Full disclosure: this was not my favorite part of the trip. It was 90+ degrees, Jake and I argued, and the city felt extremely overwhelmed by tourists. Not to mention the smell was garbage was exacerbated by the heat, etc.
In any case, there were parts I loved. After driving through the traffic and speeding hellscape that is the city entrance, our first day looked something like this:
- We stayed at the Hotel Modigliani and really enjoyed it. We got a room with a balcony (as you can see by this blog post’s main image); however, the air conditioning from the room above us was blowing hot air directly down onto the seating, so that…wasn’t ideal. Also a baby bird had apparently fallen from an overheard space and died, so we had to call housekeeping to come clean it up. BUT, once we were over the heartbreak of seeing the bird, we found the room to be clean and quiet. It was also small, which worked for us since we were out and about all day.
- We stopped at Pinsa ‘MPo for dinner on our way to Vatican City. It’s a little hole in the wall around the corner from the city entrance and we had found it on some food blog beforehand. We split two personal pizzas and it was plenty of food. Needless to say, we were not disappointed.
- After that, we had night tickets to Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel. I highly, highly recommend this for people who want to experience a few hours of history without the insanity of crowds. You won’t be able to get into St. Peter’s Basilica — it closes earlier than the chapel — but you’ll still be able to wander through the absolutely gorgeous museum and grounds. It’s also great for (and this is embarrassing) people like me who have a limited attention span and only have a few hours of focus in them at a time. Warning: bare shoulders (including tank tops, sleeveless shirts, etc) are not allowed inside the Chapel and you will be expected to cover up. They have paper shawls there that are available, but you’re probably better off just packing a summer scarf.
Our second day was a little rougher. I was miserable in the heat as we spent the afternoon looking at ruins (which I likely would have appreciated more if it hadn’t been 100 degrees). But heat made me cranky, tensions flared, and Jake and I had our first fight as a married couple. I was extremely grateful when we got back to our hotel and heard that our concierge booked us a table at Il Gabriello for dinner.
Il Gabriello, for me, was the highlight of our entire Roman weekend. Despite its mediocre ranking on TripAdvisor, our meal there salvaged an otherwise pretty crummy day. This might have been colored by the 70-euro bottle of wine we split — I have never loved Jake more than when he pointed at the price tag, shrugged and smiled, “When in Rome!” — but now I recommend this spot to anyone who’s traveling nearby. Picture this: exposed brick, candlelit tables, an entire wall of wine as the backdrop. Then add classic Roman cacio e pepe followed by panna cotta topped with fresh fruit. Finish it off by walking home through the gorgeous cities of Rome with a light buzz and your new spouse. It is perfection.
The only other thing that kept my sweaty attitude in check throughout the weekend was the history we found on every street. We’d turn a corner and suddenly be faced with a fountain that had been there for centuries. It’s nice to have a break from being crabby because you’re surrounded by stuff that’s so cool.
Anyway, to recap: do not drive in Rome! Maybe I didn’t emphasize this enough at the beginning, but “hellscape” is honestly an understatement. Try and do things (esp things like The Trevi Fountain or Spanish steps) early or later in the day when the crowds have dispersed a bit. Have your concierge book you a table at Il Gabriello. Prepare to find gorgeous bits of history around every corner. Maybe also don’t go in July.
Stay tuned for the final — and favorite — installment of my posts about our time in Italy. It’s time for Honeymoon diaries: Amalfi Coast edition.