This is long overdue; part three of our trip to Italy from earlier this year, which will include our four days and three nights in Rome and a wrap-up of the trip itself. In case you missed it, I’ve broken out this trip into separate entries and you can find part one here, which covers off on our initial travel from the States and our stay in Milan and Venice. Part 2 is here and covers off on Florence and our time around Tuscany.
Our final stop got off to a bit of a rocky start, as we boarded the train and were likely cursed at in Italian by a handful of other passengers. After receiving zero help from anyone, it was time to sit back and relax for our express train (90 minutes) from Florence to Rome.
Once arriving in Rome, the “When in Rome…” one-liner flowed off the tongue approximately 25 times in the first hour as we planned our day. Alicia found the Roma Pass, which allowed you to skip the lines at certain tourist attractions and gave you a pass to the city’s metro/train for three days. For 30 Euro, this was a no-brainer. It was however difficult to A. find a place that sold the pass and B. trying to tell the guy that was selling them, “I want what they (Brad/Alicia) just bought”. Towards the last few days of the trip, my patience was wearing thin for stuff like this.
We decided that the first place we would use the pass would be at the Colosseum. Did I mention what a great find the Roma Pass was and that it is well worth the money? As you would likely suspect, the Colosseum is an absolute tourist trap with hundreds of people waiting in random lines, vendors trying to sell you tours (and god knows what else). I have to say that the Colosseum easily exceeded my expectations. I thought there was a chance it would be completely underwhelming and that thought was quickly dismissed.
After the Colosseum, it was time to walk around more ruins – passing through the Arch of Constantine and through Palatine Hill. Here you will also have a great view of the Colosseum (see pictures below). After a few hours of walking around, it was time to head to the hotel for a quick nap and happy hour. The Fiume Hotel is a little off the beaten path, but by all means completely fine. It is a 10 minute walk or so to the nearest metro station and several stops away from the main parts of town.
Given timing and the lack of desire to do more walking, we took a cab to a recommended restaurant … only to find that it was closed for the week. Again! This trip will be remembered for our complete lack of luck in getting a solid recommendation for food. We wound up at a café which had very good food. I ordered a ‘loaded’ pizza and it was delicious.
After dinner it was time to do some more walking around and site-seeing. We walked up and down the Spanish Steps and made our way to Trevi Fountain (fun fact in link). Both places were extremely crowded so after about 20-30 minutes at each, we were on our way to find the next stop. We wound up at a wine bar because everything else was closing early. This was preceded by one staff member telling us that we would love some of their champagne by saying “Would you like some champagne?!?!” in the creepiest way possible. (You’ll have to trust me on this. It was straight out of a horror film. The next time we see Brad and Alicia, I will try to remember to have him impersonate the guy and put it on Vine / post a link to it here. I’m getting flustered just typing this and remembering the guy.)
It was time to head home as the wine bar was looking to close (an hour before our table, and a few others, left). We ordered two bottles of wine to go, only to have the bag they were in break as we were waiting for a cab and one of the two bottles (the red one of course) explode in the street. Strike one. After a little bit of haggling, the front desk sold us a bottle of their wine from the (closed) bar and we were back in the game. There is/was a nice sized lounge at Hotel Fiume, so we stayed down there for at least an hour or so.
Day 2 in Rome started off with a little venture through the metro. The couples went their separate ways and Dorothy and I made the trip to San Giovanni Square and Church. I have to say that this church was gorgeous inside. There are beautiful paintings and sculptures throughout the church. In the middle of the church is a memorial and casket where you can make a wish and throw coin into. We didn’t have any coin on us so Dorothy took a dollar bill and went to throw it into the area. The dollar bill essentially fell flat to the ground, making it to the second step down in front of us – so hopefully she didn’t make any important wishes on that one …
Afterward, it was time to meet up with Brad and Alicia for our next tour – a trip to Tivoli, Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa through Dark Rome Ltd. First, kudos to Dark Rome, a great tour company to use while in Rome (we booked them through Viator.com). Hadrian’s Villa was a recommendation from Brad’s co-worker and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was a highlight of Rome and the trip, even if the stories of Hadrian and his preferences were a little disturbing. You can look those up for yourself. Hadrian lived quite the exquisite lifestyle and his palace was simply amazing. The area by his pool was something to strive for in life I think (see pictures).
The Villa d’Este was gorgeous, with various water fountains and gardens spread throughout the property. Unfortunately, on our way to see one of the fountains and organ, we had our first major misstep as Dorothy took a spill down a few (wet) steps. That left a mark for about a month.
The tour bus from Tivoli to Rome took a lot longer than anticipated as there was a major traffic jam that cost us a good, additional hour on the road. Upon returning to Rome, it was time to find another restaurant for dinner. We wound up at Il Pomodorino for a good meal and good seating out on the terrace. I would recommend the fried mozzarella rice balls (whatever they might be called officially). But I would also recommend that you check the wine that they serve you! Big mistake on our end, as the staff brought out the same brand of wine, but a bottle that was quadruple the price. After getting the bill and 5 minutes of “debate”, we gave up and just paid the bill in full. Quite annoying, but partially our fault.
Our final full day in Rome was built around a Vatican tour. This was one of the few parts to the trip that was on my ‘must see’ list and it didn’t disappoint. We were up nice and early to get to the Skip the Line tour. While the tour is listed as “private”, know that there are dozens of other “private” tours going on at the same time, so you wind up with a thousand people all getting early admittance to the Vatican City. Our tour was once again through Dark Rome and our tour guide, Federica, was absolutely fantastic.
Federica took us through the highlights of Vatican City, through Raphael’s Rooms, and into the Sistine Chapel. Words and descriptions would not do this ANY justice whatsoever, so I’m not even going to try to explain to you what this looked like or how awesome it was. The fresco paintings, well, really just about everything you see on this tour was impressive. There is one particular painting that Michelangelo did and one of the faces on it looks exactly like Sylvester Stallone / Rocky.
After going through the Sistine Chapel, the official tour is essentially over and you walk out of the church and directly into St. Peter’s Square. There was something about walking around this area that just made it feel great. I really can’t put my finger on it or how to best describe it though. They were actually setting up the square for Pope Francis’ first public speech in the Vatican City since being elected Pope a few weeks prior. After purchasing rosary beads and a few other souvenirs (more on this in a second), it was onto our last evening in Rome.
Our last evening was pretty relaxed, with a nice dinner, fine wine, and a little more site-seeing – including the Pantheon. The next morning was a bit of a different story. After breakfast and beginning to pack up, Dorothy and I could not find our souvenir bag from the Vatican. Literally, if this were ANY other souvenir bag I would have forgotten about it and ordered replacements online. However, there was something about ordering rosary beads online that irked me. So while Brad and Alicia made their way over to a final few, new sites, Dorothy and I scrambled back to the Vatican. After running in and around various entry points, we finally just gave in and drew a few plays in the sand (a figure of speech). We cut through and past anyone and everyone. When stopped, I think I gave a huge sob story and minutes later we were back in the souvenir shop and buying replacements. (Note: about two months after the trip, we found the original souvenirs at the bottom of a travel purse. Of course we did.)
Thankfully, the flight home went off without a hitch. Alitalia and Delta Airlines made this as easy as possible. This concludes the third and final part of our 2nd anniversary trilogy. (Finally!)
If I were asked to rank the cities we visited in Italy it would go: 1. Venice (by a mile), 2. Rome, 3. Florence, and 4. Milan. Venice and Rome were clearly the highlights of the trip. Florence and Milan were even, but I would give Florence the nod simply because of the accessibility of the rest of Tuscany. If it were a simple comparison of Florence vs. Milan, the latter would get the slight edge.
Take a look at the pictures of Rome below. What would you recommend for someone visiting Rome? Did we miss any highlights?
The Colosseum from the ancient ruins:
A loaded pizza?!:
The Spanish Steps:
San Giovanni Basilica:
Hadrian's Villa (Pool Area):
One of Raphael's rooms at the Vatican:
Sylvester Stallone / Rocky?:
St. Peter's Square: