What's not to love about Italy. The food, the wine, the people, the beauty of the country itself. There are so many reasons to visit.
I went as part of a working trip to Tuscany with other travel advisors. A stay in a villa and vineyard for a week, tours of local vineyards and cities was too irresistible to pass up. I asked a good friend to join me who had always wanted to go to Italy, and a trip was hatched!
We added a stay in Rome to our trip. To travel that far (10-1/2 hours total flight time) to Italy and only stay for a week wasn't feasible for us.
This week I wanted to share about our stay in Rome for 5 days.
We flew out of Boston, with a stop in Lisbon, Portugal, a 7-1/2 hour flight. Then we changed planes and had another 3 hour flight to Rome. It was well worth upgrading to Premium Economy seats for the extra legroom provided. On long flights I always advise my clients to upgrade to premium economy at the very least, business class or first class if you can.
We collected our luggage, and took the train from the airport to Roma Termini station (it's comparable to Grand Central Station). From there we were just around the corner at a hotel. We checked into our room, and rested for a few hours.
We immediately noticed the beautiful buildings, the fast pace of the city, the cars, the Vespas, and the cobblestone streets. It was easy to get lost and overwhelmed if you weren't prepared. A good source of information is always the hotel desk. If you want recommendations for restaurants, need a cab, or help with any activities, the front desk or concierge will always be able to point you in the right direction.
We ended up too tired to do much of anything that first day. I can't stress enough that your day of travel should be reserved for settling in at your hotel, resting, and getting to know your surroundings. Planning any activities, other than where to eat, should be limited. Get a good night's rest so you'll be ready to enjoy the next day's activities.
We got up bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning, and had a tour of The Vatican, Sistine Chapel and The Colosseum planned. We met our tour guide at the specified location, and then went to The Vatican. There were approximately 20 of us on our walking tour. Our guide was well versed in the history of The Vatican. It was ...incredibly beautiful, incredibly enormous, and full of paintings and frescoes, statues, gold and ornate decorations of every type imaginable. We walked through room after room of paintings and masterpieces by Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Carvaggio and Bernini.
We then walked to St. Peter's Square and then to St. Peter's Basilica, where the largest church in the world is located. Inside the building is a plethora of awe-inspiring pieces, such as Michelangelo’s ‘Pietà’ and the gilded bronze baldachin designed by Bernini and placed in the middle of the basilica, where the transept and the main nave intersect. It was breathtaking.
From there we were to go to The Colosseum for another tour, but after walking for 6 hours, and at least 10 miles, we decided The Colosseum needed to wait for another day. Instead we found a wonderful outdoor cafe to sit, each a late lunch and people watch. It was a wonderful way to end a day of touring.
The next day tickets to the Colosseum were completely sold out, so we walked around the local area exploring and shopping.
We did also visit the Spanish Steps. Though their somewhat misleading name may lead you to assume otherwise, the Spanish Steps were not actually financed by the Spanish, but rather by a French diplomat by the name of Étienne Gueffier. The ‘Spanish’ part of the name refers instead to the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, which would have been located on Piazza di Spagna (literally ‘Spanish Square’) at the base of the monument.
After they were completed in 1725, the steps quickly gained a reputation for being a prime people-watching spot because they attracted a crowd. And not just any gathering, but a particularly good-looking crowd. Why did such a beautiful bunch congregate here? It's simple really. A high concentration of artists and later photographers, who were themselves drawn to the attractive monument, served as bait for wannabe models. In the mid-20th century, A-listers Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck spurred on a stampede of American travelers to the site, after the steps were used as a backdrop in the 1953 hit rom-com, Roman Holiday.
Of course, decades of heavy footfall took their toll on the monument. A huge restoration project in 2015 and 2016 saw the Spanish Steps scrubbed clean and returned to their former splendor. These days, they are looking as spick and span as they ever have.
At night we would enjoy meals at local restaurants. We found a sweet little restaurant down the street from our hotel, and enjoyed dinner there a few nights. We also took advantage of a wonderful restaurant on the rooftop of our hotel a few nights, and even got to help celebrate a local girl's 18th birthday celebration with her friends and family. It was great fun!
One day we traveled to Catignano, in the Abruzzo section of Italy, via rental car. It was a wonderful day to visit my friend Karen's ancestral village. We arrived at lunchtime, as the drive was over 3 hours (getting lost in Rome was quite the adventure). We met many local residents who wanted to help us, but spoke no English, and we no Italian. They did contact a local woman who spoke English. We ended up with a cook who worked at a local restaurant we went to for lunch helping my friend. Everything was closed for the afternoon (it was siesta time), and not expected to open before we had to depart.
Catignano was a sleepy village high in the hills, surrounded by vineyards and hills. It was simple yet beautiful. The streets were deserted (remember, it was riposo (or better known as siesta) time. Karen got quite a bit of help from Silvia (the cook), and we left happy and well fed. We drove back to Rome on the Autostrada, a well-maintained highway. The drive was enjoyable. We then enjoyed a dinner at our hotel rooftop restaurant, drinking wine, watching a local girl's 18th birthday party celebration.
The next day we got up and headed to Roma Termini Station to take a train to Certaldo, by way of Florence. I will share about the trip to Tuscany on my next Ezine.
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