Oh, Rome. What a CITY. It’s grand and beautiful and breathtaking… and it’ll give your heart rate a SERIOUS run for it’s money.
After Florence, we thought we knew what to expect in an Italian city. A little walking, a little site seeing, some good food… HA. Nice try kids.
The first thing we quickly realized after stepping off the train is that Rome is MASSIVE compared to Florence. Just the train station is enormous. So of course, we immediately got lost in the maze of Roman streets. After an hour of wandering, a spremuta pit stop to borrow some wifi, and some not so nice words exchanged (nobody said traveling as a couple was all peaches and roses people), we finally found our little airbnb. When we say little, we mean that quite literally. Our room was about the size of a respectable closet. BUT, it had AC and a bathroom, so we were happy :).
Our first stop (after a nap)… a LAUNDROMAT. Sorry for the TMI, but after over a week of travel and serveral boozy beach days, our clothes did NOT smell so fresh and clean. However, this did give us a convenient excuse to stop and get a snack (as if we needed an excuse).
We met up with my brother Nick, and decided to grab an apertivo before heading to dinner. It was just too late to see any sites, and we were honestly just exhausted after the 3 hour train ride and hour airbnb treasure hunt.
The spot we stopped at was called BlackMarket Hall …. It had a super underground old school vibe with secondhand vintage furniture, tons of little rooms and hallways, and the mood lighting to go with it. They also boast a killer drink menu and while we didn’t stay for dinner, that looked pretty epic too.
We DID get some ridiculously delicious chips covered in black pepper and cheese. YUM.
Afterwards, we went to Tre Scalini. This place wasn’t flashy or fancy or upscale in any sense, but it clearly had a well earned following. Every time we passed it, it was packed, and had a crowd waiting outside to get in for dinner.
We got a good taste of the meaning ‘Italian time’ when the hostess told us she’d put us on the list, and we asked her how long she thought it would be. She gave us ‘the look’ and pointed to a table saying, ‘when they get up, you sit down’. Point taken.
Luckily, it wasn’t a long time until they got up and we smooshed our faces full of some of the best ravioli stuffed with spinach and cheese we’d ever had. Ben had a field day with the pepporincini oil they gave him too.
On the way home, we discovered the Italian water fountains (basically public fountains that are always running for you to drink out of), and that pretty much made Ben’s LIFE. He became obsessed. Like, had to stop at EVERY one obsessed.
The next day, we prepared for WALKING. We had a serious agenda of exploration on our minds and of course we fueled up with carbs and coffee.
Let’s also just note here, that Nicholas is a MASTER navigator. He got us EVERYWHERE. Without him, we would’ve been walking in circles. And wouldn’t have eaten anything good. And probably would’ve abandoned each other in the streets of Rome.
So thanks for that Nicky poo :).
First stop: the colluseum. Honestly, there’s no point in trying to explain the feeling of standing in front of this wonder of the world. It’s history and grandeur speak for themselves.
We did find a kitty inside named Nero. He was pretty cool.
Bottom line is, you NEED to see this place at least once in your life. It’s worth the lines, and the walking. It’s that f-in cool.
Next we walked ALL the way to the Roman Baths, just to find out they charged 8 euro to go in them. No thanks. We wanted to see them, but not that bad.
So instead we went and explored the Roman Forum and Palatine. While the Palatine was pretty cool, they had some strange ‘modern art’ installation in it that really just took away from the experience. We came to see history, not a sculpture of a bear pooping in the woods (yes, seriously).
The Forum on the other hand, was pretty freaking majestical. Very cool and very humbling to see that much history around you.
At this point, we’d walked a solid 5 miles, and were about to pass out from hunger. Nick had heard from a chef friend about a cool local spot called Trattoria Da Augusto down in the Jewish neighborhoods, so we headed there. This was the epitome of ‘it looked closer on the map’. We walked for what seemed like MILES before finally making it.
It was an awesome experience though. It was a completely local, working class restaurant with no frills, and simple down home goodness. The pasta was simply done to perfection.
Next, we headed to the Piazza Navona to see the fountains and check out the church. This is where we realized 1) that the stories of the Saints are VERY intense and violent, and 2) Nicholas is indeed capable of sleeping while sitting up.
We all needed a SERIOUS caffeine kick, so we went to Sant’Eustachio il Caffe. This is a pretty famous cafe, and sometimes when you visit a place like that, it can be more hype than quality. NOT the case here. Their coffee was 100% on point. Super smooth with a great kick.
They DID have some pretty cool drinks, but they were running up to 12 euro, so we settled for simple cappucinos for 2.
Our last stops before we took a well deserved nap was the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain.
It was beautiful, and the Trevi Fountain is somewhere we could’ve spent hours at, but at this point, all we wanted to do was sleep. And not be walking anymore.
After a solid TEN miles of walking (no, that’s not an exaggeration), we had gelato for dinner, and fell asleep in about .5 seconds. Rome, you win day one, for sure.
Day two, we woke up sore, but ready to rock it out. After a brief pastry debacle (Ben was promised his pastry had white chocolate… it was empty… he was fairly devastate and betrayed), we hit up the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Straight up STUNNING. Intricate ceilings, ornate decor, and massive size all led to one breathtaking experience.
Next we headed to the Altare della Patria – a war memorial with some seriously impressive architecture. It also offers a spectacular view of the city (if you’re in to that sort of thing, which you should be).
Not wanting a repeat of the hunger escapades, we headed over to the Roman market, where Nicholas told us we’d find the bomb sammiches. This was the UNDERSTATEMENT of the year. The place we stopped at was called Forno Campo de Fiori and it was like heaven in toasty handheld bliss form. The sandwich ‘bread’ is actually their pizza bianca. Then they filled it with delicious flavorful delights.
We finished it off with fresh market peaches, and shots of espresso at Sant’Eustachio il Caffe, before heading to the Spanish Steps.
Okay, we get that the Spanish Steps are a site to see. And yes, they’re pretty cool. But… with all that Rome has to offer, they weren’t the highlight of the day. By a long shot.
However, after climbing them, we did sit at the top and watch the rose sellers try to push their goods on poor unsuspecting tourists for a solid 45 minutes. Now THAT is entertainment.
Our last site seeing stop for the day was Borghese museum (only another 2.5 miles walking…). We honestly didn’t know what to expect from this. Nicholas was the one who wanted to see it, and Ben and I have never been super artsy people. BUT… Wow. Just, WOW. It was an incredible experience. The Bernini sculptures were absolutely unreal.
Again, it’s impossible to describe, and there’s no point in posting pictures of it. You just have to SEE it. It’s 100% an experience worth putting the effort in to.
Dinner that night was another huge win. We ate at Carbonara, which specializes in… CARBONARA! Carbonara is actually a dish that originated in Rome (thanks for the fun facts Nicholas!), as well as another dish they served there called cacio e pepe.
Well, you know the saying ‘when in Rome’?? I ate CARBONARA. I haven’t touched meat in years and years, and it was worth EVERY BITE. It was heavenly. Ben got the cacio e pepe, and it was just as scrumptous. There’s a reason these dishes are considered regional. They do them to absolute perfection. While I don’t plan to go back to eating meat in ‘real life’, ANY time I am in Rome, I WILL eat this dish here again!
Our third and final day we had the Vatican planned. At this point, we needed to take a cab to get there. After TWO 10 miles days in a row, our feet were planning a revolt.
Our main goal was to see the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. BUT, to get to the Sistine Chapel, you have to go through the ENTIRE Vatican museum. Lot’s of very cool, very historical art. But it takes almost two hours to get through it, and things started to get a little silly.
The Sistine Chapel though? Worth every minute. Talk about an experience that makes you feel VERY small in that moment in time. Our necks were aching by the time we walked out.
St. Peter’s Basilica was equally impressive, but we chose not to walk up to the dome due to exhaustion and hunger.
A local tattoo artist had given Nicholas a suggestion for a nearby pizza restaurant, so we wandered (or stumbled) over there. If you can’t tell, we were starting to lose it a little bit…
But… Best pizza EVER.
I mean like… Everything pizza is meant to be and more. Maybe it was partially because we were completely ravenous, but we’ve had a LOT of pizza in our lives, and this was the top of the line.
That night we went to El Moro. This is NOT a tourist place. Even though it’s in the heart of the city, and located very close to the Trevi Fountain, it’s not geared towards tourists at all. Actually, we’re pretty sure it’s run by the Italian mafia (no joke). The menu is 100% in Italian, and they could care less if you don’t speak it.
The second we walked in, the only other table there stopped, put down their forks, and gave us the ‘are you LOST?’ look. Nicholas however, brightly said that we had a reservation, and they showed us a table in the back.
With the healthy fear that we were going to be offed any minute, this was actually one of the funnest, most unique experiences we had in Italy. The food wasn’t cheap, but it was pretty much like dinner and a show because of the characters that worked there. And the Italian mafia vibe.
Once in a lifetime right there.
Our final goodbye to Rome was a walk down to the Trevi Fountain to toss a coin in.
Yes Rome, we WILL be back. And until then, keep that carbonara warm until we get there.