ROME – Europe Vacation Part 1

So finally our mini Euro trip happened. I said finally…. because…. it was on our mind since quite some time. Like every traveler’s bucket list, Europe was always on our list but it was not until the beginning of this year that we actually started planning. To tell you all the truth, initially the thought of planning a Euro trip was a bit intimidating. Europe is enormous, intriguing, beautiful and is filled with plethora of history, culture, architecture and good food. With so many beautiful countries to choose from, it was definitely not easy to decide. Anyhow… since it was our very first Euro trip, we caved in for the most popular destinations, Italy and France
 
And like I mentioned in my last post, we decided to go for the big three.. Rome, Florence and Venice in Italy and for France it had to be Paris.
Rome, Italy’s capital was by far our favorite of all the places that we saw in Europe. Roman empire, historical monuments such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican city, Vatican museums and the beautiful architecture are some of the reasons why Rome is such a sought after tourist destination. 
“Rome wasn’t built in a day” is an adage you must have heard a lot. This proverb emphasizes on the fact that it takes a lot of time to create or build great things. It is only once you see Rome up close that you truly understand the meaning of this saying. It is brimming with ancient architecture that is so beautifully carved and intricate, that it makes you wonder whether such architectural marvels are even humanly possible to make. No… I am not exaggerating when I say this. I was simply blown away by the architecture surrounding me. This was a major topic of discussion during our entire trip.

Here are some helpful tips that you may want to consider and keep in mind while planning your trip to Rome.

1) Taxis: First and foremost, the moment you step out of the airport lookout for white colored cabs that have a sign bearing “TAXI” on their roofs. They are the ones that are legit and equipped with meters. We made our very first and crucial mistake by taking a private black colored taxi (from the airport to the Airbnb) that charged us double the amount. Learned from our mistake and only took white cabs whenever we felt the need to. We were fortunate enough and had a good experience with the cab drivers during our entire trip. But always be alert and on a lookout for anything that is out of place. Most of them don’t speak English but they do understand if you tell them the name of your destination.
2) AirBnb: If you are booking an Airbnb check out the amenities list and reconfirm by asking the host about air conditioning and or ceiling fan/standing fan/table fan especially if you are traveling during summer season. Our Rome Airbnb had centralized air conditioning but unfortunately that was not the case with Florence, Venice and Amsterdam.
3) Elevators: Again, if you are considering an Airbnb always check which floor the apartment is located and whether the building has an elevator. Our building had an elevator but for some weird reason we were not allowed to use it (the building tenants have separate key to use the elevator) and was only to be used by the tenants. We packed light and hence thought a few flight of stairs wouldn’t be a problem. But trust me, climbing the stairs would be last thing on your mind after a long tiring day of sight seeing.

4) Commute: Take the bus whenever possible. When checking google maps initially you might be tempted walking it off to all of the nearby attractions. I know walking is the best way to explore Europe, but trust me… by that I mean “really really trust me” when I tell you, try not to walk all the time. Try to find a closest bus station and take the bus as much as you can.

5) Bookings: If you are going to do the tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican Museum and other museums make sure to book  your entry tickets or guided tour tickets in advance. This way you can easily avoid huge lines and save time. These places attract the highest number of tourists hence booking your tickets in advance is a must.

6) Footwear: If you are planning on walking a lot then slip onto something comfortable like flats, or loafers or your favorite pair of sneakers. Since the roads there are all cobble stones be smart and avoid heels altogether.

7) Eat Local: I couldn’t emphasis on this enough. You might have to forget all the dieting and simply give in to the delicious food Italy has to offer. Pizza, pasta and tiramisu was our regular food while we here followed by truck loads of gelato for dessert.

Now that I have covered few of the important travel tips this is what our itinerary for Rome looked like:

We also made a rough plan on a website called visitacity.com which was quite helpful but at the same time made some last minute changes as and when required.

Day 1:

Check-in at Airbnb- Lunch – Castel Sant’Angelo – Victor Emmanuel Monument

Our flight was supposed to be a direct flight from JFK to Rome but there was some last minute changes and instead we had a stop over at Paris and from there we took another flight to Rome. So we reached 1-2 hours late as opposed to our earlier flight. Made the very first big mistake of hiring a private cab, once in the cab we got in touch with our Airbnb host and reached at the given address in around 40mins. Our Airbnb was located centrally and was at a walking distance from the Vatican city. Apart from the stairs, the Airbnb, our home for the next 4 days was very cozy and comfortable in every sense. Totally loved the retro vibes of the apartment.

Our Airbnb in Rome. Very cozy and comfortable and most importantly was equipped with centralized air conditioning.

Once settled in we freshened up, changed and left for lunch nearby with our camera and other essentials in hand.

Our very first Lunch at Rome – Uhhhhh not a fan
Gelatooooooo….Yes pleasseeeee
Gelatoooo time

Post lunch it was time to explore. The Castel Sant’Angelo was one of the nearest attraction located at a walking distance of 10 mins from our Airbnb. We didn’t go inside, instead only clicked few photos from outside while gaping at the beautiful bridge of the angels.

Castel Sant’Angelo
St. Peter’s Basilica
Across the bridge and a little walk further ahead and we were welcomed by the enormous sight of the gorgeous St. Peter’s Basilica. Since we had allotted a different day to explore St. Peter’s Basilica, without wasting any time we found our way to the nearest bus stop, purchased tickets from the ticket vending machine at the stop and boarded the bus that would take us to our next attraction for the day which was the gigantic Victor Emmanuel Monument.

Victor Emmanuel Monument is a monument built in the honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of unified Italy. It is located between Piazza Venezia and Capitoline Hill. I won’t be discussing much of the history but would love to share some of the pictures that we clicked instead.

Victor Emmanuel Monument
View of Piazza Venezia from the monument
For dinner we opted for a little pizza place that was around 10 – 15mins walk from our Airbnb. Hubby ordered pizza while I settled for ravioli with pesto sauce and for dessert we ordered tiramisu. The food was absolutely delish. The ravioli was sooooooo good. And this was the place where we had the most amazing tiramisu ever.

Day 2:

Vatican Museums – The Sistine Chapel – St. Peter’s Square – Trastevere – Janiculum Hill

The highlight of our Rome trip was certainly the enormous and gorgeous Vatican Museum. We both are not great art enthusiasts but walking through all the beautiful Roman artifacts and paintings left us spellbound. We had booked the the entrance tickets to the Museum well in advance and hence were able to skip the very very long line. The ticket includes the Vatican Museum and entrance to the Sistine Chapel (where photography is not permitted). If you are an art enthusiast I would suggest booking a guided tour because the museum is enormous. I had downloaded free audio guide by Rick Steves and that was quite helpful for me. So if you are not interested in guided tours you could certainly download a free audio guide and walk through the museum. The only thing that dampened the whole experience was the crowd. The museum was very very crowded which made the whole experience a bit annoying. But after all its “The Vatican Museum” and everyone wants to see it.
The ceilings were unbelievably stunning
The popular Bramante staircase

So after the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, our next stop was Trastavere and the Janiculum Hill. We hired a cab to Trastevere where we had some lunch, which was some delicious pizza followed by some mandatory gelato. The walk to Janiculum hill turned out to be long one which we were certainly not expecting. Nevertheless, the view was really good from up there and you could practically see entire Rome. We also had some fun spotting all the attractions from top.

I would highly recommend La Boccaccia, a little pizza place in Trastavere. You can order the length of the pizza of your liking and they will cut it and weigh it before cooking. This was by far the most delicious and good value for money pizza. We also packed some extra to devour later.
Beautiful bylanes of Trastavere
A cute little Gelateria in Trastevere
Janniculum Hill – View from the top
Can you spot the Colosseum?

Day 3:


Colosseum – Palatine Hill – Roman Forum – Piazza Novona – The Pantheon – Trevi Fountain

The magnificent Colosseum was truly a memorable experience. An altogether different feeling looking at it up close as compared to the endless pictures of this beautiful structure on all forms of social media. The beauty, craftsmanship and its sheer size can only be deduced when you come face to face with it. In my opinion it is best to opt for a guided tour of the Colosseum. You will get to learn so much. We booked a guided tour for the upper tier and the lower tier which are not accessible to the general public and can only be seen through a guided tour. The tickets also included guided tour of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.


View from the upper most tier was truly spectacular
The Lower Tier
The Roman Forum
It is basically a rectangular plaza consisting several ruins. They are basically ancient ruins that comprises of important ancient government buildings while the Palatine Hill, the most famous amongst Rome’s seven hills, was home to aristocrats and emperors. You will certainly need a guide while walking the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hills since there are no signs or boards explaining what the ruins are.
Palatine Hill
The Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica can be seen from the Palatine Hill.

Piazza Navona

We winded up our third day by strolling at Piazza Novona, quick tour of the Pantheon and checking out the most famed Trevi Fountain. For dinner we decided to try out a small restaurant right below our Airbnb.

Piazza Navona is a beautiful and colorful plaza with some very ornate fountains. You will also find many hawkers, street artists and restaurants. A good place to hangout after a tiring day of sight seeing.
The Pantheon
The Pantheon was a former Roman temple and now a church. It is also the most imitated piece of architecture. And why wouldn’t it be…this ancient building is a fantastic piece of architecture. Even though it was bit crowded when we visited, the line moved quickly and we we were in and out without any hassle. It is supposedly a very old building and the best preserved ancient Roman monument. This one is a must see indeed.
While on our way to the Pantheon, we came across this beautiful church the name of which I cannot recollect now. I will update it if I am able to find the name online.

Trevi FountainOne of the most popular and stunning fountains in the world, Fontana de Trevi. Be prepared to also be amazed to see thousands of tourists around this fountain if you are planning to visit in Summer. The Trevi fountain draws the most tourist of all. You guys might feel that I am only cribbing about the crowds but it was so crowded that we hardly got any chance to click a decent picture let alone sit on the steps and gaze at this beauty. But crowds aside this fountain is simply a marvel and should be on your must see list when in Rome.

The Crowd

Day 4:

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica and climbing St. Peter’s cupola – Galleria Borghese – Spanish Steps – Piazza di Spagna – Mercato Centrale 

Last started off pretty early for us as we wanted to see St. Peter’s Basilica minus all the crowd. That was only possible if we went there as soon as the basilica was open to the public. As we reached the St. Peter’s square at around 7am, to our delight we saw only a handful of tourists waiting in the security line. Again I had downloaded a free audio guide and was listening to it on my earphones as we headed to the entrance.
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest church in the world and is considered the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture. It is regarded as one of the holiest and greatest of all the churches in Christendom. A beautiful basilica from inside and outside, you will be amazed by the huge pillars, architecture and beautiful intricate sculptures. Make sure to also visit the dome when you are here. You have to pay a small fee to visit the dome but the climb is totally worth it and the view from top is really good. Note that the entrance to the “cupola” or the dome is on the far right. There are signs put up and you will be able to spot it easily. You can take an elevator up to the roof level and from there it is a climb of around 551 steps in total to the dome.
Inside the Basilica
View from top of the Dome
The Dome

Next stop – Galleria Borghese is again for the art enthusiasts. To tell you the truth we didn’t spend much time here and headed towards our next stop for the day. Ohhhh….fun story…as we were waiting for the bus we noticed that sidewalks on both sides of road were planted with orange trees and we could see big and huge oranges hanging all around and as always my inquisitive hubby was trying to figure out a way to pluck some. Hahahaha.

Our last attraction for the day was a huge disappointment. The Spanish steps and Piazza di Spagna was buzzing with tourists. Also the buildings next to the steps were under construction which didn’t make for a good picture. It was a very hot and humid day and to top it all the crowd made the experience less exciting for us.
The Spanish Steps
 
Our last and final stop for the day Mercato Centrale located in Rome’s termini station was a pleasant experience. Here you will find almost all artisan vendors under one roof. We tried pizza, some chicken and tiramisu. They were all good although I simply loved the food that we had in the local restaurants. 

So this was our 4 day itinerary for Rome. We thoroughly enjoyed our very city in Europe even though the climate was way hotter than we expected but we compensated by eating loads of gelato. And the food here was simply amazing. We had some of the most delicious pizzas, pastas made from the freshest ingredients and also got the opportunity to taste some of their regional delicacies as well.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and pictures. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment and if you liked this post do share it with your friends.

Photo Credits: My Husband 🙂 If you want to check more photos by him do check out his Instagram account here 

Signing off with some night photos of Rome.

Snippets from Our Mini Euro Trip!!!

I know…. I know….It’s been a while since I wrote my last blogpost!😖

If you are following me on Instagram (if not, I think you should 😛 ) you must be aware that we are back from our 2 week long vacation to Europe. So let me update you guys real quick.

Last few months was quite crazy with us planning our mini Euro trip, listing all the possible places to visit, places to eat and communicating with the host’s of Airbnb at each location. We had a packed schedule for every single day. Since this was our first major Europe vacation, we wanted to cover as much as we could without missing out on any must see attractions. But I think maybe we should have taken it a little easy. Although our trip turned out to be amazing, we were super tired and exhausted by the end of it.

So before I write a detail account of each of the places we visited and skim through thousands of pics that we clicked, select and edit all of it, I thought why not start with a little snippet of our trip instead for my readers. Sounds good?
Our original plan was Italy and France. For Italy we selected the famous big three, Rome, Florence and Venice and without doubt for France we selected Paris. Paris was our last stop and we had designated 6 days for Paris. But as we started off we were almost done checking out all of the major tourist attractions and still had 3 more days. This lead to an unplanned and impromptu trip to Amsterdam which is a 3 hour train ride from Paris. We ended up spending one night in Amsterdam.

Anyhow…….here is a sneak peak of our trip . 😀

Photo Credit: Hubby dearest

ROME:

This pic was clicked from the top of Victor Emmanuel Monument, Rome. Do you see the Colosseum?
The mandatory touristy pose near the mighty Colosseum 😛
Pantheon
St. Peter’s Basilica

FLORENCE:

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence Cathedral
This one was clicked from Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence

VENICE:

AMSTERDAM:

PARIS:
Stay tuned for more pics and stories from all of the places we visited in Europe.

Thank you for stopping by. Have a great weekend and Happy 4th of July!!!!