For those who don’t know, my mama retired this year after 28 years of teaching. To celebrate, she asked me to come along as her travel buddy on an epic European adventure. For the entire month of September we traipsed around Rome, Pompeii, Florence, Paris, London, and Oxford! I cannot even being to express how grateful I am to her for the experience. It was a complete whirlwind, I mean, 3 counties in 3.5 weeks?! But, we made it happen, had an absolutely amazing time, and I’m excited to share it all with you guys. So without further ado…
Day 1: We flew overnight from Minneapolis to Rome, with a short layover in Boston. We arrived in sunny Rome, took a train to the neighborhood where we were staying, and proceeded to get lost and wander around for the next 3 hours in the heat + humidity with our luggage. Turns out the first step in the directions we had were the exact opposite of what they should have been. So we walked up and down the street, took many wrong turns, and went into an apartment complex and got locked inside the courtyard. Mom rang all the door bells but no one would help us or let us use their phone. Thankfully a young woman finally set us free and pointed us in the right direction. Sweaty, we eventually arrived at our Airbnb apartment and met our hosts and their kitty Mimine. After showering and settling in we ended the day on a good note with dinner at a local restaurant. Pizza, stuck pig, and roasted potatoes!
| tasty La Tavernaccia, corner fountains, pizzapizza, napping kitcat, the joys of public transit |
Day 2: We hopped a tram to the city center and stopped by the Vittorio Emanuele II monument. Although it was built in honor of the first king of Italy, it’s controversial because its placement destroyed a medieval area and interrupted the continuity and aesthetic of the Forum sites. The monument is often called “the wedding cake” or “the type writer” by its haters. I get why locals would be upset, but it’s free to visit, has a lovely café on the roof , and sweeping views of the surrounding area. After filling up our water bottles at the free fountain, we walked and walked and walked. We passed through beautiful piazzas, ducked into quiet and ornate churches, ate gelato, took in ancient views and marveled at the (Colosseum, Forum, Circus Maximus, and more), dined at a sidewalk cafe, saw the Trevi Fountain (under construction), Spanish Steps, and Pantheon, and braved both the metro and the train back to our Airbnb abode.
| sightseeing – Vittorio Emanuele II monument and the Forum |
| The Circus Maximus, Temple of Hercules Victor, and side-street surprise |
| along the Tiber River and a parade of vespas |
| Fontana del Moro and Piazza Navona |
| The Pantheon |
| The Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola with its breathtaking baroque ceilings and frescoes by Andrea Pozzo |
| views from atop the Spanish Steps and the strange exterior of Palazzo Zuccari near via Gregoriana |
Day 3: We took a break from Rome and did a day trip to Pompeii.
Day 4: We walked the Appian Way and took a tour of the Catacombs of St.Callixtus. They originated about the middle of the second century and are the burial-place of tens of martyrs, 16 popes, and very many Christians. During this time period Christians were being persecuted so they often held their religious services in secret underground in the catacombs. Just down the road from St.Callixtus is the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, which had some very neat artifacts on display, including coins, statues, and preserved tracks left by ancient wagon wheels. After exploring the Appian Way, we headed back into town to see the massive Baths of Caracalla and their amazing tile-work. We were also able to pop into incredible Colosseum and hike around Palentine Hill. And as a bonus – most of the sites we saw that day were free because it was the first Sunday of the month!
| Appian Way, Circus Maxence, ancient wheel ruts, Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella |
| Baths of Caracalla |
| exploring Palentine Hill |
| The Colosseum |
| the Arch of Constantine and a delicious panini for dinner |
Day 5: For our final day in Rome, we slept in and then hit the streets in a leisurely fashion. We inhaled delicious potato rosemary pizza and grabbed gelato at Hedera, a father-son operation that uses 60-year-old recipes. They offer 6 cream-based and 6 fruit-based ice creams and the flavors change every day depending on which fruits are in season and what’s available at the market that morning. We strolled along the river, waved at the Castel Sant’Angelo, were given completely wrong directions by a police officer (!), walked through as many medieval streets as we could, and visited the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square. Our last stop of the day was the basilica of Santa Maria in the Trastevere neighborhood. It was golden and gorgeous with details that would knock your socks off (like the faded mosaics dating back to the 12th or 13th centuries). The basilica is one of the oldest in Rome, dating from the 4th century AD, and has many marvelous frescoes to feast your eyes upon.
| the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square |
| along the Tiber |
| gelato at Hedera |
| Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere |
| inside the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere |
| the golden and glowing Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere |
Up next… Pompeii!