Monday, March 26, 2012

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day (and related blogging challenges)

So...this is a post that started out about a trip to Rome. An amazing, action-packed trip about which I have a lot to say. Almost too much...and thus the constant blogger's dilemma. What to write about? How to narrow it down? Does anyone care? And, will they after reading thousands of words on the subject? And, thus a typical post...for weeks and which time inspiration runs low and memories get more vague...

I don't really have this issue when it comes to the writing I do for a living. But, perhaps that is the problem. It is so easy to blow off this's just for fun, right? It's so much easier to tweet out my thoughts in those nice, concise statements or do some reviews of places we have been and continue to ignore the blog. But, I'm feeling some inspiration after spending a lot of time recently reading some of my favorite travel blogs (and remembering how many of those articles helped me with ideas and recommendations for Rome).

So, I thought I'd start with a general overview and a "why Rome?" post. Perhaps I will get inspired to share more details later. Or, be on to the next destination...

Travel lovers all have a bucket list of sorts, and like deciding what to post, deciding where to go can be overwhelming. Italy makes the list for many people. But, most people don't have time to cover all the regions and sites of this diverse country. So...why Rome? (or why not Rome?)

Rome is awesome...if you like art and history. If that doesn't interest you (and you don't want to spend a lot of time in churches, museums and ruins), there may be a better spot for you, unless you are coming for the religious significance. Rome is a big, crowded city and if you want a relaxing slice of the "dolce vita" you're on the wrong track.

All I could think the whole time I was there is "Wow, I would have enjoyed ancient history a lot more if I could have visited here when studying". Rome is a walk through history. To be amongst such a bustling city and see remnants of ancient history each way you turn is, well, awesome.

We did all the highlights and I think it was a pretty thorough itinerary for our timeframe. We still had time to talk through the neighborhoods, enjoy nice dinners, wine and conversation with our friends (who met us there for the trip). Here's a rundown along with some links in case you are planning a visit:

Day 1 (for us a mid-day arrival): settle in, great Italian lunch and then a visit to the Borghese Gallery (you must reserve and stick to a tight time here, so check it out beforehand if you wish to go) and then some visiting over a nice dinner.

Day 2: Ancient Rome-The Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill (great advice from Rick Steves' book to buy the combo ticket at Palatine Hill versus the Colosseum-a huge line/time saver, we also used his audio tours on our phones/iPods for these sites), dinner at a great little restaurant recommended by our apartment manager (Marco at the Mok'House Apartments).

Day 3: The Vatican-we chose to do a guided tour to avoid the lines and it was a wise choice, especially giving context and organizing what can be very overwhelming. We did a lot of online research beforehand to find a quality tour and were pleased with the one we booked at Viator (being winter it was a fairly small group too). We took a long walk back to enjoy more of the city after sending the required Vatican postcards and revitalizing over lunch. We explored the Trastavere neighborhood for the evening-loads of great restaurants and nightlife.

Day 4: A little extra sleep followed by walking tour of the major sites (on our own, following Rick Steves' walk laid out in his guide) including Trevi fountain, Spanish Steps and visit to Pantheon (and my discovery of the frozen ice style coffees at the "world's best coffee" spot, Taza d'Oro--with fresh cream-craving one now!), the old school pizza experience at Da Baffetto.

Day 5: Wine tour/day trip to Frascati with Wine in Tour-this is the chance to get that slice of Italy's dolce vita and a highly recommended excursion and company. Probably my favorite day!

Day 6: Trip out to Ostia Antica-another recommended visit, often overlooked and described by some as "similar to Pompeii but with less tourists", a very easy trip and worth spending a bit of time if you enjoy ruins and imagining what this once thriving port city.

Day 7: Our travel day, but we had a chance to explore some additional neighborhoods and enjoy lunch before flying home. Our friends arrived a couple days in advance and one thing I know they would highly recommend is the Dark Tours' Angels and Demons tour.

Want the full visual tour? Check out our Rome photos here.