Italian Honeymoon Pt. 1: Rome
It has been over six months since we drifted back down to Earth from our rendezvous in Italy. In fact, seven months ago today we were in Venice.
We continue to settle into our little world and daily figure out what that looks like. Days where we find an equilibrium are balms to all the change. We’re slowly creating a rhythm.
There is such a sweetness in looking back at our first few days of marriage in Italy. It was not perfect. (More on this and newlywed life after the Italy series.) We were both overcoming some gnarly colds, on absolute overload from the culmination of truly insane year of wedding planning, we were on our own navigating a foreign country neither of us had ever visited and we didn’t speak the language — but we were married and it was Italy.
Luke and I have really enjoyed piecing together what we remember so we can share it with you. Let us know if you have any more questions about planning a trip to Italy. We would be beside ourselves if you asked.
Airbnb: Casa Lucchese, a loft apartment built on the roof of a church from the 1500s. Just five blocks north of the Tiber River. Quick access to metro stop. Wonderful neighborhood - quiet and not many tourists. Great coffee shop just around the corner. We loved taking nighttime walks through the neighborhood.
Most memorable meal in Rome: Pizza Florida - typical Roman pizza sold by weight rather than by slice. We tried lots of different kinds. Spicy tomato, salami, and prosciutto were some of our favorites in the city. Right across the street from some really neat ruins. | Runner up: Pasticceria Barberini - a cafe we’ll mention farther down with the best pastries and cappuccini! About half a mile outside of Trastevere.
Local Roman tip: We found that the best time to explore Rome was at night on foot. Our Airbnb host Nicola told us that he thought Rome was a dirty city with lots of litter but at night everything looked nicer and more picturesque! Seeing sights at night is definitely one of the things we liked best about Rome.
Our favorite Roman neighborhoods/areas visited: Tiber River, Jewish Ghetto, Trastevere, Monti, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and surrounding area, Aventine Hill, Vatican and garden tour, Spanish Steps.
Special experience in Rome: Lida is a local photographer and guide we found through an Airbnb experience. She became an instant friend and she is remarkably knowledgeable about the area and its history. We should have done her photo tour on the first day in Rome to get her advice for the rest of our stay. She treats guests to the most authentic Italian cappuccino and pastry afterward! There was another couple who joined us and the small group made for such a pleasant morning. We actually ran into the other folks from the tour later that night and it was a nice surprise to see familiar faces. // See the rest of our session with Lida here.
Unexpected bonuses in Rome: Temple of Hercules, Aventine Hill, including a 5th century church - Basilica of Santa Sabina (breathtaking, small, and quiet), Teatro de Marcelo (inspiration for Coliseum), and Giardino Degli Aranci (“The Orange Garden”) seen below with exceptional views of the city at sunrise.
Lesson learned in Rome: We learned to watch out for street artists with reprints. Peddlers near all main attractions can be quite pushy. Middle-school-aged gypsy girls are known to pickpocket. Italian washing machines: look up what the buttons mean.
Best mode of transportation in Rome: Use public metro bus lines for inter-city travel. Know main metro routes and what is along them. (Plenty of resources online in English.) Rome is definitely walkable but metros can save time if you need to make a haul around town. The Roma Pass can be useful if going to main attractions and using the metro busses a lot.
If we go back to Rome what we’d do differently: Keep an umbrella in your bag. We were soaked on this day at the Vatican below. Also, keep an “escape route” back to lodging in mind at all times. After the Vatican soaking wanted to go back to our lodging earlier than planned and had trouble getting there quickly.
Vatican: We climbed to the top of the Basilica dome! We opted not to cheat with the elevator; it doesn’t take you all the way up. I loved the garden tour! Absolutely magical - even in the pouring rain. We did have to run to make the tour — and they almost left us. Once you begin the tour there’s no getting out of it. You’re basically on lockdown. The security guards are no joke. The Vatican is its own country, remember? Vatican bonus: There is a small cafe near the Vatican gift shop. It is nothing special — however — our tour guide told us that milk in a Vatican cafe cappuccino comes from the Pope’s cows. A Papal cow milk cappuccino. Weird but a novelty not to be overlooked. Luke and I exchanged a knowing look and made a bolt for the cafe.
And now for some general Italian tips.
(Stay tuned! Tuscany and Venice posts will have more!)
Gelato: Don’t order gelato that is heaped up in mounds and colored vibrantly. According to our local friend Lida, the best gelato is found in low-key establishments with covered tubs. Pistachio is the most telltale flavor: Is it an unnaturally bright green (ew) or pale? Lida also says to avoid shops with cutout ice cream cones on the signs.
Eat at mom-and-pop shops with a limited menu (bonus if the menu is not in English!). Stray far from the main drag and touristy shops with English menus.
The Google Translate app is your best friend. Download it before you go and learn how to use it. Best uses: (1) Type out a question in English and show the Italian version to your Italian friend, (2) Scanning labels and signs — e.g. crackers in the grocery store to make sure you’re getting the parmesan kind.
Don’t pay more than €1.50 - €1.75 for a cappuccino. Drink it standing up at the bar with locals or you might get charged a whopping fee for sitting down. Look for shops packed with locals. There is no “coffeeshop culture” like in the US where you linger and lounge. Order it quickly and loudly, drink it standing with your pastry perched on a ledge, and then you are on your way. And it is rare to order a milk-based drink after the morning. You might get odd looks.
The cornetto is our favorite pastry. It is similar to a croissant but has a filling. Best flavors: cream, apricot, pistachio, chocolate. (You’ll see a lot of apricot and pistachio in Italy.)