EVERYDAY EXCHANGE TRAVELS: ITALY TRAVEL GUIDE (PART 1) - ROME
If there is one place in Europe that you MUST go before you die it is Italy. It is the place that movies and dreams are made of: the history, the Tuscan countryside, the beautiful & friendly people, the food, THE WINE, the Amalfi coast, VENICE, the music, the architecture, did I mention the wine? There are quite a few places in this gorgeous country to hit on our Travel Tuesday - Italy Edition but for this post we are going to talk about Rome (the real OG).
Rome is one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe and when you visit it feels like you are stepping back in time. And I don't mean 50 years ago. I'm talking thousands of years of history beneath your feet. No giant skyscrapers, no concrete jungle. Just you and the ground that the Apostle Peter walked. A city steeped in antiquity like nothing you can find here in the States. Oh and marble. Lots of marble.
To begin, we did NOT rent a car in Rome. We saved the car rental for traveling the rest of this beautiful country. Rome is insane when it comes to driving (and you will be walking A LOT anyway) so I suggest taking a cab from the airport to your hotel. We stayed at the top of the Spanish Steps which was an excellent starting point for each day not to mention gorgeous and right next door to Villa Borghese. Two hotels top the list when talking about where to stay near the steps: Il Palazzetto and Hassler. Hassler is an upscale hotel with classic Italian charm and old world feel. Let's not forget to mention it's rooftop bars and terraces with gorgeous views. If you're looking for something a little more quaint and tucked away with a reasonable price tag, Il Palazzetto is for you. It's belongs to the owner of Hassler so you can access their facilities as well.
In my opinion, if you're going to Rome you NEED to spend at least one day seeing the history and being led by someone who is knowledgeable about it as well as knows their way around town. I mean, I know about Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, The Coliseum, etc. but I don't know as much as the experts and it's nice to have insight into what you're looking at or visiting. This is where our Europe Odyssey Tour came into play. Now if you know me you know I'm not a big touristy type traveler. I love organic traveling - the behind the scenes, off the beaten path type stuff. But we are in Rome, a city that existed long before America was even discovered. That was worth being a tourist for a day. We chose the Semi-Private "Rome & the Vatican in a Day" walking tour (there were some buses involved as well, never fear for your tootsies) and I truly feel like we got to see THE BEST of Rome for just the right amount of time. Our guide, Rahul, was excellent! He was knowledgeable, intelligent, well versed in English and Italian and answered ALL of our questions. The "small group" tour ended up just being Dan and I so it felt very intimate and personal. We saw the Coliseum, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the list goes on and on. Rahul took us to his favorite lunch spot and recommended an amazing restaurant for dinner. I would HIGHLY recommend this (and specifically Rahul as your guide) as a tour you should not miss. We appreciated Rahul's love of the city and ability to relay information in very fun and creative ways. If you mention that you have the Rick Steve's discount code they will give you 10% off of the tour price.
The other days we were there we ducked in and out of shops (purses and shoes and leather-OH MY!), ate mounds of pasta and pizza, walked up and down the streets and alley-ways, sat on terraces sipping wine, visited the ancient Catacombs of Priscilla, and tasted gelato from every gelateria we came across. It was heavenly. After our few days in Rome were through we hopped on a train and made our way out to Italy's version of a summer resort town.
Stay tuned for next week's Travel Tuesday: Part 2 - The Amalfi Coast. Yes, it really is that beautiful.