The reason for the whole trip was to go to the Oxford Alumni meeting on the Saturday. We arrived on the Friday and went to the Somerville dinner that night, attended the Oxford meeting on the Saturday, and the lunch at the British ambassador's residence on the Sunday, before picking up a rental car at Rome Airport and heading off to Umbria for another 11 nights. Spring had not yet arrived in Italy, and our stay in Rome was dogged by rain. And Umbria was jolly cold.

Room with a view 105

This was our accommodation - a sort of B&B without the breakfast. It was a very well decorated, but small bedroom, about 500 yards further out of town than the Coliseum. This 4 room B&B occupies what was once a complete apartment in an up-market apartment block. It is on the second floor and is accessed by a small lift if you do not want to use the stairs

Manuel, the owner, arranged a pick up for us from Rome Airport and a return 3 days later. He greeted us on arrival, gave us a quick run down of our room and the area. He lives elsewhere, so there is nobody actually in the apartment - we would have had to contact him by phone if we need any questions answered. We never saw anyone after arrival.

There was the added bonus of an Easter cake and a bottle of sparking wine in the room.

We got a coupon for a breakfast of coffee and cake in the small cafe in the adjoining building. This is fine if the weather is good, but when it rains as it did during our visit, there is nowhere to sit in the cafe - their tables are on the pavement. On Sunday the cafe is closed and Manuel puts out a flask of coffee and cellophane wrapped food in the apartments lobby. Coffee was luke warm and undrinkable, the food was inedible.

The bedroom is modern and well decorated, but quite small. All the available space in the apartment is used for the bedrooms, so there is no public sitting area.

Overall it offers very good value for money. You have to weigh up the pros and cons from your personal point of view. We could walk to the Coliseum. and to the British Ambassador's residence, both about 500 metres away, but anything else necesitated phoning for a taxi

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Somerville Dinner at Caesare Restaurant

The venue was recommended by a Somervillian living in Rome. It is very centrally situated (close to the Vatican) and is larger inside than you might think from its exterior. Our group was at the very back in a semi-private room. We were served a 4 course meal of typical Italian food. It was certainly too much for me - I made the mistake of thinking the pasta course was the main course, and ate all the pasta - on reflection I should have left some of it!

Service was "correct" without being too formal. I thought the value for money very good. I would certainly eat here again if I had to chose a restaurant in the centre of Rome.

Somerville Bear had the good fortune to have his photo taken with the present Principal of Somerville , Jan Royall, otherwise known as Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

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Villa Wolkonsky - the British Ambassador's Residence for Sunday Lunch

Villa Wolkonsky is the official residence of the British ambassador to Italy in Rome. It was originally owned by a Russian princess, Zenade Wolkonsky, who made her home there in the 1830s. Subsequently it passed through various ownerships until it was sold to the German government in 1920, becoming the German embassy and ambassador's residence. After the Liberation of Rome in 1944, the Italian government sequestrated the property, and it was placed under the Allied Control Commission. For a short time it was occupied by the Swiss legation and then the Italian Red Cross.

When the British embassy at Rome's Porta Pia was blown up by members of the clandestine militant Zionist group Irgun on 31 October 1946, the Italian government made the Villa available to the British government to use as a temporary embassy and residence. The United Kingdom purchased the Villa in 1951. When the new UK embassy was reopened at its original location in 1971, the offices moved back to Porta Pia and the Villa reverted to its present role as Her Majesty's Ambassador's Residence.

In the same grounds are outbuildings containing apartments for senior embassy officials. The Villa itself is frequently used for seminars and workshops, and is also rented out to appropriate academic or commercial organisations for major events. The extensive grounds are also the venue for the annual Queen's Birthday Party. They are the jewel of the Villa, still containing many features originally introduced by Princess Wolkonsky. A recent tree and plant census listed around 200 different species.

We enjoyed a buffet lunch and a stroll in the grounds . Chris met the previous ambassador, who was looking for his dog's grave, and had a chat with him. Pembroke Bear had his photo taken with the lady physicist who had given a talk the day before.


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The Oxford University Sessions at the Cavilieri Hotel

I did not think that the lecture sessions were as good as the ones I have attended in Madrid or in Oxford Alumni weekends. The venue was perhaps a little to blame - it was well out of the city and not really suitable for this sort of meeting.

Lunch was reasonable, and Somerville had their own table again. It is odd that Pembroke never do anything at these functions. Pembroke Bear wants his photo taken with the Master (or he thinks that it is a Mistress now).

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And a few sights to see around Rome

We had been to Rome before, and our sightseeing was confined to walking down to the Coliseum. - that walk was really on the limit of what Chris could manage with her new knee. Plus walking about the same distance to the British Ambassador's residence.

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After that we were picked up by the limo service and taken to Rome Airport and the Hertz rental car. And on to Norcia

Our Italian Holiday