When in Rome…

Rome Spanish Steps Night

Ciao! K and I are enjoying our first ever European tour together in which we will explore 3 of the most romantic and historic cities in the world – Rome, Barcelona and Paris. Our first stop of this adventure takes place in Rome. Rome, such a beautiful city. We’ve only had one full day here so far, but I’m already in love. But before I write about today, I’ll write about our very first experience as all visitors should experience.

We landed at about 12 noon at the Fiumicino airport and opted to take the train to our vacation apartment rental in the center of Campo de’ Fiori, a famous square with restaurants and a day market selling everything from spices to seafood to cured meats to touristy dust collectors.

Rome St Cecilia

After settling in, we headed to Trastevere for Rick Steves’ walking tour. Just like every other tourist in Europe, we’re strong followers on Rick Steves. His books are very detailed and they sometimes take you off the beaten path. Through this walking tour, we saw the Church of St. Cecilia, Piazza in Piscinula and the Piazza Santa Maria. Trastevere is a cute neighborhood inhabited by locals. We were instructed by our apartment rental manager to “get lost” in this neighborhood. We didn’t exactly get lost, since we always plan things out, but we did explore.

Taverna della Scalla Cacio y Pepe

For dinner, we landed at a mediocre Italian restaurant called Taverna della Scalla for a classic Roman dish, cacio y pepe (black pepper and parmesan pasta), Napoli pizza (margherita pizza with anchovies) and mozzarella di bufala with parma ham.

Rome Pantheon Night

From there, we took the Rome night walk tour since I am told… that is how everyone should first see Rome. Each of these destinations are beautifully lit. We started off at our apartment in Camp de’ Fiori then headed for Piazza Navona, one of the city’s most famous squares. The Piazza Navona is a lot larger than Campo de’ Fiori and it is filled with restaurants, street vendors and the famous Four Rivers Fountain. We headed for the Pantheon then to the Trevi Fountain. You can’t go to the Trevi and not throw in a coin, you just can’t. So, we did and left after a few dozen photos. Our last stop was the Spanish Steps. We hung out for a while, even sat on one of the many steps to people watch. It was beautiful. At the end of the walk, we were exhausted as that was a travel day. Stay tuned for our 2nd day of adventure!

Rome Trevi Fountain Night

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Rick Steves’ Rome 2010 – Jewish Ghetto Walk

Here is a shortened version of Rick Steves’ Jewish Ghetto Walk located here.

The Jewish Ghetto is at the east bank of the Tiber, near the Isola Tiberina and the Theater of Marcellus.  The day to avoid this walk is on Saturday when the synagogue and museum are closed.  This ghetto is the home to 15,000 Roman Jews forced to live here more than 300 years ago.

Download the Map from Rick Steve’s Page

Download the Audio Tour from Rick Steve’s Page

Ponte Fabricio


Start at the north end of the Ponte Fabricio.

What to see: Ponte Quattro Capi (“Bridge of the Four Heads”) – Statues of the four-faced pagan god Janus.

What to see: The embankment was buit in the late 19th century.  Before then, this was the most flooded zone along the Roman riverbank.

With your back to the river, at your left is the…

Synagogue (Sinagoga) and Jewish Museum (Museo Ebraico)


What to see: The Synagogue – This was the original center of the Jewish community.  The churchlike synagogue has a square dome, and is Art Nouveau with a dash of Tiffany.

What to see: The Jewish Museum shows off historically artifacts described in English.

Look for the yellow church across from the Ponte Fabricio…

Santa Maria della Pieta (a.k.a. San Gregorio)

Santa Maria della Pieta

What to see: The Santa Maria della Pieta – This is a Catholic church built to spread their faith to the Jews.

Walk towards the ancient Roman ruins, where there is a small square in front of the ruins called…

Largo 16 Ottobre 1943

This square is named for the date when the Nazis parked their trucks and threatened to take the Jews to concentration camps unless they came up with 50 kilos of gold.  In the end, they took the gold and the Jews.

Head to the ancient ruins…

Portico d’Ottavia

Portico D'ottavia

What to see: The Portico d’Ottavia is an archway built by the emperor Augustus.  This was once the cultural center in the Roman empire, until the fall of Rome.  The portico became a thriving fish market, and eventually into the Church of Sant’Angelo in Pescheria.

Now head to the main drag of the Jewish Ghetto…

Via del Portico d’Ottavia

Sora Margherita Associazione Culturale

What to eat: Sora Margherita Associazione Culturale – There is no sign but they have traditional Jewish fare.

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Rick Steve’s Rome 2010 – Trastevere Walk

Trastevere is the area west of the Tibur River and south of Vatican City.  The more I read about this area, the more I think about growing up in the Sunset District of San Francisco, and not really living up the more well traveled areas of San Francisco.  Like my childhood neighborhood, Trastevere is the more intimate part of Rome where residents pride themselves with never crossing the Tibur river to see the touristy side of Rome.

When: This walk can be made at anytime of day.  Dusk can be very atmospheric.  This walk can also be the prelude to the Night Walk Across Rome.

Download the Map from Rick Steve’s Page

Download the Audio Tour from Rick Steve’s Page

Start on the Ponte Cestio (Cestius Bridge)

Ponte Cestio

Isola Tiberina and the Tiber River

What to see: Ponte Cestio – Where Rome first began as a city.  It was the smallest point of the Tiber River that a ship could sail through, allowing it to be the connection between the Italian peninsula with the Mediterranean. There is a stone on the bridge with a faded inscription of “Caeser” dating AD 370.

What to see: Isola Tiberina – The island held the temple to Aesclepius, the god of medicine.  Now, the island’s largest structure is Fatebenefratelli, a public hospital favored by Roman women for childbirth.

What to eat: Sora Mirella – The most famous vendor of Rome’s summer refresher called a grattachecca, shaved ice with fruit-flavored syrup and chopped fruit.

Sora Mirella

Head south, and cross the street to…

Piazza in Piscinula

What to see: The square is famous for the oldest working church bell tower dating from 1069.

Exit the opposite of where you entered, and head uphill on Via dell’Arco de’ Tolomei, left on Via dei Salumi, right on Vicolo dell’Atleta, left on Via dei Genovesi, right on Via di Santa Cecilia, to get to…

Church of St. Cecilia

Santa Cecilia

What to see: The Church of St. Cecilia – Saint Cecilia was a converted Christian during a time of of persecution.  Her husband devoted himself to Christian burials in the catacombs until he was also killed.  When the Romans tried to kill Cecilia, they were unsuccessfully trying to suffocate her with steam for three days to appear as an accident, until they ended up beheading her.   Cecilia bequeathed her home to the community, which was eventually converted into this church.  Hour: Daily 9:30 to 12:30, 16:00 to 18:30.  Crypt Mon-Fri 10:15-12:15; Sat-Sun 11:15-12:15.

Backtrack to Via dei Genovesi and make a right to Viale Trastevere and left on Largo San Giovanni de Matha and enter…

Piazza Santa Maria


What to see: Church of Santa Maria – The first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Free, Daily 7:00-2100.

Once this walk is finished, it’s a good start towards the Night Walk Across Rome across the Ponte Sisto bridge into Campo d’ Fiori!

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Rick Steve's Rome 2010 – Night Walk Across Rome


Rick Steves is one of my heroes.  He seems like the nicest person on earth and he’s traveled to so many great places in Europe.  I’ve basically read Rick Steves’ Rome 2010 twice within the past 2 weeks and now I’m finally taking notes.  Follow along with me as I jot down his popular walks and tips.

Campo de’ Fiori

Start at the Giordano Bruno statue.

What to see: Theater of Pompey where Julius Caeser was assassinated.

What to eat: Forno – hot Pizza.

Piazza Navona

What to see: The Four Rivers Fountain – Statues of four river gods support an Egyptian obelisk.

What to eat: Tre Scalini – Famous for their rich chocolate ice cream

The Pantheon

What to see: The Pantheon – It will be beautifully flood lit.

From the Pantheon to Piazza Colonna

What to eat: Tazza d’Oro Casa del Caffe – granita di caffe con panna (coffee slush with ice cream)

What to see: Egyptian obelisk – Taken by Augustus after his victory against Mark Antony and Cleopatra

What to eat: Giolitti’s – Rome’s most famous gelateria.

The Trevi Fountain

What to see: The Trevi Fountain – This was built to show off the abundance of water brought to the city from the great aqueducts.  The statue depicts the figure of Ocean at random areas of his watery Kingdom.

The Spanish Steps

What to see: The Spanish Steps – Named for the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican which has been around for the last 300 years.

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Planning For Our Trip to Europe

Let’s begin planning for our trip, these are the main topics we are focused on right now:

  1. What is our budget?
  2. Where are we going?
  3. When are we going?


moneySince S and I do not want to use up all of our vacation at once, we decided to take a 2-week vacation.  So, we now know the length.  Next we asked some of our friends how much a typical 2-week trip to Europe was. Most people mentioned around $5000 a person if we are staying in hotels and $4000 if we were staying in Hostels.  Since I’m traveling with S, I want to make sure she’s safe throughout the trip, so Hostels (cue the movie) are out of the question.  I don’t want to have to worry about someone creeping up on her in the middle of the night, or having our luggage stolen from us when we’re in the bathroom (this may happen, but European backpacking is usually safe for men and women).  Therefore, we decided to stay within a $5000 budget range per person.  That’s $10,000, which I hope we do not completely spend.  Here is our proposed budget:

Flight 2 x $1000 $2000
Accomodations 14 x $150 $2100
Food 14 x $75 $1050
Transit (Trains, Buses, Taxis) 14 x $50 $700
Shopping 14 x $50 $700
Attractions 14 x $30 $420
Leftover for everything else   $3030

I highly doubt we would spend this much, but it’s always good to plan a little extra just in case.


So, knowing how much we wanted to spend, now it’s time to figure out where we want to go.  Since this is my first time going to Europe, I wanted to go to the more touristy areas.  When Western Europe comes to mind, I think of London, Amsterdam, Rome, and Paris.  S has already been to Amsterdam, and London seems too much like many American cities. So, the logical choice was Paris and Rome.  S also mentioned that she really wanted to go to Barcelona in Spain.  Looking at the map of Europe, it doesn’t look like any of these cities were really that accessible to each other.  My imagination of traveling through Europe was through trains thanks to the great game of “Ticket to Ride”.  With further research, though, we’ve found that flying is another economical and efficient manner of traveling between cities.

Here’s our list of cities we would like to go to: Barcelona, Paris, and Rome.

Date of Travel

Timing this trip can make or break our budget.  If we decide to fly out in High Season for any of the countries, we’d be paying a pretty high premium for flights and lodging.  Plus, we’d miss people-watching many of the locals (that would be no fun).  We decided to choose our dates based on weather, middle to low season, and work schedules.  The best time for us is October.  Fall weather should not be too bad, and a majority of the tourists are long gone.  Plus we should be saving almost half on airfare and lodgings.  We also decided to maximize our savings by flying out on weekdays so we’re selecting dates on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

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