Mr. Chuckles recently made us a delicious carbonara, which brought back memories of our trip to Italy last summer. This was kind of a milestone trip for a couple reasons: it was the first long distance trip that Mr. Chuckles and I went on together, and it was the first time that I had self-planned a trip outside of North America.
We spent a week in Italy, basing ourselves in Rome, the Eternal City. We stayed at Ripetta 25, an apartment style hotel with only 8 or so rooms. We really liked this place. It was located on a quieter block but still within easy walking distance to several attractions. It was also just a few minutes away from the subway station, but we mostly walked everywhere in Rome.
Day 1: Roma, we have landed
Our 9 hour overnight flight landed mid-morning in Rome. It took us a solid hour to get out of the airport with the long customs line and baggage pick up. Our hotel arranged a private airport transfer for us, so we had an easy ride over to the accommodation. We were feeling pretty gross after the flight so ended up grabbing some pizza down the street and then going back to our room for an afternoon nap.
Once refreshed, we spent the evening walking around the area and had a nice dinner at Retrobottega. Overall a chill arrival day.
Day 2: Pantheon and Roman Forum
This happened to be the first Sunday of the month, when there is free admission to the publicly owned museums and monuments in Rome. We decided to start with the Pantheon, a former Roman Pagan temple turned modern day church. An architectural highlight of the Pantheon is its interior dome which measures 43 metres high and wide. It was the inspiration for many domes that came later, including the one at St. Peter’s Basilica. In the middle is an oculus, which is the only source of natural light coming into the building. You’re supposed to look up and contemplate the heavens.
Our afternoon was spent exploring the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. In lieu of a guided tour, I downloaded the Rick Steves audio tours (they’re free!).
Day 3: Trastevere, food tour, Colosseum
We went on a food tour with Eating Europe (then known as Eating Italy) in the neighbourhood of Trastevere, just west of the Tiber river. The area has a bohemian feel, where you can find lots of trattorias and artisan shops. Along with our small group including a couple Americans, Australians, and a fellow Canadian, we traversed the streets of Trastevere in search of local eats. We tried a bunch of stuff, all of which was good, and actually ended up going back to a couple spots from the tour later on in our trip.
After filling our stomachs to the point of near explosion, we visited the Colosseum. We had skipped this on ‘free Sunday’ since we heard that the crowds are pretty insane. At the time we visited, it wasn’t bad at all. We only missed seeing the catacombs since you need to join a tour for that, and those were all booked up months in advance.
Day 4: Pompeii ruins and Mount Vesuvius
For our first day trip out of Rome, we joined a big bus tour with City Wonders to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. They drove us up to the Pompeii site where we went on a guided tour through the ruins, and then we took a walk up Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that erupted during the massive disaster in AD 79. Nice view from up top.
Day 5: Vatican City
Time to get religious. Since one of Mr. Chuckles’ many claims is that he used to be the Pope (hmm…), we had to make a visit to the Vatican. Wednesday morning is supposed to be a better day to beat the crowds at the Vatican Museums. The key is to get there early in the morning while most people are attending the Papal Audience at St. Peter’s Square. There was a moderate sized crowd by the time we arrived, but we were at least able to get a seat inside the Sistine Chapel to admire Michelangelo’s masterpiece. No photos allowed in there though.
We then walked over to St. Peter’s Basilica. We were initially on the fence about waiting in the long line to get inside, but it moved fairly quickly.
Sticking to our religious theme for the day, we had dinner in the Jewish Ghetto at Ristorante Piperno. Best fried artichokes and carbonara to date.
Day 6: Day trip to Florence
We planned this one on our own rather than joining a tour. We took the express train which takes you from Rome to Florence in about 1.5 hours. Tip: It’s cheaper to book train tickets on the Italian version of the Trenitalia website. We managed to fit a bunch of stuff into our one day visit: Florence Cathedral, Uffizi Gallery, Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (where you can find the famous David sculpture), and an evening food tour with Eating Europe. The cathedral museum and galleries all have timed entry, so we had purchased our admission tickets online at home before departure. We ended up missing our booked time to go up the Duomo at Florence Cathedral, so opted for the bell tower instead, where you can still admire sweeping views overlooking the city.
Day 7: Amalfi Coast tour
We fit in one more day trip at the last minute, this time to the Amalfi Coast. We found a tour with City Wonders that took us from Naples to Positano and Amalfi, so we took an early morning train from Rome to Naples and then met up with the group. This day was not particularly enjoyable because Mr. Chuckles and I were pretty tired from our previous day in Florence, and we both got bad motion sickness from the drive up the winding coastal roads. 🤮 We had a small group of just 6 people but the tour was very much ‘big bus’ style with quick stops at a bunch of attractions. I think the Amalfi Coast is better visited on a separate trip, although I don’t think either of us is rushing to go back. The small towns of Positano and Amalfi were both teeming with tourists (many on cruise ship stops) so didn’t feel like an authentic cultural experience.
I did capture some nice views though!
The best part of our day was actually when we arrived back in Naples. We had just enough time to make a food stop and went out for real Neapolitan pizza. Yum.
Day 8: Sleeping in and drinking wine
We slept in until noon on our last full day in Rome to recover from our rough Day 7. In the afternoon, we joined a half day vineyard tour and wine tasting in Frascati, just outside of Rome city centre. Tuscany is obviously the place to be if you’re searching for wine, but this was an easy trip to coordinate and a light way to cap off our Italian adventure.
Thanks for the good time, Italy. Ciao!