Cinque Terre at Last!
In April, Don and I spent 2 glorious nights in Vernazza.
It's considered by many, to be the most picturesque of the 5 villages. I've dreamed of visiting Cinque Terre, Italy forever!
That's a Lie
Not really forever. I didn't even know Cinque Terre existed until a friend showed me photos, over a decade ago. That's when I started dreaming of visiting the pastel village.
Rick Steves' travel books, made the area a much more popular tourist destination in recent decades. That means there are more guest accommodations than there used to be. But choosing one, still seemed like a daunting task.
La Mala Guesthouse
Even with the internet, finding a hotel in Vernazza seemed confusing. So many of the tiny guesthouses and apartments were rented out by individuals, with bad websites... vague info... There were no photos of exteriors.
That's because Vernazza hotels focus on location and view. The inns are mostly squeezed into buildings, on narrow alleys. I stood as far back as possible to take this photo of the entrance to La Mala. (that's our clothesline above the door!) This exterior wouldn't exactly convince anyone to stay, but my friend Lorrie did, with her photos and descriptions.
View of La Mala, from the Water
The other side of La Mala could only be viewed from the water. I took this from a ferry! It's the small white building, with shutters.
The photo makes our sweet 4-room guesthouse look like part of a sandwich! Layers of rock below and stacked terraces of farming above. And right between 2 castle towers! Look hard to find the tower on the right.
Luckily we had good communication with our host, Gian Battista. He said he would pick us up at the train station.
Since most travelers (besides hikers) use trains between the villages, we knew to expect crowds at the station. But I didn't expect this many people!
I told Gian to look for a couple in their sixties. Don was tall and would be wearing a cap. I was short and would be wearing a grin. He spotted us and welcomed us and grabbed our bags. We were off!
Don and I dodged tourists as we hurried to keep up. Then, just as we caught a glimpse of the Marconi Piazza, Gian lifted our rolling bags and took a left. Up we went, climbing the narrow stairway between buildings.
I wish we had a video of Don and me, stumbling along with our heavy-enough backpacks. We looked comical, I'm sure! The maze of stone steps seemed endless.
As I look back on photos, I can't even remember the route! We traveled right then left...
There was no such thing as a straight line or an even step. The walls varied, the steps varied.... stucco, stone, pale pink, then yellow...
I'm as confused looking at these photos as I was that afternoon when we followed Gian. Which passages did we walk by? Which did we enter?
Gian paused now and then to let us catch up. I paused to take note of the sign on the walkway. "Via Giov. Battista" Hmm? The street had Gian's last name. I learned later that Gian's grandfather once owned the old Ligurian House, that is now La Mala.
After passing through a short tunnel (with part of our hotel building above) we came to a dead end. I was glad we didn't have to climb those additional stairs to the red/pink building. Ours was the white building to the right. There was actually more stair climbing awaiting us.
Gian showed us how to punch in the code and we stepped into an entry space, with fresh white walls and lovely black and white photos, featuring local scenery.
After stepping inside, there was one more set of stairs to reach a tiny common area.
We paused in the sitting area, just below our room and Gian shared lots of info about the hotel and Vernazza... while Don and I caught our breath.
A few more steps up and Gian opened the door to our room. My eyes went straight to the windows!
A brief rain had stopped and I could see the green water starting to catch some sunlight. I felt like our room was floating out over the sea.
My friend Lorrie said Room #31 was her favorite. There are only 4 rooms, so we were lucky to get the upper room, with 2 windows overlooking the Mediterranean. (the artwork made me feel like we had 3 views of the sea!)
Actually luck had nothing to do with it. Finding 2 consecutive nights, (when #31 was available) took a lot of searching. April 15 & 16! We booked our entire 2-week (and 7-hotel) Italy trip, around our La Mala reservation.
The whitewashed walls, natural oak floors and minimalist furnishings, made our room look new and modern.
The painted white ceiling beams hinted at the building's age. I wish I knew more of its history.
Our little set up with table & chairs, got lots of use. The tray held a pitcher of water, wine glasses, coffee and espresso cups!
A closet near the bed held a few things. We made use of the fridge and coffee maker.
The bathroom with white Italian marble, felt bright and fresh!
The shower was extra roomy, with a large window... which needed no covering. If there had been a window in the stone building across the way, that would have been a different story.
I thought about washing out some clothes and using the clothesline outside the window. But I'm a little out of practice with clothespins. I was worried about fumbling and dropping...
When the skies cleared, the color of the water became brighter.
There was more to see out the windows, besides the sea. We could keep an eye on the terrace below and a rocky cliff and wall... wind blowing the palms, boats on the water, birds...
After getting settled in, Don and I headed down some stairs to take a peek at the stone terrace, which was available for all guests.
The wooden seating didn't look too comfortable for lingering, but we headed down to have a look.
In April we still needed jackets, but the sun felt good. Behind Don you can see our 2 windows above. The lower windows belonged to another room. Again, I was grateful for our upper room, with more privacy.
Left, Right and...
The views were lovely in both directions.
Directly below, we could watch the water swirling and crashing into the rocks.
When we later opened the windows, the sound was heavenly!
Table with a View
I loved the way the wooden chairs were set up, to invite us to sit a spell and enjoy the view.
We did that many times. One time, we picked up "toasts" and focaccia for a little snack.
In the morning, we made coffee and enjoyed sweets from the bakery, for breakfast.
We picked up little bottles of Aperol Spritz at the market and toasted, as the camera timer clicked!
This is the only photo I have that shows the couch and TV. We didn't need the TV at all, but the couch was very much appreciated!
Outside of our Oasis
Our hotel truly was an oasis, away from the day tourists. who filled the streets of Vernazza during peak hours.
But when we left our quiet, cozy space, we were just steps away from the harbor and restaurants and hiking paths.
Here & There in Vernazza
My favorite times in Vernazza, were in the early morning hours, when the village was cool and quiet. But the crowded hours were also fun for people watching. The slideshow below shares photos from the village and our hikes just above the village.
A few times I regretted leaving my Nikon at home. But it was mostly a relief, to carry only my cellphone up and down all the steps and hills.
Usually Don and I wing it a little when we pick hotels. We go with the flow if we choose a hotel that turns out to be flawed. But I was so excited about Vernazza, I didn't want to risk choosing a place that took away from our magical stay. La Mala ended up being the perfect fit!
This photo is our only selfie from the trip. (I hate selfies) That's how happy we were when we stood on the terrace at La Mala. I texted this photo to Lorrie to tell her the hotel was even better than we'd expected!
Our comfy and bright hotel room with the glorious view, was an absolute piece of heaven, after walks and hikes and meals. Gian was a lovely host. (he kept our bags after check-out) And the location, in the heart of the village was beyond perfect!
A Grand Stay in Italy
Don and I spent 2 nights in this fine palace, with a very grand entrance.
We arrived in the middle of a downpour, so we didn't look so grand ourselves. But the doorman greeted us graciously.
Hotel Since 1905
Hotel Bristol Palace felt Royal, but it was never actually a palace. The Art Nouveau structure was built as a hotel, in 1905.
The elegant hotel attracted high society guests, who mostly arrived by carriage.
We didn't arrive in such style. Our taxi driver was wearing a Las Vegas t-shirt when he dropped us off at the stylish hotel.
I was exited to see our hotel and to learn more about Genoa. I was also excited to see something special inside... the thing that made me book this hotel.
I knew little about Genoa, before booking our hotel. I knew it had something to do with Genoa salami. And I knew it was the capital of the Italian region of Liguia.I also knew it was one of the most important ports on the Ligurian Sea.
But, until our visit, I didn't realize what a beautiful city it was, or that it had the largest medieval area in all of Europe.
I'm not usually lured to hotels because of the elegance. Most of our lodging during our 2 weeks in Italy, was more quaint than luxurious. For most, we climbed hills and stone steps to reach them. Not marble staircases with wrought iron railings!
These are the stairs we spotted when we entered the lobby. I ignored the desk to the right and the bar straight ahead. I didn't even notice the handy container of umbrellas.
I ignored the red carpet that covered the steps and I looked directly up! This is why I booked the hotel! For the amazing stairs!
I discovered this hotel with its 6-story elliptical staircase, when Googling, 4 years ago. My eyes were glued to the image.
It was mind boggling to finally be in the hotel, where I could study the real thing, suspended in space. Not on my computer screen!
I turned in all directions and found myself getting more confused. The shapes seemed to move, or turn inside out. Like an M.S. Escher image! What was I looking at? I felt like I should be able to magically walk up the stairs, upside-down!
After checking in, I could barely wait to climb to the top and look down. Seeing the red carpet and marble floor below, made it easier for me to wrap my head around what I was seeing.
You can't visit Bristol Palace without staring upward for a while. I should have gotten a photo of faces below! When new guests arrive, they walk towards the desk, look up... and maybe snap a cellphone pic. But none of the guests seemed quite as obsessed with the glorious stairway, as me.
Looking down was easier on the neck. I could have studied forever. Before heading down, I looked at the glossy railing and wondered how many people have tried riding that banister!
That's a scary thought. I should have asked at the desk, to see if there have been attempts.
Speaking of scary, as in scary movies... Alfred Hitchcock has a little history with the Bristol Palace. He was a hotel guest twice. In the fifties he stayed while filming "To Catch a Thief". Years earlier, (in 1925) Hitchcock was a young man of 26. He was introduced to the luxurious hotel when filming his first movie, "Pleasure Garden".
It is said that he drew inspiration from the dramatic staircase, which led to his work on the classic film, Vertigo.
Don and I watched the movie before our trip. The movie's staircase scene, looks nothing like Bristol's stairway. But spiraling, elliptical images can be seen during the opening credits. I read later that the same swirling design can be spotted briefly, throughout the movie. (In Kim Novac's hairdo and a tree... ?) I need to watch again.
Room 227 on Floor 3
We didn't have to lug our bags up the spiraling red carpet, since there was an elevator. The wide doorway welcomed us into an impressive room on floor 3. (Italians count floors differntly)
Our yellow room was spacious, with a soaring ceiling.
The hotel was remodeled in 2014 and I was glad they hadn't filled the space with plush modern furniture and art. I do love classic decor in historic hotels.
The original floors were striking and spotlessly clean.
The dressing area was nice and roomy. Lots of options for holding bags and hanging clothes.
The large bathroom was bright and clean, with double sinks and an enormous shower.
The marble was cool, but the heated towel rack, robes and slippers, kept things warm.
What's Behind the Window?
There was a tidy little desk in the corner, beside the thick yellow drapes. I was of course more excited about looking our the window, than writing a letter.
Behind the drapes I found curious narrow doors, set into the deep window frame. Painted shut, so no discoveries!
The view of modern buildings was not too exciting. A room on the front would have given us a view of Via XX Septembre. The popular street is lined with majestic buildings, shops and colonnades.
Hefty Chandelier & Mirror!
The immense chandelier and gold framed mirror, took the focus, in this photo. The mirror made the chandelier look twice as sparkly and dramatic.
Both were pretty and elegant, but I found myself briefly cringing at the thought of either, falling in the night. I was a little touchy, since our humongous bathroom mirror at home, crashed to the floor the night before we flew to Italy.
Aunt Mary Antiques
The formal antique furniture made me feel right at home... like in my Great Aunt Mary's house. Aunt Mary had beautiful things and although her house was not actually comfortable as I recall, I grew to respect her taste and I now own a few of her lovely things.
The bedside tables definitely reminded me of Aunt Mary. The dresser was pretty, as well as useful. We made use of the tea kettle and cups.
After settling in, it was time to enjoy the hotel. We changed out of our damp travel clothes before heading down the stairs.
Of course I had to pose, with the stairs and the skylight.
There was more stained glass to enjoy. I look like I planned my dress color to coordinate with the glass!
While walking from the top to the bottom, I once again pondered the idea of sliding down the banister. There was no cushioned carpet at the end...just a few more marble steps. So not a good idea.
Time to Relax
Don and I decided to stay in and enjoy the hotel for our first evening. There were a couple of sitting areas.
We could have played chess or chatted on a couch between potted palms. I love palms in old hotels!
The little bar near the bottom of the staircase, looked more inviting. Our bartender Ivan, was delighted to make Don a Smoked Negroni.
It was entertaining to watch. My martini wasn't nearly as complicated, but it seemed like the perfect drink for our hotel.
We found some deep, comfy chairs and Ivan brought out a tray of goodies.
Some Genovese style foods evidently. And potato chips. Italians seem to serve chips a lot.
I was glad the atmosphere felt relaxed. I asked Ivan to take our photo and he was quite pleasant and didn't roll his eyes at the "American Tourists". I think we were actually the only Americans.
At 8, we headed for our reservations on the second floor. The evening was damp and chilly, but no need to grab jackets. For those who came from outside, there was a cloak room. I haven't checked a coat in a million years.
We were welcomed graciously and taken through the frescoed dining room, to a little alcove, off to the right.
We might have enjoyed the bigger room for some people watching, but I loved our little room with windows.
View of Via XX Septembre
Our little room was basically a bay window, hanging over the street. Behind Don, we could see the neon hotel sign and Via XX Septembre, below.
The well known via was much quieter at 8 pm.
In a photo I took later, you can see the bay's 4 illuminated windows. above the arches on the right. That's where we were seated.
I loved keeping an eye out on the street below.
I could look over my left shoulder and see across the street.
Dinner with a view! The next morning I walked down those endless colonnades!
Jenny was our lovely server. She read my mind and asked if I'd like butter with my bread, Oh I do love some butter and lots of Italian restaurants don't serve it.
After we ordered wine, the manager, (I assume) brought over a "gift from the chef". It was some kind of soft cheese with edible flowers! A Ligurian specialty, I believe.
Don and I aren't often able to finish endless courses of food. We skipped the Anitpasta and went straight for the "Primi Piatti", which was still considered first course.
,I devoured my "le mezzanine di magro in salsa di noci..." which was pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and herbs, along with walnut sauce. And I can't believe I've forgotten the name of Don's special fish of the day.. The portions and flavors of both were perfect! We didn't leave a bite.
I believe that is the name of this room, outside of the dining room. Once a reading room, I believe. We passed through, carrying our unfinished wine back to our room.
We paused to admire the original marble floors and chandelier.
I found a donkey in a painting. If there is a donkey anywhere, I demand a photo.
We took advantage of the empty room and had some fun with an enormous wall mirror.
We sort of created an "Infinity Photo", We clearly should have spent more time on that project.
Don headed up to the room and I dashed down the red stairway, to step outside. I always attempt one night photo of every hotel where we stay.
Somehow at night, it's always easier to stop and sigh and wonder and dream, about a hotel's past and all the people who have visited. Unfortunately, this lovely hotel had a dark period, back during WWII. Germans actually occupied the hotel and made it their headquarters. Supposedly they built a secret tunnel to the port. I found no photos of that time period.
We slept well and woke hungry. We should have made reservations for the Giotto's daily breakfast. I heard it was not to be missed. But it was totally booked, so we skipped.
But we made coffee in the room and unpacked some pastries we had bought earlier.
Arches and Walkways
There was so much to see, just within a couple blocks.
This picture from across the street, shows the colonnades, with their decorated columns and grand arches.
The "sidewalks" beneath the covered walkways, weren't exactly shabby. Actually one looked a bit worn, but that just added to the charm.
Besides the nearby colonnades, there were other interesting walkways to explore. In the heart of the medieval city, there is quite a maze of carruggi, (narrow alleys) and they are just mind boggling. We used GPS, but we still got lost, as we wound up and down, in and out.
The carruggis are lined by high outer walls of the old homes. In Medieval times, the complicated passages made it difficult for invading armies.
What We Found
Our walking and wandering took us to so many wonderful places. The first of these photos, (click to enlarge) shows the fountain, in the middle of Ferarri Piazza. It was just a short walk, down our street. It looked different in the early morning.
We visited palaces and churches. We discovered hilltops views and cozy cafes. I honestly didn't expect to find so many wonderful surprises, within walking distance.
On the second morning we rushed to pack and get to the train station. However, when we stepped outside, we found the streets were barricaded, for the Focaccia Festival!
The hotel offered to watch our bags as we dashed out to enjoy a quick peek of the 352 meter long, set up, The longest focaccia in the world! They were just getting ready to hand out samples! 16,000 samples we were told.
Off We Go
Sadly, we didn't have time to enjoy the focaccia. But at least we got to see the endless table winding around the corner. Then it was time to get going!
We had help from a very gracious doorman, who carried our bags to the next block, where he could hail us a cab!
I thought we were coming for a magnificent staircase! It was even more impressive than I imagined.That will be my main memory!
But the location and the comfort are also notable. The hotel was situated on a great street, and wandering was a huge plus. The Bristol Palace turned out to be so much grander and yet comfier than I expected. I thought it was going to be a "been there, done that" hotel, but I would happily stay again!
"Palazzo Catalani in Soriano nel Cimino"
That's a mouthful, but It's where we stayed in April 2023.
I had never heard of Soriano nel Cimino, (about 60 miles from Rome) until we started planning a trip to Cinque Terre. Soriano was nowhere near the 5 seaside villages. However, we suddenly felt certain we should complicate our plans and start our travels with a stay in Soriano's, Palazzo Catalani.
Why? Photos of the hotel were enough to lure me, but the photos of the medieval town convinced me.
I loved the idea of staying in an isolated village... with a castle on a hill and very few tourists!
The website told me the palazzo was a 17th century noble residence. For $100 or less, we could stay in a pink palace! But the website was hard to navigate. The few photos looked magical, but there was little explanation. Reviews can't always be trusted, but I only found raving reviews and enthused descriptions. I trusted my gut and fell in love with the palazzo and the village.
I actually called on the phone and booked 5 nights at the Catalani! I wanted to be sure I could reserve a room, with a view of the castle. The photo above shows the lovely pastel palazzo, to the left of the steeple. It was taken from Orsini Castle and you can see our windows on the right, below our balcony.
Getting to the Hotel
It was a mini adventure getting to the hotel. The train took us from Rome to Orte. A taxi, arranged by the hotel, picked us up at the station. Our cab reached Soriano in less than 30 minutes, but it could only make it to the street, pictured below.
(click on images below to enlarge)
Stefano from the hotel, met us at the cab and took our bags. We followed him up the passage to the right and zigged and zagged over the slippery cobblestone, until we reached the door with the Italian flag! Whew!
Once inside Don and I were welcomed by Sara, at the hotel desk. I'd communicated a number of times with Sara on the phone and with emails.
Soon we were off, following Stefano and our bags, through the lovely lounge/bar area. We headed up a flight of stairs and through another lounge.
This one had beautifully decorated walls and ceiling, plus comfy seating. There was even a table full of games.
Room 14 Solarium
There were more twists, turns and steps, before we reached our apartment/room. The sign on the door looked comically modern-ancient.
When we stepped inside we were also met with modern-ancient, in the best way. The beamed ceiling high above Don's head, was a reminder of the building's age. (1600's!) Don's back issues were pleased with the comfy modern couch and equally comfy chairs at the table.
The table for 4, made me wish we had others to help us enjoy our stay! The TV wasn't needed, but there was a fridge in the cabinet and we made good use. The view from the table was stunning. We had the same view from the bathroom!
Having great window light, was such a plus. Having a bathtub with a view of Orsini Castle, was the absolute best!
Just outside the bathroom we had a mini kitchenette, with sink, dishes, a stove top and microwave... then there was this crazy set of stairs.
I knew I had requested Room 14 with a balcony and castle view, but I'd totally forgotten it was a 2-story room!
My photos don't come close to sharing how odd and tricky it was, to make a trip upstairs, carrying bags. When I reached the second floor, there was a nice sitting room and 3 other doorways, (with more steps) opening to another bathroom, a bedroom and the balcony!
There were a few more steps to reach the balcony. What a spectacular view of Soriano's tile rooftops and the castle Orsini Castle. I don't has been "guarding" the town since 1277. It also was used as a prison for about a century. Until 1989.
The balcony was huge and the patio chairs and loungers were comfortable!
There was lots to look out at besides the obvious castle, but my eyes kept returning.
The castle has been "guarding" Soriano since 1277. Over the years, it played the part of a fortress, a palace and it even housed a prison for over a century, up until 1989. Pope Nicolas III, died in the castle. Lots to think about.
Don was less excited about the charming beams on the second floor.
He had to duck to get into the upper bathroom, which also had a slanted ceiling. He tested the height of the beams above the chairs.
I found the attic bedroom charming and cozy. The room had no window, so the skylight was a plus. The tricky bed space and the winding stairs, made me realize that it would be wise to head up to bed, when alert. NOT in a sleepy or drunken state!
I was delighted to see the green grass on the lawn below.
The April temps were chilly (for us Texans) but the sitting areas looked so inviting.
The yard below our room was lovely in the morning light. Behind me, you can see our 2 windows on the upper right. Balcony above.
Some of the trees and vines were still bare from winter. But it was nice to see spring, just coming to life. Plus we had better views of the rooftops and winding alleys and yards below.
The "New" Building
Just across from the Palazzo's entrance, was another building with more grounds to explore. This building was a new addition to the Palazzo Catalani "Resort". But the lovely structure wasn't new. It was historic as well.
Inside the stone building, there were more guest rooms and a fitness room and spa area, which we didn't use. We did however enjoy the garden area above.
There was more seating, to take in the view. Some very curious seating.
The view of the two buildings was lovely. We know the Catalani family lived in the pink building, long ago. Who were their neighbors across the way?
One day, we headed up the path with sandwiches and had lunch in the upper garden area.
Yet another view of Castello Orsini!
Dining at the Palazzo
Luckily I had read good reviews about the hotel's restaurant, Locando Catalani. We arrived on Easter weekend, so many restaurants in town were closed.
The restaurant was in the lower part of the building, with patio tables as well. If only it had been warmer.
Bright and Modern
The first evening, we were able to find pizza in town, but I peeked in at the restaurant. I was surprised at how modern and somewhat casual the restaurant appeared.
Older photos on the internet showed tablecloths and darker walls. I'm unsure when the most recent renovations took place.
Complimentary breakfast was served each morning in the restaurant. On our first morning, I made sure to enjoy lots of my favorite food group... bread.
That morning happened to be Easter and my 66th birthday, so I ate as much bread as I wanted! First time ever that my birthday and Easter have been on the same day!
Sounds on Easter Morning
I loved the sounds on our first morning. I woke to pigeons cooing and church bells ringing. A little later, I heard squeals and giggles through the window. Some Italian children had taken over the yard, while the parents lingered over a meal.
Most of the day was spent exploring Soriano. I visited 2 churches before and after Easter masses. Don and I spent a couple hours as the only "tourists" wandering inside Orsini Castle.
By about 7, it was time to remember my ancient age, as we looked over the medieval village. Don and I headed to the balcony with a bottle and glasses.
I wore a retro, paisley dress in honor of my less ancient self. It reminded me of a dress I might have worn in 1969, over a half-century ago! That was the year, (the only other time) I had a birthday in Italy. I turned 12.
Party Game - Blog Tangent
For some added birthday fun, I rolled a set of dice. I told Don if I rolled my age (6 & 6) I would win my wish, to bring our whole family to Italy! Rats! I rolled 5 and 5. So I decided to see how many rolls until I got my birthday sixes. The number of rolls it took, would be my lucky number for the year!
It took me 55 rolls (funny... after my 5 & 5) to get double sixes. 5 is actually my favorite number, so clearly #55 was meant to be my lucky number, as I began this new age. I quickly made a plan. My Lucky 55 Plan: To celebrate/enjoy the company of 55 friends, (new and old) in my year of being 66. Make sense? Probably not!
At 7:30 we were off to dinner. The hotel was serving a 5-course (plus wine) Easter dinner, which meant I could just enjoy without decisions. I had hoped for white tablecloths and dimmer lighting, but there were flowers and chocolate eggs and an odd chick, on the table.
There were a few choices we needed to make, but I think the waiter figured out that we were having a hard time translating the Italian. He ended up just bringing us way more than 5 courses.
We each sampled 2 appetizers and 2 pastas, rich and filling. My beef dish had bottomless beef and artichokes. There were so many foods,
I can't remember all that we ate. Eventually we figured out that lamb and rabbit were in some of the dishes... on Easter! Yikes.
All was fun and tasty, but we were nearly miserable with feasting by the time the lights suddenly went off. The soft music halted and a recording of "Happy Birthday" suddenly filled the intimate space. The waiter carried my dessert with a candle and our amused, fellow diners clapped. A sweet and funny surprise! It was about 10 when we finished our cappuccinos. What a memorable Easter & Birthday Celebration!
Over our 5-day visit, we spent the days and evenings exploring Soriano and some nearby areas. It was always a treat coming back to relax in the Palazzo. We made good use of the common areas.
We enjoyed the lounge nearest our room, with a glass of wine one evening.
Another evening we met a couple from England in the downstairs bar/ lounge. We hit it off in a matter of minutes. On the last evening, we went out to dinner together.
I tried to explain to Pete and Diane about my Lucky 55 Plan, from when I rolled the dice on my birthday. They became the first of 55 mini friend celebrations, during my year of being 66!
Tragic Stories from WWII
We were able to learn more Palazzo history from Pete and Diane, since they were repeat guests and knew locals. The darkest bit of history involved WWII, when Nazis occupied Soriano and took over Palazzo Catalani. Evidently they damaged some of the frescoes by adding their own artwork to the walls. Our new friends were also able to tell us why everyday, we heard air raid sirens in the town. The sirens were a reminder to locals, to never forget June 5, 1944.
Gian Paolo, was a staff member who shared more of the sad history... because we asked. He told us about the tragic event in 1944, that has never been forgotten, On June 5, Allied bombers attacked Soriano, killing 188 civilians. Gian Paolo was younger than us, but clearly the war had affected his family and him. He was from nearby Virtebo and his grandmother told stories of fleeing to Yugoslavia, with Gian Paolo's 2-year old father. It was sobering to realize the there were many older folks living in town today, who actually experienced the terrifying day in Soriano.
This view from Palazzo Chigi-Alani, shows no hints of the town's sad past. At least to me. I hope those who do remember, can still enjoy the beauty of the village.
If I had lived here 90 years, how would I feel about this view today? By the end of our 5-day stay, I know I had grown to love the town and to appreciate the history.
Palazzo Catalani would have been a wonderful place to stay, even if we'd never left the grounds. But it was the connection of the historic building to the town, that added such value to our visit. Below are just a handful of places we came upon, as we wandered on foot.
(click to enlarge photos below)
The town felt isolated, but never claustrophobic. I never got tired of wandering and discovering new walkways or churches or stair steps to climb!
With a 5-day stay, we allowed ourselves just a day to explore outside of Soriano. The hotel helped us arrange a driver to visit 2 special places, not far from Soriano. Staying at the Palazzo made it possible to revisit these wonderful places, that I never expected to see again!
Park of the Monsters
First we visited Park of the Monsters, near Bomarzo. I have dream-like memories of this monster-filled park, from my family's visit in 1969. We had the mysterious park to ourselves!
Climbing on the creatures, (sculpted in the 16th century) is no longer allowed. But the visit was just a crazy-magical as I remembered. (I should have worn red socks again!)
St. Patrick's Well in Orvieto
Almost as eerie and unusual, was our visit to Orvieto's old well, from 1527. I have fond memories of this childhood adventure as well, except for the part when I cut my arm on a nail. No cuts this time and I didn't count the 249 steps again. I did when I was 11.
You can't tell in the photos but there are 2 spiral staircases, one going down and one coming up. The separate sets, kept the water-carrying donkeys apart!
I've rambled for days. But I clearly am in love with Palazzo Catalani and Soriano nel Cimino.
Our stay was above and beyond what I had hoped for. The hotel and town felt friendly, quiet, safe and charming. It was also reasonably priced at less than 100 dollars a night. I am so glad we had more than one Notable Night. What a treat to stay in a nobleman's resident, with my noble travel buddy!
Would I return? Si per favore!
Guest House in Rome
Don and I knew we'd have less than 24 hours in Rome. I didn't search for a dream hotel, but we ended up with a fabulous stay in a guest house. It had a curious name and a huge door!
Tridente Suites sounds a little like Embassy Suites, or something American. But the door of our 6-room hotel, looked like nothing I've ever seen in a chain hotel. The guest house was named for its location. The Trident is a complex of 3 streets, that begin near each other and fan out to the south. (Think of Poseidon's 3-pronged trident spear... not the gum!)
Behind the Doors
It was around 3 pm, when our Uber dropped us off at the Piazza del Popola, where the 3 streets begin. We walked less than a minute down Via del Corso, which is the middle one. The pedestrian passage was bustling, but we easily spotted the giant doors to our hotel. They were wide open.
The hall looked fresh and clean, but vaulted ceiling gave away the building's age. So did the inside of the giant doors, when they were closed! I don't know the age of the 5-story building, but it was connected to a nearby church. I believe it once served as a monastery.
A woman in an office at the end of the hall, pointed us towards the elevator.
We only used the traveling cage twice, to carry our luggage. There was just enough room for 2 carryon bags and one person.
Stairs to Where?
We were up one flight of marble stairs, so it wasn't a big hike to get to the floor that held Tridente Suites.
I wondered what else was housed in the historic building. We were told that a music school was on the level above us. I hoped we would hear some music, but the guest suites were very soundproofed.
Our host Sarah spotted us through the glass doors and buzzed us in. She was gracious and professional.
The little sitting/lounge space also felt gracious and professional. There was nothing over the top memorable about the nicely renovated and decorated lobby, but the hotel was just what we needed. A clean and safe place, where we knew we could get a good night's rest, before starting 2 weeks of travel.
194 Square Feet
Sarah showed us to our room and I was excited to find it better than expected. We knew it would be small, but the space was set up well. And oh joy, there was a window with a view!
The modern bathroom was spotless. I have memories of Italian hotels, from when I was a kid. Shared baths down the hall... chain pull toilets and bidets that gave me the creeps at age 11. But no worries with our bathroom! I especially enjoyed the heated floor and towel rack.
Our bed and pillows offered a great night's sleep and they even managed to squeeze in tables and lamps on both sides!
The towels waiting on the bed were a bit fluffier than the ones from our last visit to Rome. From what I recall, The non-absorbent waffle style fabric worked more like squeegees than towels!
This and That
There was a decent sized TV, that we didn't use and a tea kettle that we did use. Don was happy to put the luggage rack to use. And I was pleased with the well-mounted mirror.
I was still jolted by the fact that our mirror, (triple the size of this one) had fallen from our bathroom wall the night before we flew to Rome. New appreciation for good mirrors! Plus, I needed to see just how wrinkled my clothes were after traveling for about 20 hours. Good enough for getting out to explore!
I was so excited about our window. We only had one, but it had shutters for closing out light and sound. Best of all, the glass panes could be opened, to let in the air and the festive sounds from below. Happy chatter from cafes... echoing footsteps... street musicians.
The view straight across showed lots of windows. Good for snooping if you like that. But it was the view down, that was fun.
Our Street - Via del Corso
On Good Friday, the via below was busy with holiday crowds, moving in both directions. Via del Corso is the center of the 3 streets that make up the Trident.
To the north, we could see Piazza del Popolo from our window. The large urban square is inside the northern gate, which was the main entrance to the city, during the Roman Empire.
Piazza Del Popolo
My eyes were drawn to the Egyptian obelisk in the center of the square. A nap was tempting, but I ignored my jet lag and headed down the via towards the Piazza.
I know this is a blog about hotels, but somehow this piazza was an unexpected bonus! I think I'll always remember this festive area as part of the hotel. I had no idea it was so huge, when I'd looked on the map.
Here are a few more pics of the lively square, on a lovely Friday afternoon.
(click for info)
After wandering the Piazza, I headed up the stairs to the east and found an even better view.
I think I was on some kind of jet-lag-giddy-high, when I climbed those stairs. The good weather and all the views were energizing. I started to head back, but suddenly realized how close I was to something that I hadn't seen in almost 55 years!
At the top of the hill, I found the entrance to Borghese Gardens. I last visited the gardens in 1969. I was 11 and the gardens were magical. So on Good Friday 2023, I set off looking for things I remembered.
I raced around the gardens absorbing all the colors and characters. It felt just like the sunny day that I remember with my family.
I loved the statue and the funny horse... I loved the Sphinx-like statue on the stairs.
I had meant to be gone less than an hour, but time got away. I raced towards the steps leading down to the Piazza. I made my giddy-self slow down a bit on the worn and slippery the marble. No need to start the trip with a sprained ankle.
I headed back to Via del Corso. It was easy to spot, nestled right between the Twin Churches.
Santa Maria in Montesanto (L) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli (R) have almost twin names. But if you look closely you'll see differences.
#4 Via del Corso
Via del Corso runs from Piazza del Popolo, all the way through Rome to Piazza Venezia. Our building address #4, was a reminder of just how close the hotel was, to Rome's old entrance. I headed back to the giant doors, just in time to spot a couple musicians leaving.
Twin cello cases, walking towards the Twin Churches! I wish we'd heard them practicing.
While I was gone, Don had enjoyed a rest. He was ready to get out and explore. My feet begged me to give them a break, but I knew there were just too many wonderful places, just steps away.
We spotted all the above landmarks as we wandered on foot. We completely missed the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain, which were even closer.
Our meandering got us to the Vatican by dusk. Seeing St. Peter's dome made me forget my weary legs.
I was surprised to see the Vatican City so peaceful on Good Friday evening. I smiled to remember my glee at age 11, when my family visited and had a wonderful surprise.
I remember it was a Saturday, when our family stepped inside and found crowds filling the cathedral. Suddenly we spotted Pope Paul, being carried on his ceremonial mobile throne. We had no idea what event was taking place, but we lucked out!
The event ended shortly after we arrived and the exits were jammed with people. My family found a quicker way out, which took us to some lovely gardens. We didn't realize we were in a private area of the Vatican, until we had to pass the Swiss guards to get out. Oops.
Don and I wandered back towards the hotel, enjoying the positive holiday energy, filling the walkways. We heard no English anywhere. We stopped at Cafe Rosati, which I'd noticed earlier on the west side of Piazza Popolo. The patio tables had heavenly views of the Twin Churches and Piazza.
We were dressed in the same clothes we'd worn when we left Texas, the day before. But, the lovely restaurant welcomed us and our first meal in Italy was perfecto! It was such a treat to walk just a few steps to our via, between the Twin Churches and know our bed was waiting.
We slept well despite crashing storms in the night. We woke to wet streets and sunshine. Perfect.
I couldn't believe we had to check out early to catch our train. We had only booked one night in Rome, to allow for rest before our travels. We had wanted to avoid the crowded city, yet suddenly I didn't want to leave.
We had to cross to the east side of the Piazza to call for an Uber near the Canova Ristorante. I was sad we couldn't stop for breakfast. Like Rosati's, the tables had lovely views.
But I was even more intrigued knowing the cafe had been a favorite of director, Federico Fellini. Next time!
I will remember our giant door and our comfy bed and the window overlooking Via del Corsi. Trident Suites felt clean and quiet and very secure. Not bad for $175., in Rome! But obviously, from my rambling write-up, my memories will mostly be about the magical location. I felt like I was stepping back in time, as memories surfaced throughout all our wandering. I honestly had expected to just rest up on our first night in Italy, but our comfy hotel allowed us lots of adventuring and some good dining, all within walking distance!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!