Hey now! Hey now! This is what dreeeams are made of!
Lizzie McGuire was definitely talking about Rome.
My last visit to Italy was 14 years ago, and all I have is fragmented memories in a stroller sitting outside the Colosseum, eating ice cream by the Tower of Pisa, and sailing through the canals of Venice. I was pumped to be back and exploring Italy again, this time so that I can remember it all.
A few of our stops on the first day included:
The Spanish Steps
The Trevi Fountain
Bernini’s Fountain of Four Rivers
We walked to each of these locations, and that provided a great opportunity to take in the city. With each glance, there was another beautiful church, crowded pizzeria, or tasty gelateria.
Speaking of food, there were sooo many places to eat that it was overwhelming! However, Italians do a few things differently when it comes to dining. The thing that threw me off was that the waiters do not bring you the check at the end; you have to go to a cashier to pay, even at the fanciest restaurants. We made the mistake of asking a waiter for the check who then never brought it to us, so we just sat in our chairs for an extra hour. Despite that hiccup, eating in Rome was one of my favorite activities. For breakfast, I just recommend strolling around until you find someplace that isn’t busy. The Italians know how to make a good pastry and strong coffee. In case you don’t want to wander, here’s a list of my favorite places. Era davvero delizioso!
- Babette – If you’re looking for a five star restaurant, Babette is a good place to go. I went for dinner and the atmosphere was incredibly lovely. We sat in the private courtyard and pretty much feasted. There was a wide variety of food for each course – bread, pasta, salad, roast beef, etc. Basically, a great Italian restaurant. I especially loved the ravioli ripen di ricotta. Also, a reservation is highly recommended.
- Cantieri Bistrot – For a trendy and fast meal, Cantieri is the place to go! For lunch, they have a buffet style, which was especially handy and quick. Get some pizza here you won’t regret it!
- Don Nino Gelateria & Pasticceria – super close to the Pantheon, this is a cute place to pick up a pastry or some gelato before tackling the crowds of the Pantheon!
- Gelateria La Romana – Finally this place, located across the Tiber River and next to the Piazza della Libertà, had the BEST gelato. The flavors were extraordinary, and the service was great. I stopped there about once a day, and tried a different flavor each time. That gelato was like a little bit of heaven, and if I ever had a private jet, I’d fly to Rome just for that.
On my second day in Rome, I spent it all touring the Vatican and the Colosseum. Definitely buy your passes wayyyy in advance, so you won’t waste your day waiting in the horrendously long line. If you are going inside the church, you MUST cover your shoulders and knees. I saw a few people that made this mistake and came unprepared.
The Vatican, specifically the museums, showcased so much history. I saw the Sistine Chapel (which requires absolute silence), a quick glimpse of the Vatican gardens, and beautiful paintings and tapestries that previous popes commissioned.
My favorite place in the Vatican was St. Peter’s Basilica. While I was there, set up had begun for a service the Pope was going to deliver, so the square had hundreds of seats ready for the attendees. The Basilica is massive. So big you don’t even realize it. The letters that line the dome inside are 8 feet tall, but look so proportional to the basilica as a whole that you don’t even notice. Another quirk – St. Peter’s contains no paintings, only mosaics. It was amazing to look around, see Michelangelo’s Pietà and the tombs of many beloved popes. Regardless of religion, the Vatican is truly a place everyone should visit.
If you want immersive history, the Colosseum is the place to go. It’s incredible that you can walk and touch the same things that people 2,000 years ago could. My favorite thing that I learned at the Colosseum was that the gladiator fights were an all day event. Before people took a break for lunch, there would be public executions, in the form of a play. The prisoners would have to reenact a play that would inevitably lead to their deaths. Real actors were involved in supporting roles. A favorite of the Romans was the tale of Icarus, a young boy who didn’t heed his father’s warning to not fly too close to the sun, and *Spoiler Alert* fell to his death. The Romans were creative, and actually launched the prisoner in the air when he was due to die. They took method acting to an extreme.
After the Colosseum, our tour guide took us to Palatine Hill, where we also passed by the Arch of Constantine and some Roman aqueducts. Palatine Hill was actually one of my favorites, though so much of it was in ruins. It’s hard to describe how it feels to reconstruct the grandiose structures with your imagination as you walk through.
I know there is so much more to see in Rome, but I’m not sure there’d be enough time in the world to see it all. Everything I did see and do was so much fun, and I’m grateful I got to experience it all with my family.
On to the next adventure!