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Welcome to the November 2005 newsletter!
Remember, the Katrina innkeeper needs list is here. We'll continue to update it as our innkeepers are gradually able to return to their inns, and we'll let you know what help they need. See the New Orleans updates from some of our innkeepers at the end of this section!
We just returned from three weeks in Italy three days ago, and start off this month with the first of five reports - gay Rome! In the following months, we'll profile Sorrento & the Amalfi Coast, Florence and Tuscany, Lake Como and Milan, and Venice.
This Month's Travel Articles
This month we have a great article from Don & Ray on Palm Springs. Thanks, guys!
Innkeepers - write us an article about your area, and we'll include it in a future issue of this newsletter with credit and links to your website and email addresses. Contact email@example.com for more details.
Late Availability/Special Offer Accommodation Notices
As always, we also have our Late Availability & Special Offer notices (130 offers in 21 countries/regions) all at http://www.purpleroofs.com/lateavailability.html, or just check your favorite destination page - these notices are also right there on the regular listings.
Travelers - Try a Home Trade Membership for Just $60 for 3 Years...
...and stay for free with other gay, lesbian, and gay friendly travelers around the world. More details on our Mi Casa Su Casa site at: http://www.gayhometrade.com.
Innkeepers - Our Full Page Expanded Listings are On Sale in November:
We have over 630 of these on the Purple Roofs site, and our existing Expanded Listing innkeepers are very happy with them: "Given that this is Nicaragua I'm pleased that about 10 people have come because of the ad placed with you. This is rather untargeted and rural for gays and I'm pleasantly surprised. Also, search engines come up with your [Expanded Listing] ad first so I'm told that means you are doing an excellent, excellent job on the internet... I can't believe you did all that so quickly. Kudos. I wish I had people that counted to tell how impressed I am." --Chris, Piedras y Olas, Nicaragua. Try it here: http://www.purpleroofs.com/expandedlisting.html
Seen Our Real Estate, Wedding, and Professional Sections Lately?
We've been beefing up our realtor, mortgage lender, and wedding vendor listings over the last several months, and now have over 775 real estate professional listings in 45 US states, Spain, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. We have almost 500 Wedding Vendor listings in 42 US states, Asia, Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, Mexico and the South Pacific. And we recently added a Gay Professionals site - FindAGayProfessional.com.
Check out our real estate professional listings here: http://www.gayrealtynetwork.com
That's it for this issue - see y'all next time! :)
New Orleans Updates:
11/2/05: "All the tourist areas are up and running, with very little damage." --Jesse, The Green House Inn, New Orleans
10/14/05: "The Marigny and the French Quarter look great and people are working hard to clean up. Day by day more and more restaurants open up. We listened to the Jazz Vipers the other night at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street! It is starting to come back in a big way. I think by Christmas it will be great. I heard yesterday that Tipitina's and HOB will open early November. Mardi Gras is on ( and it will be an important one! 150 years of Mardi Gras and a symbol of New Orleans rebirth!), the French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest are a go and today they moved one day of the Voodoo Fest Back to New Orleans. It will be a free event for relief workers!" --Leigh, Elysian Fields Inn, New Orleans
"We will get back with you as soon as we can with as much information as we can get. This will primarily detail the French Quarter and Marigny areas. There is one website that is listing what is open in the Quarter, it is http://www.quartercrawl.com/. There are more businesses open but that has a good variety. As of Sunday night, we now have electricity at Kerlerec House. Frenchmen Street does now as well and lots of the businesses there are reopening. We know that in the Marigny, Schiro's at St. Roch and Royal is open. Big Daddy's and Mimi's at the corner of Franklin and Royal are open. As far as gay bars, the ones we know that are open are, Bourbon Pub, Good Friends, Double Play, Corner Pocket, Lafitte's, Golden Lantern, Napoleon's Itch and Rawhide. Countless straight bars are open as well as strip clubs. Most of the restaurants that are open have a limited menu at the moment. The gay scene seems to be alive and well. I will send you more info as I can." --Scott & Scott, Kerlerec House, New Orleans
"What can I say about New Orleans: Coming back to New Orleans from Mississippi on I10 where I see miles and miles of deserted city, thousands of parked cars looking fine except they are completely covered with a fine dust where the water had covered them. Street after street where homes sit with watermarks half way up their sides, silent, no humans, no noise except the buzz of blow flies as they feast on the seepage from refrigerators, exploded freezers, and exposed foods. To see roofs that had been hammered, preyed open and to see HELP signs on those roofs or HELP signs printed on outside of windows. Then into the areas that did not flood where returning home owners have dumped the contents of their homes out on the streets already piled high with fallen trees, broken limbs and mangled pieces of homes. My nose twitches as the real stench comes from the white sentries of freezers and refrigerators standing forlornly in front of almost every home and though they have been duck taped, the millions of flies are finding their way to lay their eggs. I see garbage bags moving as the maggots do their grim work. Gag and move on. Finally into the old section of the city, the Marginy,where I and my partner live and work; and into the French Quarter, which is close by-- Ibegin to realize that the city founders knew what they were doing--except for missing shingles, broken limbs, missing siding, and some fallen trees there is a semblance of normalcy. True, within two days I too had my stinky refrigerator on the street, I too had limbs piled high on the street, not to bother, as there is little traffic, except for the electric, telephone, gas, street workers, and the friendly national guard patrols. Already, the bars are alive and active, Already, my hot tub is clean and HOT, Soon the pool will be drained and ready, Soon the rooms will again be filled with happy guest. Soon the good times will ROLL. Soon we will again the city where CARE forgot. Stuart and I with ten friends escaped to our second home High Cotton in Poplarville, Mississippi, expecting to return to N. O. the next day--after so many wolf calls one gets blase--only to find that we were in the eye of the storm. Strange how calm one seems in the midst of danger. We continued to play cards until we saw through the sky lights the havoc outside, we then moved to the center of the house and waited. I am sure I was calm the whole time, except now I cannot remember sleeping that night. I do remember when the tree hit the house and the water pipes broke that Stuart and I rushed outside jumping and climbing over broken trees to cut off the water -- after the storm it would take us three days to cut a way to the road--I know I was calm then. I know I was calm as we mopped up the water. I know I was calm as I watched the rocking chairs on the porch gently rocking by themselves as the trees smashed and penned us in the house. I know I was calm then next day as I looked at the butterflies flying around and sucking nectar from the small unfazed blooms of the near-the- ground flowers. I was calm as I looked at the fall spiders weaving their wondrous webs. I remember: butterflies? Unharmed flower blooms? spiders? In the middle of all this? If you would like to see what High Cotton, now Low Cotton, looked like before the storm go to www.lionsinn.com and click on Other Location. I have not looked at the pictures of what High Cotton looked like the morning after, perhaps later. By the way, High Cotton (from a vulgar southern term, pissing in high cotton) means that when the cotton is high, life is GOOD. And so it is.
Gay Italy Series
Parts 2-5 to Follow Monthly: Sorrento & the Amalfi Coast, Florence & Tuscany, Lake Como & Milan, and Venice
click on the map below, or just scroll down
The Long Flight
For our three week tour of Italy, we flew out of San Francisco, renting a car one-way from home and dropping it off in the city. We were fortunate enough to have saved enough frequent flier miles to get first class tickets - if you can manage it, we highly recommend it. Although a sleeper seat will never be as comfortable as your own bed at home, it's far more so than the typical coach seat or even the standard business class one, and the meals alone are worth the upgrade.
We left San Francisco at 2:15 PM on a Monday; by the time we flew to Frankfurt, transferred to another plane, flew to Rome, and then took the train to our first stay, it was 3 PM on Tuesday, Italian time.
There's a nine hour tine difference between the USA West Coast and Italy, so it wasn't really a whole day travelling, but it sure felt like it. Coming back did take 24 hours, but we'll leave that part for our last Italy newsletter.
The airport terminal where you arrive in Rome has a bit of an old bus station feel to it, but everyone was friendly, and it was easy enough to find the train station. Oddly, we were never asked for our passports upon arrival in Italy.
Once you reach the train station, buy a ticket (biglietto) at the window. You'll need cash, but there's a bancomat (atm) right across the isle from the ticket window. Ours (a one day ticket) cost 5 euro.
When in busy public areas in Italy, be careful of pickpockets. Rome especially has a problem with this, and you may be targeted as a tourist by several thiefs working together to distract you. We recommend getting a money belt.
Don't show it in public - keep a cheap wallet and/or a few euros in your pocket for use on the street. If theives know where you have your money, credit cards, etc, it's that much easier to take them from you. We had no problem on the way into Rome from the airport. We found seats, and kept our luggage on the seat in front of us, away from the aisle.
The train in was uneventful. Like trains in many big urban areas, this one passes through some industrial and older/run down sections of town, but don't judge the city by what you can see from the train.
The station featured some gorgeous b/w ads for Calvin Klein - here are a couple of them. We think you'll see why we liked them so much:
To reach Piazza Bologna, where we stayed the first two nights, we transferred from the train to the metro (subway). Metro tickets are sold in small stores and ticket machines in the station (stazione), and are currently 1 euro for a one-way ride or 3 euro for all day use. The metro will take you through most of central Rome, and the 3 euro pass is also good on the buses. Individual rides are 1 euro, so only buy the day pass if you think you will ride the train/bus more than three times.
The Roman People
The Roman people were uniformly friendly, from the shopkeepers who patiently answered our Dov'e (where is the...) questions to the innkeepers and just plain folks on the street we ran across. Very metropolitan and practical in general, these folks make Rome even more of a pleasure to visit, and exceptions to this were rare (though we did have one waiter in the Spagna area who would give the stereotype of rude French Waiters a run for the money).
Take time to learn a bit of the language before you go - if you live in a major city, you probably have an Italian Center (like the Italian Center in Sacramento where our Professoressa, Patrizia, teaches); many community colleges also offer language courses. It's so much easier, more comfortable, and ultimately rewarding when you have the ability to communicate with Italians in their own languange, even if only for the basics, like asking where the bathroom is or ordering another coke.
Areas in Rome
We visited a number of distinctive areas in Rome - and each had its own character. We'll cover the ones we saw below, but this is by no means a comprehensive list. Take some time to wander around the city on your own and you're sure to discover many of your own new favorite places. Rome is like a hundred cities in one, with something new around every corner.
As you travel, watch for other gay and lesbian couples and individuals - it really is true that we are everywhere, and it's great to see our family around the world.
Click On Any Picture To See More
This was the first place in Rome we saw after arriving from the airport, and it's a reasonable representation of many areas in the city. The piazza is a small circle around which the Roman traffic zips by, taxis, buses, tiny cars, motorcycles, and scooters.
Crossing the street here is an act for the brave - don't wait for the traffic to stop, because it never will. Watch for an opening, and step out into the street, hand held out to stop the oncoming rush. Several other travelers in Rome advised us not to look the drivers in the eyes, because then they know you've seen them, and will assume you will get out of the way.
Piazza Bologna is a cute downtown plaza. It feels very metropolitan - there's lots of street noise, with scooters, motorcycles, and smart cars zipping back and forth. There are also lots of people about.
We stayed at Bologna B&B - the main entrance is just off the piazza behind a triangle of grass, in the building (circa 1938) labelled 6 Piazza Bologna. Each address is marked by a little white square on the side of the building, so it's not too hard to find your way around.
Bologna B&B has three apartments, two on the first floor (primo piano), and one on the second floor (primo secondo). Each has several rooms for rent, and a breakfast area where the morning meal (colazione prima) is served.
We stayed in a first floor room with an ensuite bath, and a view of part of the Piazza below.
The rooms are simply furnished and clean, ideal to serve as a base for exploring the city. We were greated by Michela, Aldo and Danielle's daughter, and she was charming and friendly - born in Brazil, she's adapted very well to life in Italy, where here parents are from and now live onn the first floor.
She spoke very good english and put up with our halting bits of Italian - it's humbling to realize how little we were actually able to speak it, especially in the first couple days, even after taking Italian for Travelers and boning up for the last two months on our own.
The rooms are facing the street, so you can hang out in the room and just watch the Roman life outside your window if you want. The piazza stays busy until fairly late, but the windows, when closed, block out most of the noise, and we slept well both nights.
He was very friendly, and spoke with us the next morning over breakfast about the area, and about Rome in general. Breakfast is continental - a croissant, juice, coffee, tea, and cereal, served in the dining room in your suite (you rent one of the rooms in the suite, and all guests in that particular suite dine together in the dining room).
They also supplied us with a gay map of Rome and Naples - though the owners are straight, they are extremely gay friendly, and have a large number of glbt travelers who stay with them. About 50% of their clientele is gay, and their previous home in Rio de Janiero was a well-known hang-out for gays and lesbians.
Bologna B&B is ideal for the traveler who wants a low key accommodation with slice of Roman city life without the horrendous traffic in the center of the city, and easy accesibility to all downtown amenities by subway.
Like Bologna Piazza, this is a working neighborhood, not geared to tourists, and so it's a great place to enjoy the real Rome. This area is just a 10 minute walk south of Bologna Piazza. If you stay in or visit this neighborhood, take some time to wander the streets, too sit in a bar or caffe on one of the main Piazza's, to interact with some of the local folks and visitors around you.
Residenza Camilla is several blocks south of B&B Bologna, just off the busy Via Tiburtina on a quiet side street. The Residence is a charming, self-catering property with a beautiful Mediterannean entrance. Antonio and Cinzia are the wonderful Italian couple that run the property; both are lawyers. Antonio speaks very little English but we had no troubloe understanding him, and thoroughly enjoyed his company. Cinzia speaks very good conversational English, and was also a wonderful host.
The Residence has six suites, including a penthouse, all of which are elegantly decorated, roomy, and comfortable. There's also a top floor patio (no view, but a great place to relax). The Residence is just a block from the Tiburtina Station (handy from the airport) and is on a number of major bus lines, making it easy to get almost anywhere in Rome from there. The property is quiet, and great for couples or families - the rates are low, but don't let that fool you - the property is new and is working to attract guests, but the accommodations are very good.
Antonio at Residenza Camilla took us to a fantastic bar just between Bologna B&B and Residenza Camilla - Stendal - that had pastries that were to die for (and a great cappuchino too)!
This area is northeast of central Rome, and is most easily accessible by bus or taxi, but a taxi ride to/from here will run 20-30 euro, so be aware of the cost.
This property is the furthest from the center among the places we visited (30 minutes), and because of that, it's also the quietest. This is what we'd call a homestay - your room (2 guestrooms total) is a room in the owner's apartment, on the top floor of a brick apartment building. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and the apartment has nice territorial views of the surrounding neighborhood.
Ilaria, the host, is very warm, and knows all the gay and lesbian hangouts in Rome. With a homestay, one of the benefits is the time you get to spend with your host, and we really enjoyed our time with Ilaria. Great for single travelers or couples wanting a very welcoming place to stay outside the busy center - with easy access by bus to all of Rome's sights.
Central Rome has a number of distinct neighborhoods, including the area around Termini Station, The Coliseum/Forum/Palatine Hill area, and the Spanish Steps.
Termini Station Area
The neighborhood around Termini Station, where you'll arrive if you take the train from Florence or Naples, is also more of a local neighborhood. We ate in a small Pizzeria across from the station, and it was the worst meal we had in Rome - do not eat near the station!
From Termini Station, it's a good 20-30 minute walk (fine on a good, clear day) to the Colisseum and Forum, and also in a different direction to Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. But if you don't feel like walking, take the metro line - it's a short hop on the subway to most of the central city.
This area is mostly apartment buildings, very few shops, but is convenient to all of Central Rome. We visited two properties in this area:
This property consists of seven suites on two floors in a larger building, like B&B Bologna, and is just a block from the Termini Station, making it very accessible to and from the rest of rome. Suites here are elegantly decorated, and are self catering (no breakfast). The elevator inn the center of the buildding is tiny, so be prepared to make several trips.
The area is busy, but the windows are top-notch, and when closed will reduce the roar of traffic to a barely discernable whisper. Rooms are elegantly appointed, and are fairly large, and each room has a decent-size flat screen TV on the wall, and a kitchenette. Breakfast is not included, but there's a shared kitchen with free soft drinks, croissants, juice, water and cappuccino for guests. A great choice for couples and business travelers, just a 10-15 minute walk to the Forum/Coliseum, etc.
The sister property to 58 Cavour, this is the second property for these owners. The amenities are similar to what's offered at Cavour, and the location is just one block further from the Termini Station. The big difference here is the artwork. The whole suite is painted with wonderful murals of ancient rome - Villa Borghese and other places - that make the place a bit of an Italian fantasy for visiting travelers.
Each of the five rooms features TV, satellite, air conditioning, a safe, a refrigerator, and a hydroshower. There's also an open kitchen with a refrigerator. The property is new (just a year old) and is great for singles or couples wanting to be in the heart of Rome.
Forum/Coliseum/Palatine Hill Area
This area was one of the hilights of our visit to Rome. The ruins in the center of Rome are fairly large - it takes 10-15 minutes to walk from one end of the Forum to the Coliseum at the other end.
Tip: Entrance Tickets to the Palatine Hill and the Coliseum are good for both attractions, so don't buy a ticket at each place, as we did by mistake. Also, there are many guides for hire outside the Coliseum, but they are not trained, and cost twice what a trained guide inside costs.
We started at the Palatine Hill, climbing up steps with the palace of the emperors of Rome right above us. Many of the ruins on the hill are in poor shape, but work has ben done to restore the palace, and it's beautiful atop the hillside.
The hill itself is huge, and you could wander around the ruins here for hours. There's also a museum on the hill, but it's just a few rooms with some pots and shards from the site.
From the Palatine Hill, walk down to the Forum - where most of the day-to-day business of the republic and later the empire were conducted. Again, most of the main structures have been destroyed by time, war and wear, but the ruins themselves are still majestic.
This area is amazing - aside from the roman roads that run through the Forum, there are a number of structures that are still mostly intact, including several triumphal arches, and even the large structures that are in ruins are majestic.
Caesar's tomb is here, looking very modest among all the antiquity - it's humbling to know that someone who had such a pivotal role in history has such a humble tomb, but on the other hand, there's something stirring to know that you stand so close to his final resting place.
At the far end of the Forum, the Coliseum stands as a testament to the building prowess of the ancient Romans. Despite having been stripped of its marble facade over the years, the main part of the structure still endures, and the sheer magnitude of the structure is impressive. How they were able to manage such a building without modern tools amazed both of us.
Most pictures you see of the Coliseum show just the front, but the whole oval arena is still there, and for 10 euro each at the time of our visit, we were able to get inside to see the grand amphitheater, and for an additional 3.50 euro, we joined as tour group. The tour was fairly short, but interesting, but keep your eyes open or the guide will take off without you!
We'd recommend arriving first at the Coliseum, as that seems to be where the longest lines are, then do the Forum and Palatine Hill.
There's also a gay bar right across the street from the Coliseum - called Coming Out - see the pic below with the rainbow flag.
On the far side of the Palatine Hill from the forum is the Circus Maximus, where the chariot races were run. Unfortunately most of the buildings here were destroyed over the centuries and carted away for their materials, so there's now just a tower and a long, grassy field. But if you squint and cast your imagination back a couple thousand years, you can almost hear the crash of wheels against wheels and the thundering of hooves here.
While we were at the forum, a protest passed by - apparently against a move by the government to privatize water supplies - sound familiar? Just substitute the word power for water and California for Italy. It was fascinating to watch. Here are a few pics of the protest.
We're not sure if this was to help preserve them, or just to add a stolen design element to an otherwise bland bilding. But we thought it was pretty cool anyhow.
We visited one accommodation close to the historic center:
Also on Via Cavour, but in the Coliseum/Forum area, Nicolas Inn is another suite rental. The inn's rooms are elegantly furnished, and are run by an Italian and an American, so communication is no problem. The inn has great sound-blocking windows, so traffic won't bother you at night when you're trying to sleep. The 4 rooms are each equipped with a refrigerator, a TV, and wireless internet access. The rooms were all gutted and remodeled when the new owners created the property.
The location is the closest we visited to the Forum and Coliseum - the latter (and the corresponding metro (subway) station are just two blocks away, and you can easily walk to almost anything in central Rome, including the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Ideal for singles, couples and business travelers wanting to see the Centri Storico - the historic center of Rome.
Spagna (Spanish Steps) Area
The Spanish District of Rome was our favorite living part of the city. Take the Metro A line to Spagna, then exit the station and get a delicious sampling of Gelato at Marriot, a small Gelateria in the alley just outside the Station exit. Then follow the alley to the Piazza just ahead, turn right, and you're at the Spanish Steps.
There was a really cute mime here - he'd take your hand and wouldn't let go. Or he'd play around with your hair (see below).
This is the Beverly Hills of Rome - here you'll find Prada (the real thing, not the knockoffs sold by gypsies on street corners), Gucci, and many more.
While the area shopping is a bit rich for many tastes (see the name of the store at right), it's fun just to wander the narrow streets and to find a small ristortante or cafe to sit and watch all the activity. Unlike most of Rome, there's no graffiti here - we're sure the local merchants keep the painters busy keeping it off their walls.
From here, it's just a short way south to the Trevi Fountain. Another great gathering spot to soak up some sun. The fountain is beautiful, all carved from white stone, and there are many little shops around the fountain and on the streets nearby.
To the west a few blocks was our favorite Piazza in Rome - Piazza Navona, a long, oval-shaped piazza with a central pedestrian area, three fountains, beautiful architecture and many artists displaying watercolor and oil paintings of all parts of Rome. This is a great place to spend part of an afternoon, listening to the musicians, shopping the artisans on the square, and just sitting and soaking up the sunshine with a picnic lunch from the macelleria (deli/butcher).
You can find some wonderful gifts for friends at home (or for yourself) here, or sit and listen to a local musician for half an hour. As in many other parts of Rome, there are several "statues" here too - folks painted white or grey who stand entirely still until you drop am coin in their cups. We saw these folks first at the Venetian in Las Vegas - and they're great fun to watch.
One of the best preserved of the ancient Roman buildings is also here - the Pantheon has some beautiful frescoes and statues inside in gilded insets, each dirrerent from the last. The architecture is also interesting - the outside of the dome itself is rough and uneven looking, while the front of the building is much more classical looking.
You've probably also seen the inside of the dome, a masterfully beautiful, simple structure that's been open to the elements for thousands of years. It's amazing to think the Romans were able to build such a perfect structure without modern tools and materials that has stood virtually unchanged for so many years.
This area is riddled with narrow streets that open up unexpectedly onto small Piazzas, fountains, and other public art. Wander around here and get a bit lost - and when you're ready to resurface, ask anyone "Dov'e e metro?" and you'll be directed to the nearest subway stop.
There's also a gay bar here that serves brunch at noon on Sunday for 10 euros - La Buca di Bacco - at Via dei Cartari, 36 - check out the website at www.labucadibacco.com.
Vatican Area - Balduina Piazza
Major Alert - if you want to see the Sistine Chapel, see it first. You do not enter the chapel through St. Peter's Piazza - the main Vatican entrance - instead, you follow the wall outside and to the left of the square, straight, then right, then left - until you reach the Vatican Museum. Go early to get in.
This was our greatest disappointment in Rome - we didn't know where the Chapel was, so we ended up visiting the Basillica instead, which was impressive, but more in a gaudy way. Afterwards, we asked where the Sistine Chapel was, and were directed to a line, which we waited in for over an hour.
We approached the entrance, and were stopped about 30 people back in line for ten minutes. Then word started filtering back that they had closed the Chapel for the rest of the weekend, and that it would not reopen until Monday, the day after we left.
There was no posting of times, no official announcement, and there were probably several thousand folks in line at the time - just one more thing for us to be unhappy with the Vatican and the catholic church about.
We did find some solace in several things, though - in the long, long walk up the stairs to the dome, there's a gay/lesbian sticker on one of the outside windows - a small bit of defiance in the heart of the Catholic Church.
And ok, so the picture to the right is actually one of the Pace (Peace) flags - but it does look pretty cool waving in the foreground with the Vatican behind it.
Also in this area is the Castello San Angelo, another piece of architecture we only got to admire fvrom the outside. We had basically two days in Rome, having lost a day to travel and jetlag, and two days to and there were so many things we wanted to see that we simply didn't have time for.
We also saw one of the best "statues" in Rome here. This guy had a great outfit, perfectly matched in tone to his grey make-up, and a cheeky attitude.
Balduina Piazza is a small traffic circle just a few blocks north of the Vatican. We visited one property in this area:
Literally "at Balduina", Alla Balduina is also a homestay - several elegant rooms on the top floor of an apartment building, on Piazza Balduina, two train stops north of the Vatican. This is a great place to stay for touring the Vatican, as it's an easy walk from the room to St. Peter's Square. Like Happy Goose, Alla Balduina is a little out of the city center, so it's a lot quieter here at night than in the middle of Rome.
In the summertime, breakfast (Colazione Prima) is served on the terrace, a beautiful balcony with nice territorial views. The hosts were both very friendly, and have a beautiful home with three guest bedrooms - one room has its own private terrace, while the other two share a terrace. Two rooms also share a bath. Access is by train (two blocks away), then transfer to the subway line to reach the rets of Rome; or by bus. Great for singles, couples, and buisness travelers.
Literally across the Tevere (formerly the Tiber in ancient Rome), this district is just on the other side of the river from the ruins, reachable over a number of small bridges. The area between Via Trastevere and the river is another great place to wanter, with more Roman alleyways and surprises around each corner.
Originally the place where the Roman servant class lived, Trastevere became known for simple but delicious meals made by the locals, and has since become a bit more gentrified. You can buy fresh flowers and produce on Via Trastavere (as you can along many streets in Rome), and there are some great restaurants here.
From here, you can reach the old heart of Rome over several bridges; the most interesting of these crosses the river at the Isola Tibernia, a small island in the middle of the Tevere River, only big enough for a few buildings between the two bridges that connect the island to either side.
We ate one night at Asino Cotto at Via dei Vascellari, 48 (www.asinocotto.com), a gay-friendly restaurant (see the rainbow sticker in the window in the picture at the left) that had excellent food and a friendly, warm environment - meals were affordable, from 10-20 euro, and include pasta, seafood, lamb, duck, and a number of other gourmet dishes.
We also ate at a place called La Fraschetta at Via S. Francesco a Ripa, 134 (www.lafraschetta.com) that Nicholas Inn recommended - just to the west of Via Trastevere, and also with very good food.
We had dessert at another gay friendly place - Il Giordino dei Ciliegi - close to La Fraschetta - very nice folks there, and the biggest list of gourmet teas you'll find this side of England. While not a gay venue per se, they were very friendly, and referred us to a gay brunch that takes place on Sundays in Rome, close to the Plaza Navona - see that section for more info.
Hotel San Francesco is just off Piazza Francesco, a small square sandwiched between Via Trastevere and the river. The hotel is beautiful, and features a rooftop patio with nice area views (no view of the Coliseum here, sorry). The rooms are not huge, but are elegant and nicely decorated, and feature a full bathtub in a reasonably large bathroom. The room was very quiet with the windows closed and fairly quiet at night even with them open - ask for a room in the back of the hotel, away from the Piazza.
Breakfast here was excellent - as in many places in Rome, the breads are a bit dry, but the pastries (especially the apple/custard cakes) were fantastic, as were the fresh peaches and other fruit. The hotel is a 20 minute walk to the Coliseum, but there's a bus that picks up half a block away, and drops you right in front of the Palatine or Coliseum for 1 euro (for details on transportation in Rome, see the travel section below). A great choice for singles, couples or business travelers who want to stay in a fascinating neighborhood close to the city center.
The town is just past Viterbo when coming from the coast, a medium sized modern town. It's an easy drive, up the autostrada along the coast, and then turning inland after Civita Vecchia.
As you drive inland, you'll pass some of the old Roman Aqueducts, then several small medieval towns, before turning north toward Viterbo. If you have the time, stop and explore as you go.
Coming into Vittorchiano, there's nothing much to see at first. You come off the highway and turn north, and then take the first right - there are a few typical Italian houses and an interesting white dome that covers the local swimming pool. But drive maybe a mile down the road and you'll come to the gates of the old city. Park here, and wander down into the old town.
Get a good guide, like ours (at left), or ask Kim or Giuliana at Casa Manzoni if they have a couple minutes to point you to the sights.
Vittorchiano was a fort town, built up on a hill with a ravine around it, and from several spots you have spectacular views of the ravine and the city walls.
There are a number of wonderful twists and turns here, around which you'll find beautiful stone arches and stairways, with verdant green moss and plants to brighten the stone walkways.
Bring a picnic lunch with you and sit overlooking the valley below for a quiet, peaceful and inspiring lunch.
We visited Kim and Giuliana here at Casa Manzoni, one of the oldest houses outside the city walls that has been remodeled with all the modern conveniences by the two owners. The house was built in the 1700's, and is just a 5 minute walk from the old city gates. Casa Manzoni occupies the top floor, with beautiful pastoral views of the surrounding countryside. It's a vacation rental, so you have the run of the flat - the owners live down in the old town, so you also have complete privacy.
With a fully equipped but rustic kitchen, TV, DVD Player, AC, and heater, the house is a great rustic getaway from the noise and crowdedness of Rome (just an hour away) with all the modern comforts, and is 2 hours to Florence from here by car, and 50 minutes to the beach. The property has 2 bedrooms, making it perfect for a couple, a group traveling together, or a family who wants a little room to spread out.
Transportation in Rome
Rome, like Italy, is full of contradictions. The one that struck us the most was size. Rome is a huge metropolitan area, with many distinctive neighborhoods, two airports, and oversize ruins. But most of the Roman transportation is small - tiny buses and tiny cars. There's just too little parking on the city, with few parking lots and no garages we could see, so the smaller, the better (check out the little bus at right). When we were preparing for our trip, numerous sources advised against trying to drive in Rome, especially in the city center. This is good advice - a seasoned driver from New York City or San Francisco might be okay, but no matter how good your driving skills are, parking (or attempting to) may drive you crazy. Romans park everywhere - small cars and motorcycles and scooters are everywhere (macchina, motocicleta and moto, respectively, in Italiano).
Romans have always driven small cars, and recently Swatch and Mercedes partnered on the smart car, a two passenger mini-car that's about as long as most cars are wide - you can park two of these in a standard parking spot, tho there's only room for a fairly small amount of luggage behind the seats. More on these cars later - we rented one at the Rome airport from sixti.com for our trip to Vitorchiano for just 19 euro - about $25 US Dollars - for a full day, including full insurance coverage. For those more daring, a single day rental of just the car (no insurance) costs just 5 euro (for some reason, multiple days come at a higher per-day rate).
Rome offers several other ways to get around, too. There's the train system - coming into the city from the airport, or traveling around the edges of it. There's also the Metro - the subway that has two lines, A and B, that intersect at Termini Station.
You buy tickets for these trains at the stations or at Tabacchi - literally Tobacco Store, but actually a mix of convenience store and ticket counter. You can buy for a certain distance (ie, to the airport), buy a regular pass (1 euro, usable for 1 subway ride and unlimited trains/buses for 75 minutes), a day pass (3 euro - worthwhile if you plan to take more than three metro rides during the day), or a four day pass (10 euro or so). Purchase according to the length of stay and number of rides you think you'll make. We just bought the regular passes as needed.
There's also the taxi - though convenient, these are very expensive - and if you have one called, you start paying from the moment the call is received, not when the cab arrives. We spent 50 euro - about $62 - for just two cab rides the day after we arrived.
We couldn't find a bus map while we were in Rome, but the hotel you stay at will probably be able to tell you what line(s) to take for where you want to go. Take advantage of the public transportation in Rome - it's cheap and it goes everywhere. And if the day is nice, walk!
Eating in Rome
Eating in Italy has its own traditions and idisyncracies, including:
--Most of the restaurants we visited offered water with or without gas - carbonated or non-carbonated. If you say yes to either, expect to pay 3-6 euro for a bottle for two. If you say no, expect a strange look or two.
--Be aware, too, that Cokes are very expensive in Italy - typically 3.50-5.00 euros per can, no refill included. And Pepsi is rare in Italy, for some reason. Most places serve Coca Cola.
--Most restaurants do not offer ice except by request - so if you want ice with your drink, ask for "giacchio" - pronounced "ghee-ah-cho".
--Although offically banned in the larger cities in Italy, many places still charge a cover charge - literally, a charge to use the table and table cloth (cover). This shows up as a coperto charge (cover), or pane e coperto (bread and cover) on the bill. If you visit a bar or cafe and don't plan to stay there to eat, say "no tavolo" (no table) and your bill will be less. If you do want to stay and relax, ask for a tavolo, and expect to pay a bit more (often 1-2 euros, more in some touristy areas - we paid 9 in the center of Milan). This allows you to rent the table as long as you want it, so feel free to stay and people watch for a long morning or afternoon. One other note: usually if you choose to sit, they cashier will tell you to choose a table, and a waiter will come take your order, instead of ordering at the counter.
--Most restaurants will tell you "servizio incluso", meaning the cost of service/tip is part of the bill/food charge. In this case, you do not need to tip on top of the bill, but can give an extra euro or two if you want to a server or bus boy who gave you excellent service - this is always appreciated. If servizio non incluso, then the tip should be left in addition to the bill. If you pay by credit card and want to include the tip on the card, tell the waiter when he first brings the check how much you want to add. Unlike in the US, you can't add the tip to the credit card bill after the waiter charges you. You may want to tip in Euro anyhow, as we were advised by some other travelers that some restaurants do not pass the credit card tips on to the staff.
--Avoid restaurants close to tourist attractions as a general rule, unless the place has been recommended to you by someone who has been there. Often the food there will be expensive and of poor quality.
--Sometimes you'll get a rude waiter (we had several in Rome). Tip the busing staff if you can directly in these cases - they have to put up with this guy every day.
--If you need another coke, bread basket, etc, the word is "altro" - "altro coke, per favore", "altro pane" (bread), etc.
Interesting Roman Signs
Sexy shops, shame on Bush, and lingerie on delivery.
Here are a few resources we found helpful during our visit to Italy. Please remember that the advice in these resources is AYOR.
Italy Gaymap Roma & Napoli
Not sure who puts this one out, but we were provided a copy by Bologna B&B - thanks, Aldo and Daniela! This handy little map lists bars, discos, restaurants, accommodations, information points, shopping, sex shops, travel agents, internet points, baths, cruising spots, and more in both Rome and Naples.
Insight Guides: Italy
While a bit light in detail on some of the outlying areas, this guide is rich in information on the history of Italy, and is a great read before you go or companion in Rome and Italy - but be warned - it's a bit heavy, so it's better for suitcase travel than backpacking.
Oxford Italian Minidictionary
Our bible in Italy. We took an Italian for Travelers class at the Italian Center in Sacramento - thanks Patrizia for the excellent instruction. But there's no substitute for having the answers to your linguistic questions on hand. We carried this n our camera case, and used it to translate signs, ask questions, find that word you either didn't know or forgot, and most interestingly in conversation back and forth with folks we met on the trip, when they spoke a little English and we spoke a little Italian. Highly recommended, with English to Italian, Italian to English, Common Phrases, and verb table sections.
Innkeepers and travelers, please send us your stories to share - to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Out on Vacation: Traveling in the Gay Friendly World:
Written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams - copyrighted and used with permission
We have just returned from another three week driving trip to the West Coast and as always had a fabulous adventure which of course is what traveling should be all about.
First to Colorado Springs for a three day visit with our Aunt Helen who is our very favorite relative. Her daughter and son in law joined in most of the activities of sight-seeing and delicious dining.
Then on to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a couple of days where we have been many times. Everything is so different there. While there we met Bobbi, a dear friend of ours who we had met on another trip in Georgia a few years ago. She lives in Ft. Myers, Florida and she and her neighbor, Betty just happened to be on a driving trip and was returning from Sedona, Arizona and we got to see them for a few hours. Her neighbor was delightful as is Bobbi. It was great being with the two of them. Can't wait to see them again when we are in Florida in January.
Then on to the beyond FABULOUS, Luna Vista Resort (www.lunavistabandb.com) in Rimrock, Arizona which is about 15 miles south of Sedona. The owners, Kala and Frank are the nicest, most sincere and friendliest of any Bed and Breakfast that we have ever stayed. Their B and B is the finest we have ever been a guest in. Everything there is all about YOU. On our last night Kala had a dinner party for us. Out in the middle of Arizona she prepared this utterly fabulous seafood dinner. The B and B is located remotely in the countryside and the scenic wonders are astounding. Earlier that day, we were informed by telephone that some "gentlemen" with loaded guns were on the loose in the area. Helicopters were hovering very close to the ground and there were plenty of police and highway patrol cars in the area. We locked all the windows and doors while the high drama pursued. In about an hour the "gentlemen" were caught just down the driveway. Needless to say, "cocktail hour" began a little early that day!
From Rimrock, we drove on to Palm Springs. Ray had seen a clip on the Travel Channel about a man who owns a bookstore in Quartzsite, Arizona just at the border of California. He sells biographies, novels, fiction/non-fiction, cookbooks and every kind of used book. Just one thing sets him apart from all the other book dealers in the nation. He is NUDE! Or almost. He wears a straw hat and the smallest g string that we have ever seen. He is extremely friendly and hospitable and enjoyable to talk with. We purchased two books, one on Liberace and the other on Josephine Baker, the famous black entertainer who was originally from St. Louis. When in New York City, be SURE and dine at Chez Josephine, located at: 414 West 42nd St. They are open for lunch and dinner. Check them out at: www.chezjosephine.com . Jean Claude Baker, the owner has this utterly beyond fabulous restaurant in her honor.
Then on to our "Summer Place", Palm Springs, California. It always stays the same year after year after year. Always fabulous. We always stay at the Terrazzo Resort (www.terrazzo-ps.com). The owners Tom and Doug have done such a great job with the resort. This is the ONLY place for gays to stay in Palm Springs. Besides having the resort they also have a wonderful condo just a few blocks away that you can rent by the month. It has it's own swimming pool or you can use the pool at the Terrazzo. We always have our first meal in Palm Springs at Melvyn's Restaurant (www.inglesideinn.com). Everything is done right at this restaurant. The owner, Mel Haber is such a gentleman.
Robert Riera and Richard Dalwigk had us for cocktails the first night and their wonderful friends, Ken Wilson and Grant Allen were there. They took us out to dinner at a new restaurant in town and everything was grand and a great time was had by all.
Our good friend, Auntie Mame from Hollywood, Florida flew into Palm Springs for the week that we were there. She is the finest and best entertainer in all of Florida.
The next night, our dear friend, Millie Bollin, the Grande Dame of Palm Springs had a very special party in our honor for over 100 guests. We of course wore our tuxedos. Millie knows how to host a party and she didn't get the title, Grande Dame by not doing it right! A grand time was had by all. She is such a gracious lady. After the party we stopped by Melvyn's and got to meet his extremely charming and attractive wife. We sat down for a drink and enjoyed the great talents of their entertainer, Bill Baker.
The next night our good friend, Jerry Yerich, who owns the Kate Smith Estate hosted another special party in our honor with over 150 guests. Auntie Mame performed at his party. Jerry lives in both Palm Springs and Fort Lauderdale and is always a very gracious host.
The next night we hosted a party at the Terrazzo Resort as we always do everytime we go to Palm Springs. Auntie Mame performed as did Bijou who was dressed to perfection and always uses her own voice. The poolside party lasted for hours and everyone had a great time. Among the attendees was Dame Diane Stone who owns the Rich and Famous Jewelry Salon in downtown Palm Springs. She has a grand selection of jewelry. Our dear friend Tyke presented us with matching Topaz!
Then the last day in Palm Springs, we always dine at Melvyn's again and we had the best filet of sole that we have ever had.
Staying at the Terrazzo when we were there was the multi-talented New York City playwrite, Matthew Lombardo who's play TEA AT FIVE was playing at the Pasadena Playhouse Theatre. Starring, Kate Mulgrew it is a one woman play about Kathryn Hepburn. Also staying at the Terrazzo was Anthony Maraciona and Joseph LoBue who owns "Thats a Nice" (new tastes from the old world). They sell gourmet Southern Italian foods. Visit their website at: www.thatsanice.com. They are a delightful couple.
Then our dear friend, Stefan Hemming who owns the Liberace Estate in Palm Springs hosted a huge party in our honor on our last night there. The estate has over 8,000 square feet and there were people everywhere. Auntie Mame performed there also. Stefan is such a grand host and everyone had a fabulous time. He is one of the most funny, entertaining and honest people that we have ever met. We think that perhaps the next day (after we left) that they all had a major party at the Betty Ford Clinic just to dry out!
Then on to Beverly Hills and West Hollywood for a couple of quick days where we did see Kate Mulgrew, starring in TEA AT FIVE and she was marvelous. Her performance was exquisite. She played Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. If you ever get a chance to see it, GO!
A LONG drive back home through Zion National Park in Utah and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado had a very smoothing effect on us after all the partying that we had.
We ALWAYS have a grand and fabulous time when we travel however this trip was very special in many ways. We want to thank everyone for being so nice and wonderful to us on our trip. A very special THANK YOU goes out to Jim Doyle, Millie Bollin, Stefan Hemming, Jerry Yerich, Tom and Doug who own the Terrazzo, Tyke Bonsor, Mel Haber and to our dear Florida friend, Auntie Mame. She is such a jewel! Just remember to ALWAYS have fun when you travel and always meet new and exciting people.
Gaytravelers@aol.com is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, a gay couple of over 34 years of "togetherness" who live in the greater Kansas City area. They are also Antique Dealers and have toured the entire United States traveling in search of antiques and for fabulous "gay meccas" of which they have found several.
On their 25th Anniversary, Elizabeth Taylor wrote, "Congratulations to the two of you on your 25th Anniversary! You have surely reached an important milestone in your lives together, and I send you my best wishes as you celebrate tonight". Candice Gingrich wrote, "Your enduring relationship is another shining example of what "family values" is and should be about... trust, security, love commitment. Continued success in your togetherness".
Here are the current inns we have listed for sale - wanna become an innkeeper? :)
Innkeepers: Selling your inn?