It’s been over a month since we were finishing up the last leg of our European tour in Rome, and I finally figured out how to transfer my 500+ pictures to my computer in a timely manner so here we are! This was my second time in Rome and it is still a very overwhelming city. I liken it to New York where if you know the neighborhoods and the city layout, you will be fine and can walk around for a day comfortably, but for those first few hours or days where you don’t know which way is up – it can be stressful. That’s what happened to us when we got to Rome; after a very pleasant high speed train ride from Florence, a tiny city, we walked out of Termini station and were bombarded with the sounds and sights of a big, bustling city. We had three full days to figure it out and make the most out of our time. First step: have a drink and get a map!
Fast forward to check in at the River Palace Hotel, where we enjoyed an Aperol Spritz while our room was prepared, and things were looking up. Our room was fabulous with plenty of marble and steps leading up to the bedroom and the hotel was located just down the street from the Piazza del Popolo, an amazing spot and easy to find on a map!
We spent our first day in Rome searching for food and trying to find our way back to our hotel, but by the second and third days we were semi-pros, and even did the Rick Steves Heart of Rome Walk (albeit backwards) where we hit all of the major sites in one fell swoop, including the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Piazza Navona.
We had lunch in Piazza Navona on two separate days because it gave us the chance to sit down and rest our feet while people watching from the shade of a cafe. Lunch was usually pizza, pasta and a few champagnes and Aperol Spritz’s! Not too shabby.
We spent time walking on the other side of the Tiber River, exploring the Castel Sant’Angelo and plotting our return the next day to the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica where we took a guided walking tour and walked to the top of the Basilica for an incredible view over the city.
We asked locals and our hotel concierges for dinner recommendations, and were thankfully sent to some spectacular hole in the wall restaurants like Osteria St. Ana, just steps from Piazza del Popolo, where we had this life-changing beef lasagna layered with mushrooms and truffle sauce, and another little place we ate in plastic chairs outside in the street, then took a bottle of wine from dinner down the street to finish it on the Spanish Steps (open container laws are awesome).
Our last night in Rome, Ryan had booked us a twilight tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum which was absolutely incredible. The guide took us on a long walk through Palatine Hill so we could learn about each of the back lit ruins, and the day and time of our tour happened to coincide with a local art exhibit which projected images of what the building used to look like onto the ruins. We then headed to the Colosseum for an exclusive nighttime guided tour where we were brought below the floor to walk through the lower levels where the animals, gladiators and workers once got ready for battle. Wrapping up our last night in Rome around 11pm, we sat, savoring our last meal with a view of the Colosseum lit up in the background, and thought yeah this will do. After all, doesn’t the saying go: when in Rome, do as the Romans do?