I woke the following day after a lovely night’s sleep thinking how brilliant the sound proofing was in our room. I couldn’t hear a thing. It then dawned on me that it had nothing to do with soundproofing but I quite literally couldn’t hear diddly squat. I’d been suffering from muffled hearing on and off for a few weeks but the flight had unblocked my ears and all had been well when we collapsed exhausted into bed the night before. Little did I know that my ears were going to go on strike sometime between midnight and seven o’clock. Flipping marvelous! Mr R was definitely not going to be impressed. I got blisters in Paris the last time we went, and now he has a wife who can’t hear. After much ear prodding, lobe wriggling and pinching my nose and blowing, I could hear enough to have a conversation without resorting to sign language or getting Mr R to shout. Don’t tell him though that I only ever got to hear half of what he was saying and just hoped that I nodded and made all the right noises in the right places. The ear problem didn’t go away for the whole trip and as I write this, I still can’t hear in my right ear.

I know that I’ve already extolled the virtues of the wonderful Hotel Nerva, but I just have to tell you about the amazing breakfast and wonderful Sally who is like a human whirlwind making sure that all of the guests are served the minute their bums touch their chairs. As the breakfast room is small, there is no room for a buffet, instead plates, baskets, bowls and boards of delicious food keep arriving. Trying to find space on the table to put it all is worthy of a Crystal Maze challenge. Sally treats all of her guests like a mamma. Encouraging everyone to eat up, playfully scolding if you leave anything and hugs guests who are sadly checking out. She has been working at the hotel for years and we found out one time when we found her eating a bowl of tomatoes that she had lovingly massaged with olive oil, that she works incredibly long hours doing more than one job. She comes originally from the Philippines and only gets to see her family there every two years. For me, one of my most abiding memories of our time in Rome will be the wonderful hospitality from the lovely Sally.

And the food just kept on coming!
Sally and her team looked after us beautifully

After weeks of lovely weather a ruddy storm decided to hit Italy on our very first day there. Not only was it really, really windy, but when it rained, it bucketed down. If you have been to Rome you will probably remember the pine trees lining the streets around the Forum. Now those pine trees have huge pinecones and the gales had them flying off the branches and had turned them into mini knobbly missiles. Seriously, you could easily have been knocked out by one. Can you imagine trying to make an insurance claim when you quote the cause of your head injury was being hit by a pinecone! Dodging dangerous pinecones we made our way along the Via dei Fori Imperiali to the enormous Victor Emmanuel monument. A few years ago the roads around the Forum and Colosseum were closed to all traffic except taxis and buses to help reduce the pollution from Rome’s traffic. This meant that the wide via was almost traffic free. Everybody though waits patiently at the pedestrian lights waiting for the green man. This frustrated Mr R somewhat who gets somewhat frustrated by pedestrian crossings and reckons that as adults people should be able to cross a road without the need of a little green man telling them it’s safe to cross. I tried to explain that jay walking was actually a crime in some contries but being a bit of a rebel he flouted the rules and recklessly crossed where ever there was a gap in the traffic. Meanwhile I, being a law abiding visitor, waited patiently with everyone else for that little green man to tell me it was a safe to cross. I should point out here that a green man in Rome does not mean that the traffic will always stop for you!

After exploring the monument, which was in my mind all fur coat and no knickers. Impressive to look at in a showy offy sort of way, but really just an empty shell, and a climb up Capitoline hill to be blown away (almost literally) by the view over the Forum, we rushed over to the Colosseo metro station to meet our guide for our tour of the Colosseum and Forum that we had previously booked. The good news when we met up with Marcello, our guide was that we were the only two booked on the tour. The bad news was that the authorities had closed the ancient sites to visitors because of the high winds. The good news though was that we could go another day on an upgraded tour. To be honest, the prospect of two and a half hours trying to enjoy listening to the very nice Marcello in pouring rain wasn’t rocking my boat. This tour was to be a highlight of our holiday and the weather would definitely have spoilt it.

Being a hardy pair, we weren’t going to let a bit of rain have us retreating to our hotel room. When you are on a city break, every minute is spent exploring, so exploring we did. Our hotel was in the beautiful Monti area of the city, a quiet gem compared to other popular parts of Rome. It’s a mainly residential area of beautiful buildings painted in shades of terrecotta and ochre lining narrow cobbled streets. There’s a bohemian edge to the area, where you can find cafes, restaurants and shops. We loved gazing in the windows of shops who’s interiors could have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley. We ate the most amazing gelato sheltering in a doorway looking like drowned rats. Got invited into  a deli to marvel at their meats despite saying we didn’t want to buy, and drank coffee in a locals bar and discovered that you pay at the tabac counter and that the loo’s in cafes don’t have seats! When the rain became too much we sheltered in a church and gazed in awe at the beautiful interior. Rome is full of the most amazing sites, but for me, Monti was the place I loved best out of the whole trip.

When in Italy you must eat gelato, it’s the law, even if it’s raining cats and dogs!

Before I end this post and go and cook myself a bowl of spaghetti con cacio e pepe I must tell you that I have had a total change around about my opinion of Italian food. I have to say that I generally find Italian restaurants in our neck of the woods very samey and not very inspiring, but we’ve discovered that it certainly isn’t all spag bol and the likes in Italy. We ate out at Urbana 47 in Monti that evening and had amazing modern Italian cuisine that was a far cry from your usual high street Italian. We loved the local white wine from Lazio too. Sadly we haven’t yet been able to find it at home.

Ravioli with cheese mint and hazelnuts

Right, that’s definitely it for now. I apologise for the lengthy post. Of course I would love you to read it, but I’m also writing this as record of our trip so that in years ahead I can re-read it and recall what a fabulous trip we had.

Part three soon!