Okay, so we didn’t take a road to Rome, but our flight landed around 10 in the morning from Prague, which gave us the entire afternoon for our much anticipated Vatican tour during our first day. We had booked a tour of the Vatican grounds and the Colosseum before arriving in Rome for skip-the-line access – which is completely necessary, even in the dead of winter. Thankfully our winter experience in Rome was much nicer than that of Prague. The sun was shining and the temperature was a comfortable 5-10 degrees every day. Once we arrived at the airport we quickly found a 4 EUR airport transfer bus into the city. To our surprise, it was cheap, direct, and effective – three words you don’t often hear in one sentence in Europe! Our accommodations were a short three minute walk from the Termini train station, which ended up being the perfect (and fairly central) location. We arrived at our accommodations at the “Lucky House B&B,” which turned into another hilarious situation in itself. A middle-eastern man greeted us at the entrance, dressed in a green turtleneck, his hair needing brushing. He politely jammed us and our luggage into a 2 square foot “lift” and then decided he would squeeze himself in with us. It was easily the most awkward elevator ride of my life. He had this creepily polite way about him, describing how to unlock the door, the layout of the apartment, and directing us to our room as if he were speaking to a couple of ninety year olds. Once again, our room was retro in style and somehow we always ended up with bright orange curtains. Some of the places we’ve stayed could use some serious interior design help, but they just add to the fun and spontaneous memories we’re making.
We had to get ready for our Vatican tour, so we quickly freshened up and prepared to leave. Little did we know, our accommodations came with our own personal “Mom.” The weirdo who showed us in asked where we were going, if everything was okay, and if we needed anything on our way out. He meant well and was very hospitable, but we weren’t used to the interrogation process every time we left the apartment! Anyways, once we escaped the bed and breakfast – which offered absolutely no source of breakfast – we had to figure out another public transportation system. Rome was easy, as there are only two metro lines, which made travel throughout the city really simple. I was already in awe when I saw the side entrance to the Vatican. The area was surrounded by an enormous stone wall and crowds of eager tourists. I’m not usually one for the chaos of tourist destinations, but this was certainly different than Niagara Falls and I loved the energy of the city! We found the organizer of our tour group, who was from Oakville of all places. After spending twenty or so minutes in line, we entered the Vatican, where we spent three hours exploring and learning about the Vatican museums, the gardens, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and St. Peter’s Square. We even managed to rebelliously sneak a few pictures of Michelangelo’s famously painted Sistine Chapel ceiling. St. Peter’s Basilica was like nothing I’ve ever seen – in fact, the whole Vatican experience made my jaw drop. Joey once participated in a nine hour tour of the place, which gives you a good idea of all there is to see and learn about this tiny city. Once our tour completed, we walked towards Castel Sant’Angelo, a historic mausoleum on the Tiber River. It was beautifully lit up at night and in close walking distance to some small restaurants. We decided we’d grab a quick dinner at a nearby “pizzeria and ristorante” before heading back to our place in preparation for an early morning tour of the Colosseum. The Colosseum was larger, more grand, and more magical than I ever imagined. The history within this massive piece of architecture is difficult to wrap your head around, even hearing it from the inside. We had the best local tour guide – an archaeology major born and raised in Rome. She gave us detailed accounts of Roman history and the events that took place within the Colosseum walls. We were also able to tour the Roman Forum – Rome’s historic downtown, and the Pantheon – a former Roman temple. I can’t put into words how incredible these pieces of history are.
“Veni, vidi, vici.”
― Gaius Iulius Caesar
After exploring ancient ruins, learning the history of the gladiators, and spending the morning in absolute awe, it was time to figure out what we were doing for New Years Eve that evening. We wandered around the Pantheon area a little while longer before grabbing a bite to eat at a nearby pizzeria. We each had a serious helping of pizza – which is incomparable to any other pizza in the world. For anyone who knows me well, they can attest to my love of pizza, pasta, and all things delicious! Italy takes the cake in the culinary department, so eating massive helpings of delicious food followed nearly every activity. In fact, I ate tiramisu at least once a day – sometimes twice. How else are you supposed to decide which place has Rome’s best tiramisu? We returned to the “bed sans breakfast” to relax a little before dinner and fireworks over the Colosseum – something I was dying to experience in Rome over New Years. We had met a waiter from a nearby restaurant the previous day who suggested we come and try “Mama Lorenzi’s” New Year’s Eve dinner at Rossi Tiziano. We decided we would head there for a traditional New Year’s Italian dinner complete with lentils for good luck! We had the most delicious veal stuffed with egg and spinach omelet, penne, lentils, and of course…tiramisu. Following dinner, we took the metro down to the Colosseum where we sat on a heated patio for a glass of wine 100 meters from the historic monument. When midnight finally rolled around, we were pretty disappointed by the lack of fireworks. What I guess to be a hundred-or-so-thousand people surrounded the Colosseum to see this annual, grand spectacle. A few measly fireworks flew into the air at midnight and again at 12:10am. Nevertheless, we entered 2017 at the fucking Colosseum!! We could never complain and simply being there in that moment was magical. We soberly wandered back to our apartment and for the first time in years, woke up without a hangover on January 1st.
On New Years Day, much like at home, businesses were closed, select restaurants had limited hours, and the only attractions open to tourists were outdoor monuments. This was the perfect day to take advantage of the Trevi Fountain – or Fontana di Trevi, in Italian. Naturally, there were hundreds of visitors at the fountain, but we managed to weasel our way down to toss in our coins and snap a few pictures. We spent the rest of the day exploring more of the city, including the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, and the incredible Palazzo Venezia, where we took an elevator to the top and had an amazing view of the city. We were starving at this point – shocking. Originally, we really wanted to travel to the D’Eramo’s hometown of Pescocostanzo, however the access by public transport was very limited. Neither of us came prepared with an international driver’s license and buses or trains were nearly impossible to coordinate in that direction. Although we were happy to stay in Rome, we wanted a small taste of Abruzzo until we can plan a trip there! We stumbled upon a restaurant called Trattoria al Camoscio d’Abruzzo, where I had both the best gnocchi and tiramisu I’ve ever had! This restaurant didn’t take long to become my favourite on our travels.
We spent our final day in the Eternal City checking out Palatine Hill, the Capitoline Museum, and the Trastevere neighbourhood. We topped our trip off with a delicious meal in this charming, Roman neighbourhood by the river. We found ourselves lost in the cobblestone streets of this quaint area, lit by twinkling lights. In that moment, I couldn’t dream of being anywhere else. It was the perfect way to wrap up a breathtaking, two-week holiday from our already amazing reality.
I will be back, Roma! Arrivederci!