Attempting Italy in a week – Rome

Oh, Rome. We spent way too few days in Rome. Though, that could be said of each city we visited. We arrived Saturday evening and stayed until Tuesday afternoon and probably could’ve spent at least a whole extra week.

Saturday (evening):
First on the agenda was a nap. Our feet were tired from all the walking of Florence and that nap felt good. There was a mishap in that I couldn’t figure out how to operate the fancy shower, but once I was so fresh and so clean-clean, we headed out to dinner. Since our hotel was near Piazza di Spagna, we took a detour to see the Spanish Steps at sundown and the light was phenomenal! We followed it up with an awesome dinner at Nino’s, where the waiters donned white coats and bow ties. After we ate, we set off in search of gelato and decided to cruise by the Trevi Fountain at night…another good choice to see when the sun had gone down!

A day of Roman ruins…we had an early call in an effort to see as much as possible, but first stop was a subway ride to pick up a Roma Pass, which not only bumped us to the front of the line at some of the major attractions, but also provided free public transportation (huge bonus; refer to tired feet above). We definitely made the most of the full day, visiting the Colosseum, Forum and Ancient Ruins, and the Basilica of St. John Lateran…all before lunch! We had quickly adapted to the late afternoon nap, so after an afternoon snooze, we were ready to grab a bite to eat and then take on another few sights after dinner. Post-meal, we walked to The Pantheon and then Piazza Navona. We already knew gelato was necessary and we found a place on Trip Advisor (super handy app to have in Europe, btw) which was most definitely worth the walk. Gelateria del Teatro had all these unique flavors like strawberry and basil, fig and of course some more traditional offerings, like pistachio, coffee and fior di latte, which is my personal favorite. (The true test of a gelateria is their fior di latte, if you ask me. If they can get the most basic of flavors right, they can make good gelato.) Their fior di latte wasn’t bad but it still doesn’t top the gelato kiosk in Cavo on Elba. (I’ve tested a lot of fior di latte so trust me on this.)

Monday was a day of religion. We had early tickets into The Vatican and Sistine Chapel and it was by far the worst experience of the trip. It was crowded, which I figured, but this was beyond crowded. This was “there’s-no-shot-I’m-walking-out-of-here-without-catching-something” crowded. The worst part for me was that we paid tickets for this treatment..not just any tickets, but tickets with appointment times on them! What was the point?! To be shoved and herded through a place with so much to see and appreciate…it completely ruined the experience. I will never go back again unless it’s like, January. Anywhere from mid-March through October (I assume) is crowded and not worth it.

After lunch, we figured we’d head back and see St. Peter’s, but the line looked to be longer than we’d hoped, so we called an audible and went to Castel Sant’Angelo, with plans to visit St. Peter’s first thing in the morning. This would have been a grand plan, except when we arrived at Castel Sant’Angelo and found it was closed on Mondays. By this point, heat and exhaustion were starting to take hold, so we opted for a nap and a chance to get cleaned up before dinner and more evening exploring, as we’d done in previous nights. Our last dinner in Rome also proved to be an adventure. The place I’d hoped to go was full for the night (shame on me for not making a reservation) so we went down the road from the hotel and landed at another spot with positive reviews on Trip Advisor. The restaurant wasn’t crowded, except for the large group of Aussies celebrating a birthday in the dining room. They were so busy celebrating, they didn’t even notice when Mom’s over-sized menu caught fire from the candle on our table! Luckily we noticed it and quickly blew it out before drawing anyone’s attention. The menu was salvageable, with a bite-sized chunk missing from the corner. Serves them right for offering three specials, two of which, they informed me, were unavailable that night. Sigh. We bounced back and wound up having an enjoyable meal.

We made a point to try and get to St. Peter’s early and ended up arriving around 9:30. Interestingly enough, the line to get in was even longer than the day before! Even more shocking, was the amount of nuns and priests who cut in the line. They are cunning. They just pretend to blend in with a group and slowly merge into the line. Impressive, frankly. I can’t believe that even those of the cloth have to stand in line, really. I was still a bit sour from yesterday’s experience and though the line moved, I was starting to hit my crowd threshold. My parents ended up taking the audio tour while Dave and I opted for a quicker, self-guided tour of St. Peter’s. Once we’d seen what we needed to, we broke away from them and went for coffee while they finished their tour. We met back up with them in the Square before we went back to the hotel for our luggage and headed to the train station for a day of rest in Udine before gearing up for the last leg of our journey in Venice!