Travel Journal: Italy – Part 7, Rome Activities

Living it up in the capital of Italy on this Travel Tuesday

Our final stop of the trip was Rome.  Honestly, I was wary of Rome.  It sounded like a big city, very New York.  In the end it did feel like NYC but I actually liked it better than Florence, which was the exact opposite of what I expected.  I think the reason was that while it was touristy, I still saw glimpses of local life, like people walking to work in the morning.  Also, the food here was better than the food in Florence, and we know it’s always about the food for me.

Night of July 12th

We woke up in Amalfi and took the ferry to Salerno where we were able to catch a train to Rome.  It was an easy trip but definitely took some time so we were anxious to explore and move our legs once we got to Rome.  We dropped our stuff off and took a nice long walk to the Piazza Navona and the surrounding areas.  After a coffee break it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.  We made sure to take advantage of our hotel’s rooftop for a nice pre-dinner cocktail.

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Piazza Navona is a pretty cool esplanade to just chill in

I was so excited to be drinking my signature Jack and Diets after only drinking wine that I perhaps overdid it.  I drank several of them very fast and pretty much didn’t even make it all the way through dinner.  It was just a Wednesday, but it felt so lively!  I loved walking the streets without a care in the world.

Night of July 13th

Rome is big and there is a LOT to see.  I really wanted to knock out all the touristy stuff at once and then spend the rest of the trip relaxing so I booked one massive, all-day tour.  And I do mean all day.  This tour lasted about 7 hours and took us to all the major sites: the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Vatican.

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Honestly, the success of these tours is so dependent on your tour guide.  While I liked the organization we used, I wasn’t impressed with our specific tour guide.  He just wasn’t super engaging.  He talked a LOT but didn’t seem to interact much with us.  He was one of those people who talked a lot but didn’t say much, so I didn’t feel like I learned a ton.  The exception was the Colosseum, where I picked up a few interesting nuggets.  By the time we got to the Vatican, however, we were totally drained.  It was stunning, but it was harder to appreciate by that point, especially when our guide droned on about the boring stuff and then rushed through the truly interesting pieces like “blah blah blah boring statue blah blah blah tapestry blah blah blah Michelangelo…oh by the way that’s the exact spot where the Pope stands ok moving on.”  Wait what?!  Gimme more Pope talk!

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The Pope’s balcony

After our marathon tour, we relaxed for a minute before getting ready for dinner.  We decided to eat in the Trastevere area, across the river because we had received a restaurant recommendation.  We really liked the area (it seemed to be where the younger, student crowd hung out) and stayed around there for drinks afterwards.

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Young folks just hanging in the square, as young folks do (in Trastevere0

Night of July 14th

I knew nothing about the Jewish Ghetto before this trip.  I only discovered it because I followed a rabbit hole after reading one obscure restaurant recommendation.  After reading about the area of town, I booked a tour for the first half of the day as our last scheduled activity of the honeymoon.  I’m so glad I did because it was probably my favorite tour of the entire honeymoon.

Here, Jews are neither Ashkenazi or Sephardic, they are Roman – a culture that predates the others (they were already there before the destruction of the beit hamigdash).  Way back in the day, the Pope quarantined Jews in this small area by the river (considered undesirable and unhygienic due to flooding).  It is there that they were persecuted by the Nazis and where they developed an interesting and unique culture that flourished.  Our tour guide, Sarah, had unique insight as her grandmother still lives there in the same apartment where she was born.  It was a Friday morning and every person we passed nodded at Sarah and gave her a kind “Shabbat Shalom”.  After walking around the entire area (it’s small), we toured the museum as well as the beautiful synagogue.  They had so many amazing artifacts, including tapestries and ketubahs (below).  It was cool to hear how different their traditions are from ours here in the US.  Their ketubahs, for instance, have a unique triangular bottom so they can display their families’ coat of arms.  While we use our ketubah as artwork, they don’t display theirs at all because it is considered bad luck.

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Bullet holes in a siddur from a terrorist attack.  This saved a man’s life and was opened to a passage that reads (roughly) “I will send an angel”.
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Before the roundups, the community gave the Nazis 50 kilos of gold to let them be (receipts shown above), but they were rounded up anyway.  1,038 were taken in the first roundup.  Only 16 came back.
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The main synagogue is stunning.  There are stars on the ceiling to remind us of G-d’s promise to Abraham to make the people as numerous as the stars in the sky.  All other colors in the synagogue are yellow and red, the colors of Rome, as a thank you to the Roman people.

Since we were right there, we crossed the bridge over to Trastevere for lunch.  We noticed a festival being set up so we made plans to go back that night for supper.  We ate in the middle of the bustling Trastevere streets and then walked down to the river for the Lungo di Tevere festival.  Basically, the bank of the Tiber River comes to life every night of July with pop ups.  There are musical performances, beer gardens, food tents, and carnival games.  We found a great tent that was part bar, part musical act, and part bookstore.  All right on the river.  It was a great way to end the night and is a must if you’re in Rome in July.

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Night of July 15th

Our final day in Rome and we had zero plans.  We decided to walk to the Spanish Steps for some sightseeing.  It was nice to feel the hum of all the tourists and stare at all the high-end designer windows.  After that, however, we decided to head to the Monti area for a more low key experience because there were some places I wanted to check out.

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Rome has the coolest fountains!  Plug the hole and it becomes a drinking fountain.  Sadly, the mayor began removing these fountains right after we left, much to the chagrin of the Roman people.  These fountains were both unique and practical during the intense summer heat.
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While walking around near the Spanish Steps, we stumbled into a cathedral that looked simple on the outside but was, in fact, a gilded masterpiece.  We were lucky to happen upon it during mass – seeing a mass in Rome was a pretty cool experience.

The fist stop was Mercato Monti, which was a collective of artisans in a warehouse space.  It was very similar to Artists and Fleas, here in NYC.  I loved all the jewelry!

From there we walked around Via Urbana, which has tons of great restaurants and boutiques – the whole area does.  This area of town definitely felt more local, and I highly recommend checking it out.

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A cool vintage shop in Monti

After a full day of walking around, we got ready for our final meal, which was in the Piazza Navona area.  Again, we saw how just a few streets away from one of the busiest tourist destinations seemed to calm down immensely.  We stayed in the area for a cocktail because we wanted to make the most of the last night of our honeymoon.  Then it was off to bed before our full day of travel that began before the sunrise.

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Fruit stands outside our hotel

Rome Details

  • Accommodations: We stayed at the Relais Trevi 95, and I would highly recommend it.  The rooms are small (I would liken it to what is being referred to as a pod hotel), but everything is super modern and nice.  Side note: we actually had to upgrade our room on the last night because our 4th night in Rome was not originally planned.  A couple weeks before leaving, our outbound flight was cancelled so we extended by a day.  By the time we found out, the room we had been staying in was booked and they only had the larger one available.  I will say, the bigger room didn’t feel like a pod hotel and was molto bene!  Other reasons I liked this hotel: they had a roof deck, the location could not have been more convenient, and the staff was super nice.
  • Tips:
    • Stay by the Trevi Fountain: Some people will tell you to stay in Trastevere since it’s the “cool” area and you’ll want to be there at night for dinner/bars.  I would actually recommend you stay right by the Trevi Fountain.  Yes, it’s super touristy, but cabs are prevalent in Rome so you’ll never have a problem getting to Trastevere for dinner if you so choose.  Also, when there’s a language barrier, it’s nice to be able to simply say “Trevi Fountain” to a cab driver and they’ll know exactly where to drop you off at the end of the night.  We were literally steps from the fountain itself so as long as we got dropped off there, we could find our way to the hotel.  Also, you’re going to want pictures at the fountain.  It’s mobbed at all hours but the crowds certainly thin out at night.  We didn’t mind being there after midnight since we knew we were just steps from our bed and it meant we got great shots of the fountain and our respective coin tosses without other tourists in the photos.
    • Go to Monti: This was definitely a cool area of the city.  It felt like we were walking around Chelsea or the East Village.
    • Tour the Jewish Ghetto: Like I said, this was my favorite tour of our trip.  This area – and this sect of Judaism – have a history like none other.  Even if you’re not Jewish, I think you would still highly enjoy it.  My Catholic beau seemed to like it!  This is the company we worked with, and I can’t speak more highly of them and our tour guide, Sarah.
  • Bottom Line: Over the course of our trip we hit up two major cities, Florence and Rome.  While I expected to like Florence better, I much preferred Rome.  In Florence I noticed only tourists.  In Rome; however, I spied regular Romans amidst the Americans, walking to work.  Also, anyone we talked to from Rome was very proud to claim they were locals (and not from the suburbs).  I loved the hometown pride and also trusted their restaurant recommendations (which were pretty spot-on).
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Not gonna lie, the Trevi Fountain is pretty spectacular