Italy – Rome

It’s been over a month since we returned from our first anniversary/honeymoon trip. I’m ashamed that it has taken me so long to update the blog, but life has a way of throwing curve balls.

I’m happy to say I am now employed. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s enough hours a week to hopefully keep me from going insane from boredom, and enough to help out with my student loan payments back in New Zealand. The plan is that once we come back from our trip to New Zealand, I will start studying for my Chartered Accountant exams, which I’ll need to sit in the USA.

I digress! This trip will be in three parts, since there’s six days to cover.

Rome – Monday & Tuesday

Monday

On September 23, we left early to head off to Frankfurt Hahn Airport. We headed off around 3am as usual for our 6am flight. The line for security was short, so after getting our boarding passes visa checked, we had some dirty McDonalds for breakfast. (I’m proud to say that up until Italy, I stuck to my goals and lost 15 pounds since July. I put a couple pounds back on after Italy, but that’s back off again now.)

By the time we got back to security, the line was LONG. There’s one thing about Europe that I really hate. They don’t know how to queue, there’s no such thing as taking your turn. I ended up with a stand off with an elderly German woman. I ended up pretty much elbowing her out of the way by the time we got to the security ramp as I watched her queue jump past many people. I wasn’t missing our flight for anything! It also turns out that my trusty knife that I carry for security happened to still be in my backpack. I knew immediately after what the problem was when I was stopped. The nice German man looked at it and gave it back to me. I guess I don’t look a threat!

Our flight took about 1 ½- 2 hours.  We arrived and headed for the buses. We queued for about 15 minutes in the wrong queue and then ended up having to sprint onto the proper bus while getting yelled at to hurry in Italian. I think it was only around €6 for the bus. The ride was an eye opener – the Italians are crazy drivers! If the bus wasn’t getting cut off, it was the one cutting people off. The scooter drivers took their lives into their hands! We were glad we hadn’t made a road trip down.

As soon as the bus headed into Rome central, everywhere you looked there were ancient buildings. It was exactly what I thought it was going to be, and not to mention, the weather was amazing! In late September, Germany was already cold, but Italy was still sporting summer weather.

The bus dropped us off at Roma Termini, the central station. We went in and purchased train day passes and hopped onto the underground and headed in the direction of our hotel. We hopped off the metro at the Spanish steps, and from there the hotel we stayed at was only about a 5-10 minute walk. We left our bags (and I changed into something more summer weather appropriate!) and headed straight back to the train station.

At midday we had tickets booked for the Colosseum tour. I pre-booked these through the ticket center, and was glad that we had as the line into the Colosseum snaked right around for what looked like at least a 3-4 hour wait.  We were able to skip the line and pick up the tickets straight from the desk. Word of warning: bring water into the Colosseum! We were absolutely parched by the end of our tour, to the point of being faint, as there was nowhere to purchase any from within.

The tour we booked was for an underground tour. It took us underneath into the pits where the animals were kept. It was amazing to see up close and personal somewhere that I had spent two years studying about at high school in Classical Studies. I hope that we make it to Greece so that I can see the other side of my studies one day! Much of the things we were taught about during the tour came flooding back to me, including about how the stages worked through an old (advanced) system of pulleys and levers. I can imagine how the sound would have been deafening as the crowds roared for the victors, with the sound bouncing around the amphitheater.

The tour also took us up to the top of the Colosseum, which is not accessible on a general access pass. That was unexpected, and had amazing views of Rome and the Colosseum itself. It was a real treat!

By the time the tour was up, we were extremely dehydrated and only thinking about one thing – water! The Colosseum felt about 10 degrees Celsius hotter than the city itself. We found water, devoured it, and headed back on the train in search of food. We found a cute pizzeria near the Spanish Steps and had a yummy margarita pizza to provide some sustenance, and then some delicious gelato for dessert!

Legit pizza
Legit pizza

After lunch we headed in the direction of the Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately the Fountain was surrounded by tourists, and gypsies who were trying to trick us into taking roses from them. After awhile we figured out the best thing to do was to ignore (all the while watching our pockets/purse!). The Fountain was incredibly beautiful though, and it was nice to see the real thing after seeing the Las Vegas one a couple of times!

By now, our feet were getting sore, and we were a little tired. We had a nap in the hotel before heading out for our search for dinner. We came across some side streets and found an adorable little Italian place (of course!) with charismatic Roman waiters. We enjoyed an entire bottle of prosecco wine over dinner, which was pesto caprese for starters, pesto chicken pasta for myself and Nick had a seafood pasta for our mains.

As seemed to be the way in Rome, everyone appeared to be in good spirits. We got chatting with a couple at the table next to us. They were from New York (although the guy was originally from Cuba!) and had interesting backgrounds. The guy was in the music industry, and she was a graphic designer. They had a six year old daughter who was back in the USA while they were there for a friend’s wedding in Florence. Our conversations spanned many topics, including politics, health care, the military and then it turned out that the woman spent a part of her childhood at Ramstein Air Base! It’s such a small world.

It sounds cliché, but my favourite part was when a guy playing the accordion came past and played ‘That’s Amore!’ as it was what I had been singing to Nick in the weeks leading up to our trip. It made me so happy! (But watch out – the music players expect tips for their efforts, so don’t get into it too much – we had assumed they were part of the restaurant!).

The view from the roof top bar
The view from the roof top bar

After spending a few hours at the restaurant, in the true European way, we headed off for some gelato and a walk around the streets. Everything was still bustling (so different to where we live in Germany, which closes down at 5pm!). We sat in the square near our hotel and watched the world go by, enjoying the mild weather and especially enjoying the gelato.

We decided to have a nightcap in our hotel’s roof top bar. I’m not kidding when I say my heart swelled with happiness. It was so beautiful watching Rome lit up from the roof top, and although our prosecco there was a pretty penny, and there was a call girl hanging out with an old man, it was definitely the perfect way to spend the late hours in Rome.

Our hotel – the problem

We stayed at Hotel Valadier, which was in an excellent location.  The room was good, which was unexpected after reading the reviews on Trip Advisor. However, I guess we didn’t stay out late enough. The room was so noisy! We tossed and turned trying to get to sleep, and were super thankful for our earlier nap. We called asking the front desk if they sold earplugs, but unfortunately they didn’t.  Despite the amazing breakfast, I’m not sure we would stay there again.

Tuesday

We rose on Tuesday, complaining to each other about the lack of sleep from the night before, but much was resolved over breakfast. (Unfortunately, I failed to mention that I had a heavy head cold during this trip, and on Tuesday, Nick started feeling the effects too!)

Tuesday morning was exciting as we were heading off for our walking tour of Rome which was to be followed by an Italian cooking class. The walking tour took us around a lot of the places we hadn’t managed to see the day before on our own, and we saw a lot more that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

Our favourite part of the walking tour was the Pantheon. The ceiling was incredible, we couldn’t help but marvel at it. The famous painter (who I studied in Art History at school) Raphael is buried in the Pantheon, which was originally erected in 125AD as a pagan temple. It’s hard to even fathom something of that age when you come from countries like New Zealand and the USA!

We booked this combination tour through Viator, and it turned out that everyone in our group was Australian, which was great! Half the group split off at lunch time, which was when our group headed off on our cooking class. There were four others with us, an Australian mum and her teenage daughter, and a couple who lived in the UK but the fiancé was in the Australian Air Force. They were just spending a couple of days in Rome, as you do when you live in Europe!

Everyone had a great time. We made two delicious dishes (both vegetarian) and then all got to eat it together over wine and dessert. Tourists walking by took photos of us and wanted to know what we were up to! We’re definitely keen to start making our own pasta; it’s so easy and so delicious. We just have to buy a pasta roller and then we’ll get onto it.

It was back to the room for another nap, and then it was time to head out for some window shopping. The area around our hotel was great for little boutique shops, but also name brand stores like H&M. We eventually ended up in the same area as the night before to find dinner. Unfortunately, after a lot of walking around and being unable to decide on dinner, where we did end up for dinner ended up a bit of a disaster. I ordered a meat dish, medium, and it came out raw (i.e. cold in the middle!) We sent it back and it came out well done. Nick ordered a side salad with his veal (which was a thin slice of roast veal) and it came out just as some lettuce with nothing on it. Quite nice, not! As you can imagine, these did not end up photograph-worthy.

It was time for more gelato, and we wandered the streets again until it was time to give sleep another go. Unfortunately, the noise was even worse the next night!

Wednesday

Alas, our time in Rome was up. After eating breakfast and checking out, it was time to head to Roma Termini again to catch the ICE train to Florence for part two of our belated honeymoon! We will definitely be back to Rome, as we didn’t have time to see the Vatican City, which I would like to see just simply for the art in the Sistine Chapel. Hopefully next year!

Some further photos that didn’t fit elsewhere:

Hopefully part two doesn’t take me another 6 weeks to write! Until then,

Arrivederci!

Emma


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