For our 10th Anniversary we booked a flight from the US to Rome and back from Paris. We spent 4-5 days in each of the bookend cities but the middle of the trip had 3 nights in 3 different cities as part of an epic road, rail and plane journey to Paris. Day 1 of this trip found us renting a car at a Rome train station. We needed to be at our rental house in Vernazza in the Cinque Terra at 3. By our calculations we had about an hour to spend somewhere along the way. Based on the map it was a battle between Pisa and Florence. Pisa never really had a chance since all we knew about it was a leaning tower. We know there is more to Pisa than this but I digress.
After 3 plus hours of driving through the Italian countryside we find out selves at Garage Ponte Vecchio. 20 Euros to park all day or in our case 20 Euros for the hour. Worth it! We are now on the clock. We walk across the Ponte Vecchio, window shopping along the way. As we leave the bridge we look for a quick lunch. A deli is selling Panni and Waffles. While the Waffle is more of a Belgian treat it hit the spot. We walked around the square and the Duomo as we ate our lunch. I will be first to tell you 1 hour is not enough time to spend here if you have just an hour it can be done. We only saw the outside of the Duomo and the outside of the Baptistry. Both were amazing, we will be back to see the inside of each building not to mention all the museums and good food that we missed. From here we shopped our way back to the Ponte Vecchio. After we crossed the bridge we found a pastry shop. After a quick stop here we were back on the road racing toward Vernazza and the best Focaccia we have ever had…
Sometimes long vacations land us in unexciting but necessary places. Most extended trips find us at a laundry facility because we like to pack light and bring home lots of souvenirs in the form of clothes, chocolate and fun things for our kids. One morning in Rome found us at a laundry mat that was just north of our hotel, near Piazza Navona tucked down a street just wide enough for a Vespa. For those not familiar with laundry it takes some time and on vacation it seems to take twice as long. We usually try to plan it around a meal, usually the last breakfast before we travel to the next city.
After we started our wash we wandered the tight streets in the neighborhood. We seemed to be the only non-Romans around, which for us is always a good sign. Then we saw a café serving pastries. As we walked in again we were the only non-Romans is the house. In Rome at breakfast your drink choices are usually fresh orange juice, coffee or espresso. This particular place was serving fresh Blood Orange Juice. So we ordered what looked and tasted like croissants with orange crème and 2 glasses of orange juice. This was by far my favorite breakfast of the trip and probably any trip as the Blood Orange Juice was amazing. So if you find yourself in Italy, especially in the spring make sure to have some fresh orange juice it will make your morning.
For our 10th anniversary we left our kids home with both sets of grandparents and checked off a few items on our bucket list. Italy was on our list and Rome as part of it, but a place we went back to almost everyday and most nights while there was the Piazza della Rotonda and all the pedestrian shopping streets around it. This is the Piazza right in front of the Pantheon. One of the nights we were there eating dinner and it felt as if the world walked by our table as we shared pasta and a 4-cheese risotto.
By itself it is an amazing building built over 2,000 years ago it evokes an idea of how amazing Rome must have looked during its heyday. With solid columns quarried and built in Egypt, Italian Marble and a dome made from one of Rome’s greatest inventions cement. To get a better sense of the History of the Pantheon (and many other locations in Europe) we like to use the Rick Steve’s Europe Ap, we download and listen to the History Podcasts in our hotel and we download the Audio Tour podcast to listen to while on location. You can listen to the actual podcast here: Rick Steve’s Pantheon
The Pantheon Is on every ‘night-walk’ list we found. Besides being a close walk from the Trevi Fountain (a must at night) the Piazza comes to life at night and suffice it to say it is no ghost town during the day.
We ate 2 meals right by the Pantheon and one on the end of a shopping street heading towards the Trevi Fountain. As mentioned above one night we sat in a restaurant shared pasta and risotto and watched the piazza come alive. There were at least 3 other restaurants where your view could be similarly amazing. One day at lunch we stopped by a family run pan pizza shop, Super Pizza. It was within earshot of piazza. Here we got in line behind touring students and Father who ran the shop with his 20-something son was artfully and quickly cutting, weighing and plating food all while running the till. His son waited on the 12 or so tables they had for people who were not on tour or in a rush. We did not know this was separate at the time. We ordered and then sat down. They almost seemed embarrassed that we would have had to wait in line and then sit down. The son and father playfully jabbed back and forth at each other about who knows what the whole time we were there. Even though the food was not as good as the risotto this was my favorite meal.
For dessert we would opt to not order of the menu of where we were eating but to go to one of the many gelattaria’s and order gelato or a hot waffle with Nuttella on it. There are few things better than eating gelato and window-shopping this is especially true here.
One of our favorite things to do on vacations is go to the grocery store. This may sound a little lame but it is true. It is even truer when traveling outside the country. Right next to Super Pizza was a grocery store. The first thing we found here was Loacker Wafers. http://www.loacker.com/usa/eng_2297d969.html We carried a pack or 2 of these with us for the rest of our trip, it was a sad day when they were gone. We found fun Kinder chocolates to take home for our kids Easter Baskets. When we find a store we usually buy bottled water, other drinks and any snack that sounds good as they are much cheaper here and nice to have back in the hotel.
From the piazza there are at least 6 pedestrian shopping streets leading in all directions. While all directions will have what will be deemed ‘tourist trap’ stores there are many other stores that are worth walking by, even if you are just window shopping. Our favorite was a store that sold pottery from all over Italy. The funny thing is the shop was the part that stole the show; all the shelves were adjustable but appeared to have been built by a skilled carpenter a long time ago.
Whatever you do near or at the Pantheon you won’t be wrong because you are in Rome and in the moment…