Day 1 – Ancient Bubbles
We had been very lucky to find ourselves in some incredible cities throughout our time in Europe, exploring them on our free nights and weekend at a frantic pace to enjoy some incredible experiences. From London to Paris to Salzburg, these mini adventures kept us on our toes between work days and event prep.
Rome, however, was the true “vacation” part of our trip – 3 fun-filled days for us to just enjoy where we were and celebrate a great trip. Coming right off of our company’s Germany event, we arrived in Rome on Sunday ready to relax.
We arrived at the Hotel Lunetta, and fell in love right away. It’s a perfect blend of modern style in the traditional heart of Rome, a block from Piazza Navona. From the rooftop bar to the quaint rooms, it has everything you need. The staff is amazing, super helpful and fluent in English which is nice. But the best part of the hotel is under your feet.
Years back, while renovating, they discovered that the hotel had been built on top of the Theater de Pompey, the place from 61 b.c. where Julius Ceasar was killed. No biggie.
So what did they do? Built a spa around it, of course!
We started with a couple’s massage and Jacuzzi room, and Jen surprised me with a beautiful champagne and fresh fruit plate delivery at the end. There were no other people in the whole spa, so we spent the next 3 hours just laying around, amazed at the walls around us that date back to b.c. times. You could literally just reach out and touch these ancient ruins, or have a sauna inside them. It was incredible.
After the spa we had planned on getting out to explore the city a little. Instead we passed out for 3 hours and I roamed around for any place that would serve pizza, wine, and tiramisu to-go before midnight. Wasn’t our best Rome dinner. At least I would be able to watch the USA – Portugal World Cup game with some pizza in bed… Except the tv wouldn’t work. This gave Jen a chance to try her soccer play-by-play skills as she tried to decipher the live ESPN gamecast stats feed. I think this helped what ended up being a heartbreaking tie seem like a lot of fun.
Day 2 – A Day of Many Cheeses
We awoke on Day 2 to realize we hadn’t really planned much for our time in Rome. Despite Jen’s urging, I was a bit too casual about this weeks back. If you’re heading to Rome and really want to get some tours in, book them at least a month in advance. The hotel was very helpful trying to pull things together for us, but it would have been easier had we booked the tours before we arrived.
We ended up getting on a Green Line Tour of ancient Rome, and had some time to grab lunch beforehand. We made our first of many trips to Piazza Navona, where we discovered Caffé Domiziano. Not the cheapest or probably the best place, but it was close and convenient with all of the things we liked, so we went back the next day too.
A van picked us up for our tour, took us to a larger bus of about 50 people, and we were off to Capitol Hill. In a nutshell, I wouldn’t recommend Green Line Tours. The guide was nice, but they didn’t give you radios so you had to stay pretty close to him, which was hard in a group of 50. Capitol Hill wasn’t so impressive, and our second stop was a church up the hill from the Colosseum with a famous statue of Moses. It was impressive, but at this point we were 3 hours past the time we left our hotel and I wouldn’t say we had seen the 2 things advertised: The Colosseum and The Forum.
We did make it next to the Colosseum, where we had 30 minutes to roam, and another 30 minutes guided through the upper levels. We tried to get on an underground tour but the English ones were all sold out. We ended up booking a Spanish one for the next day, details on that to come.
We took a long walk back through Rome, not entirely sure where we were going but running into a number of landmarks on our list. Jen had her first Gelato, I bought an Italy shirt, we saw the Trevi Fountain (kind of… it was under renovation), and the Pantheon. The Pantheon closes at 7:30, and we were 4 people away from not getting in. Luckily we snuck in under the closing rope and saw it for a few moments before closing time.
We got back to the hotel to change for dinner at Antica Pesa, recommended by my sister who went there on her honeymoon. This was my favorite restaurant of Rome, a great place in Trastevere that I would highly recommend.
Day 3 – The Vatican and The Biter
We had an early wake-up call for a small group Vatican Tour on Tuesday, and unlike the previous day’s Green Line Tour, this tour organized by Together in Rome was excellent. In a group of 12 we had a great guide named Emiliano, and radios so we didn’t have to strain to hear him. We cut all the lines, which was great in the morning with people lined up for what seemed like a mile out front.
We saw only a fraction of the museum, but what we saw was amazing, especially the Sistine Chapel where one of my favorite moments of the trip happened. They demand silence in the chapel out of respect, so even though you are in there with hundreds of people, there’s rarely a sound more than a murmur. Until I sneezed…
The sneeze echoed throughout the walls of the chapel, no chance anybody in there didn’t hear me, and I was rather embarrassed. Not missing a beat, Jen’s eyes lit up as soon as I did. She turned to me slowly, standing under Adam and God’s outstretched hands, and said – “bless you.”
We saw St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square to round out the 3 hour tour, before catching a cab back to Piazza Navona for more lunch, and some shopping. We found our new J&J leather bag at La Sella Roma, something we wanted not only to have a cool souvenir, but to bring back all the other stuff we had bought along the way.
After that, it was back to the Colosseum for the second time in 2 days, this time for a tour of the underground. Since only Spanish tours were available, I was actually happy with my ability to lean on my high school Spanish to understand the guide really well. The underground was cool but not amazing. If you could pull it off as part of an overall tour, it’s worth a look, but I think parts of it weren’t available to us due to construction.
We took a walk through The Roman Forum afterwards, wishing we had a tour guide here to explain everything. Without a guide, The Forum just looks like random ruins. Still impressive, but I’m sure there are millions of stories there.
I was clearly distracted by the impending Italy-Uruguay game, as evidenced by my Italy shirt and itch to get over to Plaza Venezia to watch on the giant screens with a few thousand people. The scene was awesome, but the game was not. Italy lost a heartbreaker that we ended up watching the end of in a bar near our hotel. The famous Luis Suarez “biter” game.
For dinner, we took a recommendation from the hotel front desk and found a great osteria right near the Pantheon that didn’t disappoint: Osteria del Sostegno.
Day 4 – Wine-ing Down in Tuscany
We decided long before that our last day at Italy would be spent on a bus tour out to Tuscany, complete with wine and cheese tastings. It was kind of a no-brainer, and a beautiful way to end the trip. Read more about it here.
We came back to Rome for dinner at a little spot in (guess where?) Piazza Navona. It was a really pleasant surprise, with great food and a chance for us to replay our favorite moments from our entire trip. I must have been allergic to something because my eyes were a little watery and my nose a bit runny, but that kinda tends to happen for a sap like me at the end of something so special. Luckily my date didn’t mind.