I’ve been sitting on these photos now for upwards of three weeks, and wanted to start getting them out sooner rather than later. So, without further adieu: Italy!
I was lucky enough to take a twelve-day trip all over Italy with my family. To say it was the best vacation ever would be an understatement. Not only am I so thankful to have the opportunity to go on this trip, but also to have the literal best family in the world. There are very few people I would spend every single day and night with for twelve days straight, sharing rooms and in some cases with my sister, beds. But I had a truly magical time and would spend another 1200 days with my parents and sister if given the chance. But next time I’d bring along our puppies.
We went to nine different cities, so I’m going to break them up a bit into different posts and try to share as much detail as possible, both for my own memories, and maybe to help others plan another trip.
We flew to Rome overnight, arriving around 8:00am Italy time on Tuesday morning. We did our best to sleep on the plane on the way, but between the screaming child and its parents kicking our seats the entire time, there was much to be desired. Regardless, we hit the ground running.
Our cab ride from the airport to our hotel, which was near the train station in center city, was about 30 minutes. After showers, coffee and pastries, we started towards the major sights — the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon. It was at most, a 20 minute walk to our first stop, the Trevi Fountain.
Two things surprised me about the Fountain. First, it was much larger than I imagined. It takes up about an entire block. It was magnificent. The other thing that was surprising is how many people were there. We definitely had to squish through layers of people taking photos to get to the fountain, but I’d liken it to Times Square in NYC. Definitely not my favorite thing, but worth seeing. And tossing in a coin to ensure you’ll return to Italy one day. (Hint hint, Andrew).
Nearby are the Spanish Steps. These were much less crowded, maybe because it was 85 degrees and fewer people wanted to hike up a few flights. We walked all the way to the top for some gorgeous views.
Afterward, we stopped for a snack at a cafe on Via dei Condotti. Eventually, we wandered towards the Pantheon. As a student of design (I minored in Visual Arts) I suffered through an Art History course in college. I was very excited to see the Pantheon, since I had studied it at great length. Not to mention that I am endlessly obsessed with old things. This building is 2000 years old and I could touch almost anything inside? I couldn’t wait. It was also wild to me that there was this ancient temple, and the city of Rome just built up around it.
We made our way to Piazza Navona, and somewhere along the way I found a leather shop and bought a pair of new sandals. I had been looking for something this style (Hermes, Everlane, Steve Madden, etc.) for months and was psyched to find a pair for 55 Euro.
We were almost ready to start heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner when we came across a little shop that made custom sandals. My sister, and my mom — who has especially wide feet — decided to get their own pairs made, which took about 2 hours. We continued to poke around, taking a little bit of time to sit — and in my dad’s case, to snooze — on some church steps. Eventually, we went back to the Piazza in front of the Pantheon for drinks.
By the time we got back to our hotel around 7:00pm, we were all exhausted and laid down for a quick “pre-dinner nap.” Of course, this turned into a much longer snooze. Our hotel actually had a gorgeous rooftop, so Bridget and I went upstairs for drinks and to split some pasta. We had some AMAZING spaghetti carbonara and Pinot Grigio.
A note on the hotel we stayed at — they were wonderful. We had one room with a double bed and two singles, and a huge bathroom. The concierge was excellent at calling various cabs for us and giving us directions, and when I thought I had left a prescription there, they replied to my email right away to help me out.
The Independent is located literally 5 minutes away from the Rome Train station, and was about a 30 minute walk to the Pantheon, the furthest landmark from the hotel. As I mentioned above, they had a gorgeous rooftop bar and restaurant where we had breakfast each morning (a real, American breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, etc., actually). They also gave us a bottle of prosecco as soon as we arrived. I would highly recommend!
The next day was our last day in Rome, and it was packed. We had a 9:00am Vatican tour and then a 1:30pm Colosseum tour. We had a big breakfast at the hotel and then took a cab to the Vatican. I might be ignorant, but I didn’t expect the tour to be more than just a big church. The Vatican Museum is exactly that — a collection of paintings, sculptures, Pope’s apartments and courtyards, and of course, the Sistine Chapel. It was absolutely stunning. Again, my inner art history nerd totally loved seeing all of the famous Renaissance art.
Since it was Wednesday, we weren’t able to go to St. Peter’s Cathedral. Regardless, the tour of the Vatican Museum was stunning, and the Sistine Chapel especially was worth seeing. One thing to note is that you’re supposed to wear clothing that covers the knees/shoulders there. My whole family did, but I did end up taking my jacket off because it was so warm. No one had a real problem, although I imagine they are stricter at the Cathedral.
Additionally, you’re not allowed to talk in the Sistine Chapel. Also not supposed to take photos but that was easier to sneak. It was actually much smaller than I imagined, although still impressive.
After our tour and the gift shops (where I picked up some rosary beads for Andrew’s family), we took another short cab ride to the Colosseum. Admittedly, I was most looking forward to this. I LOVE old stuff, mostly because nothing in America is really much older than 200 years. Seeing these ruins, where you could touch just about everything, was a dream come true.
The most important thing we did next was have lunch. There’s a few little cafe’s across from the Colosseum, and grabbing some antipasti and water ahead of a four-hour tour was key. We were definitely pressed for time, but it was worth rushing to avoid a meltdown later on.
We did the Gladiator’s Arena and Colosseum Underground Tour, because my mom was DYING to do a tour where you get to go beneath the stadium. The tour took us through all of the Roman Ruins, and our guide did an awesome job reconstructing history to let us know exactly what we were seeing. It also highlighted the fact that I know very little about Ancient Rome, probably to the dismay of my AP European History teacher in high school.
It was a great tour, although I will say it was a touch too long. It might have been because we were out on a cloudless, 80-degree day for four hours, but by the end, we were hot, tired, and dusty. That being said, I’m glad we did it, and I would definitely recommend.
Afterward, we went back to our hotel, showered and headed up to the rooftop bar for drinks. The views were stunning, and here, my sister discovered a new favorite cocktail: the Rossini. Similar to a Bellini, the Rossini is prosecco plus strawberry puree. She continued on to have one in every city we visited.
Phew! I am exhausted just recapping. We packed the two days in Rome full of just about every site we wanted to see. My only regret is that we were so tired every night that we didn’t venture far for dinner. Next time I’d definitely venture out to eat more. Although, our last night in the Trastavere neighborhood, we had an AMAZING meal at Trattoria da Teo.
Since we flew in and out of Rome, at the end of the trip we stayed one night in an Airbnb in Trastavere, an adorable neighborhood across the river from the Historic Center of Rome. I absolutely loved this neighborhood. It was definitely more residential and more hip than the very touristy area we stayed at the start of the trip. I would definitely like to come back and explore the little cafe’s and bars that we passed.
Our Airbnb was excellent as well. Our host Francesco was there to greet us and get us settled, as well as to give us restaurant recommendations nearby. As I mentioned above, we went to Trattoria da Teo, which Francesco told us was “the best restaurant in the area.” He did warn us that the owner was a little, uh, brusque.
The restaurant opens right at 7:30pm for dinner, so I’d recommend either making a reservation in advance, or getting there right when it opens. As we didn’t make a reservation, we showed up a little before 7:30pm, and asked if there was a table available. They asked if we wanted inside or outside, and when I asked if we could sit outside, the host simply said “no.” Inside it was.
Right at 7:30, I swear people started coming out of the woodwork. And the host started pointing at couples and groups and directing them to their tables. He was very efficient.
Our waiter was far more personable. He spoke lovingly about all the food, and made great recommendations. I had an awesome rigatoni all’Amatriciana, a red sauce with chunks of guanciale. My dad got a shrimp dish, and I think he had an out of body experience, as the shrimp was so incredibly fresh. About halfway through our pasta, the waiter came by and dropped off a plate of grilled fish and veggies and directed my dad to “test this.” At dessert, my mom and sister were trying to order a small dessert to share, and the waiter pointed at them and declared “No. Too small. You need a medium.” He was right, of course.
I definitely wish we had more time in Trastavere, but the little taste (literally) that we got was enough to hold me over until next time.