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Benvenuti a Roma!
Rome is almost impossible to describe.
With just a single evening here before embarking Windstar Cruises’ Wind Star in Civitavecchia for a week of sailing adventures in the Mediterranean, it is also impossible to see and do everything that Rome has to offer.
Fortunately, I have been here before, but 12 years have elapsed since my last visit in March of 2001. It was a different time then; an age where air travel was taken for granted, when bottled water could be brought onboard planes and passengers weren’t nearly strip-searched at the gate. Of course, we all know what happened on that one dark Tuesday in September of 2001.
But as my taxi raced me from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, I realized that while the world we live in has changed dramatically in the intervening years, Rome has stayed largely as it has existed for centuries.
Totally ignoring road lanes and signals (it’s good to be back in Italia!), the taxi zipped past the Victor Emmanuel Monument bathed in the glow of the setting sun before zig-zagging to Via Sistina and the InterContinental de la Ville.
At first blush, the InterContinental de la Ville offers everything a good InterContinental should: excellent service, well-appointed rooms, and an emphasis on local culture. These were some of the things that impressed me when I stayed at the InterContinental Athens two years ago, and I am pleased to say this property certainly doesn’t disappoint in that regard.
Above all, there were two things that blew me away about this property. One, the view from the French Balcony of my room is absolutely breathtaking. And two, the fact that the hotel is located perhaps 30 paces from the Spanish Steps only raises the bar higher, particularly when you consider that the neighbouring Hotel Hassler is somewhat (in)famous for their astronomically-high rates.
My room is beautifully appointed with a writing desk, sitting area, enclosed mini-bar, a stereo sound system, comfortable beds, and plenty of lighting options. As I mentioned earlier, it also has French Balcony doors that swing open to let in the sights and sounds of Via Sistina and the nearby Spanish Steps.
It’s also somewhat fascinatingly located, accessed by an ornate door located smack in the middle of the two elevator banks. Impressively, I haven’t heard any mechanical noises or sounds. Rooms here are remarkably well-insulated as far as I can tell.
There are nine separate restaurants and dining venues on-site, including Mandarin, which is reputed to have the best Chinese food in the city of Rome; and Caffe Gilotti, one of the oldest Gelato shops in town.
Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to experience any of them yet, as I found myself racing down the stairs to pack in as much “Rome” as possible.
The Spanish Steps have this unique ability to take your breath away. They’re like the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building; seeing is believing. They also present some intriguing surprises: the steps are rather unevenly spaced, and some have deep ridges and slope downwards, likely due to their heavy use. They’re also highly polished.
Next, we came to the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that if you toss a coin in your right hand over your left shoulder, it will ensure your return to Rome. To date, it has personally worked three times for me! Others are also taken by this tradition; apparently, more than 3,000 Euro coins are tossed into the fountain per day, and these are donated to a supermarket that caters to Rome’s less fortunate citizens.
Whenever I arrive in the gorgeous Piazza Navona, I always think of the scene in The Talented Mr. Ripley where Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character, Freddie Miles, races his sports car onto the platform of the fountain to the applause of Jude Law’s Dickie Greenleaf.
“Come stai!” Freddie vaults over the hood of his car and makes his way across the Piazza.
So much of Rome has been used as a backdrop for feature films that it can be an education to watch titles like the aforementioned 1999 Anthony Minghella film, or Roman Holiday, or – yes – even Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.
Rome, though, is a city that has to be explored. Everywhere you turn, there’s something of interest – and ancient monument like the Pantheon, which was constructed in 126 AD and still holds the record for the World’s Largest Unreinforced Concrete Dome. It is one of the best-preserved Roman structures, not to mention one that has seen almost continual use.
Utilising the InterContinental de la Ville as my base, I was able to casually stroll and visit all three sites – and return – in just under three hours. The Concierge was even able to draw a circuitous route that would take me from the Spanish Steps to the Piazza Navona and back again, all without repeating covered ground.
His help turned my evening in Rome into a memorable adventure to treasure forever.
Earlier, I alluded to the fact that much has changed in the world since my last visit to Rome. But I realized Rome hadn’t changed. The Spanish Steps still draw hundreds of people each day to admire their beauty, while the Trevi Fountain invites guests to ensure their swift return to Rome some day.
Sites like the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona have seen so many people come and go. Immesurable numbers of people touched those walls, passed through those corridors, or gathered outside to talk, chat and gossip.
It’s just like today – except that those people are no longer there.
There is something oddly sobering in knowing that the building that stands before you was built thousands of years before this day and that when all is said and done, it will outlast each and every one of us.
That’s why you should go to Rome. To be a part, however small, of the history that sites like these represent.
Our Live Voyage Report continues tomorrow, as we travel to the port town of Civitavecchia to embark Windstar Cruises’ Wind Star! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
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