Rolling With It
Our time in Rome was adventurous to say the least. From unexpected challenges- think no luggage or phone for three plus days- to spontaneously running into old coworkers on the street and our planned meet-ups with friends from home, we loved our time in Rome. We were able to see many of the incredible sights that make Rome one of the most visited places in all of Europe, soaking up as much culture and gelato and marinara sauce as we could in between.
My husband had airline miles and vouchers threatening to burn a hole in his soul if they went unused any longer. I had said I didn’t want to travel this summer, but then I realized I could also just say yes, loosen the grip on the excuses I had for saying no. As soon as I did, I started dreaming about swimming in the water on the Amalfi coast. For somebody who doesn’t always remember her dreams, this felt so important, like my soul was yearning to be there, like the water was holding the answer to something for me; unlocking answers within myself, offering upgrades, and codes needed for life. Rome was a necessary stop on the journey to Almalfi, for a few reasons. One we wanted to meet up with friends, two there is a lot of historical culture we both wanted to see, and three we had been there individually and really enjoyed it, and now it was time to make memories there together.
One excuse I had to not go was that maybe we shouldn’t spend the money, but all in all, the flight cost us just over $600. There were miles and vouchers redeemed as I mentioned earlier, which he used to get us business class tickets. Sam was excited about this fact, but honestly- I wasn’t bothered. That was until the moment I was offered champagne at take off, as I was laying down, curled up, scrolling through the channels with my remote control. We were getting spoiled, and I didn’t sleep through any of it. I watched the kind of incredible shows that I only ever seem to find on the plane. Even the bathrooms smelled good, and they were stocked with incredible skin care products! Sam could teach a class by now on all of the tips and tricks he likes to use to accumulate miles, and how he finds the best available tickets.
Instead of landing in Rome, we decided that it would be fine to fly into Naples since that is where we would be leaving from. We are experienced travelers, who like a little adventure. Naples offers a high speed train to Rome, there was a stop just a very short distance from where we were staying, and we’d enjoy seeing the countryside. The only problem with this plan came when our luggage didn’t arrive with our flight. When this happens, which was a first for me in my many, many, travels, the airport will have a driver deliver them to your hotel. We now know firsthand, when you’re not staying nearby, this inconvenience becomes more difficult. And, when you’re staying in an Airbnb, not a hotel, with someone who can speak the native language, it gets even more interesting.
I won’t bore you with all of the details, but this was an aspect I had not considered before. We would purchase the clothes we needed for the next day at the closest department store, just before closing time. We wouldn’t travel too far away from the apartment, we ate late at night in case they were going to do an evening delivery. But in the big picture, we were still able to attend all of the pre-purchased tours and explore what we wanted. On day 3, the added stress caused us to do something that in the moment felt very heated, but now I think was quite mature and evolved. We decided to split ways for the day. Ultimately, it was great for both of us. I stopped and chatted with shop owners, salon owners, and befriended a group of young female Turkish tourists. I made a wish in every fountain, took as long as I wanted, photographing whatever caught my eye. Sam rented a scooter and buzzed all over the city, stopping at local cafes for espresso, which is always something he takes great delight in when traveling to Europe. He even surprised me with late night dinner reservations to a “fancy” place with a view that came highly recommended.
While the dinner plans seemed well thought out, the actuality of it was a story we will not forget anytime soon. It felt like we were in a Seinfeld episode, with bizarre twists, never knowing where the plot was going. Not only did they seat us in some weird stuffy back room, but when they brought my dinner out, which I had asked to have exactly what another woman sitting next to me had and was raving about, they brought a giant platter of thinly sliced roast beef. Just then, Sam’s phone rang and the man on the other end was shouting something in Italian, to which he started shouting back “I’m on my way”. Neither of them could understand the others’ actual words but the emotion was understood, apparently. He was off, flying down multiple flights of stairs and finding a scooter to rent, rushing to meet this man whom we couldn’t communicate with. As I look back I can see the food mess-up was truly divine. It stalled the restaurant as Sam went to secure our belongings. What should have probably been a 20 minute round trip for him went way beyond. The elevator that had been working just fine, went out. He had to carry my grossly over-packed, heavy bag and his own, up four flights of stairs, get back on the scooter and come back to dinner. There were a series of weird events in the restaurant as well, but just as they were bringing out his meal, that they remade because it got too cold when they were making my correct order, Sam returned and sank into his chair with a massive amount of sweat beading down his head. The restaurant continued to get weirder and weirder, but by the time we left we were laughing like kids.
If that’s not a reason to travel I don’t know what is. The humor that exists when we are completely lost in translation.
What We Saw
Visiting the Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel and St.Peter’s Basilica was such an incredible and expansive experience. I have thought about The Hands of God and Adam often. Seeing Michelangelo’s fresco in person inspired me, spiritually speaking- not religiously- in a way that no other piece of art has ever been able to do.
I had skipped the Vatican on previous adventures in Rome, because of the line, and also because I am not Catholic. That was naive.
If you are thinking of going, purchasing a skip the line ticket here is worth the money, especially if you are visiting in the hot summer months.
I also loved visiting the Borghese Museum and Gardens. If we were going to be in Rome a little longer I could have spent much more time on here. The triumphs and defeat, the evolution and the art collection were brought to life by our art historian tour guide. The gallery contains paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and reliefs from the 15th -18th century. You can see work by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio and Rubens. After exploring the gallery, heading out to the villa and exploring the grounds, hearing about the tomato plants they grew here, the first in all of Italy, and the birds they kept and the wild animals they would hunt almost completely took me back in time. Today there is an outdoor amphitheater, boat and bike rentals, places to get gelato, a drink or a quick bite to eat, and even a zoo. There is plenty to do and see within the nicely shaded and very green grounds making it an easy place to spend some time in nature.
We had originally booked a tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill at 10 a.m. but they canceled it when we were enroute the day of. They rebooked us for a 2:00 tour later that day. Unfortunately, it was really too hot to be enjoyable. Our tour guide, nice and very well informed, had a thick accent and there was too little shade to ask the questions needed for better clarification. I think we all just wanted it to be over from the second it started. We actually witnessed a girl have a heat stroke, and eventually we had to cut our tour short too.
The rest of the sights we saw we did not need to book as a tour. These included The Spanish Steps, The Trevi fountain, The Pantheon, Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, Piazza Navona, exploring Trastevere and the Botanical Gardens.
We stayed near the Spanish Steps so we saw them often. I recommend the going at night as you can get a lovely sunset view from the top or first thing in the morning. Mid-day it is packed.
Trevi fountain is packed, like Las Vegas, at night, but almost empty first thing in the morning, also like Las Vegas. Making a wish with my husband here is forever locked in my heart. Secret tip, when you are looking at the fountain, veer off to the upper right hand corner, inside the walled area, to find a romantic spot most people miss. This is the Lovers Fountain, and it is said that if you drink this water you will be in love with the person you drank the water with forever.
The Pantheon was absolutely stunning when I went mid-afternoon as luck had it. The sun was shining through the oculus, shining right on the entryway. It felt absolutely majestic. I am a Cleopatra fan, and seeing this, being there, brought my Cleopatra fascination back into focus. There was a long line outside, but it moved very quickly. I was glad I did not purchase a skip the line ticket, either time I went. Yes, I liked it that much I went twice.
The Piazza Navona was my favorite plaza. It is quite large and impressive with some of the most beautiful fountains in the city. There are a lot of good places to eat in this area as well. We tried Osteria da Fortunata just outside of the square, and were not disappointed. They make their pasta in house and it is served fresh. There was a line here as well, but we waited no longer than 15- 20 minutes. One thing I love about eating in Italy is they never rush you out either. We stayed for hours as we were with friends. The hospitality and cooking felt so hospitable and friendly. I cannot eat gluten and had no issues with my food or cross contamination here, or anywhere else while traveling in Rome, actually.
I also really loved strolling the most beautiful streets in all of Rome, talking to the incredibly welcoming people in Trastevere. I haighly recomend making it over to this area if it’s not already on your list. I always look for a way to stay connected to nature when I travel to a city, and visiting the Botanical Gardens here helped me do just that.
We have both been to Rome before, but not together. We enjoyed it then, and we enjoy it still. For me, it has always been an adventure running into the unexpected. My first time in Rome a girlfriend and I ended up in a vintage shop trying on dresses and handbags from many decades prior. We laughed. We twirled. We purchased. I still hold those memories, and the dress, near to my heart just like I will this trip. Over the years, I have heard many people say they don’t like Rome and it always makes me a little sad, but the world needs all types. What are your favorite places, and if you have been to Rome, I’d love to hear about your experiences as well!
We have primarily used the Viator app to book tours in Europe. Nearly every tour and tour guide have exceeded our expectations, by far.