Tag Archives: rome

Italy Travels: We Came, We Rome-d, We Conquered – Part II

Visiting Rome, ItalyThe roads of Rome are hard on your feet. I loved my Merrell sandals!

Rome again, Rome again. Jiggity jig.

You can find Italy Travels: We Came, We Rome-d, We Conquered – Part I here.

3 days in Rome, Italy

Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum

One of my favorite things about Rome was something I wasn’t anticipating enjoying at all – the Palatine Hill. Palatine Hill is where all the emperors built their palaces – unfortunately it’s mostly in ruins now. But the grounds were extensive, views lovely and the rose gardens were in full bloom.

3 days in Rome, Italy

The Roman Forum is a treasure-trove of historic ruins. We went through the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum with a tour guide, which definitely made it infinitely more interesting. Even the best of guidebooks would have a hard time helping you figure out exactly what is what and the significance of it.

3 days in Rome, ItalyStepping inside the Colosseum made me feel like a little kid again. It’s one of those iconic places it’s hard to believe is real until you’re standing right before it. We used the free Rick Steve’s audio tour for the tour of the Colosseum and it took about 2 hours from start to end.

3 days in Rome, Italy

We did not sign up for a tour. But… we were standing in line at Palatine Hill and a guy was walking up and down the line offering free tours in English, particularly for American tourists. We heard the word “free” and asked a few questions – because the line was LOOOONG. He was very upfront, it was a promotional tour. He would take us through the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill for free, but if we wanted to continue through to the Colosseum he was charging a fee. We joined the group of fellow English-speakers, and after we all discussed how this could possibly be a scam, took him up on it… And you know what, it was awesome! We were able to jump the line, and having a tour guide was definitely helpful.

We did not follow him through to the Colosseum, because he had a 3x ticket markup. We went back the next day to do the Colosseum on our own. (That money was better spent on gelato, obviously.)

3 days in Rome, Italy

Getting Tickets to Palatine Hill, Forum, Colosseum

For the Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum, there is one ticket for you to enter these locations. We didn’t reserve tickets beforehand. Definitely go to the Palatine Hill ticket office as early as possible in the morning for the shortest line.

We waited too late in the day on the first day, but lucked out with that random tour situation. The following day we started at the Colosseum and there were already at least 300 people in line. We walked over to Palatine Hill and we were the fourth people in line. Read the Rick Steve’s book and follow it like the Bible – it will all work out.

3 days in Rome, Italy

Pantheon

Walking into the Pantheon is like stepping back in time. It’s literally the only building that looks today as it did 2000 years ago. It’s mind-boggling. The dome inside the Pantheon is a marvel, laugh now but it’s true! We used the free Rick Steve’s audio tour for the tour of the Pantheon and spent about 30 minutes inside. Entry to the Pantheon is free.

3 days in Rome, Italy

If you’re going to the Pantheon, don’t miss Tazza D’Oro cafe. If you’re coming out of the Pantheon, look to your right for yellow lettering. Order a “caffe granita con panna” for two euro and enjoy. It’s essentially an espresso sno-cone with cream. YUM.

3 days in Rome, ItalyPiazza Navona

The home of Bernini’s Four Fountains, street performers and artistes. Piazza Navona is a great place to rest your laurels and enjoy some people-watching.

3 days in Rome, Italy

3 days in Rome, Italy

Trastevere

I won’t lie, Trastevere wasn’t exactly what I was hoping it would be. After hearing it described it as “colorful” and a true representation of Italy, I was excited to see it! And the area was definitely beautiful.

3 days in Rome, Italy

But, a desperately-needed-but-impossible-to-find public restroom, the onslaught of Italian pollen allergies, and a disappointing lunch with a rude waiter tainted the Trastevere pool for us. The neighborhood truly was beautiful, and I think we picked the wrong place to lunch. Every trip has a perfect storm of issues, this one was ours!

3 days in Rome, Italy

Rome Technicalities:

The Rome subway was an easy and accessible way to get across the city. It costs three euro to get on, and you can take it for any amount of distance. Watch out for pickpockets. They really are everywhere. Especially on the trains and buses. We saw people looking at everyone’s bags. Be vigilant.

And we got on one train that was covered in barf. Ew.

3 days in Rome, Italy

Our Hotel

We stayed at the Roma Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center just outside the city. The hotel has a shuttle to downtown Rome (five euro per person for AM transit, free for PM transit).

We ended up not having much luck with it – we missed it the first morning and were too late to fit the second morning. That wasn’t a problem because the hotel was a very easy 10 minute walk to the Magliana subway stop, and cheaper than the hotel AM shuttle! We took the PM shuttle back each night, but beware – they parked in different places each night and it is PACKED. We barely got on each night.

We were happy with it and I’d certainly recommend it. While this is not a very “Italian” experience, it was a great hotel, especially if you have Starwood Points to use! Plus – if they upgrade you to club room status there is a rooftop terrace and free food all day! Still not sure how that happened, but we were grateful!

Overall, Rome was crazy! It’s amazing how much history fits into one small space. Next time I’d definitely try to see Rome mid-week. If you’re a first time visitor like we were, three days was just enough time to fit in all the main sites without going crazy.

Oh, Roma. If the superstition about throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain is right… we will find ourselves there again someday. : )

Next up, Cinque Terre!

And hopefully some house projects soon! You know, the stuff I usually blog about!

Italy Travels: We Came, We Rome-d, We Conquered – Part I

3 days in Rome, ItalyI failed to mention this in my last post. We trip-journal. I’d definitely recommend it. At the end of every day we each record the events of that day from our own recollections. It’s funny to see what we each remember differently. Plus, 12 days of vacation can turn into a giant blur if you don’t write it down each day!

When in Rome. All roads lead to Rome. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

There’s a reason Rome is a natural part of our vernacular.

3 days in Rome, Italy
Amazing view walking from the Spanish Steps up to the Borghese Gardens

Rome was… chaotic. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this “super-city” and I’m still not quite sure how to describe our experience in Rome. We flew in and out of Rome, and spent three days in this bubbling city.

Our trip began and ended in Rome, and I have mixed emotions about the city. Rome was cultural. Rome was crowded. Rome was rich with history. Rome was overwhelming. Rome was, certainly, unlike any other place I’ve ever been before.

3 days in Rome, Italy

Walking into oncoming traffic to cross the roads. Ignoring the (crowds of ) aggressive street peddlers. The swarms of tourists (in hindsight, we should have schedule Rome for mid-week). The sneaky swindlers looking to guilt tourists into tips for unrequested “services” (we had an incident on a train).

Yet, Rome is also unbelievably historic. Richly beautiful. Lively and Italian.

Vatican Museum

The Sistine Chapel was one of my trip highlights. There’s a famous scene in the movie “Good Will Hunting” that takes place in Boston Commons. Robin Williams is talking to Matt Damon about the difference between living and experiencing life and says, But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel.

You can bet I took a deep breath while standing under that glorious ceiling.

3 days in Rome, Italy

The Vatican Museum in general was just amazing. The two main draws, the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Room, did not disappoint. I also particularly enjoyed the Cartography Hallway, and the courtyard with amazing statues, including the Laocoon.

To visit the museum, you must reserve tickets in advance. This will let you skip the line outside of the building. However there is still a line inside (we waited about 20 minutes). Although your ticket has a reservation time on it, they didn’t appear to pay any attention to the particular time, so if you are late – like we were – don’t sweat it.

I3 days in Rome, Italy

While inside the museum, just follow the basic flow of traffic and you won’t miss anything. We were packed shoulder-to-shoulder for most of our time through the museum. But don’t let the crowds rush you along. Take your time, particularly in the Raphael Rooms and Sistine Chapel! We used the free Rick Steve’s audio tour for the Sistine Chapel. It took us about 3 (non-leisurely) hours to make our way through the museum.

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest churches in the world, and the most opulent church I’ve ever stood inside. The impossibly long nave with gleaming, golden intricacies, Bernini’s glowing canopy over the tomb of St. Peter, the iconic dome-to-inspire-all-domes, Michelangelo’s famous Pieta statue. The entire inside literally glows with golden hues. The religious and artistic significance of St. Peter’s Basilica is astounding.

3 days in Rome, Italy

St. Peter’s Basilica can be easily and quickly accessed when leaving the Sistine Chapel. The basilica is free to enter, and much less crowded than the Vatican Museums. We used the free Rick Steve’s audio tour for the tour. It took us about 1 hour to make our way throughout the basilica.

Trevi Fountain

3 days in Rome, Italy

The Trevi Fountain is a magical place. We saw two proposals there in one night! (One looked like it went well! The other… not so much.) While the Trevi is magical, it is also crowded. We visited it each day in hopes of finding a thinned out crowd. Well, let me tell you, even at midnight on a Tuesday, the place is packed. I don’t believe it’s ever without crowds of on-lookers enjoying the massive fountain and tossing coins over their shoulder. Just try your best to shimmy down on to whatever surface you can call a seat and enjoy the experience.

(PS – Rome collects over $3000 dollars a day from coins in the Trevi! The money helps feed the homeless.)

3 days in Rome, Italy

Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps were neat – not my favorite site in Rome, but a fun place to sit among loads of people. Just don’t bring a slice of pizza there. Apparently people in Rome think eating in public is really weird. Oops!

The streets are the Spanish Steps are picturesque and classic “Rome” in my mind. It’s also the place to go for upscale shopping, if that’s your thing.

3 days in Rome, ItalyItalian men dress up. Even the ones on the bathroom sign.

Campo di Fiori

Take this with a grain of salt, but being in Campo di Fiori made me feel like I was in the spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp. I guess that means it felt like the quintessential Rome piazza experience.

It was there we found our favorite Rome restaurant – Mercato.

3 days in Rome, Italy

We loved it so much, we went twice! We never had a dish that we didn’t like, but the pizza was particularly tasty.

3 days in Rome, Italy

There is also a Grom gelato in Campo di Fiori – yum! Grom is one of the more popular gelato chains, as they use all fresh and organic ingredients.

I’ll be back later this week with the rest of our Rome adventures! Ciao!

Also, today’s my Mom’s birthday!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY DORTH VADER!

Ciao Italia

2 weeks in Italy vacation  Essa è viva! She is alive!

I’m current riding the simultaneous waves of post-vacation euphoria, jet lag stupor, and grapefruit gelato withdrawal. In a word, our trip to Italy was dreamy.

Caffe, espresso, americano, cappucino, latte, and caffe granita con panna. We tried them all.

2 weeks in Italy vacation

Chocolate, strawberry, lemon, nutella, melon, grapefruit, mandarin, passion fruit, hazelnut, chocolate orange, raspberry, caramel, caffe… gelato that is. We tried all those too.

Friends, there was much rejoicing to be had in Italia. I’m not sure if I can yet articulate how much I enjoyed this vacation.

There was art in glorious abundance.

2 weeks in Italy vacation

The lands were in full bloom and the weather was beautiful – Italy in May is quite the showstopper.

2 weeks in Italy vacation

We split our trip between the big cities (Rome and Florence):

2 weeks in Italy vacation

And the bucolic countryside (Cinque Terre and Chianti, Tuscany).

I’m quite convinced the only reason my clothes still fit is that we walked at least 10 miles a day.

We even managed to squeeze in a Mediterranean evening swim.

2 weeks in Italy vacation

In the weeks to come I will further detail our days in Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre and Tuscany. I also plan to share my packing strategy for those of you looking to backpack for your next vacation – I have received a number of requests for that information!

2 weeks in Italy vacation

Overall, a few things I learned about traveling in Italy:

On eating in restaurants: You have to pay for drinking water in restaurants (about 2 euro per person). Yes, I’m used to free water and it feels lame. The sooner you get over it, the more you’ll enjoy your meals.

Nearly every restaurant has a “coperto”, or cover charge for sitting. Check it out before you sit down. But Italians don’t really tip, so consider this the 20% extra you’re already accustomed to putting down and it will seem less annoying.

Make a dinner reservation in the afternoon. Most places don’t serve dinner before 7pm at all and are closed between 5pm and 7pm. If you don’t make a reservation, try to show up as close to 7pm as possible.

And some of the best meals are from the market. : )

2 weeks in Italy vacation

On the language barrier (or lack there of)

I don’t know any Italian. I learned a few key words (“thank you”, “two, please”, “how much?” etc.) and got by just fine. The cities are full of people who speak perfectly good English. The countryside is less so, but we managed to do just fine getting by!

2 weeks in Italy vacation

On travel

Fellow Bostonians can fly direct to Roma through Alitalia. Or, like us, you can save $1000 by flying AerLingus and taking a measly 2 hour layover in Dublin. Totally worth it.

2 weeks in Italy vacation

On what to wear
 
If you’re touring through one of the many hundreds of beautiful Italian churches, dress with respect. Typically tourists with exposed shoulders or knees are asked to cover up. (Although I did see a few of those mulling around).

I came across a lot of traveling tips that said don’t wear baseball caps or sneakers. I’m not sure why, because I saw loads of men wearing both. Maybe it’s to look less like a tourist, which was pointless for us. We’re as American-looking as Apple Pie, and were easy identified as Americans everywhere we went.

2 weeks in Italy vacation

On bathrooms

If you are in the vicinity of a restroom, use it. They are few and far between.

On vanity

The only part of me that didn’t love Italy was my hair. I have naturally poufy/messy hair as it is, but the water there had my hair in tangles. I was already traveling without hairdryer or a real brush, and the water there didn’t do me any favors.

It’s good to be back! Ciao!

Seeking Italy (!!) Travel Advice

Traveling to Italy - DesignLively
via

Ahhhh. Italia.

Land of art, food and romance.

And food. And art. And romance. And George Clooney.

Traveling to Italy - DesignLively
via

I have always wanted to go to Italy.

And this spring, we are going!

Traveling to Italy - DesignLively
via

I started brushing up on some Italian phrases.

And by brushing up, I mean I just downloaded a translator app on my phone.

And I type random phrases into it while I’m lying in bed.

Traveling to Italy - DesignLively
via

I may or may not be getting ahead of myself.

But I’m already debating over which flavor of gelato to try first.

Traveling to Italy - DesignLively
via

I’m looking to you guys for some help.

You guys are so smart and resourceful. No really, it’s true.

Traveling to Italy - DesignLively
via

Have you been to Italy?

Right now, Rome, Florence and the Amalfi Coast are on the itinerary.

I may be persuaded to consider other locations as well.

I’d love to hear about what you loved to see/eat/visit!

And you know me, budget-friendly tips are always welcome too!