Eat, Pray, Love ❤: The Rome edition

The plane ride from France to Rome took only a few hours.  In no time we were headed to our new home away from home the Donotella Hotel.  It was a cute, small and quaint family run hotel.  We were greeted by Papa and Mama. True Italians. Papa (the son) was probably in his 50's, slim, well dressed and very polite.  Mama was short, with platinum hair and a warm smile. They're accents were very strong and authentic. I loved it.  We dropped off our bags, grabbed a map from the receptionist desk and were out.

The great thing about Rome's transportation system is there are only two lines; a blue line and a red line. This made it extremely easy to get around town.  Our first stop was to the the Spanish steps. Tourist totally took over this area.  Some were relaxing on the steps while others were trying to get through the crowd for that perfect shot. Then you had the tourist that came to shop.  The Spanish Steps are located in an area of Rome similar to Manhattans 5th Ave.  High-end retail shops such as Louise Vuitton, Mont Blanc and Gucci can be found there.  The area also included, more than enough restaurants, vendors and boutiques.

While on the hunt for the Trevi Fountain (another tourist attraction) we walked up on an artist walk.  At least that what I considered it to be.  It was a sidewalk lined up with artist drawing caricatures, painting oil paintings and making jewelry.  One of the artist came up to us and twisted three pieces of string around each of our wrist making it into a bracelet in the colors of the Italian flag (for a price of course).   Til this day I still wear the bracelet.

I couldn't help but think of Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love as we walked the narrow streets of Italy.  It was magical.  There were boutiques, restaurants, gelato shops and magnificent architecture everywhere.    The streets started getting extra crowded and I knew we were approaching something big. To one side was a row of souvenir shops and to the other was a real life Geppetto carving out Pinocchio's.  Fascinating.  It took me back to my childhood.
As we walked a few more feet I could see it, the magnificent Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi).  Crowds of people were gathered around it throwing in coins, making wishes, taking pictures and admiring the beauty.  It was so exciting.  A popular tourist attraction, the Trevi Fountain stands 86 feet high and 161.3 feet wide.  Its the largest Baroque fountain in the city of Rome and one of the most famous in the world.

After relaxing by the fountain for a half hour or so we grabbed a bite to eat at Da Cecere. The service was great. We dined on calamari, linguine, pizza and drank wine.  As one would expect the food was very fresh and delicious.  As we ate we were serenaded by an accordion group.  After lunch we grabbed some delicious gelato and I had a pistachio eclair.

The highlight of that first day in Rome was the gospel concert we came across. The girls and I were just strolling along when all of a sudden we heard the song "How great is our God" being sung. We followed the sound and long behold a concert was going down. It was the 50th anniversary of the 1st gospel church in Rome. Gospel singers from all across the world, of all ages and generations were involved. It was mind blowing. We walked through the crowd and joined in on the praising.

Once the concert was over we did some window shopping and went on a wild goose chase trying to locate an ice bar that was on the tour map Papa gave us.  We walked up and down blocks trying to find this place with no luck. By the time we got back to our hotel my feet were on fire and I was not in the best of moods. I hit the sack immediately.

DAY 2:
The Donatella Hotel provided us with complimentary breakfast consisting of fresh croissants, toast, coffee, tea and juice. We had an early reservation to receive a guided tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum so it was back downtown we went. As I previously mentioned, taking public transportation through Rome was so convenient.  In less than a half hour we were at our destination.   We met up with our tour group and made our way to the Roman Forum.

The Roman Forum is a rectangular plaza that is surrounded by several ancient government buildings at the center of Rome.  It was used to hold public speeches, trials and elections amongst other events.  As soon as I stepped foot in the Forum I pictured all of the events that took place there.

Next stop on our tour was the Colosseum.  All I could think of was the legend of Spartacus, the thousands of matches that took place there, the torture and the bravery of so many men.  It was such a wonderful experience.  Our tour included VIP access to the lower level of the Colosseum where the gladiators and the animals were once held as well as, entry to the actual ring.

Once our tour was over we went on the hunt for the Pantheon.  A little word of advice, wear comfortable walking shoes or else you'll pay for it.  Before reaching the Pantheon, we came across some strange sightings.

The Pantheon is a building that was commissioned as a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome.  The architecture and the statues within were so impactful.  This is true for all of the temples and basilicas we visited out there.  Something comes over you and you can't help but be amazed and get very emotional.

We walked around the city a little more in search of that ice bar we couldn't find the previous day and we found it.  It was now an abandoned building.

DAY 3:
Along with visiting the Colosseum, seeing the Sistine Chapel was also on my list.  I did my research and found out that on the 1st and last Sundays of the month the Vatican museum is free.  The only catch is that it closes early (2pm) and the lines are usually extremely long.  It was important that we woke up on time and were out the door. We took the metro to the Cipro Musei Vaticani stop and followed the crowd assuming they were going to the Vatican museum.  Not until we were walking through security did we realize we were at St. Peter's Basilica. There were hundreds of people in attendance. We figured we had enough time to stay for mass and make it to the Vatican museum before it closed so we took a seat and waited for service to start.  It was fascinating being there amongst so many good spirited people.  By the time service began, those hundreds of people turned into thousands.

Programs were passed around all in Italian and we sung the hymns to best of our ability. We weren't that bad. Then all of a sudden pandemonium, the Pope came out. We were not expecting him to actually be there. We couldn't contain our excitement. It was unbelievable.

Moments before service was completely over the ladies and I headed to the Vatican museum.  The line was two blocks, there was no way we were going to get in before they closed the doors or so I thought.  Thanks to that New York City charm and my Italian cousin named Nikko (don't ask) we got in just in time.  It literally took an hour to walk through the museum just to get to the Sistine Chapel, but it sure was worth it.  Our mouths dropped at the site of such amazing, detailed, historic works of art.  Nothing compared to it.  We stood directly underneath the famous Creation of Adam and nearly shed some tears.

After being ushered out in order to let others in we walked around to view the other works of art.  To be honest, after seeing the Sistine Chapel I didn't want to see anything else.  This was the perfect way to spend our final day in Rome.

We left the Vatican and found this wonderful restaurant called La Caravella.  The food there was deeeeeeeeeeelicious.  It wasn't too much or too little, it was just right.  It consisted of an entree', dessert and a glass of wine for as little as 20 Euros.  Everything was great, but the best thing was the fruit cocktail.  I have never in my life tasted a fruit cocktail that superb.  The fruit was nice and fresh and the juice from it tasted like an Italian icy.  We were hurting that we found this place on our last day, because we sure would have went back.  I had dreams about that fruit cocktail when I got back to the States.  

We spent the rest of the day admiring the beauty of such a remarkable city.   As the sun set we made one more trip to the Trevi Fountain, then had our last Italian meal at a restaurant near our hotel.

                           Cheers to another wonderful edition of Around The World Girl.


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