Roma oh Roma

Departing Croatia was pretty smooth. Afternoon flight with a nice and sunny bus ride to the airport while taking in some amazing last views of the Adriatic coastline. I can’t say when I will return to this hidden gem but it will happen.

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We flew into Roma and headed directly to the hotel as it was hot and in dire need of a chill shower and a glass of Italy’s best – vino. The train from the airport into Roma was overfull and the A/C seemed all but existent. We were directed to board a bus from the main station and so we attempted for an hour or so with no luck. One driver told us one bus and another a different bus. We said screw it and took a cab. I always try and take local metro as much as possible but with time not on our side, we made the executive decision.

As I have described along the trip, the hotels and guesthouses have quite exceeded my expectations. This hotel was one of the best with an amazing staff that gave us a personal wine tasting and snacks. This hotel was on the penthouse level and only consisted of 9 rooms. We paid an estimated 80E per night. We only booked the room for all but one night of our Italy trip as we may go to Florence by train for a night. It was also located just a 2 min walk from Vatican City – The smallest country in the world!

Below are pics of the Hotel lobby and wine bar.

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Below is a picture of the lift in the hotel. Every lift we took on this trip no matter what country were all the same – small. It makes sense as a hotel does not need large lifts as the people in Europe are not obese as the people in the USA by the percentage of population. Stacie and I barely fit with our backpacks on and she went in first and I followed. I could not turn around so she pushed the button for the 5th floor and when we got there, I simply back out of the lift. I became quite and joke for Stacie. I am glad I was so entertaining for her as the trip progressed and we took more lifts. 

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I knew my trip to Italy would be all about the food and wine to an extent and that I would gain some kilos which I was pretty damn proud of that. I mean really, who goes to Italy and doesn’t stuff themselves with the greatest pasta on earth?

Gulia, was working the front desk and very overly helpful. She was from the Ukraine and had moved around Europe seeking a city that made her feel at home and down right happy. She said Rome was it for her. After my trip there I understood why.

It was now around 10 pm and we wanted a bite to eat and some drinks as it had been a hot and long day. We hit the Hard Rock as we did every night we arrived in a new city that had a location. It truly is the only spot that is always open late to serve food in Europe. Every city is different in that aspect. Many cities do not serve food after 11 at most restaurants. And of course we all know I have to add to my shot glass collection.

IMG_5374Quick beer in the room before the night begins.

The staff were incredible and so much fine that night. We became the Guiney pigs for some of the cocktails. I have always considered the Hard Rock to be the Embassy to the World of restaurants – you always know what the menu is and they are everywhere. If you want pulled pork or a huge salad, you know they have it. Sometimes you are so hungry that you don’t feel like walking the streets for hours looking at menus. Also the staff are always international. The girl on the right is from London, the dark skin guy in the middle is from Bangladesh and the other fella is from Napoli. So cool!

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The next day we hit the city in search of Italian food and marvelous sites. We took in some street pizza and ended up at Vatican. We didn’t take the tour as it would have taken most of the day. For me it wasn’t so important as the many other historical treasures in Roma. There were many large tour groups there and some with matching t-shirts. Maybe a cult?

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The day was hot and I knew hydration was a must if we were going to survive long enough to enjoy the vino. There was a watering hole with fresh spring water. These fountains were all over the city and man were they awesome! My old flat mate from Barcelona, Vito, told me about these fountains. He is originally from Italy and man he knows best.

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I could have kept my head under the water for an hour – it was that cold. But we moved on to find the tour on-and-off bus. It took us all around Roma and a bus comes every 15 min to the bus stops. Normally I don’t hang around tourists that often but if you want see all of the sites in a quick motion, this is the way to do it. You can hit up most all of the famous spots in one day if you start early. After that you know where they are located and can revisit at your leisure.

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As I was now in an area rich in history, I thought maybe I should find some of that history to take home with me. I have always seen those nostalgia stands that lined a streets in movies and wanted to find some. Alas I did and it was truly a learning experience as the old man that was working at the stand I was at, told me stories about many of the items.

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I found some old postcards from pre WWII which I never would have expected. The old man wanted a cheap 1.50 for each card. Such a bargain for a piece of rare history. He told me the story of the original printing press and how rare it is to find a postcard with the bottom portion still attached. This was the find I had been looking for – something to share history with me.

WP_20150814_22_19_50_Pro He also gave me some old Italian currency!

I felt so happy and fulfilled at this point and then thought – now we are on our way to see the Colosseum! The day just keeps getting more amazing. I then felt a sense of thirst come over me as we were walking back to the bus stop. Thank God for the fruit stand we discovered. The Colosseum was going to be super hot and so I needed some energy.

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When we arrived at the Colosseum it was very hot out and the sweat glistened and beaded down my forehead. It would be a matter of time before I needed to find another cold fountain to dunk my head in. Yes, the site was amazing as you would expect –

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It was not free to go in and so we explored the grounds looking for a ticketing booth. Once we bought our tickets, we entered the western part of the old city first. You see, this isn’t just a massive and famous site by itself, there was also an ancient city on the grounds.

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This old city has been around for over 2000 years and has been taken by many different civilizations. The Roman Empire being the most notable and famous. As I walked through the old city, I couldn’t help wondering at which point in time was each building built. I mean on the left there were red colored brick buildings and on the right more stone colored and smooth walled structures.

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Hey, another cold water fountain!

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We decided after 45 min that is was time for the big spectacle – The Colosseum.

On the walk there, we noticed a couple had just gotten married. The groom drove by us and gave Stacie the “raise the roof” hand sign from the car. So funny.

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We entered and walked through the exhibits they had setup inside. It was pretty well organized I must say.

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The entire ground was excavated and you can see beneath the floor to the underground caverns and tunnels. It is very eerie to think of the souls still down there.

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I will say that it was quite fascinating. It sure looks bigger from the outside but still pretty enormous inside. Just touching the rock and stone was really an awesome feeling. Touch is really where its at. Seeing is one thing but up close and having physical contact makes it real.

We took pictures and stood in awe for an hour or so and then headed back toward the hotel area to find some delicious Italian food and chow down.

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The cafes lined the side streets which makes it so easy to find a nice little spot to relax, eat and drink. The 2 dishes I was dying to try were the Cacio e pepe and the Carbonara. Hmmm, what to get? First we started off with melon and prosciutto. It melted in your mouth like butter!

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The Carbonara came with ham so I took on that plate as I was hungry and waited all of my life for this. You see, I am half Italian so I grew up having home cooked meals at my great grandparents house. Real hand made pasta and sauce. So for me this was as close to traditional as I can ever get. And the Carbonara was fantastic. Each bite I took slowly as I should being that I was now at the pace of Italians – relaxed and not in any hurry.

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The food was out of this world and so was the wine. I can’t believe that on the entire wine list not one wine was over 15 Euro per bottle! What? Am I reading this right? Can’t be. We sat and enjoyed another bottle of wine before heading back to the room to change and explore the city.

We found many small markets and bought some cheap wine and bread for the apartment. We asked round and everyone told us to go to the square. haha..  We walked in circles for an hour before boom! there it was.

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People everywhere and performers as well. We sat down and started chatting with this couple from Sweden. They were good company and we ordered more vino. I’m not sure the time we went back but your body always tells you when it’s time to sleep.

The next day we had decided not to go to Florence in the possibility of missing our flight out of Roma to Barcelona. We went online and booked another nice room at another location as our hotel was full the next night.

The next day we left our bags with the hotel so we could grab some lunch and do some shopping before we change hotels. Josepe from the hotel recommended a nice place to have lunch at and so we went. I was now ready for my Cacio e pepe.

First a bottle of white to start off the lunch…

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Now Cacio e pepe is only pepper and cheese with the noodles but damn! It is good..

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WP_20150719_003 A little EVOO and vinegar for the bread. 

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I think Stacie had the normal spaghetti and marinara in every country we visited. haha…

We hit the street to find some bargains on, well, anything.

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Stacie hit the jackpot and picked up a few items. I wasn’t so lucky. Not my time I guess.

We then headed to the new hotel to check in and walk around the city more. There were some castles to see and we really hadn’t even touched on most of the great works of history here.

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When we arrived at the new hotel, we had a small note. We were to get the key from the owner of the pizzeria next door. Ok? No problem. But the owner it turns out wasn’t coming back for another hour and we were hot and getting hungry… hmmm. Pizza? Ok.

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We tried so hard to eat this monster but it wasn’t going to happen so we took the rest to go. Thank God our room had a full kitchen. So far, every place we have stayed in has been amazing and basically studio apartments.

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This was our last night in Roma which was sad. This was my first time here and I will for sure be back at 100% to see and take in more of the culture.

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Such a memorable time as those whole trip has been thus far. Time to pack up and get ready for the flight tomorrow. We are flying RyanAir this time. I will miss you Roma. Barcelona be ready – we are coming.

And also Warsaw for AC/DC and Paris!

Salute!

 

 

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