We arrived in Rome at 7 pm, flying from Phoenix via London. This made for a long travel day, but the timing was perfect to avoid jet lag!
We grabbed a taxi to our hotel, Bernini Bristol. This is a 5 star hotel that would be 4 stars in America. The lobby was really pretty, location wonderful, but as is typical in Europe, the room was small and plain.
Rome Day 1
Food Tour in Rome
Every city that I visit, I like to start the trip with a food tour. This is a great way to try all of the local specialities in a sample size, and see what your favorites are. In less than 4 hours we sampled: cappuccino, bruschetta (proper pronunciation is ‘bruise-ketta’ , pasta, pizza, gelato, wine, cheese, tiramisu, cannoli, suppli, and cornetti – whew!!
One really interesting fact that I learned is how to spot the ‘real’ gelato. 90% of gelato sold in Italy is fake, in the sense that they use chemicals and artificial flavors and colors to make it look pretty. These first two photos show typical ‘fake’ gelato – see how puffy it is, and how vibrant and artificial the colors are? Chemicals are needed to make gelato stand that high, which doesn’t sound very appealing to me 🙂
The key to finding natural (and tastier!) gelato, is to look for the places that do NOT have super bright colors, and that do NOT pile their gelato up really high. This photo show gelato made in the traditional way, using real fruits and foods for coloring, and avoiding the fake stuff. It was delish!
After our food tour, we walked around Rome for a bit to burn off all of those calories! We ended up walking 15 miles that day, so we didn’t feel guilty about fully enjoying all of the food. I like to do lots of walking and fitness activities when I travel so that I can fully enjoy the local food without guilt:)
Night Time Colosseum Visit
We were lucky enough to have a private tour of the colosseum at night.
This was great to avoid the crowds and also to be able to visit down below to the normally closed dungeon area to really get a sense of the gladiators life.
Our guide is one of the archeologists on the team that is still extracting ruins around the colosseum, so we had an in depth view of this fascinating history!
Dinner in Trastevere
After all of our walking, we were hungry when it came to dinner time (remember, it Italy, dinner time is around 9pm). We took a taxi to the area of Trastevere, which is known to be a foodie’s paradise. Based on the recommendation of our food tour guide, Gigi, we tried the place known for ‘the best pasta in Rome’ – Taverna Trilussa Trastevere.
It was the best meal of our trip! We started with a cheese platter for two, which would have easily fed four people. In Italy, they seem to use market fresh ingredients that are natural and without preservatives, and it really shows in the taste of the delicious meals!
Then came the pasta, which they cook in front of the table, and serve it right in the cooking pan. WOW. I usually don’t like pasta very much, but this was the. best. ever. !! Simple and authentic ingredients, you can just taste the quality. I’m in love!
Rome Day 2
No visit to Rome is complete without a quick visit to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. We joined a guided tour to avoid the lines – highly suggested, as this is a really crowded place. There is so much to see and learn about this time in Rome’s history, that a tour helps to pull it all together. For example, on this tour I learned that Raphael and Michelangelo both worked on pieces of art at the same time – Michelangelo of course with the Sistine Chapel, and Raphael with the papal apartments. They didn’t like each other, and would paint the other in each other’s paintings, in generally unflattering situations. Little facts like this, really make the Renaissance paintings come to life!
Rome Day 3
What a fun way to spend the morning, learning all about the life of a gladiator, going through some of the drills that they learned during training, and even learning how to sword fight!
I got to try on a gladiator helmet, and it was so heavy and stifling that I almost wanted to pass out after a minute – I can’t imagine how they fought wearing that type of armor!
Next, we learned typical gladiator sword striking and defense movements. I was surprised that I liked the attack and retreat sequences – it’s almost an art to look at your opponent and try to see which direction they’re going to strike from! When it came time for the final battle, no one was more surprised than myself when I came out the victor! I don’t even like to watch action movies, but I seem to have a natural talent for sword fighting haha!