After Venice, Rome was a welcome sight, though it was hardly any less crowded. While there were plenty of towns we’d visit in southern Italy toward the end of our trip that were both affordable and untainted by tourists, Rome was not that city (neither was Venice for that matter). Yet, in Rome—a city of immense size, nearly 500 square miles!—you can still find your pockets of quiet.
We took a three-hour, high-speed train to Rome, walked a few blocks and checked into our Airbnb rental, which may have been the best Airbnb rental of all time. I will say, it wasn’t cheap, though. Apparently, police in Rome take roll call, so the host is required to pay a tax of $25 per guest per night. I tell you that so you won’t have sticker shock when a listing is $250 a night at first glance, then quickly jumps to $375 a night when you factor in five additional people (it was a three-bedroom, two-bedroom flat, so we assumed six people was a reasonable amount).
Still, it was cheaper than if we’d gotten three hotel rooms, the flat was gorgeous, the hospitality was awesome, and this was our view of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore out the window:
The main reason we stayed over in Rome is because my sister and her
boyfriend now fiancé had never been (nor had my dad for that matter, but he stayed holed up in the apartment the entire visit, nursing his ever-present man cold). Plus, my mom digs this stuff—her undergrad degree from Vandy is in European history—so she wanted a full week to revisit all the museums she’s seen a handful of times.
SVV and I stayed for three nights before renting a tiny little nugget of a car and road-tripping it to his former stomping grounds in Sicily. We didn’t have much of an itinerary planned, other than to eat all the bruschetta and gelato and drink all the wine (which might as well have been our motto for our three weeks gone in the first place).
Wine, wine and more wine. I was so wine-d out by the time we got home, that I didn’t drink for a week! (Uh, that’s a lie. I might have taken two days off….)
The first morning there, we explored our ‘hood and had baked treats and coffee from Panella, which we would also visit all the subsequent days. So. Good.
We then wandered down to the Colosseum, which was just about a mile from our rental pad. People kept trying to sell us the fast-tracked admission, but we stood our ground. We knew it was going to be a long wait—took just over an hour—but at least we were under the shade the majority of the time.
We didn’t mind the wait—it was a beautiful day! we were in Rome! we were all together! even after 11 nights on a small ship together, we still like(d) each other!—but I’ll let you in on a little secret, a trick to getting in quicker if you will. You can bypass the long line and skip right to the front without paying a penny extra.
The people who didn’t pay to skip the line were ushered to the right, while the others were sent to the front of the line to the. But once we got inside the gates, where the line still wound around for a good 45 minutes, no one was monitoring that line. I saw a whole bunch of people bypass the rope and go straight to the front of the quick line to buy the same tickets we were purchasing in the slow line. No hassle, no wait, no extra cost. Next time, we’ll know better. I can’t guarantee this works every time, but with the chaos that is “Italian order,” I bet you can figure out a hack or two of your own.
The next day was SVV’s 40th birthday—July 4; yes, I am long overdue in blogging our time in Italy—and we started the morning with a little trip to the Pope’s house. I’d been to the Vatican City before, on Good Friday as it so happens, but I’d never been to the Vatican City in the height of summer. Let me just do you a service and say if you’re planning to do a holy tour of Rome, save it for spring or fall.
I’m not much for tours, but if that’s your thing, you can buy tickets from plenty of vendors peddling their services around the square or purchase online in advance for better prices. Next time, I’ll probably just get admission to the Vatican Museums at the door—16 euro an adult and includes the Sistine Chapel—and meander on my own. The three-hour tour we went on was waaaaaay too long in my opinion, and none of us could understand a word our aggressive guide was saying.
While I got a few decent photos from the experience that I’ll share at a later date, I nearly had a panic attack as I was carried from room to room in a sea of bodies, particularly down the tight corridors that led to the Sistine Chapel.
It wasn’t until the tail end of our tour in St. Peter’s Basilica that I felt like I could breathe again. I’ve never been so happy to escape a place as I was the Vatican City (made all the worse by the fact that we were all famished—our tour ran from 11am till nearly 2:30pm—and there was nowhere inside to so much as buy a packaged snack).
That night, we had a night out on the town, starting with drinks with fellow blogatrix—and founder of World Nutella Day—Sara, who has been an online friend since way back and who I met for the first time offline in San Francisco a few years ago, then walked over to Pierluigi for SVV’s 40th celebration. I mean, if it’s good enough for Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z (two of our favorites), it’s good enough for SVV.
The drinks were killer, with a few of them being set on fire or served in peppers. We dined alfresco on a perfect Italian summer evening. The whole gang was there (plus Sara and her friend later on for dessert).
That said, while the food and experience were great, let me let you in on a little secret: Do not order the specials without asking the prices first. We shared a couple of them among the table, as well as an appetizer and drink (or three) each, and our total bill for six of us was more than 700 euro, before tip. Eek! That’s a $1000 meal when we probably only ordered a total of three entrees and the regular menu items weren’t unreasonably priced. I still think they messed up our bill, but we were all too Southern-polite to ask.
The one thing we didn’t do on this visit to Rome was the Trevi Fountain because, well, you can see for yourself.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION. No wishes for you!
Rome was fun, because it was our last hurrah before we parted ways—us to Sicily, Kari and Josh back to Charlotte, Mom and Dad to stay put—but I can’t claim we did much of anything other than the traditional tourist stuff. I was happy to get down south to the islands and away from the maddening crowds.
The truth is that we didn’t do much beyond the typical tourist trail, and that’s alright. Only three out of the six of us had visited Rome before, and you can’t really go there for the first time and not experience the Vatican and the Colosseum. That said, we did manage to wander into a number of family-owned restaurants for meals, which lent more authenticity to the experience than had we stayed on the main roads in the tourist hubs.