Rome at last! We took the Flixbus from Siena to Rome. It took us about three hours, but it was very relaxing. I know I nodded off a few times.
We stayed at 9Hotel Cesari, which we chose because of its location between the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. This is one of the hippest hotels I have ever stayed in! The rooms were very nice, and it had a fantastic rooftop bar that had a very “loungey” feel to it. It was located on a pedestrian-only street, with lots of restaurants and cafes within a few yards of the hotel. I could not have been happier with our choice!
First things first – Susan’s favorite site in Rome is the Pantheon, and it wasn’t very far from our hotel. Since we were pretty much equidistant from both the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, we walked first to Trevi Fountain then the Pantheon. Both sites are crazy busy! The Pantheon is free, and don’t let the long line dissuade you from going. It is fantastic! Not only is it over 2,000 years old, but had the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, with a central opening to the sky.
As we did in Venice and Florence, we booked a food tour for our first night in Rome. Our food tour was in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome, just across the river Tiber. But first, on our way to the meeting place, we passed a block which housed stores dedicated to clothes for nuns, priests, bishops, etc. I am not Catholic but I could imagine if you were going to have an audience with the Pope or a Bishop, you would want to look your best, so these stores make a lot of sense!
On to the food tour! Dahlia was our tour guide, and since she was brand new she had assistance from Toni. They were both really good, and we tasted some fantastic food.
I should mention that this is also the first time on our entire trip that we experienced the “ugly American”. We had about 24 people on our tour, and three of them were real pains. If you hear me say “I took a gelato class”, it’s not a good thing!
The next day we had booked a tour of the Vatican. Our tour was scheduled for 9:00 a.m., and since we were on a tour we could “skip the line”. The line to buy individual, non-tour tickets was already around the block. And there were many tours starting at 9:00 a.m. Unfortunately our tour guide was a little hard to understand, she just wasn’t very interesting, and our group was kind of slow, so … just imagine going into a room with 500 other people, all on tours, with different tour guides, all speaking at once. We did have audio ear buds so we were supposed to hear only her, but it just didn’t work out that way.
We finished the tour at St. Peter’s Basilica, which is very impressive. And St. Peter’s Square is massive! I had just watched the movie Angels and Demons before our trip to see some of the Roman sites, and St. Peter’s Square is featured. To get a taxi back to the hotel, we walked (and walked), and this is the first day I felt really hot. I can’t imagine going to Rome in the summer. And I was pretty grouchy after the tour and walking to find a cab … grouchy and hungry. It’s funny because Sarah and I talked about this the other day, how we didn’t really like Rome the day we took the Vatican tour. I think I need to go back and try a different tour.
Once we got back to the area by our hotel, my “hangriness” subsided. We found a place for lunch, rested up, went up to the rooftop bar, had a drink, and soaked up the Roman ambience. Ahhh, life is good!
On our third day in Rome, we had booked a tour of the ruins of the Golden House of Nero, Domus Aurea. The site is directly across from the Colosseum, and on our way there we ran into a Knights Templar Parade. I actually thought they didn’t exist any more! I must watch way too many movies 😂
Thomas was our tour guide, and the whole experience was fantastic! It was one of the top tours of the whole trip. The palace was just discovered around 40 years ago, and the tour is basically the archaeological dig. You see the fantastic mosaics on the walls, ceilings, and floor, and we used a virtual reality headset to see what the palace looked like during Nero’s time. It was very cool!
After the tour Thomas suggested a great little restaurant a few blocks away for lunch – great pizza!
After lunch our plan was to head to the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains) but they were closed until 3:00 PM. So we found another quaint church, the Basilica of Saint Clement, to visit. This church was built upon a 4th century church during the 12th century. Archaeological digs have found older foundations below that.
After our visit to the Basilica of Saint Clement we headed to St. Peter in Chains. Susan remembered from a previous trip a little food truck parked outside of the church, and it was still there – so we sat on the church steps eating gelato until they opened 😊 The relic of the chains that bound St. Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem are housed here. But the main attraction is Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, which is part of the tomb of Pope Julius II.
On to our last day in Rome. We had scheduled a tour of the Colosseum, the Forum, and Palatine Hill. This is probably the most visited and iconic landmark in all of Rome, if you exclude the Vatican. Our tour guide was was fantastic! The colosseum is crowded, but he did a good job of keeping our group away from other groups. One observation – the steps in the colosseum are very steep and high! For a short girl I almost needed a ladder 😂 … and I was wondering how the Romans did it “back in the day” since their average height was 5’5″ and they were wearing togas (I assume).
We left the Colosseum and took a short walk over to Palatine Hill, one of the most ancient parts of the city. The richest of the rich lived here, as well as emperors. We had an amazing view of the city from here.
Our next stop was the Forum, which was an area in the center of Ancient Rome which hosted processions, elections, public speeches, criminal trials, gladiator matches … pretty much everything. It is also the place where Julius Caesar was cremated and buried after his assassination. There is a lot to take in here, with some of the buildings still standing. We had already been on our tour for almost four hours though, and it was time to get lunch. Next time I’m in Rome I may dedicate a morning just to the Forum.
And just like that, we were going home. We had one last glass wine, gelato, and peak at Trevi Fountain before heading to bed in preparation for a long day of travel.
Rome left me just awe-struck … you never know what you are going to see when you are just roaming around Rome. There are literally ruins around every corner, and new discoveries being made all the time.
Since we have been home for several weeks now, I really miss the Italian lifestyle – spending time with friends, eating and drinking well, and enjoying beauty in all forms. Even though it seemed like we did a lot on our Italian adventure, we made sure to make time every day to enjoy both lunch and dinner, and in the afternoon partake of an Aperol spritz or two. I can’t wait to go back and experience more of Italy! Ciao per ora 🙂