Europe Part 3 – Rome

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Today we traveled to Rome via train. While we waited for the train station restaurants to open, Sean disappeared. A half hour later he came back with pastries that we ate inside the McDonald’s while we waited for our train; the ride was only 3 hours to Rome, and we all slept the whole way because we didn’t have much shut-eye. Once in Rome we took an illegal cab to our hotel, the Roma Cavilari. Because it was located at the top of the city, we had a gorgeous view of Rome and also of hotel’s pool deck. The room and hotel were very sophisticated with intricate details and art. It almost felt like we were staying in a fancy museum. “A Night in the Museum” anyone?

DSC02637DSC02741We shared a room with Cal & B, so each couple had a twin bed, but it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I swear the twin beds felt like doubles and were very comfortable with all the fluffy bedding. We got into our room right at 11am, which was a nice surprise, and we relaxed in the cold, air-conditioned room for about two hours while finalizing the day’s transportation and restaurants.

DSC02751We took a cab to Gabriele Bonci’s renowned pizzeria, Pizzarium, near Vatican City – it was amazing and was the best pizza we had all trip. We had a choice of 12 pizzas of the day – we split one slice with peaches and sweet red peppers and another with zuchinni and tomatoes. The peaches pizza took the cake! We even saw the famous chef!DSC02640

DSC02638Next we toured the Sistine Chapel – we pre-purchased tickets for a three-hour guided tour. You know how there’s always a really annoying person in every tour group? Well, we found a top 10 candidate for Most Annoying Tourer Ever. It was most definitely an American (I think she was from Virginia) with two daughters and her husband. She was the kind of person who asked a question before the guide could finish her sentence. We started to count her questions but gave up around question 20 in the first hour. The best part is her daughters and husband could not have been less interested in the tour, so she was constantly harassing them to pay attention.DSC02692DSC02684 DSC02656

Overall, the tour was good because we learned a lot about the art and Michelangelo, but we spent too much time in each of the museum rooms so by the end when we got to the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basillica, we were tired of touring. We wished we spent more time at the Basillica and listened to Rick Steve’s free audio tour there because the Basillica was breathtaking. The Sistine Chapel was very neat but too crowded, which made it less enjoyable. We took a few pictures in St. Peter’s Square and then cabbed it home to shower and get ready for dinner.DSC02735DSC02724DSC02715

La Fiorentina, recommended by the concierge, had a nice, on-street ambiance but our waiter was not friendly and the food was overpriced and just okay. Everyone was slightly cranky for some reason. We got gelato for dessert (although I opted for two mini cannolis  and a small pistachio & cherry sugar square of deliciousness). We walked around for a while, but no one was out and it was boring. We ended up walking all the way home to the hotel; the heat and climb up the hill made me fell ill. It was early to bed for me, and I think Cal thought I wanted to kill him for making me walk. Cal, at least now you know what I put Sean through when I’m not a happy camper 🙂

Friday, August 2, 2013 9

Today was a new day! Sean and I took advantage of his free breakfast status at the hotel and we have to say it was the best breakfast we’ve ever had (at a hotel). Fresh juice of all kinds, a huge assortment of breads, pastries and fruit, sausage and eggs, French toast, bacon, even a bottle of champagne to make mimosas. (Sorry Cal & B – we still feel really guilty about this).  We left on the noon shuttle to Barberinni Square, bought metro tickets and hopped over to the Coliseum. We had a 1.5 hour guided tour, which was good but just slightly too long. The history and access under the Coliseum and to the very top was worth it. Today we learned first hand that Rome.is.hot.in.July. We accepted the fact that public water fountains are key to survival.DSC02761DSC02775DSC02763DSC02807DSC02865

We also coincidentally saw the same annoying family from the Vatican tour at the Coliseum. Thank goodness we were not in their group again or we would have left! She was that bad. After the tour, we were all starving so we hurried to the closest restaurant for paninis and pizza. “If Cal had any energy left, he would have run to that place,” said Sean. Because we were so close to the tourist attractions, we didn’t expect the food to be great, and it wasn’t.

We took the metro back to the Square and walked around for a half hour before returning to the hotel on the shuttle. A great idea came to mind: “Let’s go swimming!” With two hours before our dinner reservations, we threw our suits on and jumped into the pool. It was so refreshing after a hot day. Then, Sean called the best audible ever by finding a new restaurant, Trattoria Vecchia Roma, via 10 Best for dinner. It was near the Trevi Fountain so we wouldn’t have too much walking/cabbing after dinner. This was hands down the best meal and restaurant of (dare I say) the entire trip. A ½ liter of the house red was only 3 euro so we drank almost 3 bottles! We ate fried mozzarella balls, mushroom bruschetta and tomato bruschetta. Blanka and I split the pasta special (bucatini with bacon and pecorino cheese), Cal ate his entire pasta plate with alfredo sauce, peas and other veggies, and Sean had the other pasta special of spaghetti with vegetables, but I let him share my plate because it was so good and he was jealous.DSC02818DSC02821DSC02824

After dinner, we walked to the Trevi Fountain – it was truly spectacular, especially at night. All four of us threw coins over our right shoulders into the fountain, ensuring our return to Rome. We got gelato and walked to the Spanish Stairs and while we had planned to get another bottle of wine and drink it on the stairs while we people-watched (thanks to my friend Kristin for that recommendation) it was getting so late that we had to forgo it. Around 2:00 a.m. we cabbed it back to the hotel after a memorable and fun night!DSC02831DSC02834DSC02851

Sadly, it was time for Cal & B to pack up. Instead of falling asleep for two hours, they decided to just leave for the airport then. We were happy to end the portion of the trip with our best friends on such a high note at dinner, where we were all laughing and reminiscing about our favorite parts of the trip. We talked about starting families and future vacations. They truly are the best friends ever and we are so grateful to have them in our lives.

Cal & Blanka flew to Croatia where B is from and grew up until she was 12. She has not been back since then, and it was also Cal’s first visit there. We can’t wait to hear about their adventures!

Saturday, August 3rd

Today was our last day in Rome and our travel day to Florence. After our decadent hotel breakfast, we packed up and checked out. We shuttled and metro’d our way back to the Coliseum so we could use our tickets to enter the Roman Forum for free.  We used Rick Steve’s free iphone audio tour at the Forum, but found it difficult to use because we didn’t enter at the correct spot and a few of the walkways and buildings in his tour were closed, so we guessed what to look at. We accidentally exited thinking that was the only way to enter a certain building, but unfortunately we were wrong and we had to walk all the way back to the entrance. Oh ya, it was also gruesomely hot. Overall, the Forum was neat but you have to use so much imagination (and have a lot of patience) to get the most out of it.DSC02859 DSC02856

Next we took the metro to St Peter’s Square to attempt to see St. Peter’s Basillica again and do the free audio tour with our buddy Rick Steve. The metro in Rome is very crowded, extremely hot and you just feel dirty on it. At this point, we had walked a few miles for the day and were super sweaty. The line to get into the Basillica was a mile long and we just didn’t have it in us to wait under the sun for hours. So, I mailed postcards to my dad and grandma from the Vatican and we were on our way.

We walked another half mile to find a decent restaurant for lunch, where all we cared about was water and a fan. We split a ham and mozzarella calzone and caprese salad. The waitress actually offered us ice! We were in heaven. We cabbed it back to the hotel feeling slightly defeated.

We showered and changed clothes back at the hotel spa (they were nice enough to give us access) and then hung out in the lobby for two hours planning things in Florence before catching the 6:30 shuttle to the Square. Two metro stops later and we were at Termini. We found quick snacks and boarded the train for Florence. This was the most modern train of our whole trip, but unfortunately the hottest. I can’t say I was too sad to leave Hot Rome! Sean watched Suits on his ipad and I journalled.DSC02866

Once in Florence, we took a short cab to our hotel, Il Gaulfo Bianca, which was perfect with its central location, great servce, boutique feel, included-breakfast, and eclectic design. It was an old monastery from the 1500s. After quickly freshening up and several attempts to make dinner reservations for 10pm, we decided to risk going reservation-less at Il Santo Bevitore, a restaurant recommended by my boss.

Of course the one night we don’t bring a camera, the food was so different and modern. It was delicious and good prices. Sean had sea bass over a grain with cucumber sorbet while I ate tortelloni pasta with little crispy breadcrumps on top.

It was a very romantic, candle-lit dinner and nice to be alone with Sean again. We already fell in love with Florence after only two hours there because the temperature was cool and it was a quick walk between our hotel, the restaurant and Il Duomo. Lots of people in the streets were having a great time until past midnight. Guess who we saw?!? The Annoying Tourist. No kidding. She of course didn’t notice us but we’re pretty sure her husband did a doubletake.

Back at the hotel, we showered for the third time in one day and called it a night.

See you back soon for Florence!

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