Megan stopped at a little store to pick up a sweatshirt, Tracy and I headed next door to the bar to find refuge from the storm. When Casey and Megan joined us they found seats next to a couple from South Africa and had a nice chat while the bartender and owner tried to mix up a White Russian for Megan. With nearly four times the alcohol content, they finally succeeded. Megan stayed fairly warm afterwards. The owner didn’t quite believe that Megan was old enough to have the drink. Tracy reassured him that she was indeed old enough to order alcohol and though still a bit doubtful, he delivered her drink to the table. He did, however, need reassurance an additional six times. Yes, she really does look that young!
Casey and Megan stopped to throw coins in the Trevi Fountain to observe the tradition that throwing coins with ensure you will return to Rome. Unfortunately the fountain was largely covered with scaffolding for refurbishing. But that gave Casey and Megan another reason to return to Rome in the future, to see the fountain flowing in it’s full glory.
After exploring Roma, it was time to visit the smallest country in the world, Vatican City.