We spent 3 days in Rome at the end of our honeymoon and they were truly magical. We were exhausted from exploring the coast the first day so we simply napped until dusk and then took the bus to what appeared to us to be the center of town and started exploring. We found so many small, local places by chatting with bartenders, baristas, and waiters. Though we did many of the most touristy things on this trip, we also got a taste of local Rome as well.
Our first night we discovered a small wine and cheese shop called “Local” on our way to dinner. It was filled with eclectic yet cozy decor and the owner was easy to chat with while we shared some wine and a cheese plate with fresh Fava beans, sharp cheese, and delicious pork.
Before dinner we roamed Trastevere which really comes alive at night. There were street performers, musicians, lovers holding hands, booths for shopping, and all of this made the energy of the city contagious. After wandering we noticed a small line outside of a cozy looking restaurant on a smaller side street and had a good feeling about it. It turned out to be a place which had been recommended by a friend but we were so tired and hungry we didn’t notice until we sat down and poured ourselves a glass of water from the bottle with the restaurant name engraved on it; Cacio E Pepe. John, of course, had the cacio e pepe and could not stop talking about it. We also shared a bottle of Banfi Chianti with dinner which I picked off the extensive wine list and bought a bottle in the airport to bring home with us as a reminder of our first night here. Very early the next morning we took a stroll along the Tiber River.
When we arrived in the center of town we were shocked to see that the city seemed to be ours alone. There was not a soul to be seen other than some police officers and baristas opening up shop.
We took our time wandering through the empty streets toward the Colosseum and even got a perfect picture next to the Roman Capital Building.
But how perfect is this picture?
The pictures do not even do this building justice. The size and intricacy of the statues is so powerful and breathtaking. It is massive!
We stopped in a small shop for a cappuccino (which was more American than I had hoped for since I had been spoiled on the coast) and a pastry then decided to head toward the Roman Forum for our first sight-seeing event of the day.
Our ultimate goal was to see the Colosseum but I had read in Fodor’s that the ticket was good for The Roman Forum, Colosseum and Palatine Hill. The line to buy a ticket at the Roman Forum office is significantly smaller and all three are connected so once you are in you can plan to spend at least half a day exploring by making your way to the biggest attraction rather than wasting your morning in the ticket line.
The line was very short and we easily made our way into the Forum in just a couple of minutes.
I was fascinated by the architecture and the history. We were literally standing in the midst of hundreds of years of civilizations. Brilliant feats of engineering had happened in these places. Modern bits of civilization that we take for granted were started right here. It’s hard not to be in awe as you walk through the ruins.
It can get a bit confusing once you’re inside so be sure to pick up a map when you by your ticket, especially if you’re not with a tour group. The map has labeled points on it for reference of where you are in the Forum and how to get to the Hill and Colosseum.
John really looks like a tourist here, huh?
The walk to Palatine Hill was beautiful. You pass through the arch of Septimius Severus (or Severus Snape as I referred to it) which was constructed to commemorate a victory against the Parthians circa AD 203.
From the hill we could hear music from the street performers and see that the streets were filling up for the day. We found our way to the Colosseum and right into a line but luckily it was not the line to buy a ticket which wound around the stadium.
The wait to get inside was about an hour and we desperately wished we had brought sandwiches and sunscreen with us but luckily we were able to make friends in line who helped us. Once inside, it was very crowded and most of it was closed the day we went so we could only walk the circle around the observations decks. However, it was still fascinating to stand in such an intriguing part of human history and imagine the spectacle that really happened here.
When we left we were pleasantly surprised to find a parade with Romans dressed as gladiators and more!
I swear this picture does not even help you imagine the size of Trajan’s Column. The enormous marble pillar was constructed to celebrate the Roman emperors victory in the Dacian Wars. Our feet were beginning to feel like that of the Romans after marching to war so we found some panini and sat in a small park watching children chase pigeons for a while.
After our rest we decided to slowly make our way toward the Trevi Fountain and see what we could find along the way. We found the Pantheon but decided not to wait in the line that wrapped around the square.
We stopped for a glass of wine in the next square which was much quieter. I would highly recommend stopping in La Maddalena Trattoria for glass of wine and some people watching in front of one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen.
The next piazza was home to The Fountain of the Four Rivers which is beautiful. We got some gelato, watched a street performing clown, and people watched for a while before braving the crowds again.
The streets were so crowded at this point we were literally squeezing our way through. We finally emerged in Piazza di Trevi. We looked a each other and readied ourselves for battle. (Sorry, I think the Colosseum got to me!)
We slowly made our way through the giant crowd, down the steps to the fountain to toss in our coin. The rumor is if you toss in two coins you will return to Rome. We only had two coins so we each tossed one and hoped that as a married couple it counted.
From here we headed to the famous Spanish Steps. We were sorely disappointed when we arrived at the top to find peddlers selling annoying toys, people pushing roses and selfie sticks on you for sale, and so many people we could barely move. The steps are supposedly a place where locals meet to chat about the day on their promenade but I can’t see how this could ever happen. I would suggest catching the steps at sunrise if you want to see them in their glory because any time other than that they are filled with tourists.
We had dinner in a small osteria near Piazza Navona on our walk back to the bus stop. I do not remember the name of it but it was adorable and the food was delicious. The chef and owner checked on us so often he and John ended up laughing together and we watched him make our pasta. We said good night to the city still buzzing with people and headed to our hotel to rest up.This is my “Why can’t I eat anything in this country without you taking a picture of me?” face.
Today we headed straight for the Vatican museum. I had made an early morning reservation online before we headed to Rome. The tickets are available a few weeks in advance and I would HIGHLY recommend getting them online. When we were walking to the entrance at 8 am there was already a line about 2 blocks long to buy tickets. We were able to pass the line and in most parts of the museum we were by ourselves. We got to really enjoy the art work and the history because we did not have crowds of people rushing us.
We took our time and spent the majority of the morning here. When we had seen just about everything we decided we needed coffee so we headed to the bar across the street. We wanted to sit because we were exhausted from walking all morning. Poor choice. Our two cappuccino and two muffins turned out to be “desserts” on our bill and cost us more than any other full meal we had in Rome. Lesson learned: ALWAYS get your coffee to go.
When we walked back toward Vatican City we noticed that the ticket line for the museum was now all the way around the building which is about 12 blocks. We were close to Castle St. Angelo so we walked in that direction. We decided again to opt out of going inside once we arrived because the line was incredibly long and it looks just as beautiful from the outside.
We crossed the Tiber (this time choosing to walk down by he water by taking one of the small staircases to the lower deck) heading for our favorite spot in Rome. We fell in love with a little eclectic bar and restaurant that we found our first night. We had a glass of wine and panini (basically grilled cheese which was perfect after all of the giant meals) and sat for a while making friends with locals and visitors who came and went enjoying their lunches as well.
We decided to walk to Campo di Fiori for a bit to see the giant pop up market in the city. It is said that the locals go first thing in the morning so the rest of the day is really for the tourists. We had so much fun exploring the booths, tasting samples or cheese and meats, buying gifts for our families and discussing recipes we would try to make when we returned home.
We crossed the Isola Tiberina to explore Trastevere for the evening. This is the part of Rome for lovers. The streets are small and the houses are picturesque. We saw a trio of coloful Fiats pass us as we discovered a beautiful church. We sat inside for a few moments in awe of the the details covering every inch of the space and the frescos painted on the walls.
Trastevere is like a postcard. Spend some time wandering this area. This is where we truly felt the Italan phrase “dolce far niente” which means “sweet doing nothing” and is something Italians do very well. Whether it’s enjoying a glass of wine and striking up conversations with a neighbor or holding hands and strolling through a piazza. Take time to enjoy doing “nothing”.
Since it was our last night and we had an amazing reservation at eight and plenty of time to stroll doing nothing we walked back toward our favorite bar to partake in the nightly Roman tradition. We ordered our spritzers and pulled up some metal stools outside the bar along side the others who had gathered in the parking lot turned piazza for the evening.
Remember that amazing reservation I had mentioned? Well our first night at Local the owner gave us a recommendation for Osteria da Giovanni. We headed there the first night to find a small line of about 8 people around 7:30. We waited until they opened at 8 but when they did we found that they had so many reservations they could only take the first couple in line. John ran in to ask for a reservation another night and it ended up being the most perfect way to end our Roman holiday. Da Giovanni is very small and you will not have the opportunity for private conversation since you sit side by side with the other tables. You will be at dinner for a minimum of 3 hours so go or the bottle of wine and order an appetizer off of their hand written menu each night. We got stuffed zucchini leaves, pasta, meatballs, and desserts. We met a couple from Holland who sat next to us and were sad when we had to leave to catch the last bus back to our hotel. A true authentic Italian dinner was the perfect ending to a perfect trip.