Italy Road Trip – Part I – Rome

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I have been nurturing and idea of an Italian road trip for quite some time now. After all, we live only 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from Italy’s border! I have previously been to Milan and Venice and this time wanted to go further South – Rome, Naples and Amalfi Coast.

We considered driving but gas is quite expensive in Italy, cars get stolen and wrecked often, parking is a pain, especially in big cities, and highway tolls are hefty. According to Italian Highway Agency, we would pay 104.40 euros in tolls round trip from Italian Border to Rome. So we settled on a night train, which departs Munich at 9:08 pm and arrives the center of Rome on 9:22 am next morning.  If you want to cheapest ticket, you can sit all night and that can cost you only 39 euros one way. Or you can pay up a have a sleeper cabin with six, four, three, two people in the second class or have a cabin for two in the first class. The train was clean and being dropped off right in the center of Rome early in the morning was certainly an advantage.

Our hotel Cosmopolita was located just around the corner from the Roman Forum and a 10-minute walk from the Coliseum. Shopping streets and other major attractions within Rome’s historical center were also easily reachable by foot. Our room wasn’t ready that early, so we dropped our bags and went straight to the Coliseum. We bought our ticket online the day before and were happy that we did. The line looked huge and we were overwhelmed by the number of people trying to sell us tours that would get us pass the line fast. The Coliseum is an amazing structure from the inside and the outside. It’s definitely a must-see in Rome.

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Coliseum from the inside

After spending about an hour in the Coliseum, we headed across the street for the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. The entrance was included in our Coliseum ticket. The Palatine Hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city and also is a big park these days. Tip: bring a picnic lunch with you to enjoy among the vast ruins of the park. The territory is huge and there is no food service except for a vending machine. Connected to the Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum used to be the center of the Roman public life for centuries.

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The View of the Roman Forum from the Palatine Hill

Evening was left for the Pantheon (free entrance) – one of the best preserved of the ancient Roman buildings and a beautiful non-denominational church these day. After a pleasant walk through the streets of Rome’s Centro Storico (historical center), the dinner was at Osteria da Fortunata. The restaurant, although a bit overpriced, makes its own pasta for the hungry customers awaiting their meal to see. The food was delicious, authentic and home-cooked.

A look out of the window on the day two revealed that it was raining hard. Do you know what the most visited tourist attraction in Rome is when it rains? You got it right, the Vatican. Again get your tickets online, but keep in mind that there is an additional service charge of 4 euros per ticket for buying them online. But paying the fee is worth it because you get to skip the line. Do you research ahead of time because the Vatican museums are huge and it pays to have a plan of what to visit.  Pair your visit with St. Peter’s Basilica in and a massive square in front of it. The Basilica is one of the most celebrated churches in Christian world. If you have seen the pope give its blessings to the crowd on TV, he does it from the balcony of St. Peter’s.

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St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican

Dinner was at the Armando al Pantheon, voted one of the best trattorias in Rome by several review portals. Although it’s only around the corner from the Pantheon (could be a major tourist trap), the place if family-owned since 1961 and serves delicious creations of the Roman cuisine at its best. I loved my pasta with chicken livers and the house wine was really good.

On day three we had enough of the ruins and the museums, so we spent a day strolling through the streets of Rome and eating our way through Rome. Rome has a magnitude of excellent restaurants and cafés, so it’s hard to find a bad place. A must-try is a roman style “pizza al taglio”. It’s a pizza served by weight in rectangular slices, originally baked as a big sheet – so you have a chance to try many small slices at the same time. And don’t forget to stop for gelato after that.

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View of Rome from the top of Castel Sant’Angelo

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Castel Sant’Angelo

On day four we rented a car and headed south to the Sorrento coast. A separate post is coming up about the Naples and the Amalfi Coast part of the Italy Road trip. On our way out we stopped in the Southern Part of Rome to visit the ancient Appian Road – one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient Roman republic. These days it’s a huge park with ancient monuments along the way. The road is probably best explored by bike (can be rented at the visitors’ center). One of the main attractions in the Appian Road Park are the catacombs –a burial places underground of early Christians. If you don’t feel like going underground, just enjoy the stroll in the park and don’t forget to pack a picnic.

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Appian Road Park

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