Updated August 21, 2016
I’m back with another European Adventure recap! Let’s talk about our second leg of the trip – Rome! Make sure you read the first installment of this series, where I recap Salzburg and Munich.
Now that you’re caught up, let’s do as the Romans do!
Rome was a very different change of pace, climate, and food. It was busier, hotter, and tastier. We are used to the heat, being from Houston and all, but we already missed the gorgeous weather in Austria and Germany.
However, to be in one of the oldest cities in the world with the best food ever was totally worth it.
I think what made our Rome stay even more awesome was the location of our hotel. We stayed at the Residenza Paolo VI, which is literally right outside St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. This is the view from the hotel terrace.
The basilica and the square is a stone’s throw away. I wouldn’t say this hotel is the “fanciest” or “nicest” place. I would compare it to staying at your Italian grandmother’s house in Rome. A little outdated but extremely comfortable, and very friendly staff. The terrace was a really nice place to relax, especially at night when the basilica is all lit up. I definitely recommend this hotel just for the location alone.
Anyway, I’ve been to Rome before and I think I enjoyed it even more this time because of this location. A lot of the reason why Greg wanted to visit Rome was to see the Vatican, and, well, WE SAW IT all the time!
Our flight from Munich arrived in the afternoon and after checking into the hotel, we did some exploring by foot. We walked all the way to the Trevi fountain (I didn’t take a pic, because it was crowded and the fountain was actually off), Piazza Navona, and the Pantheon.
After walking for quite some time, we Uber-ed it over to pizza. Pizza is life in our house, so of course it had to be our first meal in Rome. After some research, we found Bonci Pizzarium. Anthony Bourdain from the Food Network had recommended it as his favorite pizza place in Rome, so we clearly needed to try it. It did not disappoint!! There were so many unique pizzas, but we were boring and got some classic stuff. It’s not a fancy sit down kind of place – it’s more of a order at the counter and eat it outside kind of place. We were really impressed!
That night we sat on the hotel terrace and drank wine. I also booked our Vatican Museum tickets for the next day and the hotel printed them out for us. I highly recommend booking these in advance. Like I said, I did it the night before and had no problems booking it for a Saturday. The Vatican Museum is so busy, and the line wraps around the Vatican walls. If you buy online, you get to skip the line and you arrive at your designated time.
Day 2 in Rome was dedicated to all things Vatican City. We skipped the line and, while it was confusing, we did get in and get an audio guide. The Vatican Museum was so crowded. I guess we should have expected it on a Saturday in July, but it seemed to be worse than when I visited before. It was almost sardine-like. And SO MANY SELFIE STICKS. WHYYYYYYY??????
But I will say that we both enjoyed the Vatican Museum. So amazing to see such ancient artifacts, art, and architecture. I will also say that the Sistine Chapel is one of the most breathtaking places (they don’t let you take pics and I’m a rule follower).
After the museum, we headed back to the square to see the inside of the Basilica. We waited in a 20 minute security line and when we got up to the basilica doors, I was told I couldn’t go in because my shorts didn’t cover my knees. I did remember this “modesty policy” from when I visited 10 years ago, and did wear sleeves and thought I would be fine. I did not remember the covered knees policy! I told Greg to go on ahead of me and enjoy it, because I have seen it before. I made the 2 minute walk back to the hotel, changed into pants, waited in the security line again, and finally made it into the Basilica. Moral of the story? Cover your knees, y’all.
By the way, Saint Peter’s Basilica was totally worth putting on pants for.
Dinner that night was at La Vittoria Ristorante, which was a 5 minute walk from our hotel. Here’s the thing about Rome – amazing food is everywhere. It’s hard to get on Trip Advisor and Yelp to find places, because usually restaurants that look open and busy are probably good. We really enjoyed our dinner, and it was cheap, too! We even ordered booze (cheaper than bottled water heeeeey), appetizers, desserts, and limoncello. But the stars of the show were our Spaghetti a la Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe – two Roman specialities. YUM.
After dinner, we wandered around St. Peter’s Square. We listened to a group of nuns singing and playing guitar to an Ave Maria. It was really touching and humbling. Really made you feel like you were at the center of Christianity.
Our last day in Rome started pretty fabulously.
We saw the Pope. NBD.
Every Sunday at noon, the Pope gives a blessing from high up in (I think) the Papal Mansion to the people in St. Peter’s Square. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I didn’t understand all but the bits of Latin prayer, but it made the trip to Rome worth it even more for us.
He’s up there in that window. I promise!
After the pope’s blessing, we walked all the way to the Colosseum (it was an hour walk from our hotel). I bought Colosseum tickets online the night before we went (the hotel printed those out, as well), and we got to skip the line and get right in. It was crowded, but not near as crowded as the Vatican Museum. I had actually never been inside, so it was a great experience, and definitely a worthwhile visit. It was hot, but worth it. We also took a look at the Roman Forum (though we didn’t walk around in it). So amazing to see such ancient parts of a city that inspired modern civilization.
After walking around the heat, we took a cab over to the Villa Borghese. It’s like Rome’s Central Park. We rented a two person pedal bike thingy, and had a blast cooling off riding around. It’s a gorgeous park, and I highly recommend this spot! Truly a great spot to relax and unwind, and you better believe we got some gelato.
Dinner that night was another restaurant within a 5 minute walk of the hotel (seriously, good food errrrr-where), at I San Pietrini.
Um, hi. I miss you, Roman food.
After dinner we walked around the square – it’s seriously so beautiful at sunset. It also isn’t full of people. I wanted some gelato (second time in the day, YOLO), and on our way, we stumbled onto this procession. After asking a few people what was going on, we found out it was a procession for Mary… some kind of celebration or festival. I didn’t get good English. Haha. It was actually really neat to witness. They would say some sort of prayer, ring bells, and move this big ol’ thing down the street towards the square.
I got my gelato, by the way.
So, as a recap, if you’re going to Rome, make sure you:
- Stay near the Vatican
- Buy your Vatican Museum and Colosseum tickets online before you visit and print them out
- Don’t skip out on Villa Borghese
- If you’re there on a Sunday, go see the Pope’s blessing
- Eat anywhere that looks busy and open
- Eat lots of gelato, you also can’t go wrong with it anywhere
- EAT ALL OF THE FOOD EVER because you’ll be walking a lot anyway (we walked 10 miles a day)
- Don’t be afraid to take cabs – they’re cheap and safer than public transport
- Take advantage of wine being cheaper than bottled water
I think that about covers it!