Jim & Stephanie’s Roman Adventure

When my wife and I were starting our life together, we decided that we would take a trip together on our Anniversary each year, just the two of us. We thought that this would be a good time to enjoy just each other’s company and a time to reflect and plan out the next year.

We have been very faithful in this through the years. Sometimes it’s just a weekend get-a-way in Chicago or Indianapolis (we live in northern Indiana) but we really try to make it something special each year.

Usually we start thinking about where we would like to go early in the year. This year was our 20th anniversary. So we really wanted to do something special. We had been to Maui for our 10th, so the bar was set pretty high.

Now my wife is the planner in our family, if things were left to me, we would either pay way to much for last minute flights to Florida, or end up in Indianapolis for the weekend again. But my wife, she started asking me about January (our anniversary is in early December) where I would like to go. Of course living in northern Indiana Decembers can be very cold, so I’m always pushing for some place warm. So I would have been very happy to go back to Maui for our 20th. But my wife is not only a great planner, she is also great at finding travel deals.

So one night about July sometime, my wife calls from the computer room, “what about Rome”? I said Rome? I don’t know.  I was not jazzed about the idea of Rome. My response was something like: “what is the temperature like in Rome in December?” She said, “I don’t know, but I can get both of us round trip tickets for under $600 total”.

Now I like the beach and the sun, but you can’t get two round trip tickets to Hawaii for under $1600 so that peaked my interest.

Turns out early December is slow tourist time in Rome. Most people think it’s to cold to tour all of the outdoor things in Rome in the first part of December. It’s in the high 50s to 60s during the day and might get down to the 40s at night. Well for people from northern Indiana that’s nice weather.

So I did what I always do, pulled out my iPhone and got on Yelp to check out he food scene in Rome. After about 2 minutes looking at the restaurants in Rome, I called to my wife in the computer room, “book it I want this food”.

So really we went to Rome because of great travel prices and the fantastic pictures of food on Yelp.

The other thing my wife did was to use Airbnb to find an apartment right in the middle of town for $85 a night. That is very hard to beat and more on the fantastic location of this apartment later.

So great air fare, great house, and great looking food. Hard to beat that for a vacation. But I had not even considered the fact that we were going to one one the oldest cities in the world. The history and architecture are beyond belief, even after seeing it I have a hard time wrapping my head around it.

So we flew out of Indianapolis on the November 28 (the Monday after thanksgiving) to Philadelphia, then it was a straight 8 hour flight to Rome. We arrived on Tuesday the 29th. We had instructions from the lovely lady who owns the apartment on how to get from the airport to her apartment. From the airport you can take the train to downtown Rome it cost 14euros each (so about $30 for two people). From the Termini train station it was about a 15 minutes walk to the apartment.

One note on getting out of the airport. There are signs that will direct you to the trains in the air port. There are vending machines that you can purchase your tickets from (we used our credit card). There are also about a hundred people milling around trying to “help” you. Ignore these people. I’m sure they can and will help you, but I’m also sure that you’re going to pay more for their services. They do NOT work for the airport. You can figure it out yourself, just read the signs, and look for the “English” button on the ticket machines. Or you can take a taxi, but do your research before hand, use the internet to figure out what the right taxi service is for you.

Once we arrived at the train station, we used the GPS in our iPhones to find our way to our apartment. With Verizon you can pay $10 a day to use voice and data in Rome. You’ll have to check with your phone service to figure out what’s best.

Now the GPS took us the most direct route down small side roads in a city that we had never been in, so a little common sense might be good. Look at the map and if you can stay on a main road and walk a bit longer that might be a good idea. Again it might have been a good idea to just take a cab, but we are still able to walk a few blocks with luggage.

romeAs we got closer to our apartment, we started to be able to see what looked like some ruins down at the end of the road.

rome-1So imagine walking down this small cobble stoned alley and seeing that in the distance. This was our first view of The Forum. At the end of this road we turned right.

rome-2On the left you see part of the ruins that make up The Forum, on the right side of the road, about where those two people are walking, was our apartment.

So to recap, we landed after about 24 hours of travel, made our way through very pushy con men trying to “help” us, rode a train to a very busy, very well graffitied train station, walked down shady alleys to end up at an apartment, right next to the Roman Forum.

This is the view through that small arch you see in the wall on the left side of the picture above.

rome-3The location of our apartment could not have been better, we could walk to almost anywhere in the city in less than an hour. And if you don’t want to walk the closest train station is only about a 5 minute walk from our apartment (we did not figure that out till the next day 🙂

We soon figured out that some of the best places to eat were located down these narrow side roads.

So we arrived at our apartment about noon. It’s a good idea to try to get right on the local time schedule, even though we were exhausted we did not want to go right to sleep, because then you’re awake at midnight, with nothing to do. So we forced ourselves to go out and explore.

Right down the street is a major intersection, lots of cars lots of foot traffic. I had looked at the GPS and figured out that we were a very short walk to the Colosseum. So we walked down to the intersection, while looking at my phone I told my wife that the colosseum should be just down the street, we took about two steps forward and looked down the street thinking we’d have to search a bit, and there it was, dominating the skyline. A two thousand year old structure plopped right down in the middle of our new neighborhood.

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rome-6So we spent the next few hours exploring the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the surrounding grounds. We did not pay for access into the Colosseum, if fact we never did get that done. We were there 10 days and did not get everything done that we wanted. I’ve heard of people taking a 5 to 8 day tours of Italy, we did 10 days just in Rome and didn’t see even a small portion of what we could have seen.

After exploring the area for a few hours we started to get hungry. Using our trusted Yelp app I had already determined where I wanted to eat. We had walked down the side alleys on the way to our apartment and had walked right past a small shop called the Pasta Chef.  The reviews on Yelp were all 5 stars. Don’t let the name fool you, this place is awesome. First it’s not really a “restaurant”. Apparently it’s quite hard and or expensive to get a restaurant license.  So the loop hole is to get classified as “street food”. They still have a permanent location and even a few stools and small tables, but they can not serve you or bring you real silver ware. You order at the counter and pay, then they give you the food on paper plates and biodegradable “plastic” utensils. You can sit at the stools or you can leave, it’s up to you.

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rome-8The guys working at the Pasta Chef were extremely nice and helpful and spoke English very well (which is very helpful considering my Italian is limited to about 3 words). We ordered the spaghetti carbonara, and the pasta ragu and shared them. Both were just the best pasta dishes either of us had ever tasted. This is a great way to start our Roman adventure.

After dinner we walked the 2 minute walk back to our apartment and promptly passed out. We slept from about 9:00pm to almost noon the next day.

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rome-12That was the end of day one. If I can separate the next 9 days in my mind I may try to write them out if anyone is interested in hearing about them?

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