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Ten nights in Rome, Fall 2022


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Friday September 29

There are five of us travelling on this trip: me, my husband Bob, my brother, and my parents. Mom, Bob and I were in Rome a few years ago for three nights, but Dad and my brother have never been.

We made it to Rome! The flight (Delta from Boston) was very smooth, no delays, the seats were relatively comfortable and the meals were decent. There were long lines to get passports processed but they moved us through very quickly. Our AirBnB host had arranged a car to pick us up and we were grateful for it!

Our apartment is lovely and palatial (if a bit grander than my tastes). It's on the third European floor, but there's a small lift which was welcome as my Mom has some knee issues, as does Bob. The space is vast and has very high ceilings, quite impressive! One side looks out on the busy Viale di Trastevere, Piazza Sidney Sonnino, and the other side looks out on a quieter back ares. There are three bedrooms and two large bathrooms, plus an extra toilet. The kitchen seems reasonably well stocked! The bedroom my parents are in has a cute balcony with a small table!

It was still only around 11 am by the time we were checked in and unpacked, so my brother and Bob took naps while my parents and I got some groceries from a nearby Carrefour. I got some staples, plus some fixings for salads and pasta at home for later.

After we got back we decided nap a bit as well. None of us had slept well if at all on the plane.

But I rarely nap well so eventually I woke and Mom and I walked around the corner to a famous cookie shop I had wanted to visit, and got a sampling of delicious sweets. I had some with tea back home while other folks eventually woke and showered.

Once we were all mostly human again, we walked through some of the touristy parts of Trastevere then across the Ponto Sisto and over to admire the Pantheon from outside and see the elephant obelisk. Then we had dinner at Buddy Vegan restaurant (everyone but Bob and I are vegan). It was quite good and the service was great. I had a beyond burger and everyone else had vegan pizzas.

After that Bob and I took a detour for gelato from Fatamorgana. We both wanted to order baklava gelato as one of our flavors and we both messed up our orders, overwhelmed by choices, and ended up with something different! But it was still good. I had ricotta with fig and ricotta with cacao. Bob had milk chocolate and some sort of nut-elderflower flavor.

We walked home past Santa Maria in Trastevere and enjoyed the people watching, music and street art.

I slept a bit then woke up ravenous and out of sorts at midnight so I'm having some pistachio yogurt and typing this up! The weather was perfect when we were out earlier but has now been pouring and thundering. Hopefully it will clear before we head out on tomorrow's adventures...!

Tomorrow is a slow recovery day in any case, with nothing planned. I am looking forward to it as I have been a bit stressed with anxiety as the main "planner" of the trip. I probably need more sleep!

Photos of the cookies, some street art, and my midnight snack in the fancy apartment. I didn't take a lot of photos today...



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Satuday October 1

This was an unscheduled day for us, and we decided to take it easy. I went out and found some delicious pastries to supplement breakfast, which I ate with my mom on our little balcony terrace in the sun. So lovely!

Then after Bob was up we went off on our own and walked to the Testeccio area and saw the market (a bit too early for lunch alas but we were grateful for the bathrooms!) and saw the enormous wolf painted on the side of a nearby building. We continued on and walked to the Baths of Carcalla. We probably should have chosen a different route as there wasn't a lot to see the way we went but we did see some more real Roman neighborhoods.

The Baths of Carcalla were very much worth it though! I had really wanted to visit after seeing them from a distance last time we were in Rome, but didn't have the time. I loved how enormous the ruins are and how vast the interior feels. We got one of the VR headsets which was very cool (apparently we kept it longer than we were supposed to--I am pretty sure the person who gave it to us made no mention of a time limit though!).

We spent a long time enjoying the sight and soaking in the atmosphere, before eventually walking back to Trastevere along the much more direct and scenic route past the Circus Maximus, the Mouth of Truth and nearby ruins.

We wandered through Trastevere and saw huge lines at several of the restaurants I had heard good things about but it was late and we were hungry so we chose a random, less-busy but still active restaurant where we had really delicious caprese salad and soso pasta dishes. But lots of good atmosphere! Plus we were under the umbrellas outside during a sudden (it was sunny in half the sky still!) downpour that happened at one point.

We wandered on and got delicious Fiore Di Luna gelato and then went back to the apartment for a rest. We met up with the rest of the group who had been exploring Trajan's Market and the Victor Emmanuel building among other sites.

Bob and I went out to see the Isola Tiberia, the small island in the Tiber. We went down along the water and found a saxiphone player under one of the bridges busking. The acoustics were AMAZING. You could stand in one spot and it sounded nice, but if you took just one more step under the bridge it suddenly became brilliant and resonant. We left him some coins and continued on after a bit.

Back home we picked up the other three of our party for yet more gelato :)! We had a late, light dinner of salad back at the apartment, to balance out the pasta and gelato, hah! I had found some nice roasted veggies in the grocery store which I added to salad greens and tomatoes and a bit of fresh mozzarella, with balsamic on top. Yum!

The only problem is that I bought a can of chickpeas to go with that I found I could not open because I don't know how to use any of the can openers in the apartment, oops. I will have to see if google can help me figure out how to use them.




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Sunday October 2

Sunday we took a day tour to Orvieto and Civita di Bagnoregio, two different hill towns to the north of Rome. Both were places I have been wanting to see since first reading of them and seeing photos. We only had quick visits but still got to see some wonderful sights.

In Orvieto we took a tour of the underground tunnels and caves carved by the Etruscans originally and widened and repurposed by later peoples. No photos of that as it was hard to capture, but really fascinating. They have some that were used as dovecotes with openings in the side of the steep hills for the birds to fly in and out.

Then we saw what I most wanted to visit, the Pozzo di San Patrizio, a deep, wide well with two spiral staircases going down it and cool arched windows overlooking the well itself.

We had lunch at a vegetarian restaurant with really amazing food, then headed to Civita di Bagnoregio. This was very dramatic as I expected from photos, but quite crowded. I enjoyed it but wished we were able to actually spend the night to see it with fewer other tourists.

Then back home to recuperate and have some delicious Indian food to recharge us for another day!


October 3, Monday.

The weather has been pretty glorious, sunny and blue and not too hot. Today was dedicated to visiting the Vatican. It was a long day and there were some things I would have done differently had I known, but still a worthwhile experience.

We started off taking a taxi over to St Peter's Square and walking up the long entry way to see the Basilica in front of us and the big colonnades on either side. Our first activity was the Scavi Tour of the necropolis under the basilica, where Saint Peter is believed to be buried. This was fascinating! Walking through the old "streets" of the necropolis, trying to imagine what they were like when they were open to the sky above, looking into the houses and seeing the tiled floors and painted walls.

After that we emmerged inside the basilica complex, avoiding the need to stand in line outside, whew! Some of us went up the elevator and then the additional 300 steps or so to the top of the dome for the view, which was amazing!

The interior was equally impressive and so vast it didn't matter as much that it was crowded.

We left and went in search of lunch at a very good vegan-friendly restaurant on the way to the Vatican Museums.

The museums were overwhelming and if I were doing it over again I think I would pay the extra for an early morning tour because the crowds were just too much! Fortunately the Etruscan area was nearly empty so we spent a lot of time there.

I got a few minutes of the Sistine Chapel but it was kind of like the experience seeing the Mona Lisa... even the most famous and amazing work of art is hard to appreciate with so many other people crammed around you, half of them on tours, talking and taking photos. Oh well!

I think I had a nicer time sitting outside in the garden afterwards watching the funny grey and black Roman corvids...

I'm glad to have seen these things though, but also glad to be done! We had pasta at home for dinner, with some nice eggplant I got at the store, and then went out for the required daily gelato, this time from Otaleg (okay but not our fave, a bit icy).
(I somehow forgot to post Tuesday! I will add it at the bottom of the thread!)

Wednesday October 5

This was our day dedicated to the Colosseum and Forum/Palatine Hill. Like the Vatican, this was very crowded but not so overwhelming and there were a ton of officials on hand that answer questions. You now must have tickets in advance and all entry is timed for the Colosseum so we did not have to wait on any lines at all with our pre-booked tickets.

It was also very accessible with an easy to find elevator for folks with mobility issues and a special route out with no steps as well. We had tickets that allowed us out onto the arena floor which was a stunning perspective. We didn't stay for too long though as it was very hot, sunny and crowded.

We had lunch not far away at a cute no-frills pizza place where they cut pieces off a giant slab with scissors and have a bunch of different flavors. Very good!

Then we had some gelato (with panna!), and fully fortified we headed back to visit the Palatine hill and Forum. I had not been able to see much of these on our last visit but this time we wandered through them for a couple hours and it was one of my favorite things we've done so far. The buildings.in the Forum, in particular, are just so stunning and massive and I could almost glimpse what it might have been like when they were in use.

We headed out one of the alternate exits near the Victor Emmanuel memorial and decided to do something I've wanted to do for a while: have drinks on a rooftop terrace! We had two tasty mocktails and rested our feet overlooking the VE memorial and the large dome.of the building opposite it. Ahhh!

Then we wandered home through the Jewish Ghetto, stopping in a beautiful courtyard of an art museum to listen to the green parrots in the palm trees. Dinner was at the first place we found because we were desperate but it was decent. And I finally got to see the turtle fountain!

Then home to rest our weary feet. Today was my record so far, 14 miles!

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October 6, Thursday.

Thursday was a free day and I spent the morning taking it a bit slower. I went out and found some delicious pastries for breakfast (and a slice of the famous ricotta cherry pie from the Jewish bakery). Then I went over to the nearby Horticulture Garden and had some peaceful time in the bamboo grove.

Walking up the gardens I found I could exit to the top of the Janiculum hill so I walked over to the scenic overlook there. Then back home to have leftovers for lunch.

Bob and I had booked a Crypts and Catacombs tour for 2:30, so we headed over to the meeting point, stopping to see the (crowded) Spanish Steps along the way. We took a break in the gardens of the Palazzo Barbarini and I managed to glimpse an amazing spiral staircase!

The tour was fantastic but no photos allowed in two of the three locations so you will have to look them up to see... First we visited the Capuchin Crypts which are adorned with the bones of the monks. So fascinating! I also loved the painting of Saint Francis by Caravaggio that was on display.

Then we took a bus out to the Catacombs of Saint Domitilla. These were one of the highlights of my trip so far! It was so atmospheric walking through the underground passages in the dark with niches opening on either side and twists and turns disorienting you. Words can't capture it!

Lastly we visited the church of Saint Sylvester and Saint Martin in Monti, which features three "layers" of churches from different periods, built a top one another. Really fascinating to walk down the steps of a more modern church into the medieval layer and down into the oldest areas from the 3rd or 4th century.

After that we went to a nearby Sichuan Chinese restaurant and had delicious noodles and dumplings, then headed home to have some more maritozzi for dessert!


Apparently this later mosaic was intended to recreate the original old fresco but the artist mistakenly thought it was Virgin Mary. The sign she is making with her hand indicates the original was more likely Jesus or a Pope!
October 7, Friday.

Friday began with a guided tour of Nero's Domus Aurea. Only a portion of the massive palace remains (it once included the area where the Colosseum is now, which at that time was a large human-made lake inside the palace grounds, surrounded by terraced gardens. The part that survived was buried in dirt and rubble to serve as the foundation of a large public bath built by Trajan.

It was a fantastic sight, brought to life by a very cool VR movie we watched at the end on headsets. We all loved this.

After that we got pizza at our favorite place from a previous day, and then got taxis (one tried to cheat us by offering an exhorbitant set price) to the Aventine Hill.

We stood for about 15 minutes in the line to look through the Aventine Keyhole at the Priory of Malta door (where you can see a perfectly framed view of Saint Peter's Basilica). I thought it was worth the wait!

We spent some time in the lovely gardens and then Bob and I headed back to Trastevere while the others went to the Baths of Caracalla (which we had already seen).

We took the rest of the evening easy and watched some Umbrella Academy and had leftovers for dinner in the apartment but we did go out for more gelato and a sunset walk later!


(View out our apartment window!)
October 8, Saturday.

I'm still glad to be on vacation but also looking forward to getting home again and seeing my dog and my friends and writing and playing videogames!

Saturday we were thwarted in plans to take the bus to the Appian Way (I could not find an open Tabacchi to get tickets; one was open but had none!). Instead Mom and I had a leisurely morning walking around the neighborhood (and having some amazing fresh orange juice) before meeting up with everyone to take a taxi to a vegan buffet restaurant near the Borghese Gardens. It was very good! As was the gelato we got afterwards.

Then we walked a few blocks to the gardens and had some time to look around while waiting for our 2 PM timed entry to the Borghese Gallery.

The Gallery was amazing and it was so nice to have it somewhat less crowded than other sights. I got to spend a long time admiring the Bernini sculptures, and finding some other favorites. I also liked that the collection is smaller than some large museums and not so overwhelming.

When we were all done we walked around the gardens a bit. Then mom and Dave took a taxi home while Dad and Bob and I walked over to the Quartiere Coppedè to admire the whimsical architecture. I loved this! It is a small neighborhood of buildings designed and built by the architect Coppede in the 1910s and 20s. The style is a fascinating mix of Art Nouveau and several other styles, very whimsical and magical. So many small details to find!

We stopped for a break and a drink (and la toilette) before taking the 83 bus back to nearby the bridge over to Trastevere and home. More leftovers for dinner so nothing goes to waste! Only one more day remaining!

October 9, Sunday. Our last day!

I started the morning with a dawn walk past the Victor Emmanuel memorial, the Pantheon, and the Piazza Navona. I forgot my phone but managed to mostly not get lost!

Then we headed off on a day tour of Hadrian's Villa and Villa D'Este, with a stop for delicious pasta in Tivoli.

Both villas were amazing and not too crowded even on a Sunday. We had a good guide for our small group and really enjoyed learning some of the history and how materials from Hadrian's Villa were taken and reused in D'Este.

The fountains at Villa D'Este were amazing, and we even got to hear a musical performance by a set of water pipes!

After that it was home to pack and get ready for the trip home.

And now we are home again!

I have my full photo album here with comments on many of them: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Xo45LLkH3kCwwkTf9

Overall I really enjoyed Rome, though it is not a city I LOVED the way I love Paris or Venice. I think like London, Rome is so large and overwhelming that I find it harder to feel really comfortable there. I also missed having more green spaces (or water ways) to break up the stone and streets. I am glad to have visited though, and I have a lot of wonderful memories.

My highlights were the Baths of Caracalla, the Park of Aqueducts, our tour of the Catacombs, the Domus Aurea, the Pantheon, the Forum, having a rooftop mocktail, early morning rambles past the Victor Emmanuel monument, the Well of Saint Patrick in Orvieto, the Villa D'Este and Hadrian's Villa, hearing the saxiphone busker on Isola Tibera, quiet moments on our balcony in the morning, happening upon unexpected courtyards and exploring them, and finally getting to eat a maritozzo!
Somehow I forgot to add Tuesday Oct 4th, so here it is, belatedly!

Rome Day 5, Tuesday.

This was an unscheduled day, so we decided to spend the morning walking to the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and then back through Trastevere, visiting Santa Maria in Trastevere on the way. I finally found one of the things I had been wanting to try this trip: a maritozzo, which is a sweet yeast roll stuffed with whipped cream. It was AMAZING!!!

Then Bob and I went out and got a nice takeaway lunch of chicken, potatoes and veggies from a cheap no-frills place near our apartment called "Food Factory" that was quite good. We ate our meal in a nice square watching kids play and old men walking their tiny dogs.

We had gelato from Fatamorgana afterwards, delicious!

Then back to the apartment we got ourselves together and took a taxi over to the Park of the Aqueducts. We were glad to take the taxi as there was one that did fit all five of us and it was only a 20 min drive rather than an hour on the bus/metro.

The park was amazing! I loved walking around the grassy fields watching folks play with their dogs and run and relax, with the giant remnants of the old aqueducts right there marching along the landscape, and the tall umbrella pines (?) beside them.

We took the metro home which was fine, but the bus was SO crowded and hot! Everyone seemed to be going to Trastevere like us, hah.

Back home Bob and I went to a nice traditional Italian place (Tonarello's) nearby for pasta and enjoyed it. My Cacio e Pepi was not as salty as the last time, very delicious! That was followed by yet more gelato from our favorite nearby place, Fiore di Luna!

Sadly we seem to have come home with an unwelcome souvenir! Both my husband Bob and I developed sore throats yesterday, and today he is congested and achy. He just took a test and it was positive for Covid! My test was negative still and I feel mostly normal today, so hopefully my case is mild. My brother is similar to me, and my dad feels perfectly healthy, but my mom is also congested and feeling under the weather, sadly. Fingers crossed we all get through it safely and quickly!

I'm very grateful we did not get ill while we were overseas, at least. We knew it was a risk to travel, and did our best to stay safe, but on the flight home a woman sitting across the aisle from us was coughing and sneezing, and only wearing her mask some of the time (we were masked as much as we could be, but did take them off to eat and drink). We heard her complaining to her companions, near the end of the flight, about her "bad cold." So I am pretty sure that is how we all got sick...
I'm very grateful we did not get ill while we were overseas, at least. We knew it was a risk to travel, and did our best to stay safe, but on the flight home a woman sitting across the aisle from us was coughing and sneezing, and only wearing her mask some of the time
Yes, bad luck with the passengers on the flight - but like you say, at least the trip went smoothly, and if you go through Covid with only average symptoms, then in my humble opinion it was worth it. At least that's how I would feel. Nothing like a great travel vacation. Wishing you all good health! Nice pics from the trip, BTW.
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Great trip report and photos - thank you.
My wife also contracted Covid on flight home early June (we were about the only ones wearing masks), and quickly passed it on. Wishing your family good health.
Thanks for sharing; loved your photos. I hated my first visit to Rome--hot, dirty, crowded and just overwhelming. I've been back many times since then and have grown to love the city. It's so huge and sprawling that you really need to pace yourself. So different from Florence, where the historic center is quite compact.
Updating to say: Thank you for the well-wishes. We all recovered from our mild cases of Covid within a week and are not having any lingering symptoms. Phew! We are very grateful we all had our most recent booster a few weeks before the trip. It has been fun reminiscing about the good parts of the trip!

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