Leisure in Rome deals – 2/4/2011

Saw some great deals on vacation rentals in Rome this morning. Check ’em out.

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Rome – Day 5

The last full day of every city were our “free” days. We used this day to visit the places we didn’t get to see and to shop.

Rome Il Fornaio Pastry Window

We started the day off with some Italian pastries from Il Fornaio, a cute little bakery in Campo de’ Fiori where we stayed. They had hundreds of different kinds of pastries ranging from biscottis to freshly baked bread. After making one of the hardest decisions in my life, I chose the sfogliatelli, a flaky pastry filled with a citrus ricotta cheese. I searched all over Google and I cannot figure out what K got. It was some kind of biscotti filled with a fig biscuit. In addition, we got some waffle cookies and amaretti cookies. My pastry was amazing. It was light, crispy, fluffy and sticky. But, the best items we purchased were the amaretti cookies. Light, crispy biscuits that just melted in my mouth. Yum!

Rome St Peters Basilica Inside

As I mentioned here, we weren’t able to go into St. Peter’s Basilica. Monday was our free day and it’s free to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, so we took the metro over to Vatican City for attempt #2. After an hour wait in the rain, we were in. Words cannot describe the feeling being inside this church. This is the most beautiful church in the world and all other churches I’ll see here on out will never compare. You have a church built and designed by Michaelangelo. You have an alter built by famous sculptor, Bernini. You have the tomb of St. Peter dead center of the church. Things couldn’t be more perfect.

Rome St Peters Basilica Tomb

Now for the cool part… We were able to take a tour of the tombs under the church. There they have every pope in history buried starting from St. Peter himself. Even the recently deceased Pope John Paul II. I’d love to take a tour of the catacombs underneath, but that tour must be reserved months in advanced.

Rome Porchetta

Next on the agenda was the Mouth Of Truth. But before that, we must eat lunch! We headed over to Piazza di Pietra for lunch. We found a cute little cafe that happened to sell porchetta. I’m a fan of Roli Roti in SF, and I had to try authentic porchetta. I ordered a plate full of it while K got a ham and brie sandwich. I was actually really disappointed with this porchetta. It was cold and the skin wasn’t crispy at all. On top of that, it was way too salty and too strong in rosemary flavor. So, disappointing. But, K’s sandwich was bomb. I ended up stealing half of his while he finished my platter of porchetta.

Rome Mouth Of Truth Sam

We hopped on the metro to the Circus Maximus stop to see the Mouth Of Truth. You probably don’t know this, but I’m a huge Audrey Hepburn fan. I’ve probably seen every movie she’s ever made. One of which was Roman Holiday where she plays a princess that spends a day in Rome. In one scene, she’s visits the Mouth Of Truth with Gregory Peck. This scene put the Mouth Of Truth on my agenda. I must stick my hand in this mouth. So, we did! Right after a whole tour bus of Chinese people.

Rome Bad Pizza

For dinner, K and I tried to go to yet another Anthony Bourdain restaurant in Campo de’ Fiori, but we were denied since they were fully booked. Not my proudest moment, but we ended up at a terrible Italian restaurant with a  help-yourself coke machine. Note to self, never eat at a restaurant with a coke machine. K had the spaghetti bolognese while I had a margherita pizza. Although, it wasn’t really a margherita pizza. It was more like an overly-cheesy pizza with halved grape tomatoes. Definitely not what I was craving. I must be eating pizza in the wrong places because every pizza I had over there was terrible. From what I’ve tasted, San Francisco has better pizza than Rome. The pasta was good though, and a large portion at that. I love how every single order of pasta we got, the noodles were al dente. I love al dente pasta.

Rome Via dei Condotti

So for our last night, we thought we’d finish it off with the same walk that started it off. The Rome night walk. Again, we made our way from the Spanish Steps all the way to the Pantheon and then Piazza Navona. We even took a stroll along the Via dei Condotti, the expensive shopping street in Rome that leads up to the Spanish Steps. Tomorrow, we head for Barcelona.

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Rome – Day 3

Rome St Peters Basilica Exterior

Day 3 of our Rome trip was dedicated to the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. During this trip, we visited the Vacitan Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Square. We, unfortunately, did not make it to St. Peter’s Basilica that day because it was closed off for a meeting of the bishops. We ended up coming back here on our last full day in Rome (which I will write about in another post).

Again, thanks to K’s expert planning, we cut through the long lines with our pre-purchased passes. We did get the package that included the 3-hour guided tour for 30 euros each person which I would not recommend. Rick Steves already had a guided tour in his Rome book and you can even download an audio guide right for your iPhone! Tickets without the audio tour are about 15 euros.

We unintentionally visited on a day when there was a meeting of the bishops, so St. Peter’s Basilica was closed for most of the day. Our guide was in such a rush to get us in before it closed, we did the entire Vatican Museum and Sistine chapel in 1 hour. We missed a lot of the explanations of the pieces in the museum because of this. Then, we found out we couldn’t get into the Basilica, so we walked through the entire museum AGAIN to get to the Hall of Raphael which we were initially going to skip to get into the Basilica.

Rome Vatican Raphael Last Painting

The Vatican is filled with some of the world’s greatest paintings and sculptures collected by the Roman Catholic Church. We made our way through the Pinacoteca (the picture gallery), the sculpture museums, and the Sistine Chapel.

Rome Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Seeing the Sistine Chapel in person is surreal as it was painted by the greatest Renaissance artists – Michaelangelo, Raphael and Bernini. I was able to sneak in a few photos. Hey, everyone else was doing it, so I had to grab a shot for the blog.

Rome Tivoli Garden 1Rome Tivoli Garden 5

At around 3pm, K and I headed for the train station to a little town 30 minutes outside of Rome called Tivoli. Tivoli is famous for Hadrian’s Villa, ruins of a retreat for one of Rome’s emperors, and Villa d’Este, home to a beautiful Renaissance garden. For some reason, this garden was what I wanted to see the most on my visit to Rome. It’s probably because it was featured in the Lizzie McGuire Movie. The garden is definitely one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Filled with ponds, waterfalls, fountains and tons of trees, I felt like I was in a scene of some kind of fairy tale or the Secret Garden.

Rome Percento Duck Ragu

For dinner, we headed back over to Rome to the Trastevere district to a cute little restaurant called Percento. It wasn’t intentional, but this was our expensive meal of this leg of the trip. Here we had beef carpaccio, Italian ceviche, seafood raviolis and pasta with duck ragu. Everything was extremely fresh. The pasta was home made, the fish was caught earlier that morning, the beef melted in our mouths. Things couldn’t be any better. Service was incredibly slow, but I wasn’t sure if that was because of the culture. We finished the meal off with chocolate ganache with coffee and pistachio ice cream. Yeah, that was a good day. I’ll try to write up our day trip to Florence for Day 4 tonight or tomorrow. Bye!

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Rome – Day 2

Rome Colosseum Exterior

We conquered a majority of Rome on our second day. Victor Emmanuel II monument, Capital Hill, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Colosseum and the Borghese Gallery. I’m glad to say we hit it all and even called in the night early. The trick is to buy the Roma Pass. It gets you in to your first 2 museums for free and gives you free metro rides around the city.

Although we should have, we didn’t take the metro this day. My legs are still throbbing from walking all the way from Camp de’ Fiori to the Borghese Gallery. If you know Rome, you’ll know that is a crazy long walk.

Rome Giolittis Breakfast

We started the day with a classic Italian breakfast – pastry with an espresso – at Giolitti’s, the world-famous gelateria. We initially wanted to get gelato, but thought 8:30am was a little too early for ice cream. So, we opted for the pastry. It was probably one of the best pastries I’ve ever had. Think a chewy chocolate croissant filled with Nutella.

Rome Pantheon Day

First on the sightseeing list was the Pantheon. There are several “pantheons” in Europe, but Rome’s is definitely the first. It was initially built in 126 AD. That’s over 1800 years old! Once used as a church, the Pantheon now houses the tombs of Rome’s most famous artists and kings including Raphael and Victor Emmanuel II.

Rome Emmanuel II

Next we headed over to the Emmanuel II Monument to take a few photos. This is probably one of the grandest buildings in all of Rome. The monument was built in the 1920s as an homage to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy.

Rome Capitoline Hill Horse Statue

Just around the corner is Capitoline Hill. This hill houses a handful of museums filled with art, temple ruins, and statues and paintings from emperor Marcus Aurelius’ collection. The Temple of Jupiter was once ancient Rome’s most important temple and the little remains of this building are found in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. The Tabularium was by far my favorite part of this group of museums. Not only because it has a cool name, it gave me my first “wow” in Rome. The Tabularium houses the remains of the Temple of Veiovis and has panoramic views of the Roman Forum.

Rome Forum View From Tabularium

We headed for the Roman Forum for a walking tour of the most densely populated area of Roman ruins. The forum was the heart of ancient home with the city’s oldest and most important governmental buildings. Just reading through Rick Steve’s walking tour of this site taught me so much about ancient Roman culture and modern day culture. Like, how Star Trek gained inspiration for its names from Emperor Nero, Rome’s leader in the 50-60s AD who was against Christianity, and Romulus from “Romulus and Remus,” the two brothers who founded Rome.

Rome Palatine Hill Ruins

Next on the list was Palatine Hill, the birthplace of Rome. Which is now ruins of a giant palace, Palatine Hill has a ton of history – birthplace of Rome’s first emperor, homes to several emperors after that, the hill in which Hercules defeats Cacus for stealing cattle, etc. Too much to go over here, but very interesting nonetheless.

Rome Cavour 313 Buffalo

So, believe it or not, we finished with everything above in the morning. We took an hour break at Cavour 313 for a quick lunch of traditional Italian bar food. K ordered the buffalo platter which included dry, cured buffalo and 2 kinds of cheeses made from buffalo milk with a drizzle of really good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I had the spinach salad with pears and some kind of creamy herb cheese. Both were delish, but K’s definitely was the highlight.

Rome Colosseum Inside

In the blink of an eye, we headed for the Colosseum. THANK GOODNESS we had the Roma Pass, otherwise we would’ve had to wait in a line several hours long. We cut through the line in a breeze and began our self-guided tour courtesy of Rick Steves. That’s another reason why we’re quickly going through each destination. Not really because we’re in a rush, but because we’re able to guide ourselves around each site with commentary from Rick Steve’s tour books. The Colosseum is the Colosseum. Not much to say here, except that it was really cool to see in person. If you’ve watched Gladiator, you know everything about this place.

Rome Borghese Gallery

Last but not least, we headed for the Borghese Gallery way up north of Rome. Note: If you want to visit this museum, you must make reservations in advanced. It sells out quickly and you’re only allowed to be in the museum for 2 hours. Borghese was a famous cardinal in Rome and was an avid art collector. His villa in which the museum is housed showcases the works of Raphael, famous sculptor Bernini, and another famous painter Carvaggio. The pieces in this museum are very unique and it definitely stands out amongst other art collections. The most memorable for me is Bernini’s sculpture of Apollo and Daphne. This statue shows Daphne in the process of turning into a tree as she is escaping from the perusing Apollo.

Rome Giolittis Gelato

We were pooped after this marathon of a day, so we rewarded ourselves with some gelato from Giolitti’s! They’re famous for their chocolate gelato, so we got that and I added a scoop of pistachio. Did you know they add home made, unsweetened, whipped cream on top of the ice cream? I’m still not sure if I like the combination, but I was impressed. At about 8pm, K and I headed back home to eat our leftovers from the night before and crashed for our next day of events. Stay tuned!

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