So after months of anticipation and planning, we were finally wheels-up from Ottawa, stopped off in Montreal, and got on our plane to Rome. The only direct flights from Montreal to Rome now are on Air Canada Rouge which I had not heard very encouraging things about. However, we had a thoroughly enjoyable flight – the young staff was really friendly and helpful, the seats are no worse than those on a regular Air Canada flight, and because we were prepared with our iPads the lack of television screens wasn’t an issue. When we arrived in Rome, we had arranged for a transfer to our hotel with Rome Airport Transportation and this worked out really well. Just slightly more than the cost of a cab, we had a driver waiting for us and some room to stretch out in a minivan that took us into the city and to our front door.
In Rome, we stayed in Al Centro Storico Roma Suite – in the Pont district, just west of Campo di Fiori. Lavinia met us at the apartment as planned and the accommodation worked out really well. After a quick nap, we were soon standing in Vatican City, just a ten minute walk from our place.
Our next priority was to find a gelato and luckily, you are never too far away.
On our first of two full days in Rome, we slowly got going and hit the tourist trail. Since neither of us had been before, we hit the big ones; Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain construction site and finally the Spanish Steps. In the middle of a Saturday afternoon, these just got busier and busier as we went along and we were glad to take the bus out of the crowds for a late lunch at Forno Marco Roscioli, an institution in Rome where we tried a variety of their pizzas – all of which were enjoyed!
Later on our first day, we met up with our friends from Ottawa that were just finishing up their own trip through Italy. We wandered through the Trastevere neighbourhood and relaxed on the banks of the Tiber River after getting a shaved ice, or grattachecca, at Sora Mirella. This was one of my favorite treats – so refreshing in the heat with the fresh fruit flavours.
On day two, we realized we still had lots to see before we headed to the train station the next morning so we were up a bit earlier and headed to see Castel Sant’Angelo, just across the river from our apartment. Unfortunately, we did not have time to tour this fascinating 2000 year-old fortress but even walking around it was very impressive and we even found a playground in the backyard.
After a quick lunch, we jumped on the city bus to get out to the Colosseum – again, although we weren’t planning to go inside, we were curious to see the structure and it didn’t disappoint. The scale of it is really impressive and it lived up to expectations. There is still some scaffolding on it due to the massive refurbishment program that is underway but it seemed to be more minimal than others had mentioned. When we were here, it seemed cooking hot since there is very little shade. I can hardly imagine visiting these sites in the heat and crowds of August.
By the end of the Colosseum, we had all had our fill of the Roman tourists and we headed to Testaccio and then to the southern edge of Trastevere, stopping for another delicious gelato at Fatamorgana, then letting the big guy run off some more steam at another playground we came across. This was quite enjoyable as we were clearly just in the middle of an Italian neighbourhood, the kids couldn’t understand any of the other kids on the playground but they still all managed to play and have fun. On our wander back to the apartment, we also visited the Santa Maria in Tastevere Basilica, another most impressive old church.
On our last night in Rome we had dinner in the Jewish ghetto at well-known Nonna Betta – eating on the street outside as the sun went down. Yet another place where ‘the credit card machine just broke yesterday’ but an enjoyable meal and too much good house wine.
After our dinner, we did what was probably my favourite thing we did in Rome, taking a walk at night inspired by this post. I would highly recommend this – it was so interesting to see the monuments at night and it felt like we had the city to ourselves since it was so much quieter than when we had seen it earlier. We walked to the top of the steps at Piazza Venezia, visited the Pantheon, wandered through Piazza Navona and then explored through tiny streets before stopping at Gelateria del Teatro for a nightcap gelato just after 10pm. (our kids were still not quite adjusted to the time so we just rolled with it)
The next morning, we said goodbye to Rome, taking a cab to Termini and hopping a train to Orvieto, and our next adventure….