Our Italian Honeymoon | Rome
It’s been almost a year, but it still seems surreal that Pete and I went to Italy for our honeymoon. I am not exactly well-traveled, so our journey had a few bumps in the beginning. I never needed a passport before, so when I handed mine to the luggage check-in employee at the airport, he informed me that since my passport was not signed (whoops), he could hold me back and not allow us to board. Insert me making an “OMG” face and my heart sinking into my stomach. He said he’d let it go and that I needed to sign it on the spot, but that most of his colleagues wouldn’t have been so forgiving. Ho-ly. Crap. I was totally shaken, but quickly forgot my carelessness by eating my feelings with a healthy dose of crab fries at Chickie’s and Pete’s.
We boarded the plane to Rome and I watched four movies back-to-back. The in-flight entertainment made me have a new appreciation for Zac Efron. When we landed in Rome, we whizzed through the terminal and waited to board the Leonardo Express train. And waited. And waited. Apparently the train was delayed from the rain, so we sat and sat for hours. Finally, we squeezed into the packed train and hopped off at the Termini Station stop. We quickly realized that Rick Steves should have reminded us to pack an umbrella, since we were greeted by a downpour in an unfamiliar place. We made circles around the streets of Rome, trying to find our way to Hotel Artemide. It was probably a five minute walk from the station, but with our lack of grace, we were bumping our suitcases along through puddles for a good 45 minutes.
Upon check-in of our room, we were greeted by a basket of fruit, a gourmet cheese platter, and a bottle of wine from Pete’s family. It was just what we needed to wind down a bit. So gosh darn thoughtful. We showered and took advantage of the free wifi in our fancy white bathrobes. I quite liked my complimentary pink slippers and wore them around the room like a pro traveler.
Soon, the skies cleared and we made our way to the Colosseum, with our Streetwise Map in hand. That laminated map was a lifesaver, both because it gave us a much-needed sense of direction and because it provided us with an impromptu umbrella on our first day in Rome.
On our way to the Colosseum, we were smacked in the face with a breathtaking view of an enormous white marble monument. It remained to be one of our favorite parts of our trip and it wasn’t even on our itinerary of attractions to visit. The monument was built in honor of the first Italian king, Victor Emmanuel II.
After our initial shock of the unexpected panorama, we wandered down the Via dei Fori Imperiali toward the Colloseum. Somehow we found the spot we were supposed to meet for our underground tour of the Colosseum. It was an awesome experience. We were able to walk around the hypogeum, where gladiators waited to fight and animals awaited their death (sad face). We walked around the arena, where the fighting took place. In my head, we were totally badass like Russell Crowe, but I’m sure we just looked like geeky tourists.
We also walked up the stairs to the third level, which was only recently opened. The view of Palatine Hill, the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome, was ah-mazing. It’s one of the most ancient parts of the city, right above the Roman Forum.
Our stomachs were grumbling, so we made our way to a quaint family restaurant around 6pm. The place was completely empty, so we weren’t sure if it was open yet, but we were seated immediately. The restaurant owner was puzzled that I ordered bruschetta, followed by a spaghetti meal with basil and tomato. What can I say, I like me some basil and tomato.
Once we finished our meals, we waited for the check. Another family came in and was seated. Pete and I nervously stared at each other in silence. We waited. The owner would pass by slowly every few minutes. We waited some more. The other family was almost finished with their meals when we finally decided we should probably request the check. A simple signal to the waiter and a muttering of “il conto per favore” and we were out the door. We felt like morons for not realizing that we had to request the check in order to get out of there, but lesson learned. Thanks Rick Steves.
We finished our night off with a romantic stroll to a nearby ATM, where we attempted to withdraw funds from our checking account. Annnnd, it didn’t work. Despite communicating everything with our bank well in advance. We walked back to our hotel and thanked our lucky stars for wifi access, since it allowed us to call the bank via Google Voice. We were told everything should be working perfectly, so we went back to the ATM. No luck. Apparently we withdrew our maximum amount for the day, except we didn’t withdraw anything. So we headed back to the hotel and called the bank. This time we used our serious grown-up voices. After another back and forth, we found out we were trying to take out too much money, despite being told by the bank that they raised the daily maximum withdrawal for us before we left for our trip. Le sigh. BUT! The ATM finally spit out cash at the end of the night, so we rewarded ourselves with our first dose of authentic gelato. So good.
The next morning, we started off early with our free breakfast (so. much. bacon.) and soon got suckered into buying a giant purple European umbrella by a street vendor. I won’t divulge how much
we Pete spent on the umbrella, but homie totally got hustled. We enjoyed our dry walk to the Vatican, where we skipped the long line thanks to our fancy schmancy admission tickets. We were approached by a coat check employee, who insisted we check our new umbrella friend. Sigh, ok.
The Vatican was huge and overwhelming but absolutely amazing. The Sistine Chapel was our favorite part, with endless ceiling frescoes and crowds of camera-toting tourists in awe. We left the Chapel in the back on the right side to enter St. Peter’s Basilica without waiting in line (a Rick Steve’s tip).
St. Peter’s was larger than life. We were both overwhelmed by the enormity and grandeur of the building. It was difficult not to feel emotional in there. I was especially moved by St. Peter’s Baldachin, a large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy. I felt like ant staring up at the pavilion-like structure. So much so, that when I leaned on the wooden railing, which blocked myself and a large group of tourists from getting too close, I almost tipped the entire railing over and startled dozens of people who were crowded toward the front.
We quickly exited the building and realized we left our umbrella at the coat check allllllllllll the way on the other side of the Vatican.
We considered leaving our new friend since the long walk in the rain didn’t sound appealing, but I felt too guilty knowing how many euros were dropped and hated the idea of leaving our umbrella feeling dry and neglected.
The Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna) were hard to miss on our trip to the Pantheon, so we walked to the top, where we soaked up the view of the vibrant square surrounded by 18th-century buildings…and Mila Kunis looking particularly foxy in a black and white Dior ad. After being harassed by a street vendor who was trying to sell us a piece of string or something equally as weird, we made our way back down the steps.
We headed to the Pantheon after grabbing some pizza. Etiquette tip #1: Don’t order pizza expecting only a slice and then request a doggie bag upon exiting. The waiters will scoff and hate you for life. Etiquette tip #2: Don’t use your pizza box as an umbrella when you just bought a gosh dang umbrella that is the size of New Jersey that you’ve been dragging around from place to place. It will result in soggy, inedible leftovers, making the scoffing you had to endure from waiters pointless.
So yes, the Pantheon! It was pretty spectacular, especially when you consider the engineering needed to construct such a building that long ago.
The Trevi Fountain was easy to find and full of people and life. It was relaxing listening to the sounds of the fountain while taking in the beauty of the carved stone and the movement of people. We threw in our coins, made a wish, and headed to the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, which I was really excited about.
Entering the church was one of our first encounters with gypsies, so that was eventful. I fell pretty hard for the work of Caravaggio as an art major, so I was pumped when I read he was commissioned to paint for the church. Visitors were supposed to put a coin in a donations box next to each chapel to turn the lights on to see the paintings properly, but we totally mooched when other tourists dropped in their coins. Take that gypsies, who’s savvy now!? The Contarelli Chapel was my favorite part since it housed three paintings on the theme of Saint Matthew the Evangelist by Caravaggio.
After a long walk in the rain back to our hotel, we got ready for dinner and soon changed back into our bathrobes and slippers. It was a relaxing way to spend our last night in Rome.
Next up, I’ll be blogging about our trip to Florence and Venice, followed by a final post documenting our week-long stay in Cinque Terre.