I know, I know it has been a long time since we were in Rome. I am a slacker and am finally getting around to writing this post.
Anyway we didn’t really have a major plan for our trip to Rome. We loosely planned what we wanted to see and decided to determine when and how when we got there. However, I did research bed and breakfasts on tripadvisor.com before our trip and found a nice place to stay called Aldebaran. We also printed the Rome city guide on wikitravel and downloaded walking tours that Rick Steve’s has available as podcasts for free on iTunes — which I highly recommend. For Rome the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, and St. Peters basilica walking tours are available.
While on the plane, we decided we would try to take a bus from the airport into the Rome center. The wikitravel article said it was the cheapest way into the center of Rome and it sounded like it would be interesting. The buses didn’t run often but there would be one arriving at noon and we thought we would have no problem catching it. We arrived at Rome and the Fiumicino airport around 10:40 am. After waiting over an hour for our bags (what are these guys taking a 3 hour lunch? Oh, of course, they are. We are in Italy!) we purchased tickets for the bus and had to rush (or so we thought) to the platform to catch the 12 o’clock. The 12 o’clock never came and soon we were wondering if we were at the right bus platform. Thankfully there was a helpful Russian woman waiting for the same bus. She told us that the buses were not reliable and would probably be 45 minutes late. Eventually, we made it on to the bus and to our bed and breakfast. Overall, the time from arriving at the airport in Rome to arriving at our bed and breakfast matched the 3 hour flight time from Israel. We learned our lesson – if we are ever back in Rome we will take the train. By the way, is Russian becoming the new universal language? Russians in Israel, Russians in Italy, Russians taking over the world???
At the B&B Laura (the co-owner) greeted us and spent 20 minutes with us. She gave us some maps of Rome, provided advice on sights we should not miss, and gave us information on the city’s available transportation. It is this type of personal attention which makes me inclined to stay at small places. Afterward she showed us around the B&B and took us to our room. The B&B is a three story home and I believe they only rent out 4 rooms. It is very nicely done and extremely clean. Plus, the situation in Mumbai right now, makes me like small B&B’s even more.
We relaxed in our room for a bit and then decided to head out for a walk and explore the city. We walked around for awhile and then headed towards the Colosseum. Unfortunately, this is where we were caught in a horrible downpour. We both got completely soaked and as Rita previously mentioned our camera was ruined.
For our first full day in Rome we decided to visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. We woke up for an 8:30 breakfast which consisted of pastries, cereal and cappuccino. After breakfast we headed to the local supermarket and purchased food for a lunch picnic at the Roman Forum.
Our B&B was about a 15 minute walk from the Colosseum so we arrived early. I had purchased our tickets before we arrived on the Internet so we did not have to wait in line. After making it through a brief security check, we were inside the Colosseum and ready to begin our Rick Steve’s audio tour. The tour lasted about an hour and was very good – we were both impressed and happy we spent the time to download it. It is a little cheezy, Rick Steves style, but very worth it. I think the view of the Colosseum from the street is more impressive than the view from the inside. It is truly amazing to see such an old structure playing such a prominent role in a modern, thriving city.
The Roman Forum is right next to the Colosseum so we headed there next. Again we had the Rick Steve’s audio guide, and again it was great. The tour lasted around an hour and when it was complete we sat down in the forum (close to where Julius Caeser was killed) and had a nice lunch. We have seen our share of ruins in Israel but the Forum was quite different and we really enjoyed it. Many of the ruins are still in pretty good shape and you can really get a feel for how great this place must have been in its prime.
We still had most of the day left so we decided to head over to the Pantheon as it was only a fifteen minute walk from the forum. On the way we walked through a student protest. The police had several major streets blocked off for the protest and there was a bus driving very slowly blasting loud music and selling cheap beer. We slowly made our way through the crowded streets and arrived at the Pantheon where we had another Rick Steve’s audio tour. The Pantheon is not a huge building, there is one major room. We sat down on a chair and listened to the tour which lasted about 30 minutes. It is pretty amazing to see a building like this that has stood for almost 2000 years!
After the Pantheon, we walked around the rest of the day. We stopped at one of the great gelato places (San Crispino – http://rome-hotels.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g187791-c70805/Rome:Italy:Best.Gelato.In.Rome.html) and saw the Trevi Fountain. After all of this walking we were pretty tired and headed back to the B&B for a break. After resting, we went to walk around the city and stopped at the Spanish Steps. After several hours of exploring we were exhausted and headed back to our room for a good nights sleep.
Our 2nd day in Rome started off like the first. We had breakfast and went to the supermarket to buy lunch. After that we took the metro to the Vatican. Our plan was to see St. Peter’s Basilica first and then head over to the Vatican museum and see the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, this is where the battery on our video camera died so from this point we didn’t get anymore pictures. To make matters worse, I also forgot my iPod at the B&B, so we also did not have the Rick Steve’s audio tour of St. Peter’s Basilica – major bummer. St. Peter’s is ridiculously huge! You could play a football game inside of this church. It is so ornately done it is sickening to think about how much time and resources went into building it. For me, one of the highlights at St. Peter’s was Michelangelo’s Pieta.
After St. Peter’s we header over to the Vatican Museum. It was around noon and there was no line. We had heard that the line can be many hours long and we were happy we did not have to wait. The main attraction at the museum is the Sistine Chapel, however there are numerous rooms entirely painted by masters of the Renaissance. Even though there was no line, the museum was crowded. I can’t imagine what it is like during high season. We slowly made our way through the crowds and the large museum and ended up at the Sistine Chapel which is the last major exhibit. After the museum, we had lunch in a square close to the Vatican. We headed back to our room to rest for the evening.
In the evening, we headed to Trastevere which is a section of town across the river from the center of Rome. This area features a lot of restaurant and is a nightly hot spot. Rita and I always have a hard time finding a restaurant that suites us. We walked into and sat down at two restaurants. The first was full of English speaking tourists (which we didn’t think was a good sign) and the second a customer actually told us to go somewhere else. We walked around until we were starving and found a place off the beaten path. This place ended up being a gem! The food was great and the wine was cheap (8 Euro for a bottle). I got a pizza (which was great) and ravioli (which was the best I have ever eaten) and Rita had soup and pizza. After dinner it was getting late and we walked the two miles or so to our room.
For our third day in Rome, Laura had made reservations for us to visit the Galleria Borghese. This is a small gallery with important works and a reservation is required. The museum contains some famous Bernini sculptures most notably “Apollo and Daphne” and “David“. After the museum, we rented a two seated bicycle for an hour and road around the park. The bike was a huge piece of crap and it was difficult to ride around, but we had a really good time. After our ride, we walked around the city and visited all the famous squares and numerous churches. My favorite church was the Sant’Agnese in Agone in Piazza Navona. As I said before we got rained on in Rome and we had our umbrella on us at all times – I am glad because we needed it. We were walking along the river and there were MILLIONS of birds in the sky. I have never seen so many birds and you know where there are birds there is bird poop. Fortunately we had the umbrella to shield us. I guess these birds cause a lot of problems in Rome, here are a few references I found on the Internet:
And here is a video (not mine) that shows exactly what I am talking about:
After walking around, we were very tired again. We went back to our room and took a short break. A Spanish couple staying in our B&B recommended another restaurant in Trastevere and we decided to go. This restaurant was on the main drag and was very crowded. We got a table outside which was nice because we were able to people watch. The food was good and the wine was cheap but we enjoyed the place we went to the night before better.
For our final day in Rome we headed to Trastevere again this time to visit the weekly flea market. The flea market was huge and nothing there really interested us much. After spending a few hours walking around, we headed back to our B&B to pick up our bags and head to the airport – this time we were taking the train.
We had a great time in Rome. Before we left we watched the Rick Steve’s video on Rome and we were both not that excited about going. We have seen our share of ruins in Israel and we both thought “Oh, great more ruins!”. We ended up enjoying the ruins a lot more than expected and really enjoying the city and all it has to offer- the art, the food, the churches, the magnificent piazzas. As always, we believe the best way to explore is to walk (or rent a 2 seater bike, if you would like to look like a nerd) and we did our share, and if you ever have the chance to visit Rome I recommend you do the same!