Rome Girl Trip - Nov 27 - Dec 5, 2019

When I saw a smashing deal to go to Rome for a week though our agent, Mischelle, I was determined to find a travel buddy. Neil had already used his vacation days, and I didn't want to go solo. I found a travel buddy, Emily, who I know from work, and we were off!

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Nov 28/Friday, Nov 29

The flight over was on Thanksgiving Day. It's a good thing the winds were on our side to make the flight a bit shorter, because the turbulence was awful. We arrived in London Heathrow the next morning ready to get off the plane ASAP to get our connection to Fiumicino Airport (FCO) in Rome. We were picked up by our private transport driver and set off on the 40 minute drive from the airport to the Romantico Palace Hotel.

The hotel is lovely, well located, and as we found the next morning, serves a fantastic breakfast buffet. But, we needed dinner so we stopped in at Ambasciatori Cucina Napoletana where we each got a calzone. We expected a folded over pizza type meal, but were instead served what looked like a mis-shapen pizza. No matter, it was very tasty. Since our bio clocks were off, we were hungry, but still couldn't eat the whole thing. Where's a dog when you need one!?

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a market for some bottles of water and then went to the train station to see exactly how to do our planned field trip for the next day. We went to bed early having had quite a haul to overcome.

View photos from Friday (3 images)

Saturday, Nov 30

Breakfast was indeed amazing at our hotel. Plenty of breads to choose from of all kinds, multiple jelly flavors, fruit, meats, cheeses, and hot eggs and bacon. Delicious! After breakfast we headed to the train station to buy our tickets to Ostia Antica. According to my favorite travel books, the Rick Steves series, Ostia Antica is much like Pompeii, but without the crowds. Indeed by us visiting in November, there were zero crowds. Plus, getting there and back cost us only about $4 since the Ostia stop is covered on the Rome metro line!

On the return, we decided to get off at St. Paul's Basilica, thinking it was St. Peter's. Oops! That's ok, it was still great. Since this basilica is a Vatican property, we had to go through a security check before entering. It's here they say that the apostle Paul is buried. The inside is beautiful as well as the outside, including a very well maintained courtyard.

Back at the metro station, we bought our “mega” tickets. Even though we weren't going to be there for another full seven days, we got the all-you-want-to-ride combo metro/tram/bus ticket. Totally worth it! We rode the metro back toward the hotel, stopping for gelato on the way. After a nap, we found a cheap dinner at a place called Chicken Hut.

View photos from Saturday (45 images)

Sunday, Dec 1

Emily made the astute observation that the Colosseum, along with the adjoining Palatine Hill and Roman Forum, were free on the first Sunday of the month. Well, what day was it? The first Sunday of the month! We expected a huge crowd, and indeed there was quite a line when we got there, but it actually only took about 20 minutes to get through the gate. We had to stop and get a complimentary ticket, likely for a tourist count, and then were free to explore on our own. Neither of us are guided tour types, so we made our way around stopping where we wanted.

Upon exiting the Colosseum we made our way toward the Palatine Hill area, which then leads into the Roman Forum. (All three are covered with the same (free!) ticket.)

After all that, we took the metro to start the Heart of Rome walk described in the book, but only after a pit stop for gelato and a macaron. The walk highlights several stops, including but not limited to the market at Campo de' Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and ending at the Spanish Steps. If you want gelato in Rome, head to the Trevi Fountain area. They're everywhere.

That was a full day! Back to the metro, then a bus to the hotel.

View photos from Sunday (31 images)

Monday, Dec 2

Rising late since we didn't need to hurry, we made our way toward St. Peter's Basilica. This is a not-to-be-missed Rome attraction. It's huge, gorgeous, and decadent.

We also wanted to see the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.

We got the run-around from a guy who appeared to be official but started off trying to get us to buy the guided tour of everything for something like $45. I knew we only needed to pay about $20, so I insisted and finally we got through to him we didn't want the all-access deal. We ended up getting exactly what we wanted, which was just entrance to the museums and the chapel for the 17 euros I was expecting to pay. The line at this time of year only took about 5 minutes to get through. We followed our book's guidance which led us to see several magnificent works of art, sculpture, etc., ending up at the Sistine Chapel itself.

We grabbed lunch at a Kebap we saw along the way, and then found a paper store I'd wanted to check out. We wanted some gelato again so we went to the Trevi Fountain area, but also it was nice to see the fountain at night. We started back toward the hotel taking a bus to the Termini station which we were now familiar with, where it started to rain. We waited, and waited, and waited for our bus, wondering if it would ever come. Just when we were about to give up, it pulled in. On the way, the sky cracked open. In just the few yards from the stop to the hotel, we got pretty drenched. When we got to our room, it sounded like it was raining inside, and saw that housekeeping had left the bathroom window open. Thankfully, the front desk was quick to respond with new towels for us.

View photos from Monday (36 images)

Tuesday, Dec 3

Emily wanted to catch up on sleep, so I went solo to breakfast and then on to find another paper store. Found it! What a lovely shop! Paperness is a cheery, happy paper/scrapbook store staffed by very friendly ladies. I picked up several great finds and then walked around the area to check out some of the places that looked interesting from the bus.

Having had such a nice breakfast, lunch was just a snack I had on hand. I met up with Emily at the hotel and she felt much better after getting plenty of rest. We took a bus to the Victor Emmanuel II monument area. I'd heard on a previous trip that the locals don't like this monument, and say it looks like a wedding cake topper. Whether you like it or not, it's there to stay! We climbed some steps, thinking it would lead us to the monument terrace, but instead took us into the Basilica Santa Maria in Aracoeli. It was a lovely surprise stop. Then we took the real steps up to the terraces of the monument for great views then took a bus to the Teatro di Marcello which I'd seen in the morning on the way to the paper store. From there we stumbled into the Jewish Ghetto walk the book described, then took the Trastevere walk . The Trastevere walk took us through some back-door areas with zero tourists. The stroll was a bit hard to follow, but was worth figuring out so we could see another side of Rome. After a quick dinner stop, it was back to the hotel.

View photos from Tuesday (32 images)

Wednesday, Dec 4

This was our last full day. Emily wanted to go solo for the day, so after breakfast, we split up and I decided to try to conquer the Gianicolo Hill Viewpoint Hike. I semi-successfully navigated to the proper bus stop to start the walk. While waiting for the final bus, which took forever, I chatted with a very nice gentleman who happened to be originally from Nantes, the city where I'd spent a year abroad in college. It was great to speak French with a native Frenchman! We talked about food and I'd said how so far I'd not been impressed with what I'd had, except for breakfast. He gave me a couple recommendations I jotted down as well as giving me his card to the café he owns, which serves authentic French fare.

I did the reverse of the walk described in my book, which meant I was able to get a bus to the top of the hill, and work my way back down. Indeed the hilltop views were great and the sites on the way down were remarkable

By the end of the walk, having used my phone for the GPS and bus schedules, I'd used so much battery I wanted to go back to the hotel to charge up my phone, plus, I wasn't able to check in to my flight for the next day.

During my pit stop at the hotel I was of course able to charge my phone, but I still couldn't check in to my flight, even on the desktop computer in the lobby. Based on what the hotel staff said, I was able to figure we would get to the airport in plenty of time for our flight to Madrid for our connection, so I tried not to worry about it.

It was too early for dinner, so I decided to try to make my way slowly toward the Caffe de la Paix which my new French friend owns. I finally did find it and he was there! He welcomed me warmly and described what was on the menu. I chose a galette, and it was delicious, just like they are back in France. I was thrilled. After a macaron for dessert, it was getting dark and since I was by myself, I didn't want to be out much longer. Plus, my phone was getting low again.

Getting back was quite an ordeal. For whatever reason, the busses were not running on schedule, so as my battery got lower and lower, and after having to give up on one bus to try another at a different stop, I finally ended up at the Termini station where I was able to catch the same bus as the other evening to get back to the hotel. I made it back much later than expected and with only 11% battery.

Emily also had a low battery day but had a nice time shopping and doing exactly whatever she wanted to do.

View photos from Wednesday (9 images)

Thursday, Dec 5

Our last day. We didn't have any time to see anything, so we just took our time at breakfast, then finished packing up our things. I saw a car out front and wondered if it was our ride. Indeed, it was, and I was glad to be off early so that I could check in to my flight at the airport. We found the right desk, walked right up, and I got checked in just fine. We went through security and got to our gate, or so we thought. I noticed via my phone it had changed at the last minute, but was just a short ways down the terminal hallway. The flight was uneventful, except for the announcement I could hardly hear about skirting France to get to Madrid due to the massive, and I mean massive, transit strike going on in France. We made it to the airport just fine, but upon arrival noticed we had to go to the “satellite” terminal about 20 minutes away. I had no idea what time our flight left from Madrid to DFW, so I was a bit ancy, but we made it to the gate with only 20 minutes to spare. In hindsight, it was nice to not have a long layover. The long flight home was uneventful, and thankfully non-turbulent!

The trip was great, but was nice to be back home. I'm really glad Emily was able to go with me. It was quite different since I've travelled with Neil for the last 16 years! Rome is a very safe city, and only when my battery was dying that day was I concerned about getting back to the hotel. The Romans were all very nice and the sites grand and gorgeous.

Thanks, Rome, for a great Roman holiday.

Final miscellaneous photos (2 images)