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 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 looking up! That's what guests do when they walk int. 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 a little history with the Bristol Palace. He was a hotel guest twice. In the fifties he stayed while filming "To Catch a Thief". But he was first introduced to the luxurious hotel in 1925, when filming his first movie, "Pleasure Garden". He was just 26.
It is said that he drew inspiration from the dramatic staircase, which led to his work on the film Vertigo, in later years.
Don and I watched the movie before our trip. Although the staircase scene in the movie, looks nothing like Bristol's stairs, spiraling elliptical image 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!
But 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 o sever these 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 nearby room.
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.
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 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 able to finish endless coursed of off. 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. 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 colonades, 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 colonades, 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. 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.
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 of 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!
Quick Visit to Astoria
Don and I decided to add a night in Astoria, on our Oregon trip. We liked the retro look of the 5-story, craftsman-style Elliott, but the price and location was good too.
We could book a room for $149, conveniently located in the heart of downtown. Actually $169. for a weekend night.
We were excited to stay in the old port city of Astoria. The town is known for being the oldest settlement west of the Rockies. Astoria was already 113 years old, when Hotel Elliott was built.
Luckily they used strong building materials in 1924. Two years before Hotel Elliott opened, the Astoria Fire of 1922 destroyed 30 blocks of mostly wood constructed buildings. I don't know what stood on this block before.
There were no Model Ts, when we arrived around 5. But the entrance canopy and neon letters, looked inviting. I'm not sure when that feature was added.
I liked the odd narrow door, next to the one with the "HE" logo. I'm sure the slim door just allowed for a wider opening. But, it was more fun to imagine the skinny door being used by thin children!
"Grid of Vault Tiles"
These little girls might have fit through the skinny door just fine. They are pictured here, standing outside Hotel Elliott, in the 1940's. The curious thing about this photo, is the thing that the girls are standing on. The photo I took of the entrance, shows the same grid of glass tiles, built into the sidewalk. We spotted many of these in Astoria and they actually had a purpose.
When created years ago, the glass tiles allowed sunlight into the underground basement areas. Clever! In the photo with the girls, the grid looks smooth and sturdy. My closeup photo, shows crumbled and missing glass. The city is working on preserving these grids.
Like many historic hotels, the Elliott had a dark period. For some time, the hotel was used as a flop house. That was before it was rescued and given a 4-million dollar makeover, two decades ago.
I assumed the "Wonderful Beds" slogan was a fun gimmick, added for the reopening in 2003. But when I saw those words embedded into marble floor of the elevator, I realized that must have been the hotel's claim from the very beginning.
A Swift Check In
The lobby was quiet and tidy when we arrived around 5. I didn't really need a livelier vibe, but our quick and efficient check in, didn't seem to open up to casual banter. I should have just been brave and chatty... "I see a brass spittoon on the floor! When was that last used?" Or I could have asked, "Do tell me, what is so wonderful about the beds?"
But I didn't have the energy to come up with questions and those particular questions wouldn't not have gone over well! I was actually just ready to see our room. We'd had some snowy road closures, that doubled our long drive that day. We got our key and headed for the elevator.
Across from the stairs and elevator, there was a comfy leather couch. Moments before, a woman had been sitting there reading. Suddenly she was gone. Should I grab it? It looked very cozy next to the gas fire.
Or should we stop and play chess, before someone else thinks that's a good idea? I waste a lot of energy, questioning how best to enjoy our hotel adventures!
Instead of sitting down, we just lingered long enough to study the framed photo over the mantel. It showed the lobby from years ago. The counter and spittoon looked just the same!
The photo also showed a deer head and a clock and wood cabinet for holding keys and mail. The black and white image also showed a wall, where the opening to the wine bar & breakfast room is today.
Halls & Walls
The old elevator was a little slow reaching us and a little slow delivering us to floor 3. We were glad for the handy stairs on other trips up and down. I like a set of stairs that isn't enclosed in a dark hall. It gave us lots of peeks at the other halls, when we climbed the stairs.
The halls weren't terribly exciting, but I new one of the floors had the Presidential Suite. I wish I could have peeked the grand suite, to see the baby grand piano and spiral staircase!
Our room 308 was at the end of the hall. I was glad to see that renovations hadn't removed the old transoms above the doors.
I liked the Art Deco designs, on the lower part of the wall. New or old?
Queen Guest Room
There was nothing fancy about our Queen Room. It was the cheapest room available. But I will say the bed and bedding was actually Wonderful!
I appreciated having two windows, but wished we had a view of the Columbia River... instead of a parking lot.
Fishing and Canning
On the wall opposite the windows, we had a fun display vintage photos. The black and white images gave a little peek into what Astoria was all about, more than a century ago.
There are no more canneries today, but there were close to 40 around in the 1800s. Salmon was the fish that initially made Astoria rich, but that's a mighty fine "man-sized" halibut, in the photo!
Our room wasn't huge or ritzy, but it had all we needed. We made use of the fridge and microwave. The TV and coffee maker were nice to have. I do appreciate a ceiling fan!
The bathroom had a tub and soft towels AND heated floors. I was happy with that, since the weather was chilly.
In the Neighborhood
We'd planned on arriving much earlier and exploring the city. There was little time for that by the time we got checked in. But there was quite a bit to see, just on our street.
The beautiful Liberty Theatre was just steps away. It opened as a Vaudeville House in 1925. Bing Crosby and Duke Ellington performed there. On the evening of our stay, there was a "Fisher Poets Gathering" at the theatre. The notice near the door explained... A celebration of the fishing industry in poetry, prose and song. I regret that we didn't go for that. When else will we have that opportunity?
But we were hungry. We hadn't eaten porte than a car snack, since breakfast. Plus there was something very tempting, directly across the street! T Paul's Supper Club definitely made our stay at the Elliott more memorable.
We didn't actually sit at the table under the tiki hut, but we could have. We arrived just in time for a very fun "Snappy Hour" with fabulous appetizers and drinks! Cheers for a warm and welcoming Supper Club experience!
Wine or Coffee?
We had hoped to have a glass of wine at our hotel's Wine Bar, when we returned. It was a Friday and they were supposed to serve until 9. Sadly the bar was empty. It probably was open, but didn't have customers. What a shame. Where was everyone?
Instead we enjoyed the same space in the morning, with coffee and o.j. Again, the place seemed to be unusually quiet.
We helped ourselves to coffee and some complimentary hot & cold breakfast options.
Don and I took a seat at a nice window table. We talked quietly about our plans for getting back early to Portland. Our kids had been snowed in and we could stop for groceries... we practically whispered, but I felt like our voices were obnoxiously loud, in the quiet room.
Some other couples had arrived, but everyone stared at newspapers and no one spoke. The man that tried to clear our table (before we were done) didn't even speak. It seemed like Don and I were the only non-sleepy people in the room. I was rested and sort of craving a chatty people encounter at the Elliott.
After we finished up, I took a couple photos and wondered about some of the interesting light fixtures. Were some original? I didn't ask the quiet staff.
I really liked this sunburst mirror. But when I snapped the photo, a nearby couple looked annoyed. Was everyone in the hotel grumpy?
I was in the elevator when I finally spoke with an employee who seemed enthused about the hotel. She was was just what I needed. She invited me to look and the finished basement with the pool table and exposed brick. It was a pretty cute space!
I was so busy looking at the pool table I forgot to look up to see the grids. I should have asked her! I think she would have loved to have shared some info.
Then she told me to be sure to see the Rooftop Deck & Garden. It had been locked the evening before, due to icy weather, but she had just opened it.
I headed up! The first thing I spotted when I opened the door, was the Astoria-Megler Bridge! There was a 360 degree view, but my eyes were drawn to the 21,474 foot bridge, connecting Oregon and Washington, over the Columbia River!
The air was cold, but the skies were blue. I so wished we weren't feeling rushed. There was a gas fire pit and we could have grabbed our coats and coffee and enjoyed the morning view.
A Quick Cold Walk
Instead of sitting in the cold wind on the roof, we decided to head off. towards the equally windy waterfront. We walked past Shanghaied Tattoo, where NO BOOZE, BREW, DRUGS... ANIMALS, WHINERS or PROBLEMS are allowed.
We only had about 30 minutes to explore before hitting the road. We headed towards the Columbia River and wandered down the worn wood plank walkway.
Quick Views of Astoria
We walked past a fun mural painted, on an old building. It helped me imagine the people living and working here years ago. We looked out over the river, where we could see the wood pilings, that once held the canneries.
5,000 ships still travel the Columbia River yearly, but no canneries remain open today.
We headed back to the hotel, passing the Liberty Theatre. We'll check it out next time.
We vowed to come back another time and tour the historic Flavel House, or at least walk up in the hills where there are about 300 Victorian houses still standing! The town reminds me of a miniature San Francisco!
We stayed in a nicely renovated, reasonably priced hotel in a wonderfully historic port city.
We clearly did not make full use of the hotel or the curious city! I wish we'd spoken to some more people or we'd made better use of the roof or explored the basement some more. I wish we'd sat by the fire or given the wine bar a try. I'm sure during the warmer months the stay would feel very different, with more energy and maybe more enthused travelers. Maybe we'll try it another time!
#294 -Heceta Lighthouse B&B
This charming Queen Anne-style duplex has been sitting high above the Oregon coast, for nearly 130 years.
The picket fence and porch looked welcoming when Don and I arrived, last February. The "Closed to Public" sign did not, but it made me grin.... Yay! We have reservations for a night!
It was snowing when we pulled up at 3:30. We were lucky to have made it out of Portland that morning. They'd had their second biggest snowfall in history.
There was just a dusting on the coast, but the sight of the lighthouse on the hill looked extra dramatic.
Don and I were eager to finally see inside the Keeper's House. We were introduced to Heceta Lighthouse decades ago, by my sister and sister in law, who live 2 hours away. I remember pulling off the highway to take a photo, before we got close. The lighthouse and keeper's house seemed so far apart.
Our kids were all young when we visited that summer and spent a day at the beach. The cousins played in the sand near the Cape Creek Bridge. I think Scott is looking towards the lighthouse in this photo.
2023 Visit with Kate & Jennifer
It's been 27 years. The kids are grown and we parents are now grandparents. In February, we 4 had a different kind of lighthouse adventure. Kate, Jennifer, Don and I spent a night in the Keeper's House!
This is the only photo of the four of us, enjoying our less than 24 hour visit. We pretty much never stopped smiling, during our whole stay. And I never stopped taking photos. So, I'm indulging in way more "photo dumping" than usual. Smaller photos can be clicked to enlarge.
Less than two years ago Don and I traveled the Oregon coast and snapped scenic photos. Far away... then closer...
When we stopped near the beach, the red-roofed house was easy to spot, against the green backdrop. We stopped at the beach on this visit, also. My snowy image looks colorless.
First to Arrive
After a beautiful (but often tricky) day of driving, we arrived and parked behind the house. I tried the buzzer at the side door, but there was no answer.
I walked towards the front and looked out over the lawn, where the Head Keeper's house once stood.
I climbed the porch and tried both doors. This had once been a duplex for 2 assistant keepers and their families.
Eventually Brooke heard the buzzer and rushed to let us in. She apologized that she'd been in the basement. Brooke welcomed us into the warm kitchen and let us know that the fridge and dishes and stove were all available to us.
She took us through the dining area, where breakfast would be served. The long table stretched through a wall opening, that wasn't there when the house was used by two families.
Music in the House
As we followed Brooke to the back staircase, I glanced into the 2 parlors, filled with antiques and old photographs. The beautiful burled upright piano was covered in frames.
The shelves on the pump organ held toys and treasures. It looked so much like the antique organ that my sister and I grew up with. (Scary Halloween music was my specialty!) I thought about the families who lived here and how music would have helped with the isolation they must have felt.
Up the Stairs
The divided home had 2 sets of stairs, each leading to 3 guest rooms.
I paused halfway up, to look through the window, with its frame of colorful glass. I spotted Cape Creek Bridge.
It's been less than 2 years ago since Don and I stopped and studied the classic arch bridge. It's been carrying cars over Cape Creek, since 1932.
There was no Route 101 back when the lighthouse and keeper's houses were built. They had to wait over 3 decades for good road access.
Mariner's Room II
Brooke showed us to our room at the top of the stairs. Months before, I had studied the website, trying to choose the best of the 6 rooms. Did we want a view of the lighthouse to the north, or a more dramatic view of ocean?
We usually go for the cheapest, but we paid more to have one of the two rooms, facing south over the ocean. The view was stunning and the room was cozy with fresh flowers and our very own ship's wheel!
We also had the luxury of an attached bathroom. It was small, but only 2 of the guest rooms have connected bathrooms.
Jennifer and Kate chose the Lightkeeper's Room. They had a view of the lighthouse and an impressive tub. They had to step into the hall to reach it, but it was for their own use. Some rooms share a bath.
The View 129 Years Ago
As I enjoyed the blustery ocean scene, I wondered who might have studied this view, in 1884. That was the year they began building the houses.
Before U.S. Highway 101 was built, the families living in this house must have felt so cut off from the world. I hope at least the families who lived here, got along.
For decades, there was only a single lane road and many supplies came by boat. I imagine the lighthouse kids were extra excited when they spotted a boat out on the horizon!
In the Parlor
Around 4, Don and I headed downstairs to check out the parlors, while we waited for Jennifer and Kate. The parlor beneath our room had more seating, so we settled in and read some scrapbooks.
There were fireplaces in both parlors and we were invited to use them. I love a fireplace, even if it's burning pressed logs!
Wine & Cheese Hour
By 4:30, Jennifer and Kate had arrived and we were settled in with a complimentary Happy Hour.
Brooke served us wine and 2 plates of meat, cheese and fruit. Music played softly in the background. Perfect.
There wasn't much hope of a sunset with all the clouds, but we headed out just before 6 to enjoy some sky drama. Looking south, there was steam rising above the bridge. The trees looked frosty above.
We bundled up and and headed on the pathway towards the glowing light.
Dusk at the Lighthouse
On a summer night, we would have grabbed the flashlights in our rooms and visited the lighthouse after dark. But our visit at dusk was ideal, on a winter night.
It was amazing to see the glowing Fresnel lens, with no one else around but us. The sky grew darker and we headed up a path, that took us above the lighthouse.
The beam of light was hypnotic as I watched it shine on the ocean, then the trees...then our faces!
As we wandered back down towards the house, the mix of snow and light became more entertaining.
The snow made the moving light sparkle! How could we have been so lucky, to have a snowy lighthouse adventure?
It was hard to leave that magical place. I was almost ready to get our food and drink and have an icy picnic. But the glowing house looked so inviting.
Seeing the house across the "yard" it was fun to imagine earlier days, when there were 2 houses and maybe 3 families. Did the families celebrate holidays together or separately? Did the kids have schoolwork and chores?
We returned to the illuminated porch. I could see our lit window on the right. Who slept in that room once?
It felt good to get inside the warm house. We headed to the fridge to pull out our champagne and feasting foods! We toasted and ate and gabbed, until we heard the sound of some late arrivals. We no longer had the house to ourselves, but the couple seemed nice. They declined our offer of wine before heading upstairs.
We settled back into the comfy, green room. Jennifer and I eventually headed up (different staircases) to change into our jammies and robes. Extra comfy for game playing! Cards Against Humanity got sillier, the longer we played. We had to whisper and laugh silently, after 10 pm. That's very hard for certain sisters.
We left the curtains wide open to wake us. I peeked out at 6:42 to see this beautiful scene.
The water was a little calmer and I saw a light on the horizon. I imagined a boat bringing food and supplies...
Clear and Cold
An hour and a half later, the window was still icy, but the sun looked warm.
I opened the window and stuck my head out over the red roof. I could see the bridge to the south and the flagpole to the north. The lighthouse was just a pinch out of view.
At 8:30 we gathered at the long lace-covered table, set for 6, with fresh flowers.
We settled in with our coffee and got to know the very nice couple that had arrived late. I didn't ask if they'd heard our muffled laughter the night before.
Barbara was our server for the 7-course breakfast. We began with fresh fruit and cranberry bread.
The portions and pace was actually perfect. Barbara never rushed, but the courses just kept coming. Frozen mango Lassi was like dessert! The small crab cake with capers had a delicious sauce. Then there was an egg soufflé with sausage, followed by a sort of angel food cake with berries! Did I leave something out?
At one point I looked out the window behind me and saw Chef Arianna, snipping something from the snow covered garden. Minutes later, she delivered the last course, of fruit and cheese. She laughed that we'd seen her getting some fennel.
During our 1.5 hours at the table, the grandfather clock must have chimed 6 times. We shared lots of stories with our table-mates. Jennifer shared that she'd actually stayed in the Keeper's House 30+ years ago. She was attending a writer's workshop and guests slept in bunkbeds, not lovely guest rooms.
Tony told about the eruption of Mount St. Helen's. He'd viewed the skies from his office window, in Portland. As we shared and talked, I saw the blue skies out the window. I wanted time to slow down. I hated that we had to leave soon.
My best hotel memories involve great porches! I was eager to get outside and enjoy at least a moment of that wraparound porch. On my way out, I passed a photo of 3 men, sitting on the same porch. During WWII, the Coast Guard Beach Patrol guarded the beaches and lived in bunkers on the property.
Jennifer and Kate had wisely packed binoculars. They actually spotted a whale before I got out there!
The Keeper's House had lots of porch blankets available for guests. I made use for a short time, then pulled myself up from the Adirondack chair and headed inside.
Brooke was back on duty at 10:30, to offer a history talk in the north parlor. After spending the night and wondering about the people who lived and worked here, it was nice to have Brooke's knowledge.
I loved seeing the 1907 photo of Keeper, Frank and his bride Jenny. The first marriage of many at Heceta.
The 30 minute talk was just perfect for our schedule. But, I still needed one more night, to hang out and study old photos and imagine the work that went on, to keep the property running. And I needed more porch time.
One More Hike Up
Don and I had a long drive ahead, but we joined Jennifer and Kate for one last dash up the hill before leaving.
The lighthouse looked completely different, on a sunny morning.
We had hoped to tour the lighthouse at 11, but it was late opening that day.
Instead, Jennifer and I hiked up once again and this time we went a little further up.
We took photos of the view... and each other. Jennifer looks much more impressive, shooting with her Nikon.
I was just happy to be alive, since I had a couple slow-motion slapstick moments, slipping on the steep muddy path. My sister had to rescue me twice, while we both laughed hysterically. I'm pretty sure the people standing below near the lighthouse, enjoyed the show.
This is my only photo from the visit, that shows both the lighthouse and the house. The Lighthouse and The Keeper's House... that's what this stay was all about!
I really can't believe we slept in a house, where lighthouse keepers once slept. I can't believe we got to enjoy 2 hikes up to the lighthouse. One in the snowy evening and one in the sunny morning. And then there's that ocean...!
The really notable part of our stay was that we enjoyed a special place, with special family. I wish we could have rented the whole place and enjoyed it with our kids. Maybe someday!
Of course I'll never forget the view from our comfortable, cozy room! I'll remember that the morning feast was heavenly and the staff was gracious and friendly! But I think my fondest memory will be of the evening we spent sharing and laughing in the green parlor... inside the white & red Keeper's House! Cheers to a shared Notable Night!
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!