Friday, April 22, 2011

Rome Vacation, First Photos

Taking Pictures

When Herb and I were in Rome for five days (March 22 through 26), I took a huge number of photos, 1,587 to be exact. It was easy to do with my Sony Cyber-shot® Digital Camera DSC-T30 (7.2 mega pixels, Zeiss lens) with its light weight, slide down shutter, one-handed operation. I've owned this particular Sony Cyber-shot® since the end of 2005, when I replaced an earlier model that had been stolen. The image stabilization feature of this camera has been a boon for all the photos I've taken while walking or riding in a moving conveyance like a tram through the rain forest in Costa Rica or a double-decker hop-on, hop-off bus in London and Rome.
Sony Cyber-shot® DSC-T30
I have eschewed buying a newer model thus far, but the brand new Sony Cyber-shot® TX100V with 16.2 mega pixels at $379.99 may tip me over. The previous model sported a flat front sliding panel that was difficult to slide down one-handed, which is very important to me, since I often extend my arm above my head or out a window to capture the photo. With digital cameras, your only limiters are battery life (rule: recharge every night), memory stick capacity (rule: carry more than one on your person) and camera readiness after each shot. The newer Cyber-shot® features a burst mode with 10 fps (frames per second), which will enhance an already fast readiness speed for taking multiple shots of an action scene.

It's taken me this long to edit the first two days' photos, in between other activities and travels, so that they can be shared. I've eliminated the duplicates, out-of-focus shots, and photos that just couldn't be enhanced, straightened or cropped into something interesting enough to view again or share. For editing, I use the very simple iPhoto software that comes with a Mac computer, aiming for a collection of photos that show what we saw as we wandered the city of Rome on bus and on foot. For the casual viewer, the 492 photos from two days of being in Rome will be too many to view. But for anyone who wants to get a thorough sense of the city, it will be, I hope, interesting. The link to all 492 photos is at

First Trip to Italy

This was Herb and my first trip to Italy.

The Colosseum, Rome's iconic symbol
Close-up of the structures on the Palatine Hill
We had always been a little bit put-off by the stories of pick-pockets and Italian men pinching women's bottoms that may be apocryphal rather than accurate. We certainly did not encounter any problems with either pick-pockets or bottom-pinchers. Almost everyone we know who's been to Rome has come back with stories of stolen wallets. Of course, it should be noted that we also did not take any public transportation, opting instead for the hop-on, hop-off bus (one day included in our hotel stay, and we paid for two additional days at discounted rates).

First view of St. Peter's Basilica from the bus
And we prudently left our jewelry, laptops and iPad at home. Our iPhones and free wi-fi in our hotel were sufficient for keeping up with email and posting to Facebook. 

Hotel Sonya

The Hotel Sonya where we stayed offered a superb location, a delightful free breakfast, free wi-fi, and free loaner notebook computers. At 113 Euros per night plus the mandatory 2 Euros per person per night tourist tax, this hotel was a bargain, and we recommend it unreservedly. The rooms are tiny and sparkling clean, and the staff is well-versed in English and very hospitable. The Hotel Sonya's honor bar in the room's refrigerator offered both still and carbonated bottled water for the bargain price of 1 Euro. The little liquor store across the street had beers, wine, spirits and chips, and there were several small restaurants nearby that provided excellent, inexpensive take-away food. We ate cannolis from the Viminiale Bar everyday!

Herb in front of the Hotel Sonya's entrance as we arrived
Breakfast: cheese, meat & potato pie, bread pudding, frittata

One of the Hotel Sonya's breakfast rooms 
The hotel is conveniently located across from Teatro dell'Opera (regrettably sold out for months ahead of our visit) and a five-minute walk from Termini, the central train and bus station, which is also where the hop-on, hop-off buses can be accessed. The free pocket-size guidebook titled "Welcome! Rome's Guide" found in our hotel room published by Welcome SRL (for which I could not find a Web site) was an excellent guidebook, densely packed with numerous photos, 30 maps and 16 walking routes, highlighting 241 churches and 105 museums.

Teatro dell'Opera across the street from Hotel Sonya
Marble wall in front of Teatro dell'Opera lit up at night

Our experience of Rome can be summed up thusly: Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn your head, there are archaeological ruins that remind you of the almost three millennia of civilization that dwelt on this site. In addition to the typical shots of monuments and iconic sights, I also took a lot of photos of architectural details and street scenes to capture the flavor of being in Rome. I know that Herb and I will enjoy looking at the photos again.

View from a winding side street
Rome is definitely best enjoyed on foot, since there are many sights that can be seen only by wandering down side streets. You'd best be prepared to climb stairs, too, and leave your heeled shoes at home. We had our pocket guide book and maps plus Herb's GPS on his iPhone to keep us oriented.

We were blessed with unusually bright, sunny weather for a March visit, although the wind was in force most days. Our photos taken inside St. Peter's Basilica (which will be posted in another blog after I've edited them) benefitted from the sunshine on the day we visited. The warm weather allowed us to loiter at piazzas to soak in the sights and people watch, which is our favorite thing to do when traveling.

Piazza Navona
Stopping for a coffee is expensive, because it costs 3 to 4 Euros (about $4.35 to $5.80) and up. If you want American style coffee, you have to order an Americano. Ordering a coffee will get you a tiny cup of espresso, and there are no free refills. Unlike in Brussels, no chocolate or cookie came with the coffee either. We enjoyed watching suited men and women belly up to a coffee bar to throw back a coffee doused with sugar and then be on their way. That's the Roman version of the quick drink for the road. Now I know the origin of all those high octane energy drinks with their overdose of caffeine and sugar.

Our favorite meal in Rome was at a cafeteria style restaurant, L'Antica Fraschetta, frequented by locals. The food was the best we had and inexpensive, too. We found the restaurant on a side street by following uniformed police and firefighters to lunch. The bakery next door yielded a bag of madeleines after some businessmen came to our rescue since no one in the store spoke English.
L'Antica Fraschetta with people lined up through the door
Cafeteria style meant we could point to what we wanted!
One of the things that I noticed was how much Romans appreciate flowers and greenery. There were rooftop gardens with trees and window boxes in every neighborhood, and flowers were in bloom all around.

Rooftop garden
Window box
I think I'll stop here for this first installment of photos and commentary from our truly wonderful vacation in Rome. I celebrated my 62nd birthday there on March 26th.

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