Just this weekend, Ian mentioned to me how he had been thinking recently about our Europe trip and how wonderful of a time it was. Coincidentally enough, I'd just been thinking the very same thing earlier that day. Navigating foreign territory and speaking only a bit of the language (and trying to fit in a LOT in a limited amount of time) can be stressful, but when you've just got one person to rely on as a partner in crime, it can really bring you together.
We had three nights planned in Rome. After our two nights in Florence, we caught the train down south to Rome and walked to our hotel. It was about a ten minute walk, and in retrospect, we couldn't have taken a more indirect and ghetto walking route. Literally, sketchier than sketchy surroundings. We even had to walk under a bridge underpass that was so smelly and littered with old cardboard wine containers from the homeless population (I sort of loved that their booze of choice is wine). Ian was starting to bug out and I was trying to put on my brave face; I was the one that researched and booked the hotel! Finally, everything changed, the angels sang, the area turned a thousand times nicer, and we arrived at our hotel. We realized later that had we taken a left out of the train station rather than a right, our walk to the hotel would have been shorter and a lot safer.
First things first, we got to the hotel, connected to the free wifi (angels singing again) and started mapping out a plan of action. We found a free tour company that was departing that evening from the Spanish Steps to give an overall view of some of Rome's most popular spaces.
The tour was a fantastic way on our first night in Rome to get the layout of the land and scope out the areas where we wanted to spend a little more time in the next two days. We started getting the feeling like we would really enjoy Rome!
While we were in the Pantheon (above), the rain started coming down in buckets. The rest of our tour group put up their umbrellas and kept on going, but we were so ill-prepared. We ducked into a shop and bought a flimsy umbrella for a few Euro, but it wasn't cutting it. I had on a maxi dress and the bottom of it was soaking and filthy. Also, I was wearing Rainbows, and they were getting extremely slick on the cobblestones. I was sliding all over the place. We gave it our best, but we ended up calling mercy and breaking away from the tour group as they continued on to the Trevi Fountain. Ian did a quick search on Yelp and we ended up finding this amazing hotel with a rooftop bar that was nearby.
This five star hotel was seriously gorgeous -- one of the prettiest lobbies I've ever seen. It was the Grand Hotel de la Minerve. Not long after we got to the rooftop bar, the sky cleared and became so beautiful.
We struck up a conversation with a man and his daughter that were from Oklahoma. They were really nice to talk to and the daughter even volunteered to take some photos of Ian and me with the sunset in the background.
After the sun set, the staff at that hotel called a cab for us to take us back to ours, Napoleon Hotel. We were really pleased with this hotel choice. Our hotel was large and spacious with a great breakfast and a nice little bar area. One night they even had a reception for all of the guests to meet the hotel owner and enjoy some drinks and appetizers on the house.
On this first night, we just decided to take it easy with a drink and a sandwich for dinner. We got out the iPads and started doing research for day two in Rome.
Our second day started with some ruins that were directly across from our hotel.
We decided at that point to purchase tickets for a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. I would highly recommend this -- not only does it help you to see all of the sites at your leisure, but it is also like getting free taxis all over the city for a 48-hour time period!
When lunchtime was approaching, we hopped off the bus near Trevi Fountain, grabbed a few sandwiches and a sparkling water at a nearby cafe, and had a little mini-picnic at the fountain.
Afterwards, we did more walking around and taking in all of the sights of Rome. We were really falling in love with this city.
A true highlight of the second day for me was going to Piazza Navona. Last fall, when our trip wasn't even booked yet, I found such a treasure in a little thrift shop in Columbia with my family. It was a gorgeous, large black and white print of Piazza Navona. I got it for a steal and then had it framed. It now hangs in our office. Seeing this square in Rome from the exact perspective of the print was a magical moment. Plus, Piazza Navona is just so much fun! Artists and street dancers all around were such an experience, and a really amazing gelato shop sealed the deal for us.
I don't have a photo of our dinner spot, but I found these two below from Yelp. I would highly recommend La Cuccuma! It's not the most glamorous spot you'll ever eat, but the food was amazing. For 9 Euro, we got to choose heaping portions of primi, secondi, and contorno ... basically, a three course meal! You choose what you want, they plate it up for you and microwave it (!!!) and then bring it out to you. See? Not glamorous, but so much fun. We sat outdoors at a little bistro table and shared a carafe of red wine. It was easily our most favorite dinner in Rome -- comfort food at its finest.
Our last day in Rome was a very exciting one -- Ian lined up a great tour of the Colisseum through Dark Rome Tours. I would highly recommend this company. Our guide was so friendly and knowledgeable, and her English was very good. It is possible to see the Colisseum without a tour, but there's no way we would have appreciated the experience as much as we did.
It was a truly amazing sight. Ian was like a kid on Christmas. After seeing the Colisseum, our tour continued with the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Below is the Temple where Julius Caesar was cremated.
Once the tour ended around 1pm, we were having a pizza craving. Thanks again to Yelp, Ian found one with amazing reviews. I was a little scared by the touristy-sounding name, Pizzeria Florida, but I decided to zip it and give it a try. We made our way to the pizza spot, finding an adorable courtyard along the way, and boy - were we in for a surprise.
This pizza was easily some of the best we've ever had. Again -- not a fancy place, but GOOD. And easy on the wallet. They sell the pizza by the gram, so you choose exactly how much you want. It comes in large square sheets and the workers stand there with scissors and cut off your piece to your exact desired dimension. We tried four different types of pizza, all truly amazing.
You can see that the inside of the place is extremely small with virtually no seating. We sat on a bench outside. No frills, just great pizza.
Across from the pizza spot are more ruins that have been taken over by wild cats. Wild cats! It was hilarious. We headed down that way and donated a few Euro to the upkeep of the place. It was just such a hilarious and cute sight.
That evening we ventured to another restaurant near the hotel, but nothing compared to that great microwaved three-course at La Cuccuma. :)
All in all, we absolutely adored Rome. We talked about the fact that it could have been due to us taking more responsibility to set up tours, giving us a better sense of the city and what we were seeing. Also, even though it was very busy with tourists, the fact that it was spread out didn't make it feel very crowded to us.
The next day, we boarded our last set of trains to head down to Naples. From there, I had a driver set to pick us up and take us to Sorrento (with a stop in Pompeii on the way). Recaps coming soon!