While visiting St. John Lateran in Rome, Italy, I ran into a group of tourists posing in front of the basilica (it is one of the four main basilicas in Rome, along with St. Peter, Santa Maria Maggiore and St. Paul Outside the Walls; however, it is the oldest and actually has the highest rank of the four). Could not resist to capture -and share- the two sides of the “coin” I ran into…
When my friends and I decided upon a trip to Italy focused on Rome, I was really pumped to go back, see some familiar places and get to check off some that, though very important, I had failed to visit in my 2 prior trips to Rome (to my credit, they had been like 3-day stays each).
Lodging in Rome
All of us had prior experience with renting apartments while abroad as a way to get much cheaper lodging with the perks of a real kitchen, washer/dryer, and living room space so we could hang out late at night. www.vrbo.com is my starting point for any search like this. We found an apartment in Prati but, unfortunately, soon after booking, the building had some sewer problems so the agency that VRBO had connected us to, contacted us to offer other options. We took another apartment, very close to the U.S. Embassy (not for that reason) and paid the differential since it was a better apartment though it was beyond what we had hoped to spend. However, getting close to the date of travel and with not as many options for 3-bedroom apartments that we had liked when we first searched, we went for it. The agency that arranged the rental in Rome was very professional and helpful along the way with special requests; check them out next time you are headed to Italy: www.italyperfect.com. Our apartment’s owner was a marquesa, if that impresses you at all!
So What Was the Plan?
Our individual goals in this vacations coincided a good bit. One set of friends had not been to Rome so they would have to cover some of the basics we already had. Pompeii and the Sistine Chapel were top of my list but more on those in other entries…
As soon as we decided on the trip, we “discovered” that there were 3 other basilicas outside of what is known as the Vatican. They are elsewhere in Rome but technically you are in the Vatican when you are in these basilicas. We decided that these would be a great item for our arrival day due to all the walking and metroing required to see them – hence, we would not be tempted by naps! We ended up leaving Sta. M. Maggiore for another day but we found these basilicas, though not as massive as St. Peter’s, impressive in their own right. The basilicas are:
- St. John Lateran (former home of the Popes until not long ago at all – who knew)
- St. Paul Outside the Walls (the clarification is needed: there is one INSIDE the walls; and yes, Rome still has segments of wall around it; again, who knew… oh, and St. Paul is buried here under the chains that held him captive)
- Santa Maria Maggiore (near the Termini station).
Rome has some fan-TAS-tic ceilings – check them out!
One of the main things for me to see in Rome (what an unfair thing to type… Rome has SO much that is a must-see!) was the Pantheon. Folks, it is a 100 years and change away from being TWO THOUSAND years old! Can you wrap your mind around that??? I can’t! And it is STILL the world’s largest un-reinforced concrete dome. I should have seen this on my first visit! Oh, and I had NO idea the hole at the top was open! Cleverly positioned and hidden drains take care of that water when it rains!
We hit the Pantheon the day we went to the Papal Audience when we left the Vatican and started meandering streets. It was my 3rd Papal Audience with the last one having been WAY CLOSER to the Pope (check out my friend Chris’ account of that audience. As usual, the people watching sometimes is even better than the event itself!
In that meandering, we happened upon the Gelateria del Teatro, a well-known gelateria due to the quality and uniqueness of the flavors of the gelato. It was OUT OF THIS WORLD! Take a look at this!!
We also walked around Piazza Navona always full of life and tourists and peddlers… That area is even more interesting and full of locals in the evening. Meander the side streets and find restaurants and other gelaterias (when in Rome, you are required to have gelato no less than 2 times per day!). There is a lot in that area of town just around the corner on a side street!
As we headed back to the apartment, we decided to take a short detour and go to the Trevi Fountain so one set of friends could see it for the first time but, more importantly, so we could throw our coin to ensure a return to Roma! Again, the people watching is superb. I loved taking a couple of pictures of this couple as they examined the fountain.
After recovering from all that walking, we headed to Hostaria Il Mozzicone in Via Borgo Pio right outside the Vatican, a place I had visited in my two prior trips. As usual the food was awesome (the carbonara is their specialty and the ONLY thing I eat there) and the service cold – but never mind the service; as long as you go in up front not expecting friendly, you will be OK. Below my carbonara!
Food has AWESOME food and a food tour is a great way to discover. We did a great food tour and highlight recommend that.
Finally, to help us walk off some of the food coma, we walked over to St. Peter’s for a great night time view of this majestic place, something I had not done before (the go at night part!). A great way to cap our day!
In this trip, I also discovered why Rome IS the eternal city -> http://ilivetotravel.me/2012/04/22/why-rome-is-the-eternal-city/