Our Roman adventure started the night before we arrived as we took a sleeper train from Vienna to Rome. The equivalent of a hotel on a train, we had a deluxe double sleeper—the fancier cabin of the type I was trying to get because the others were all booked. This worked in our favor though, because instead of 2 tiny berths we have two full-sized “beds” and our own bathroom (although neither one of attempted to use the incredibly tiny shower). One of the beds collapsed to allow for couch sitting while the other loomed above our heads—there was no ladder or steps for the second bed so I’m still trying to figure out how you’re supposed to get up there.
Our hotel was interesting—we had gone with the risky route and used HotWire for all but two of our hotels during the trip and so we weren’t always sure what we were getting ourselves into with each one. If I had an eclectic Italian aunt, I would assume her house would look the same as our hotel. The tiled courtyard sloped down to the front entrance, with fountains flowing constantly so there always was water on the ground and oranges grew in the potted trees scattered around on the property.
We’d had breakfast on the train but after checking-in at the hotel and making the brief walk to the Colosseum we were famished and not spotting the restaurants we’d found online so we quickly popped into a tourist trap right next to the old ruins for some pizza. Looking back, I’m glad we did because I apparently made the mistake of ordering a Hawaiian pizza—a major insult to true Italians and they’re pizza because it has pineapple as a topping.
After lunch, we only had a couple of hours to explore the Colosseum and Roman Forum before the sites closed. Navigating around the sites required dodging umbrella hawkers as well as intermittent rain. Of the two, the Forum was my favorite (better for pictures), although I might have been more impressed by the famed Colosseum had taken an audio guide and learned more about the steps and columns that we traipsed about.
“The Wedding Cake”
We wandered around the “Wedding Cake” before we found the jail that housed Paul and Peter before heading back to our hotel and call it a night.
The next day we ventured on the Roman subway to get us to the Vatican City just a little faster. After spending nearly two hours in line (with multiple people asking if you’d like to go on a tour and not stay in the line, Colton got bored so he got into a conversation with a guy and informed him that he liked lines, tour guy was a bit confused).
In line for the Vatican
Once inside we wandered through the paintings, artifacts, and grand rooms before joining the mass funneling into the Sistine Chapel (no pictures allowed, not cool). A room packed with people, security calling out for everyone to be quiet, signs reminding you that this is a holy place. We left after viewing for a few minutes as Colton had had his fill and I was worried that my seriousness would not be able to contain my desperate want to make fun of the various cherubs depicted in the room.
St. Peter’s was next, another line winding through the square leading to the entrance.
St. Peter’s is immense, I’m fairly certain we did not see half of it and yet I still felt a bit overwhelmed with the amount of space behind it’s doors. People were everywhere, portions of the flooring was blocked off (never understood why), the lighting was dim, and various rooms hidden behind curtains.
I’m afraid the most memorable event from inside St. Peter’s was a bit traumatic, for me at least. Halfway through, I went to snap a photo but my camera wouldn’t work because my brand new SD card had somehow become incompatible—even though I had already taken 200 photos on it! This SD was 16 GB so I had a minimum of 1000 photos still to go. I have a second SD card, but it was full and I hate to delete pictures off my memory cards without having backed them up on at least two sources. Fortunately, Colton had put all the pictures on my smaller card on his laptop so I fearfully cleared it to take more photos. It may not seem scary to you, but I was near panicky—don’t judge.
We grabbed some food at a take-away pasta joint I had discovered—fresh made pasta for cheap. We ate in the restaurant but grabbed a second round to have later back at the hotel.
We did this because, as silly Americans, we assumed that we would have access to a microwave. Well, apparently, there wasn’t and we happened to have the only non-friendly staff member at the desk. So, long story short—Colton reheated our pasta a la hairdryer in our bathroom. Not ideal, but it definitely made for a memorable dinner.
But before we returned home we popped by the super crowded Pantheon and grabbed some coffee.
Our last day in Rome was certainly our most anticipated—the Eating Italy Food Tour. I had found a tour company with great reviews ages ago, back when we thought we would go to Rome during the October break. We met our guide and our fellow tour companions outside of a coffee shop in the Testacchio neighborhood of Rome (the “heart” of Rome as far as food is concerned).
Kate, our guide from Nottingham, England, was a fellow Whovian and therefore already in my good opinion. The rest of our company included a couple from China and the chatty Philip and Elizabeth from Australia (we were later joined by two more ladies but I never caught their names or where they were from).
Our tour started with tiramisu in chocolate cups and Panettone a traditional Italian cake eaten at Christmas.
Then we went next door to a gourmet food shop to try cheeses and meats, and taste the difference between five and ten year old balsamic vinaigrettes (they don’t let you try the 100 year old).
Next we popped into a lunch spot for pizza by the slice (it’s rectangular not round) and fried risotto balls.
Then we took a “digestion break” and visited the protestant cemetery (basically where everyone in Rome gets buried if they’re not Catholic), here we saw the grave of John Keats and Percy Shelley, the only pyramid in Rome (92 years older than the Colosseum!) and a statue that would have been beautiful if I was not a Doctor Who fan and thereby knew it was waiting for us to not watch it.
Following the cemetery and a few facts about Roman soccer (excuse me, futbol), we went to the “oldest” market in Rome—the market itself is old, but it has moved to a newer location in the last few years. Here we had bruschetta (Colton and I ate tomatoes! Willingly!) and buffalo mozzarella, followed by fresh cannolis (fantastic–I could have eaten 5 of those).
After a visit to the site of Rome’s largest slaughter house (now used as an art district) we rested our feet and enjoyed some real pasta before finishing the tour with a lesson on identifying real gelato and ate some gelato too of course!