Our first full day in Rome started off with an introduction to Roman mass transit. After getting everywhere we need to go in DC and London on the very convenient subway we thought that was the best option. Unfortunately, it seems that the Romans never really built a good underground rail(1) since everytime they try to dig a tunnel the run into a couple millenia of history. Sans car or the cash to pay for cabs we decided to bus it.
We asked our friendly concierge how to get to the Spanish Steps and he said to walk two blocks over and grab the 42 bus to Via Tritone. We asked if he knew where we could get a bus map and ticket and he said to check the newstand. We did as instructed and were promptly turned down. However, the woman suggested we try the Tabacci (tobacco) across the street. The little old Italian man hooked us up with passes but didn't have a map. We stood out in the 90+ degree sun until we caught our bus and headed off to Via Tritone. After 45 minutes or so Hope helped me realize that I had misread the sign and we were actually headed up the route the wrong way. What should have been about 5 stops from our destination became 20 some by the time we rode to one end and back.
We jumped out at Tritone and hoofed it a couple blocks to the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps (pictured) are big and hot. I can see why Bob Dylan visited at night. We walked past the huddled masses in the shade to the top and bought our first real Italian gelato (which melted as fast as we could eat it).
Back at the bottom we filled up our water bottles in one of Bernini's famed fountain (supposedly safe to drink, so far so good) and wandered off in the general direction of the forums. As a former pizza delivery driver, I'm programmed to understand address ranges and grid systems where for the most parts a street maintains its name unless it ends and building numbers are sequential. The Romans (and Irish and British, from experience) never delivered pizza. Streets in Europe tend to change names at every intersection (or in even more random places) which makes sensible navigation hard(2).
On the way to the forum we ran into Trevi Fountain (or for my Italian reading friends "Fontana di Trevi"). I'm not sure why this is famous other than fact that is very big, very cool and very crowded. Here's us in front of it:
Further on down the road, we found the forum ruins. This was the part of the trip that I was most looking forward to - it's amazing to contemplate the complexity and age of this city and the fact that so much has survived.
After checking out Palatine Hill and the Colisseo exterior we started our hike back to Via Tritone (we hadn't yet found our bus route map so we didn't have a lot of options). We cut through an alley heading somewhat towards the Pantheon and found a very stereotypical "Italian" looking restaurant (in fact, most restaurants seemed to be in odd little alleys).
We went crazy and ordered two plates "spaghetti bolonaise" and a bottle of "still water" from our non-English speaking waiter. It was about 7:00 PM and, like most of our dinners, we were the only ones in the place - the Romans like to eat late. Our waiter brought out some hard bread and we were hungry so Hope dug in. She noticed a little plate next to the oil on the table and decided that the (apparently) somewhat authentic Macaroni Grill was a good lead to follow. So she grabbed the little plate, poured some oil, ground some pepper over it and was inches away from dipping her bread when the waiter started yelling at us in Italian. He looked disgusted, grabbed the little plate from us, and said something that we interpreted as "I bring plates". Fearing that we had offended the Italians (again) we ate our hard bread dry (and in silence). After a few minutes Hope looked around at the other tables and realized that not everyone on the little plates by the oil matched the plates as well as ours. In fact a couple were clear plastic. At that point she realized that she had poured the oil in the ash tray. Grazie, Mr. Waiter, grazie.
(1) They have two lines, I think, that weren't really worth it for us. (2) I do have a undergraduate degree in City Planning so I understand "why" this is - however, that doesn't mean I like it.