Rome, Italy — Euro 2017 Summer Adventure
Buongiorno, my fellow trotters & happy Canada Day! I’m super happy to be home from my Euro Adventure in time to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. I know it may have seemed like I abandoned you over the last few weeks but in reality, I was on another globe-trotting adventure! And guess what… I’m going to share all my fun with you, right here on the blog. So make sure your seats are in an upright position, your tray tables returned to their original position & your seatbelts buckled tight because you’re in for an EPIC ride!
The first stop of my Euro 2017 Summer Adventure was Rome, Italy. I absolutely LOVED Rome. I don’t know if you believe in the whole past life mumbo jumbo, but my soul felt like it had returned home! The connection I felt to Italy, in general, was amazing, I really felt as though I had spent a significant amount of time there before (maybe as a Princess…hmm).
The city itself has narrow cobblestone streets, ornate and detailed buildings & magnificent fountains and sculptures. It is the capital as well as the largest city in Italy with a population of just under 3 million. One of my favourite aspects of Rome is how well maintained the buildings and sites are — imagine if they could talk, oh the stories they could tell!
To start, let’s talk about the hotel; my one week stay in Rome was at the Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo, located a five-minute walk from Roma Termini metro station. The hotel itself was nice and our two bedroom suite was super cute. Because I was travelling with my parents, it was nice to have my own space without having to pay for an entirely separate room. The main room had the most space and also contained a safe & a mini fridge. The fridge was fully stocked however the price tag was higher than it should have been for the items.
While our suite was nice I found that the hotel staff were incredibly unfriendly — rude at times even. Customer service was not a concern here and we weren’t the only ones who felt this way; we spoke to other guests and they also found the same issue. Also, beware of housekeeping. They NEVER leave enough towels or shower gel or even toilet paper! Imagine running out of toilet paper at a hotel…crazy. If you call down to request supplies…you are met with a lot of resistance and a generally poor attitude.
The cost of our suite included breakfast daily, which sounds nice in theory. The atmosphere for breakfast was lovely and was set out as a buffet which included a separate coffee bar! It began at 6:30 am and ran until 10:30 am daily, so you were able to have something to eat even if you had some early morning excursions planned! The downside was that breakfast was the SAME every day…scrambled eggs, danishes, canned fruit, bacon & cereal. In my opinion, it was a very limited selection and really tiring on the 7th day of eating the same thing. My favourite part of breakfast was the coffee bar, they would make you whatever you requested. I enjoyed espressos, cappuccinos, drip coffee … soooo much coffee (I was in heaven).
Apparently, in Europe it’s a normal request for the hotel to have pictures of your passport on their file — not going to lie I was super sketched out by this and definitely consulted other friends who had travelled prior to allowing them to copy it. Identity theft is a real concern in today’s world!
Oh…one more note about the hotel. Do not lose your room card…it’s the card that controls the lights. When the card is removed from the slot all the lights go out without warning. It might be a good time to mention that removing the card while your roommate is in the washroom may not be the best idea…just saying.
Talking about coffee is the best way to lead into the eats of Italy! Rome is carbohydrate heaven…YUMM. I lived off of Pizza, Pasta, Gelato, Cannolies & Crepes for the entire week…so pretty much I should be 400 lbs now. During the week I found that Italians are not really about meat or chicken. Instead, they are much more into seafood & pork and since I don’t like either I stuck to the veggie options — maybe sounds boring to you but have you ever tried eggplant on a pizza, it’s phenomenal! I would talk about my favourite place…but I can’t pick just one, they are all good!
If you’ve read other blog posts you know that I’m super into dessert and this love didn’t evaporate while I was travelling. In fact, I had a two-scoop gelato cone daily with new flavours each day! Some of the flavours I had were Tiramisu & pistachio, chocolate truffle & pannacotta; for a two-scoop cone, the cost was generally around €2.50 (anything above €3.00 is way too much and should have a gold lining or something). The gelato was delicious and there were so many flavours to choose from… pretty much the hardest decision of the day (right after my OOTD).
Okay onto the cannolis just so you know, I have been eating garbage cannolis here in YYC. The one and only place to eat them are Italy. So if you do venture to that part of the world add this to your list of must-eats. The pastiera I ate at was called Pompi and they specialized in fancy desserts. This small pastry place was beautiful, and the desserts were mouthwatering but I couldn’t leave Italy without having a connoli…and being as ridiculous as I am, I bought two (one to eat right away and one to enjoy at the hotel later). I was surprised at how difficult it was to find cannolis in Italy, while gelaterias are pretty much on every corner, I had to really hunt for a pastry place that sold this dessert. Because I only had them at this one place I can only tell you the cost here — €5 for 2 cannolis.
Finally, I also indulged in a crepe…no shock here. This is such an amazing dessert which I’ve had often. The difference between other crepes and this one is that they made it with one of my other life loves…Nutella! That’s right, Nutella and powdered sugar and chocolate sauce…my mouth is drooling right now as I dream of eating another one. All this was spread into a warm crepe which basically melted in your mouth. The cost of this amazing concoction was €7 at Venchi. This crepe place was beautiful, it even had a chocolate fountain. The downside though is that seating is limited so if you find a spot on a bench DO NOT get up until you are ready to leave!
Italy is known for it’s Haute Couture Fashion and trends with many top designers like Gucci, Prada & Louis Vuitton setting up boutiques here. However, the FASHION capital in Italy is not Rome but Milan (located in northern Italy an area which I sadly did not visit).
For shopping in Rome, I visited Via Del Corso, a long street (much like Oxford Street in London) with several shops featuring both high-end fashions as well as styles for the everyday girl like me. I found a lot of good deals at a boutique called Alcott! So many great styles without breaking the bank — with the Canadian dollar rated at $1.60 to €1.00, shopping can become expensive quickly. Alcott carries fashion for both men and women which is fantastic & totally reminded me of a European version of H&M (probably why I liked it so much). At Alcott, I bought a red crop tank for €7.00 as well as a dress for €13.00. They only had one set of change rooms with about eight stalls so the line up for fitting was longer than I would have liked. One of the interesting things I found, is that a lot of the stores we find here in North America were also present in Europe — Zara, H&M, and The Gap. I didn’t bother shopping at these stores because I can do that here at home any old day.
For men’s fashion, I would recommend a boutique called Gutteridge. It’s a small store located in the middle of Via Del Corso. The staff aren’t all that friendly or helpful (just like at the hotel) but the styles and quality of the clothing is good. They tend to fit slimmer so if you are shopping for a muscular person, this may not be the best place.
There are also several street vendors and markets which you can buy things — the good thing here is that you can bargain with the salespeople to get some great deals. The downside is that they don’t give you a receipt so if you buy too much from them you may have issues with customs.
Getting around in Rome is actually really easy. The best thing to do first is to obtain a sightseeing map from the hotel. The ones available in Rome are really good. This way you can determine which sites are close by (walking distance) and which ones will require wheels to get to. For places that are further you can, of course, use a cab (if you want to be ripped off), use the metro/bus system or my preferred method — the hop on hop off bus (more on that below).
The metro & bus system is very easy to navigate and a fairly inexpensive option — a one-way ticket costs €1.50 and lasts 100minutes. You can download a metro map to see exactly which stop to get off or like I did ask other people on the bus — I found that many Italians do speak some English (maybe not fluently but enough to give directions).
I am one of those tourists that want to see EVERYTHING when I visit somewhere new — kind of like a puppy. I love exploring and of course eating. In order to be able to see as many sites as possible & not waste time deciphering metro/bus maps, we bought tickets for the “hop on hop off” bus tour. There is no tour guide but it stops at the main sites of the city where you are able to get on and off whenever you like. The bus comes about every fifteen minutes and your pass is valid for twenty-four hours. I would definitely recommend a hop on hop off tour only because you don’t waste time and even when you’re on the bus you are able to see a lot of the city. It’s also an inexpensive option, approximately €15/person (you can bargain with the people selling the tickets). There is no reason you can’t walk from site to site as well but that depends on the mobility of the people you are travelling with and how much heat you can take — while I was there the temperature was above 30°C — talk about sweltering heat!
The Colosseum is one of the largest amphitheatres from the ancient world with over eighty archway entrances & four levels! It is considered one of the seven wonders of the world and when it was in use it could host up to 55 000 spectators (all seated according to rank). The Colosseum was used for staging deadly combat between animals & gladiators (so sad that death was used for entertainment).
The day we went to visit Colosseum the temperature was over 30°C…aka very hot and I’m sure you know that this wonder of the world is not air conditioned! There is usually a line up to enter the Colosseum so my suggestion for future travellers is to go either in the morning or evening, that way it will be ever so slightly cooler and less busy!
The site itself is AMAZING… it’s even larger in real life than I had expected! It was fantastic to see the pully system the ancients used to lower and raise the animals to the main platform as well as where the highest ranking spectators would sit and view.
To enter the site costs €12/person with discounts for seniors and students who are part of the European Union (EU). This price gains you access to the site but no guide and no line skipping and does not allow you to enter the fourth floor of the site. To enter the fourth floor you are required to pay another €9/person, (you’ll find that seeing all the sites eventually gets costly). While paying more to skip the line may seem like a good idea (especially in the heat) it’s not really necessary as the line moves quickly and most of it is in the shade.
The Arch is located minutes away from the Colosseum, standing 21 meters high and 25 meters wide it is a wonder in itself! The carvings and sculptures are marvellous and is likely one of the best-preserved monuments in Rome. I didn’t spend much time staring at the arch but I did get some good visuals from the Colosseum. Visiting the Arch is free, however, there is a small fence that surrounds it, preventing visitors (or locals for that matter) from touching or damaging the monument.
The Pantheon is a very popular tourist site (just teaming with people) which makes it difficult to take a picture sans tourist. Historically, the Pantheon was used as a temple but in modern day Rome it is used as a Church. Oh! Fun Fact… Did you know that the columns in front of the Pantheon were accidentally constructed ten feet lower than the original design? The roof of the building had to be adjusted to fit on top of the lower columns (see now you have something to share at the dinner table tonight)! While this site was interesting to visit it wasn’t my most favourite of the Roman sites to see. There is no cost associated with entering the site and is located across from a beautiful fountain. Perhaps one of the best things about this site is there is a delicious gelateria located on the corner.
So this is the Italian word for square not to be confused with pizza which is a food staple in my world. One of the many things I noticed in Rome was the sheer number of piazzas — Romans LOVE their squares. While there are several scattered across the city there are a few that are famous (which I of course visited).
This may be one of the most famous squares in Italy; decorated with three fountains (the one in the middle is the largest and was designed by Bernini)! This square is an entirely pedestrian with the perimeter home to many stylish restaurants and gelaterias. One of the focal points of the square is the Church of Saint Agnese. This church is beautiful on the inside and outside. Being able to wander around the square gives you a real appreciation for the Roman architecture. This particular square is so famous it was even referenced in one of my favourite TV shows Gilmore Girls! My favorite part of visiting this piazza was having some gelato and people watching while I sit on the edge of the fountain (careful not to fall in).
Piazza Del Rotonda
This square is the happy home of the Pantheon (see above); it is significantly smaller than the Piazza Navona and honestly would be much better seen in the morning or evening with fewer tourists. Because it is smaller the volume of tourists can be overwhelming.
Piazza Di Tervi
This piazza is one of the smaller ones I visited but is home to one of the most famous fountains in the world — Fountain Di Trevi! Read below for the legend surrounding this magnificent fountain.
Europe is famous for its numerous castles… perfect for a wannabe princess like me! The castle of Saint Angelo is located by the Umberto Bridge and is circular in shape. Originally it was built to be a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian but today it is a museum. At one point this castle was the tallest building in Rome! While I didn’t visit the museum inside the castle on the outside was grand with a beautiful park and a river running along the front.
The Fountain Di Trevis beautiful — made out of a white marble and the focal point for the Piazza Di Trevi (very clever). The piazza itself is small with the main attraction being the fountain. Many many many tourists gather here daily to participate in the coin toss ceremony. Legend states that if you throw three coins into the fountain the first coin will ensure you return to Rome, the second will signify the start of a new romance and the third will ensure marriage. I, of course, not only visited the fountain but also threw three coins in (just to be safe). I’ll keep you posted if any of the legend come true.
The fountain has also made numerous appearances in movies thus adding to its popularity — one of my favourite flicks was When In Rome with Kristen Bell & Josh Duhamel. In the movie, the main character pulls out three coins from the fountain causing the owners of the coins to fall in love with her. Enter many comedic events here surrounding love and relationships.
I was in complete AWE when I saw the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio — jaw dropping in fact. This monument is absolutely stunning and is the focal point of the Piazza Venezia. It looks like a palace situated in the centre of Rome! This structure cannot be ignored made of white marble and its panoramic views of the city is a definite must see for all tourists. Historically, it was created to honour the first king of Italy with its focal point (the marvellous horseman). This monument is newer than other structures in Rome, with its completion in 1911. Great controversy surrounded this monument as several buildings & historic ruins were demolished to create a large enough space (which is sad since significant findings may have been destroyed). Today it is used as a museum. It’s a good idea to note here that facility use is free, however, don’t expect toilet seats (one of the sad realizations I have made in Europe).
Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Rome — it felt like my soul had returned home! I was disappointed with the lack of customer service that we received at our hotel and other tourist sites and about the fact that you have to pay to use public washrooms (usually €1-2/person). The sites themselves were well maintained and it felt like a dream that I was actually able to see them in real life! The food was great — but then again I’m a big carbohydrate lover and will unapologetically eat anything sweet. Rome is certainly a place I will visit again… I would rate my time here ♥♥♥♥ out of 5 hearts… definitely a place worth seeing if you haven’t been there before! Until we touchdown for landing at our next destination dream, explore, adventure.
Trotting Traveller ♥