When in Rome…

The Colosseum first thing in the morning

The train ride from Venice was relaxing with beautiful scenery and a friendly train conductor. We arrived in Rome and it was evident that we’d traveled south – the weather was much warmer! We had an immediate good feeling about the capital city with its cobbled streets and history on every corner.

Where We Stayed

Residenza San Pantaleo was a perfect location for us, between Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona – both great spots for restaurants.

The view from our room. Campo de’ Fiori is at the end of this street
The entrance to the residenza
We loved the decor of the residenza. The staff were easy to get a hold of and were very helpful.
Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona – a great place for an evening meal

So many things to see!

Our first morning, we got up early and walked to Vatican City for our scheduled Scavi Tour. I highly recommend this tour. It involves some planning as you have to contact the Excavations Office ahead of time to get permission (months in advance is recommended if you have a limited amount of time in Rome). It’s a small fee and such a good experience. You’re underneath the Vatican in the necropolis – eerie and surreal. No photos allowed so sorry, no pics, but it’s worth planning if you can. (Not for those who are claustrophobic though)

If you’re interested and will be in Rome on a Wednesday, you could experience “an Audience with the Pope“. We saw the audience chairs still set up when we were there.

This was a big walking day for us! From the Vatican, we walked along beautiful streets to Piazza del Popolo, where we had lunch and the customary wine and coffee.

From there, we wandered around the Villa Borghese Park and enjoyed the amazing views of the city. This was a relaxing jaunt and brought us out close to the Spanish Steps, which were crowded with tourists, naturally. Near there, we had our first Roman gelato and kept on exploring this magnificent city on foot.

View of Piazza del Popolo from the Villa Borghese gardens

When we were there in September 2014, the Trevi Fountain was surrounded by scaffolding – there was still a long line of people though! We continued our carefree amble and stumbled upon a lovely little clock store and watched the clockmaker assemble the piece I purchased.

Ceramica Raku Roma

From there, we wandered around the corner to the Pantheon and thought it was time for some wine!

We had a tour of the Colosseum for first thing in the morning and we enjoyed a peaceful, early walk through the city (asking a friendly poliziotto for directions when we got lost!). We later learned that experiencing the Colosseum practically empty was a treat; after our tour, we emerged to find visitors everywhere! Even after all the knowledge we have about that era of Rome and the spectacles that occurred in the Colosseum, nothing prepares you for standing in its grounds, looking at where gladiators fought, people were victorious, others not, animals were hunted, and people cheered along with the entertainment. Absolutely fantastic experience.

Enjoying the empty sights before the influx of visitors
So pleased we got to enjoy the Colosseum peacefully in the early morning
View of Palatine Hill
View while exploring Palatine Hill and Il Foro

We did a little shopping on Via del Corso, a main road running through the city. We also found great little boutique-type shops down the cobbled stoned and pedestrian-friendly streets, where people were making and selling jewelry. There’s also an abundance of Italian leather bag and shoe shops!

A small jewelry shop where items were being made on-site
These feet walked all over the city

Sacrario delle Bandiere in Piazza Venezia, where Via del Corso ends

What we ate

I say that I’d never had Italian food until I went to Italy and that’s probably true for most cuisines but when you’re surrounded by Italian food options in your homeland, you feel you “know” Italian food. There was definitely something extra special about the dishes we ate in Italy, particularly in Rome. I can only imagine, if we’d ventured off the tourist track, what we would have found.

After a day of traveling from Venice, we enjoyed a meal in Campo de’ Fiori

We found a great hole-in-the-wall pizza place, Zizzi Pizza, that was just opening up for the day. The man working there invited us in to hang out while they got everything started. He gave us free tasters of food while we waited and it was definitely worth the wait!

The best pizza I’ve ever had
Pizza slices and a bottle of aranciata

The restaurant choices were abundant and we never had a bad experience, even dining in Piazza Navona, which is geared towards visitors, the food was always good.

A particularly good bottle of Chianti
Great atmosphere in Piazza Navona
A quick afternoon break from walking around the city found us in Ristorante Splendor (now closed) for yummy pastries and coffee
A meal in Campo de’ Fiori. Reasonably-priced and absolutely delicious.

We loved nothing more than to find a trattoria with an outdoor table, order a bottle of wine with dinner and just soak up the city we were enjoying so much. One evening, we had a walk along the river where there were many options for food and drink.

Ponte Cestio
River Tiber

We fell in love with Rome and although the world is full of places I’m yet to visit, I feel I’ll return to this beautiful, historic city. Alla prossima, Roma!

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