Right On, Rome!

Another trip has started! Yes, that’s right – as you possibly saw in my last post, I’m currently in Rome with the husband and we’ve already had a full day here. Well, most of a day, I suppose, since we arrived mid-morning yesterday (Friday) and had afternoon plans we’d already booked. But I’m getting ahead of myself!

So how about the journey over here? As per usual, we booked our flights with Delta, though there are sadly no direct flights from Minneapolis to Rome, so we our itinerary had us connecting through NYC. I don’t mind making a connection, but I do mind when the connection is either too long (who wants to sit around an airport for hours??) or too short (I love Home Alone, but I definitely don’t enjoy re-enacting the scene when they all have to run through the airport to catch their flight to Paris). This connection fell in the “too short” category, so I was a bit worried about it as we only had an hour between flights. Realistically, I knew it would probably be fine and that was reinforced when we departed on time and the pilot told us shortly after take-off that we’d be landing well ahead of schedule. Excellent! Of course, we then fell into the classic “we landed early” trap – while the plane did indeed LAND early, we then sat on the tarmac for over 30 minutes because there was no gate available for us. D’oh! Obviously, we couldn’t do anything about it, but the folks around us were nice enough to let us slip off the plane ahead of them so we could book it to our connecting gate. Did I mention that gate was also in a different terminal?? Fun! Thankfully, the gate agent told us where to go to catch the bus that would take us to our connecting terminal, which wasn’t too far away, so we made it there and got to our gate in time (though we did hear the final boarding call announcement just before we got there). We got ourselves situated (we booked Premium Select for this flight, like I did on my last London trip, so it was nice to have some decent space!) and asked a flight attendant if our bags still had a chance of making it on the flight, since we had been delayed. He said he didn’t think it would be an issue, but that he would follow up and thankfully I saw in the Delta app a few minutes later that the bags were showing up on our connecting flight. Hooray! After all that drama, both us and our bags were on the plane. And then that plane stayed on the ground for another hour. First, the pilot said they were going through paperwork and then he said a galley cart was missing, so a new one had to be brought on. And then we taxied for what had to have been 25 minutes! Ahhhh, the joys of travel, right? It’s all part of the journey!

At least you can look at these pictures from our journey much more quickly than we lived through them!

Our plane on the ground in Minneapolis.
Views from the plane as we neared New York City.
A classic Jeff selfie before takeoff in NYC!
When I flew Premium Select to London earlier this year, I commented how the food presentation didn’t feel any different than economy class, but this time, it did. Real silverware and everything! This chicken dish was quite tasty, too.
You can’t see it inside the box, but breakfast before landing was a simple egg-and-cheese English muffin with some fruit.

Thanks to the extra time on the ground in NYC, we landed late in Rome, but only about 20 minutes, which isn’t bad. And the actual flight was fine, though I didn’t sleep at all, as usual (both Scott and I did some dozing, but I just cannot sleep sitting in an airplane seat). There were lots of empty seats in economy, so when I walked by them to use the bathroom, I noticed a lot of people were able to set themselves up makeshift beds across multiple seats, so I bet they slept well! We actually both felt okay when we got off the plane, considering the lack of sleep, and border control was extremely easy to get through, which was a nice bonus. Just as I experienced at Heathrow, the airport here uses e-gates, so we just had to scan our passport and look into a camera and then we were through! Unlike Heathrow though, there was still one more stop with an actual border patrol officer, but he just took my passport and stamped it, which I was happy for because I like having stamps in my passport! Our bags were already on the carousel after border control, so we had no wait there, either. Perfect! As for getting OUT of the airport, we hadn’t decided how we’d get into the city, but the ticket machines for the Leonardo Express train were right by the baggage carousel, so I just bought a couple of those. It’s basically the same thing as the Heathrow Express in London (direct train from airport to Roma Termini, the main station in the city) and was very easy to use. Tickets were €14 each, which isn’t terrible, especially with the Euro and dollar being pretty much equal at the moment. Regular readers will know that I always take the “slow path” into London from Heathrow, but that’s a city I know pretty well, so it’s easier for me to navigate. Here in Rome, I didn’t mind taking the path of least resistance. πŸ™‚

After an easy train ride into the city, we knew we would just walk to our hotel because it’s so close (only ten minutes away!), so Google Maps became our guide as we made our way there. We could definitely feel the European vibe of Rome as we walked, experiencing lots of traffic, crowded sidewalks, and plenty of people smoking (ugh), but it was easy enough to reach our destination, the Fifteen Keys Hotel. As you may remember from past trips, we’ve often stayed in apartments, but we’ve found the best way to get things like a proper king-size bed and air conditioning is to stay in hotels, so that’s what we’re doing on this trip (just like our last European trip together in 2019). This is a cute boutique hotel very much in the city that has some very helpful and friendly employees, so I think it will be a good home-away-from-home! Although our room wasn’t ready yet, the person at the front desk showed us around and gave us a place to change and then stored our luggage for us. We knew there was no guarantee that our room would be ready, but we were really hoping to be able to wash the travel grime off! At least we were able to change clothes and freshen up a bit.

Check out our hotel below! Like I said, our room wasn’t ready, but the photos below show off the public space and our room, since I took pictures of the room when we got back in the evening.

Not our hotel, but figured I’d snap a photo of the station on our way out.
Our hotel is the building on the right. Very cute!
The reception/front desk area is very cozy.
This is the bar and breakfast area, where they also have a tea service in the late afternoon.
A nice patio, where we plan to enjoy breakfast!
Our room is on the first floor (which us US folks would actually call the second floor). We’re in Room 3, but I thought it was funny they also have a Room 0!
Looking at our door from the hallway.
Inside the door, with a hallway in front, the bathroom to the left, and the bed and terrace to the right.
A proper king-sized bed really is a must for us. πŸ™‚
Looking towards the TV and door from the bed.
Looking at the door from the back of the hallway, next to the bathroom.
The bathroom is a decent size and the shower (which I stood in to get this photo) has good water pressure, which is another must for us.
Did you catch what I wrote above about a terrace? They upgraded us to a room with our own little terrace/balcony, which overlooks the courtyard/patio off the breakfast area. Very nice!
Looking down on the courtyard from our balcony.

Although I wish we’d been able to get settled (and shower!) in that nice room before we went out to explore, it wasn’t meant to be. And we had somewhere to get to! We booked a small-group tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, which started at 230p, so we made our way there on foot from the hotel. We certainly could have taken a taxi, but you all know we like to walk (plus it was a good way to stay awake), so we walked the 2.5-3 miles to get there, hoping we might take in some nice views along the way, which you can see below.

I must say the cars kind of spoiled the view of this monument, but oh well.
This felt like a cool view.
Not sure what this building was, the the architecture and palm trees reminded me of Barcelona!
Outside the tour office, where several people were already milling around. The crowd got probably 2-3 times bigger by the time the tour started! We realized that was because several tours left at the same time from the same place. There were 18 people in our group, which felt like a decent size.

As is pretty normal for us, we booked this tour through Viator and they, in turn, contract with a local vendor to actually do the tour. I’m not sure how many tours we’ve booked with them through the years, but it’s several for sure and I’d say the vendors they choose always do a good job, though I will say our guide for this one seemed to be a little dry. He was certainly nice enough and seemed to know what he was talking about, but sometimes it felt like he kept us stopped in one place for too long, so I started feeling a bit antsy. To be fair, that may have been more because we had stop in the BRIGHT sun (literally not a cloud in the sky) one too many times. Anyone who knows me knows I hate to be in hot weather (it’s not even that hot, but it’s sort of hot and there’s a lot of sun, so it was definitely warm for me), so I’ll give the guide some grace on that. πŸ™‚

I’ve only been to Rome once before and it was a decade ago, before I started keeping this blog, so my memories of it aren’t quite as strong as they are from other trips. I definitely remember going to the Sistine Chapel and to St. Peter’s, but I don’t recall touring the Vatican Museums, so this was new for me (and Scott). As I’ve said before, we aren’t necessarily “museum people” but they’re always good to visit when traveling, so I’m glad we went, but I can’t say that the museums here (what we saw of them, anyway) really WOWED either one of us. Certainly lots of history to learn about and art to see, but it wasn’t all that compelling, to be honest. As for the Sistine Chapel, that’s definitely interesting to see, but no photos are allowed inside, which always annoys me. It’s also not a very big space and there are guards/staff constantly moving people along (and telling them to not take photos), so that was a little annoying as well. Oh, and did I mention it was crowded, too?? πŸ™‚ I don’t want it to seem like it’s not worth visiting because I’d still say it is, but now that I’ve seen it for a second time, I don’t feel the need to come back anytime soon.

Although not called out in the tour (and indeed, our tour guide just led us there and then left us) is a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica. No matter how religious you are (or aren’t), I find churches are always cool to visit for the history and architecture and, given the fact that this particular church is so famous, it’s definitely worth visiting. Even though it wasn’t part of our tour, our guide took us there after the Sistine Chapel because tour groups have a direct path to it from there, whereas folks coming in off the street have to take a longer path. We only spent maybe ten minutes inside, but it was still good to see (I did see it on my previous trip as well, but again, that was a decade ago).

And now, time for something completely different! You know, photos. πŸ™‚

Heading into the museum(s).
A really cool model of the Vatican City area, including the museums and basilica.
A glimpse at the Vatican Gardens, which can apparently be toured separately.
First look at the basilica.
Big tree!
This is the Fontana della Pigna (though it’s no longer a fountain). Yes, it’s a big pinecone!
One of the versions (there are several) of Sphere Within Sphere.
So many sculptures and a looooong corridor.
This is called LaocoΓΆn and His Sons and likely dates from the 1st century AD.
I just really liked the face on this sculpture.

A few photos that remind me to always look UP!

And this mosaic on a floor also reminded me to look DOWN.
This is the Belvedere Torso and dates from the 1st century BC.
This one is mostly to show off the crowds here. Late October is definitely still busy in Rome!
The Gallery of Maps was really cool to see!
Another fun sculpture. πŸ™‚
Outside of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Two shots of St. Peter’s Baldachin (the large sculpture over the altar), which is directly underneath the basilica’s dome and marks the tomb of St. Peter himself (underneath the baldachin). Those columns are nearly 70 feet tall!

A statue of St. Peter.
One of the side altars in the basilica.
Members of the Swiss Guard, who are tasked with protecting the pope and Apostolic Palace. To join, you must be an unmarried Swiss male who is Catholic and 18-30 years old.
Passing by the Vatican Post Office on our way out of St. Peter’s.
A view of St. Peter’s Square, including the basilica.
Although we didn’t visit it, we did walk by Castel Sant’Angelo, a historic building previously used by popes as both a fortress and a castle. It’s a museum today.
Just a neat alley we caught. It was crying out for a black-and-white filter!

By the time we made it back to our hotel, we were tired and ready to rest our feet for sure (and shower!). We had already gotten a text from the friendly hotel staff letting us know that our room was ready and we were very happy to find that they’d brought our luggage up as well. And then we were EXTRA happy to find out they had upgraded us to a bigger room with a terrace. Now that we’ve slept in hear for a night, I can confirm the room is overall comfortable – nice bed (though definitely firm), pretty good air conditioning, and plenty of space (we saw one of the rooms next door when it was being cleaned and were surprised at how much smaller it was). The staff have been delightful and so helpful, too! Not only did they upgrade us and get our luggage to our room, but they’ve also called a restaurant to fix a reservation for us (we had booked for four people instead of two), offered to prepare us a to-go breakfast tomorrow (Sunday) as we have to leave for a day trip quite early, and just been overall very nice. Definitely recommend them and the hotel so far!

Although we probably would have loved to be able to just shower and go to bed, we did have a dinner booked at La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, which was probably better for us because it forced us to stay awake and not just go to bed at 6 PM. πŸ™‚ It’s only a ten-minute walk from the hotel and the ambiance and service were excellent, so we enjoyed it. The food itself was also quite good and we got to try the famous cacio e pepe (pasta in a white sauce), which is big in this area. Very tasty!

Check out a few photos of our first dinner below.

Outside and inside the restaurant.

This appetizer is called a pizza bun (two different kinds, actually) and was filled with cheese, basil, and other goodness.
Not the best photos of our pasta, but the cacio e pepe is on the left, while the right plate holds a delicious and cheesy ravioli.
This was a daily special – guineafowl stuffed with sausage and pumpkin, with an eggplant/pepper relish. Very much like a turkey roulade!

After a tasty meal, we went back to the hotel to get ready for bed. Finally! The first day of any international trip is always a long one, but it seems even longer when you have stuff planned shortly after you arrive and don’t have a chance to rest and/or clean off that travel grime. I think that was ultimately a good thing because we enjoyed what we did AND we were forced to stay awake. The downside is that it’s now the end of our SECOND day and I’m just now getting this first day blog published. But hey, it’s not like you were waiting on the edge of your seats, right? And if you WERE doing that, I invite you to sit back, relax, and wait (hopefully not long) for the next post on this Italian adventure of ours. πŸ™‚

5 thoughts on “Right On, Rome!

  1. Rome is one of my happy places. I did an entire facebook post on faces in the Vatican and you found two of them. Rome makes me happy. ENJOY!!!!

  2. Your hotel is only a block from an awesome gelato place – Gelateria S.M.Maggiore. If you ask for it β€œcon panna” you’ll get a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream on top – they have awesome flavors, so ask the people working what they recommend!

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About thejeffelston

Based in St. Paul, MN and love to blog about travel. Comment, follow, and join me on my journey!