Our Italian Adventure: Part I - Rome
Shay and I got back from our Italy adventure on Sunday afternoon. Thankfully Monday was a holiday, because we were much more jet-lagged than we thought we’d be. On Monday we woke up wide awake around 6am and then transferred to the living room couch where we ate donuts from Stan’s (ah, we missed you), drank coffee, and watched two movies (one of them Angels & Demons, strictly because it takes place in Rome, no judgement please).
While we were in Italy we visited Rome, Positano, and Capri. I’m going to blog about each place and share with you exactly what we did. At the end of this blog series I’m going to share our budget for this trip (spoiler alert, we’re broke)! My hope is that I can help future Italian adventurers plan accordingly and learn from our experience.
Warning, I’ve decided to write these as travel journals. I find that when I’m doing research for a trip it’s helpful to come across detailed blogs with links of information, rather than just a photo diary. So here it goes. First up, Rome!
We got to our apartment in Rome around 9am. We stayed in the Trastevere neighborhood, which was lovely! It was the perfect distance away from the hustle and bustle of the main city center. Our Air BnB host was incredibly kind to let us check in early. We showered and then napped for a few hours and officially started our day around 2pm. We then did two self-guided walks: the Trastevere Walk (which helped us get situated in our own neighborhood), and the Heart of Rome Walk both led by Rick Steves. From there we went to our wine and food tasting hosted by Roscioli. This was hands down one of our favorite experiences of the whole trip. We got to taste eight different kinds of wine, paired with a variety of foods. It was a three hour interactive dinner where we had everything from meats and cheeses to pasta and finally dessert. Our sommelier was super friendly and informative. She never made us feel like amateurs, even though we were. I really feel like this set us up for a nine day wine drinking trip. We learned a lot about Italian wines. Specifically what kinds we liked, and how they interacted with the foods we ate. We also loved the fact that we dined with people from all over the world. After that, we had a night cap on the balcony (which we did every night while we were in Rome).
We slept in and had breakfast and espresso on our balcony. It was my first time trying to make espresso with the single cup Moka pot over the stove. Seriously you guys, I really struggled with this. If you know how I am about my coffee, hopefully you can imagine me nearly having a meltdown trying to figure this out. Anyway, that afternoon, we booked a VIP tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. Our tour guide was an archeologist and very knowledgeable about ancient Roman ruins. We really liked him because he was able to speak to us intelligently, but also make it easy to understand. We could have done general admission for the Colosseum, but we wouldn’t have been able to go to the underground, the arena floor, or to the third tier - these spaces are closed to everyone else. I was really curious about the whole structure and I wanted to see ALL of it. Maybe it’s because of my background in engineering, I’m not sure. But either way, this was money well spent.
We woke up early and went to Vatican City. That day just so happened to be the last Sunday of the month, which is a free day at the Vatican Museums (general admission costs 20 euro per person). Everyone warned us that this was a bad idea. People looked at us like we had three heads when we said we were going on the “free day”. Even locals told us we should do a private tour to avoid the chaos. I’m happy to report, everyone was wrong!
The museum opens at 9am and we got there at 8am to get in line. Don’t kid yourself, the line was intimidating. At 8am, we were already a 1/4 mile away from the entrance. However, when the museum doors opened, people started rushing in. The line moved quickly, because no one had to buy tickets and bag check went smoothly. Thankfully we got in with the first wave of people. Once we walked into the main entrance it was like a rat race to get to the end. It seemed that everyone was there for one thing - to see the Sistine Chapel. Shay and I walked pretty steadily in that direction, stopping only occasionally to look at other museum pieces. It took us over an hour to get to the Sistine Chapel, so in that respect it makes sense why people breeze through it. There’s an overwhelming amount of artifacts and things to see within the museum, you could really spend all day there. Once we got to the Sistine Chapel, it wasn't nearly as crowded as I thought it would be. We found a spot on a bench to sit down and marvel at the floor to ceiling masterpiece. We stayed for a while and read our guide about what each painting represented. (Note: there is no talking and no picture taking inside the chapel… if you break this rule, you will get kicked out, which we witnessed.)
When we exited the chapel, it was about 10:30, so we grabbed a coffee and hung out on the lawn for a bit. At 11am we headed toward St. Peter's Basilica. Once we entered St. Peter's Square we realized there was quite a large crowd starting to gather in the center, and there were camera crews all around us. Then it hit us, THE POPE IS HERE! I had read that Pope Francis addresses the public every Wednesday and Sunday, except for the month of August when he's on vacation (like most Italians). Well, it was a Sunday in August, so I was not expecting him to be there. Sure enough, at noon he appeared from the window of his apartment and gave his blessing to the people below. Even though he spoke only in Italian, and I have no idea what he said, it was one of the coolest experiences of my life!
From there we spent some time inside St. Peter's Basilica. I mean, WOW! This was one of the most beautiful churches I have ever been in. Not only that, but the history is so incredible. St. Peter, as in the first pope, as in one of Jesus’ 12 disciples who spread the word of Christ and basically started Christianity, is buried there. Think about that. We were in the presence of Jesus’ MVP and BFF. It was awesome.
Note: I made a huge mistake and forgot to bring my extra battery that day and lost a lot of battery life while filming the Pope’s speech, so my pictures from St. Peter’s Square and the church are minimal. Hopefully I’ll make up for it in the movie I’m putting together later!
After we visited Positano and Capri, we went back to Rome to fly home. We basically had a half day to hang out in the Trastevere neighborhood again, and it was not wasted! We went to a charcuterie place for wine and appetizers (La Prosciutteria). From there, we had dinner at Meridionale. They were closed the month of August, and by day 9 it was the month of September. I’m so glad we went here, it was one of my favorite meals in Rome. If you go, get the Amatriciana - yum, yum, yum!
In total we spent about three days in Rome, which was perfect for us. Shay and I are masters of the 36 hour, tourist marathon. It’s the perfect amount of time to see the major sites as well as venture out into the local neighborhoods. Don’t get me wrong, it’s exhausting, which is why we were so excited to leave and head down to the Amalfi Coast for some relaxation! Check back soon for the continued story of our Italian Adventure!