Travel Guide: Roma

I am so excited to share about my 10-day vacation in Italy and it is long overdue!

Where do I start? 

Well a little back story on how the trip came to be: This trip was planned a year in advanced. We had always talked about taking a family trip to Italy one day and now that we’re older, out of college and actually have some spending money, we figured now is the time! My brothers and I decided to a trip to Italy would be my parent’s Christmas gift.  It was the greatest give I’ve ever given.  Seeing the look upon their faces was something I’ll never forger.  They were so shocked!

Fast forward from December to June and the trip finally begins!

Sunday June 3rd/Monday June 4th; Rome Day 1!

We left June 3rd at 11 PM and arrived in Rome on Monday June 4th at 1 PM.  Even though we were exhausted, you would never know because we were filled with excitement!  Our first stop from the airport was our AirBnB.  We stayed at a beautiful apartment right across from the Vatican (link here).  Now if you’re someone who prefers to be in the center of the city, this place is not for you; however, Rome has Uber & My Taxi so navigating the city is super simple.  Also, if the weather is nice, walking is always choice!  Ok, back to the apartment it was gorgeous!! The 5 of us  couldn’t have been happier with the amount of space.  The pictures don’t do the apartments justice and Andrea & Stefania were more than accommodating.  They had the fridge stocked with some essentials including a bottle of wine!  They also had a basket on the table filled with snacks & tea along with maps and recommendations.  Their AirBnB page will give you all the details and not one piece of information is an exaggeration.  I highly recommend this apartment!

After we settled in, we decided to venture out for the evening and explore our neighborhood.  We walked to St. Peter’s Square and just took in the beautiful architecture.  Then we went for our first family dinner in Italy to a restaurant called Goose and it did not disappoint!  Our AirBnB hosts recommended the restaurant and they specifically said “don’t go to the tourist trap on the corner, go to Goose.”

I feel I need to take a second to preface something about the wine in Italy- there’s nothing like it in America!  One thing to note is Italy does not have all the regulations that the US has, so there’s no additives in their wine.  Even if you buy Italian wine in America, it’s not the same because they add necessary ingredients/chemicals before shipping to follow our FDA regulations.  You can most certainly tell the difference in the wine you drink/buy in Italy.  The first most noticeable sign is how smooth and delicious every bottle is!  My mom bought a cheap bottle of wine from the grocery store and you would have thought it was top shelf.  The second most noticeable feature is the wine in Italy does not give you a headache!  I drink a couple of glasses of wine at home and I get a headache, but in Italy I could drink a whole bottle and wake up in the morning feeling great.  A little dehydrated maybe, but no pounding headache.  The third amazing thing is it is so cheap!! We drank Brunello’s, Barolo’s, Chianti Reserve, Rosso Montepulciano, and many more that would cost over $100 retail from a restaurant in the US but were merely 15-25 euro at a restaurant in Italy.  It was crazy!! Whenever you’re in Italy, make sure you take advantage of the delicious wine because you cannot duplicate the experience back home. 

Tuesday, June 5th; Rome day 2!

We started off the day by going in to the center of city and visiting the Pantheon.  The Pantheon is now a church, but was a former roman temple.  Let me just tell you, the architecture and history that sits in Rome, is mesmerizing!  We didn’t do a private tour of the Pantheon, and honestly, I do not think that’s something you need to do unless you want to hear all about the history.  There was no line when we went, we just walked right in, viewed the statues, sat in the pews, and took in the history of this ancient and amazing place.  After the Pantheon, we decided we were a little hungry but didn’t want to stop for lunch quite yet, so we headed for Gelato.  A family member recommended a Gelato shop, The Frigidarium and O.M.G was it amazing.  We ate Gelato through-out the whole trip and this place was the best.  They were the only ones who offered to dip the gelato is white or dark chocolate.  If you’re ever in Rome, give this little place a try!  It’s off the beaten path, but well worth it!  

After our Gelato, we realized we should head towards the Vatican for our tour.  Naturally after our large scoops of Gelato we decided walking would be best.  Got to burn off those calories somehow!  This wasn’t a short walk, but we didn’t notice how far we were walking just because there was always so many different sites to see and different stores to shop.     

My youngest brother set up the tour for the five of us through Viator.  Our tour guide was Maria.  PSA: If you can ask for a guide for this tour, I HIGHLY suggest her.  She was phenomenal!  Not only is she very intelligent and great at explaining the history of each room, she is very entertaining!  She doesn’t just explain everything as if it’s another boring history lesson.  She tells it in the form of a theatrical story.  My family and I loved her!  Also, being someone who has been to Rome before and went on an open tour through the Vatican, it was great to see every room and get an explanation of history behind what I was viewing.

Our favorite part of the tour was our private viewing of the Sistine Chapel.  This room will take your breath away.  Furthermore, Maria’s rendition of the history behind Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel is wonderful!  She explains how Michelangelo came to be the chosen painter and how he and the Pope didn’t get along very well due to the fact that he was first called to build the Pope’s tomb not paint the Chapel.  However, the Pope changed his mind because he was told it’s bad luck to build your tomb before you’re dead.  Unfortunately, Michelangelo didn’t find this out until after he’d spent 8 months gathering all the marble for the tomb.  Obviously, you can see why Michelangelo was furious with the Pope when he returned with all this marble and the tomb was no longer needed.  The Pope would not reimburse him for the cost of marble either, which only ticked Michelangelo off even more!  He told Michelangelo that instead of the tomb he wanted him to paint The Sistine Chapel, which in the beginning Michelangelo refused! He was so angry with the Pope about no longer needing the tomb and furthermore, he was not a painter he was sculptor.  Also, I found it interesting to learn it took him 3 years to paint the first quarter of the chapel because he was incorporating so much detail, but when he finally viewed his work from the ground, he noticed you can’t see all the little details!  He then finished the rest of the chapel in one year.  There’s more history within the Vatican than anyone understands and I highly suggest taking a semi private/private tour if you can afford it.  

After the tour, we were hungry…again…I mean how could we not be?  We’re in Italy! you’re supposed to eat! 🙂 We were tired so we didn’t want to venture too far from the apartment and chose a place nearby called Perdincibacco.  Everyone was satisfied with their choice.  I don’t believe the pasta was homemade since I saw Barilla in the kitchen window, but there’s no doubt that the meat/fish were fresh and the sauce & desserts were homemade.  Furthermore, of course, the bottle of wine we had with our meal was nothing short of fantastic.

Wednesday, June 6th; Rome day 3!

Day 3 was one of my favorite days.  We decided to venture out to a town outside of Rome known as Castel Gandolfo.  The Pope’s summer home is here; however, the current Pope does not use it.  This town was so quiet and quaint that I could have stayed all day long.  I will warn you that if you take the train from Rome to Castel Gandolfo, the location of the Castel Gandolfo station requires you to climb a steep hill to get to the top of the town or you can walk down a steep hill (that you’ll have to climb back up later) to get to the bottom, which is near beautiful Lake Albano.  We decided to climb up the hill, but I will say I’d love to go back and go down to the Lake.  The water was beyond clear and reflecting the beautiful blue sky.  They also have water activities such as row boating. 

The top Castel Gandolfo was gorgeous.  We could see all around the town and found a great little restaurant for lunch called Il Grottino.  Il Grottino was one of my favorite meals.  The food was so fresh and flavorful, and the service was so friendly!  The server even asked other guests to move to a different table outside so their cigarette smoke would not bother us; we didn’t ask him to do this, but it was very thoughtful! After lunch, we walked around, explored the town, bought a couple of souvenirs then decided to head back to Rome.

Upon our return to Rome we didn’t have any set plans.  The previous day at the Pantheon, locals were handing out flyers for a small quartet/opera performance happening nearby and given my family is very musically inclined (more so everyone but myself), we decided to check it out.  The concert was held at Palazzo Santa Chiara, which is a venue for small performances.  The Opera itself was called Opera Da Camera di Roma, which played a beautiful selection of Aria’s, Neapolitan songs, and classical music.  If you’re a classical music lover, this is a great and affordable concert to attend! 

After the concert, we went to dinner at a little local venue around the corner from the theater called L’Angoletto.  One piece of advice I received before going on this trip was  small, hole-in-the-wall restaurants have the best food and let me tell you, this is true.  L’Angoletto didn’t look very fancy, but the quality of food we received was outstanding.  It also seemed to be operated by a family, which only makes it that much more lovable.  

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View on our walk back to the apartment

Thursday, June 7th; Last Day in Rome!

Our final day in Rome was filled with sightseeing.  We started off the morning by visiting the Spanish Steps.  The Spanish steps are between Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, which has the Trinità dei Monti church at the top of the steps.  This area in Rome is a baroque architecture, which represent a lot of Italian History. 

After climbing the steps and visiting the gorgeous church, we headed towards the Trevi Fountain.  Of course, if you go to Rome, you must see the Trevi Fountain!  The fountain is very famous for its beautiful sculptures, architecture, and large size but I will warn you, unless you go very early in the morning, there is always a large crowd.  I suggest going when you aren’t on a time constraint and have plenty of patience 🙂 Despite the crowd I enjoyed our visit to the fountain!  We could slowly make our way down to the bottom for a few pictures, threw coins over shoulder (A GIVEN), and even got to sit on a ledge and just enjoy the view. 

Following the fountain, we knew that we had a tour of the Colosseum later in the afternoon and there were a few sites near this part of the city that we wanted to visit, so we ventured over there.  This time we did not walk, given the walk would have taken us an hour haha.  On our Uber ride to Piazza Fiorenzo we drove past Piazza del Campidoglio, which is where the Capital Building of Rome resides.  Gorgeous!

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Our next destination was Piazza Fiorenzo, which was another recommendation by a family member.  This is a park at the top of a hill with a beautiful view of Rome.  It is easy to get to and there’s botanical gardens as well.  I highly recommend if you want to view the city in a relaxing, quiet environment.  From here we could easily walk to Circus Maximus and then to our meeting point for the Colosseum tour.  Circus Maximus was the ancient roman venue for all the chariot racing!  When it was fully built, it could accommodate 150K people.  Unfortunately, there is not much left but it was very cool to see. 

Our last tour and major site seeing spectacle was the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill.  The specific tour we booked was not the best.  Our tour guide was a little edgy and it was hard to hear her, so I’m not going to give you the name as a recommendation.  However, the Colosseum was unbelievable.  This is the oval amphitheater used for gladiator fights.  It is a historical place which housed not only gladiator fights, but was a place for animal hunts, re-enactments and dramas based on classical mythology.  The history on this beautiful structure is endless, and like the Vatican, I strongly suggest booking a private/semi-private tour to make the most of your experience.  Also, be sure to include a tour of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill in your package.  The Roman Forum holds the ancient ruins of many important Roman Government buildings and Palatine Hill is the most center of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city.  It looks down upon Rome on one side, and upon Circus Maximus on the other.  Even though our tour guide/tour was not the best, I was mesmerized and loved learning the history. 

For our final meal in Rome we decided to go back to Goose (that is how much we loved this restaurant) We also wanted to go somewhere close to our apartment because it had been a long day venturing around Rome. 

I was terribly sad to see our time in Rome end.  I was afraid that I wouldn’t truly enjoy my time here given it’s very touristy and may not be relaxing, however, it ended up being my favorite city of the whole trip!  Not only is there so much to do/see in Rome, but what I loved was that it was tourist friendly.  Once I realized how hard it is to not have the luxury of Uber & My taxi in Florence & Naples, I realized how beneficial it is to the trip.  Going back to this magnificent city is on my bucket list.  I would love to come back with Eddie and just eat and drink wine at all the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants.  It would be my most fattening vacation filled with carbs and alcohol, but I do not care 🙂

If you have any questions or comments about Rome, let me know!  I would love to hear about your experience and help you before you venture over there in any way I can!

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