Thursday, September 12, 2013

When in Roma

What do you think about when you think of Rome? For us, it was monuments, the Vatican, food, wine, cafes, romance...Well, pretty much that is what this trip was for us. It lives up to those stereotypes but in a good way. This was one of the best cities in Europe I think I've been to and for those coming from the USA looking for a nice European getaway - a few days here, you will be pleased.

Trevi Fountain at Night
We chose to stay near the Spanish Steps - which for us, was the perfect central location. We took our first full day in Rome to hit all the main sites - starting at the Spanish Steps/Piazza del Popolo, hitting the Trevi fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Jewish Quarter, Roman Forum, Coliseum and everything in between. We say it about everywhere but the best way to see any city is walking it and Rome is a very walkable city. The sites are much closer than one might think on the map. Don't let it fool you into thinking they are forever apart. And do as travelers should in Rome, when parched - stop and have a glass of wine. For us, along the walk we found Piazza Pasquino right off the Piazza Navona to be our spot. There is a wine bar there with a nice selection, Cul de Sac. And there was a bar just up the street called Mimi's which was delightful as well.
Spanish Steps
Roman Forum
The symbol of Rome
Roman Forum
Roman Forum

Piazza de Novano
Piazza de Novano

Piazza de Novano

Looking up at the Pantheon

Inside the Pantheon

Inside the Pantheon

Famous ceiling of the Pantheon

Trevi by day

Cute cafe to take care of our thirst

Post up along the river to talk or have drink

We opted for the drink on the river
Meat, cheese, wine - great diet in Rome

 That night, we went the famous place for Cacio e Pepe - Roma Sparita. Anyone who watches Anthony Bourdain - this is where he went. We loved it. We actually went here twice. The second time we went with our friend Mike who was vacationing in Rome with his family and we really enjoyed lunch - better than dinner. The place was quite, there were a few tables of people just enjoying their afternoon and good food. Either way, we highly suggest visiting here if possible.

Ham and melon - all day every day

My kind of pasta

Grilled lamb - yes, please
After dinner, we made our way back to the other side of the river and met our friends Mike and Amber at the Trevi Fountain. From there, we went to the Pantheon. The best way to cap off the night is a bottle of wine, sitting on the fountain steps with good friends all night. Travelers Tip: it is okay to drink in the streets of Rome so highly recommend finding a great location with a good bottle of wine...sit on the steps and just be in the moment. You will not be disappointed.

The next day, we did the Vatican Tour. The only way I can describe it was, it was an unholy experience. The most impressive thing was Saint Peter's Square which is what you wanted the whole experience to be. Fortunately, we opted for the museum tour without a guide so we were able to get through it as quickly as possible. We overheard one tour guide saying the day we went (which was a Friday), it was packed more than usual and that Monday's are the worst because most sites are closed Sunday so everyone wants to go on Monday. Either way - we were shoulder to shoulder, pretty much the entire museum. Most rooms didn't have air conditioning (it was 90+ degrees out) so it was hot with way too many people. The art work is beautiful but the unfortunate thing is you really can't appreciate it all the way you should because there were too many people. My suggestion, if you don't feel like you have to go, view it from the outside. You will have a much better experience - or try to find an evening private tour if you can spend a little extra. Travelers Tip: If you do decide to go, purchase your tickets ahead of time. They assign it by specific times you can enter the museum and you can skip the lines. The one thing they don't make clear but we researched before arriving, is you take your voucher to the ticket counters inside and swop out for real tickets. If unsure, be sure to ask so you don't find yourself standing in line for no reason.

St. Peter's Square


View from the Vatican

Don't miss the floors, they are pretty and have lots of history too

Chris was upset they served puppy for the last supper

After the Vatican, we headed to the Piazza Campio de Fiori. Here they have a great outdoor market and also a great pizza spot. They serve pizza squares, folded like a sandwich in Rome. Two places that are supposed to have the best pizza are: 1) Forno Campo de’ Fiori 2) Antico Forno Roscioli. We tried them both and glad we did.

Best fish market in Rome and other goodies as well - don't miss it
That evening, we headed up to the Fontana del Gianicolo with a bottle of wine to catch the sunset. It was perfect. They were even filming a movie up there. It looked like an Italian film. From there, we were so impressed with the view - we ended up walking to the Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi. It has the best view of the city. One side you can see all the main sites, on the other is a view of the Vatican. Seriously amazing if anyone has the chance to get there. To finish off the day, Chris and I sat on the Spanish Steps, wine in hand and just people watched, talked and enjoyed a perfect night together.

Gianicolo Fountain
Came out blurry but they were filming a movie
Light up the night in Rome

On our last day, we meet up with our friend Mike. We started the day with some wine in the Trastevere - specifically the Santa Maria square. From there, we walked to lunch to the same place we went our first night, Roma Sparita for the Cacio e Pepe. We ordered the lamb, some melon & ham and zucchini blossoms with some house wine. It was perfect. We continued our walk around that part of town, and made our way back to the Fontana del Gianicolo and the Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi. Afterwards, went back to Cul de Sac for some wine and cheese and then parted ways that evening. It was as close to a perfect day as possible.

The boys enjoy vino on the steps
Had to go back

Stewed lamb this go around

Find the less touristy areas and you find more beautiful streets

Piazza Novano at sunset
The day we headed back to the airport, we still had a half day in the city. We stopped in at this awesome cafe, Ginger which specializes in good organic food. We needed some serious nutrient replenishment so we ordered veggie packed salads and fruit smoothies. We saved the last of the sites we really hadn't seen for this day which were all near the train station: Quattro Fontana (4 fountains which all sit on a corner of the street - super pretty) and the Terme di Dioclezaino which is right in front of the station.
Piazza Popolo

4 fountains corner

We head back to Poland which feels more and more like home with every vacation we take.

Where to Stay:

Choosing the location in a city you've never been can be difficult so here are the areas we enjoyed the most and would look to stay at next time.
  • Spanish Steps/Piazza del Popolo: This is the area we stayed in. Our hotel was pretty much on the Spanish Steps and was a great central location and close to the metro. This is where all the high end fashion is so if you are looking for shopping, look no further. While we were not there to shop, it was a pretty part of town and great starting point to walk the city. Piazza del Popolo is just down the street and from there you have easy access to Spanish Steps and a straight shot to the Vatican. The Piazza del Popolo is also a very pretty piazza with great statues and if you walk to the top of the hill there, a nice view of the city.
  • Trastervere: This section of town is on the other side of the river. You might read that and think it's too far from everything but it's not. This is hot spot for trendy restaurants and much more of a local vibe going on. It is an easy walk to all the sites from over here. They also have the Santa Maria in Trastervere which is a pretty square and our favorite view of Rome was the Fontana del Gianicolo - just up the hill.
  • Piazza Navona: This was a piazza we loved. From this location, there are lots of great other Piazza's just around the corner. It's centrally located super close to Trevi Fountain, and near a lot of other sites but not as packed with tourists. 
  • Where not to stay: Near the Tervi Fountain. Sad to say but this was such a tourist trap and way too many people. Definitely a site to see but would suggest a different location with less people.
Getting from the airport to the city center:
  • Fiumucino Airport: Most travelers coming from the USA will be flying into Fiumicino. From there, you will need to find out how best to get to your next destination in the city center. If you have more money to spend on the trip, after a long flight - a taxi is probably the less hassle way to get exactly where you need to go. But if you are on a tight budget, look into the Terravision Bus. A real cheap option to get into the city center, will drop you off at the Termini (train station) and from there, they have city buses and metro that you can take to your hotel - even taxis which would be less than from the airport. 
  • Ciampino Airport: If you are traveling to the Ciampino Airport, you probably flew in on RyanAir or Wizz Air. The cheapest and really easy way to get into the city is the Terravision bus. It leaves right from the airport and takes about 30 minutes into Rome. If you purchase your return ticket at the same time you can save some money that way. It too will drop you off at the Termini (train station) in downtown Rome which you can then take city buses or the metro to where you need to go. The public transportation is pretty good in Rome, but it can be crowded.
    • Traveler Tip: When traveling on the Terravision buses - make sure even if you have your return tickets, when at the Termini station and headed back to either airport, you have to go into their office, which is located right where the buses are, and pick up a "boarding pass". It is just an easy way to make sure that everyone gets a fair shot at a seat and that you don't get on the wrong bus. 
Our Two Cents: 

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