I've wanted to visit Italy for as long as I can remember. My favorite food (all things carbs + gelato...how can you go wrong??), the golden colors, dreaminess, history, etc. have always put Italy at the top of my vacation bucket list. So, Brian pulled off the ultimate birthday surprise when two days before we were to leave, he told me we were going to Rome! He had been planning the trip for over a month and kept it a total secret- he sorted two different babysitters, purchased the plane tickets, and researched the most magical hotel for us to stay in. We stayed at the DOM hotel on the famous Via Giulia, on the right bank of the Tiber River. It was a 16th century monastery at one time, and you can still find tons of exposed brick walls, cathedral ceilings and ancient sacred marble inscriptions, but its been beautifully and tastefully modernized. It was within walking distance of all of the Roman sites and all-in-all absolute perfection.
We arrived late Thursday night, checked in, and then went for a quick walk down the narrow, cobblestoned streets of Rome. I seriously could hardly take it all in- I have never seen so much amazing charm all in one place. It was everything that I imagined Italy to be... times 1000. The gorgeous architecture, ancient cathedrals peering out and commanding the narrow alleys, perfect shutters and colors on every building, slippery cobblestone walkways, Christmas lights strung on all of the streets- I could hardly stand how awesome it was!
The next morning, we woke up and went on a run around Roma...it really is the best way to see any city- and this is one stunning city. We ran by the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill by the Piazza Venezia, and through the winding maze-like streets and hills of the right bank. I could not get over how beautiful this place is and made even better by the sprinkling of ancient ruins that you would just happen upon. This is definitely one of my favorite cities we've been so lucky to visit.
After we returned to the hotel, we sat down for our continental breakfast of breads and pastries, with nutella, ricotta and custard cream spreads (only in Italy!) as well as some fruit and yogurt for good measure. :) Our first stop after getting ready for the day was the Pantheon, one of the best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings because it has been in constant use since its construction in 126 AD. Inside is a massive circular domed room, with an oculus at the top for its only source of light. The most interesting thing about the oculus is that it never closes, so when it rains, it also rains inside the ancient church!
Next up was the Colosseum. The size of it is incredible- it is so massive and entirely dominates where it stands in the city. However, both Brian and I felt like it was far more impressive from the outside than the inside. We followed the Colosseum with the Roman Forum across the street, which was also very interesting and really huge- the signage inside was almost non-existent though, so at several points we felt like we were walking through a maze to try and find the exit! But, the views from the top of the hill looking over the city were fantastic.
After a slow Italian dinner, we wandered over to the Trevi Fountain, one of the most famous in the world and the largest Baroque fountain in the city. We had seen it earlier in the sunlight, but at night, it really is an unbelievable work of art. The water is a gorgeous green-blue and it is all lit up so perfectly against the white backdrop. Its a major tourist hangout, understandably so, and you have to muscle your way in to get a picture. But, its totally worth it.
We finished off Day 1 with some delicious gelato...they sell gelato here like the Texans sell donuts (on every corner!) and I am not complaining about it. I have to admit, though, that the Italian gelato shop on our street in London is still my very favorite.
DAY 2 ... Crossing the Tiber to get to the Vatican. How awesomely Italian is this car with this view??
There are tons of people in Rome on motorcycles...like TONS. On our first day, I told Brian that we had to find a Vespa to rent and ride through Rome. Perfection, right?! So, on our walk home from the Vatican we noticed a place right there that rented Vespas for 50 Euros for an entire day! We just haaaad to do it. I made Brian drive because last time I was at the wheel of a scooter, I had a major crash on Cozumel while 23 weeks pregnant (read the story here). Donning our matching helmets, we raced around every part of Rome we wanted to, in the very best way you can. We climbed the Gianicolo Hill for one of the most spectacular views of the entire city with its many domed cathedrals and orange hues and from there, the view at the Pincio is just as spectacular (especially at sunset). We rode through the charming neighborhoods by the Villa Borghese as well as Capitoline Hill with its traffic-filled roundabout and over and around the Colosseum. We ate the most delicious dinner nearby, and then took our scooter back when it turned dark. We followed up our chilly ride with...another gelato!
As we were driving into Rome on our first night, I had a lot of thoughts running through my head and wanted to share them. To begin, we know our time in Europe isn't going to last forever and we also know and recognize that we are SO SO SO lucky to have this opportunity. Those two facts make living "in the moment" much easier- its akin to a vacation that you know is about to end and you just want to soak up every moment and feel so grateful for every second you have. Thats what I've felt on every trip we've been on since moving to London (and in London itself!). I know our time here is relatively short and I cannot help but feel like my heart might literally burst with gratitude almost every second- its hard to describe, but its a very real feeling. I don't take any second for granted and am so appreciative of all of the things we are learning and places we get to see. My emotions are all crazily heightened- I cry at almost every school function that my kids are a part of and I think its because I know it won't last forever; these life-changing experiences we get to have here are becoming such a big part of us. We are so very, very blessed.