rome: the sunshine state. gorgeous.

Happy Friday, readers!  Oh so close to another weekend…  Hang in there.

As for me, well I feel like the weekend should be ending, not beginning, given that we just ended a long weekend trip to Rome with my brother, Curtis.  But before I jump into all of that, I wanted to give you a few remaining details of our time together in Nederland.

Curtis and I hit up a museum here in The Hague called the Louwman Museum.  This is a private collection of automobiles and related memorabilia.  I didn’t have really high expectations for the museum, being a private collection and all…  But wow – was I wrong!  The museum was really crazy…they had an abundance of vehicles from the 1800’s and early 1900’s from around the world. (Including the oldest Ford known to be still in existence – the 18th one produced – no big deal!)  They also had a large collection of old motorcycles, famous cars (such as Sir Winston Churchill’s personal car and one of Elvis’ Cadillacs), racing cars, boat cars, tiny Euro cars, and other very unique cars. I would hardly consider myself a lover of automobiles, but it was a really enjoyable visit.  Probably will be making a return with BC one of these days.  Here are a couple shots:

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Afterwards, we did a little shopping and just like when we were younger, we landed in a candy store!  A significant amount of gummies were purchased…oops! 🙂

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Saturday, we all made our way back to Amsterdam, along with a couple of BC’s coworkers from back home who had been in town for work.  We wandered around quite a bit, and did even more shopping.  Just wanted to throw in one quick photo of us.

The three of us in Amsterdam.

The three of us in Amsterdam.

Ok – now on to what you all came here to read…ROMA!  I had not yet been to Italy, so I had been long awaiting this trip to Rome and looking forward to some sunshine.  I put together a very loose itinerary with a few highlights per day, but mostly, we had planned to wander, eat pizza, pasta and gelato regularly, and see what we came across along the way.  And that’s exactly what we did!

We arrived mid-day on Sunday after about a 2 hour flight from Amsterdam.  In an attempt to use up our last remaining Marriott points, we booked a room at a Courtyard that wasn’t in the city center, but was supposedly pretty easy to get to via public transportation.  So my research had told me that we could take an express train from the airport to the central station…Check!  Then we could take the metro to the last stop…Check!  And then our hotel would be nearby this last stop…incorrect.  After quite some time and loads of frustration, we found out that we were either a 30 minute walk or a bus ride away from the hotel at that point.  It was about 85 degrees and we had luggage, so walking didn’t seem reasonable to me.  We made valiant efforts to find this bus stop that we had been referred to, but we eventually broke down and took a taxi after not finding it!  This was not a great introduction to Rome…

We finally arrived to check-in at the hotel, and received instruction for a much easier (although still inconvenient) route back to the city center.  After dumping our luggage and a quick refresh, we headed back.  This time, we took a train to the metro to the Spagna stop, where we would start our adventure.  It was in this metro stop that we witnessed our first theft.  (I say first for a reason.)  A group of men stole some fake designer purses from a vendor in the metro and took off running…it was pretty crazy.  We did see the police show up with one of them in custody shortly after.  (Keep in mind that this was upon first arrival in the city, so we were still working on our first impression.)

Luckily, the afternoon went up from there.  We stopped to take a peek at the Spanish Steps, then made our way down the high-end designer shopping…stores like Gucci, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Prada…you know, the norms.  We watched numerous street performers along the way including a break dancing crew, several musicians and artists.  We ended up in a big open square, Piazza del Popolo.  In the center, there was a large Egyptian monument (or obelisk, as my research tells me these tall, 4-sided monuments are called) called the Flaminio, which was brought to Rome in 10 BC.  On the side we entered from, there were twin Baroque-style churches (although not actually identical), and on the opposite end, the church for which the square was named, Santa Maria del Popolo.  Off to the side, there was a tall look-out from the Pincio Park up above…more on that later.  Here are a few shots:

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

Piazza del Popolo & the Egyptian Obelisk.

Piazza del Popolo & the Egyptian Obelisk.

The Twin Churches.

The Twin Churches.

Curt's & his new friends.

Curtis & his new friends.

It was then that we made the decision that it was in fact time for our first gelato.  For me and BC, coffee and chocolate.  For Curtis, mint and chocolate.  AMAZING!  But you already knew that.

Best. Chocolate. Ever.

Best. Chocolate. Ever.

Seriously...mmm.

Seriously…

We made our way next towards Trevi Fountain.  Completed in 1762, the Trevi Fountain is one of the largest in the city of Rome and one of the world’s most famous fountains.  The legend is that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you will return to Rome one day.  An interesting tid bit that I read online says that an estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain daily…and this money is used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome’s needy.  Kind of cool – of course we participated.  15 euro cents donated by us.

Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain.

Toss.
Toss.

Pre-toss Excitement.

Pre-toss Excitement.

Aww – a good one!

At this point, we walked through the narrow city streets in search for our first Italian meal.  This is when we were introduced to the concept of waiters basically trying to recruit customers to their tables.  Every restaurant had a waiter out front informing people that they had pizza and pasta (shocker) and tables available.  Pizza for the boys and pasta for me.  Delicious!!

Pre-dinner prosecco.  And the waiter doing his recruiting in the back.

Pre-dinner prosecco. And the waiter doing his recruiting in the back.

My delicious pasta.

My delicious pasta.

Given that we had another hour or so before sunset, we decided to make our way towards the Colosseum.  Even though we had plans to visit the Colosseum later on in the trip, we thought it would be fun to see it/take tons of photos of it during the golden hour (photography term for period of time before sunset when the light is ‘golden’).  Narrowing down what to post here was extremely difficult for me, but I will just give you a couple.

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At the Roman Forum along the way.

Piazza Venezia & the Altare della Patria along the way.

Piazza Venezia & the Altare della Patria along the way.

From a distance.

From a distance.

Full shot.

Full shot.

Colosseum

Behind the Colosseum.

Loving the light.

Loving the light.

Gladiator Flex.

The moon is out!

At that point, we decided to head back to the hotel (given the 30 minutes of commute) since it was going to be getting dark soon.  I should also mention that at this point, Curtis was yelled at by an old man regarding his jean holes and his pocket showing.  (Said holes can be seen in photos above.)

Monday morning came and we didn’t feel like making the earliest of starts.  But we had purchased advanced tickets for our visit to the Vatican Museum, so we were on the move by 10:00 or so.  Even though we had tickets, we still got asked about 30 times (no exaggeration) if we wanted to skip the line and do a tour with this random person inquiring.

Anyway, we were very thankful for our advance tickets, as we would have probably been standing in line for a few hours to get into the museum otherwise.  The line was outrageous!  But we were able to go right in.  I must mention here that it was around 85 degrees at that point, and it proceeded to be in the 90’s that day (with constant sun and little breeze).  Also – the Vatican has a dress code in which shoulders and knees must be covered, so we weren’t in our most cool outfits.  You may have guessed by my description that I’m not a huge fan of high levels of heat! 🙂

We took a relatively short pathway through the museum, with our biggest priority being the Sistine Chapel.  There were a lot of impressive works of religious art along the way to the chapel, including other ceiling works.

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But needless to say, the Sistine Chapel was the most impressive!  It was surreal to be in there viewing the actual works by Michelangelo (such as the Creation of Adam and Last Judgement). Photos were not allowed (nor was talking) inside the chapel, so I pulled a couple off the internet to show you.

A wide shot.

A wide view…ours was less wide as several hundred of our best friends were cozied up to us.

Creation of Adam (on the ceiling)

Creation of Adam (on the ceiling).  I did find it.

The Last Judgement (on the wall).

The Last Judgement (on the wall).

At this point, we were all very ready for some lunch and looking to find some shade (already).  So we started looking around the side streets nearby the museum, and stumbled upon a little place where again, the waiter was recruiting.  This guy became BC’s new best friend.  And the meal turned out to be our favorite lunch of the trip.  Pizza’s all around, and even some red wine for me!  At the end of the meal, we got a surprise plate of bing cherries that were tasty!  Best part – this was also our cheapest meal of the trip…double bonus.

Prosciutto Pizza

Prosciutto Pizza

CHERRIES!

CHERRIES!

From there, we headed back to take in the views of St. Peter’s Basilica.  We didn’t have tickets to go inside the basilica, but it was a sight to see from the outside as well.  History lesson: the current basilica was completed in 1626 and is one of the most renowned works of Renaissance architecture.  It is one of the largest churches in the world, and it is regarded as one of the holiest of Catholic sites.  (yes, I had to look this stuff up.)  It is said to be the burial site of Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus…thus the name St. Peter’s Basilica.  Unfortunately, my research ended there.  Ask your Catholic friends to find out more. 🙂

The Basilica and it's notable dome.  Note - another obelisk.

The Basilica and it’s famous dome. Note – another obelisk.

Us out front.

Us out front.

BC’s panorama skills put to use.

We casually wandered back to the city center of Rome, taking in a few sights and having a minor heat-related break down along the way.  We crossed the river and eventually stumbled upon the Pantheon, a temple built for all gods of Ancient Rome…it’s about 2000 years old, no big deal.

Tiber River & Castel Sant'Angelo

Tiber River & Castel Sant’Angelo

Pantheon

Pantheon

Creepy Fountain in front of Pantheon

Creepy Fountain in front of Pantheon

Full building.

Full building.

At this point, it was time for another round of gelato.  We had another tasty round (although honestly the first day’s was better).  More chocolate and coffee flavors, and some orange for Curtis.  A nice way to briefly cool down.  After this, we were checking out some postcards outside a bookstore when we witnessed our second crime.  Again related to the fake designer bag industry…a woman apparently tried to purchase one of them.  The man ran from her (not before she could clock him with her current purse), and she started yelling for the police.  It was a bit scary for a minute.

To get out of the sun, and also to locate a public restroom, we popped inside what looked like a little shopping mall.  We enjoyed a tasty cold cappuccino for a little pick me up.  Apparently this is what a shopping mall in Rome looks like:

Just like Jordan Creek.

Just like Jordan Creek.

Refreshing!

Then we made our way back to the Piazza del Popolo to check out the Pincio Park overlooking it.  We made a steep climb, and then…an amazing view followed!

This is how far up we went - to the top of this lookout.

This is how far up we went – to the top of this lookout.

View of Piazza del Popolo

At the top of the stairs.

The view.

Palm trees – Curtis felt at home.

We hung out in the park for a while, watching people cuddle on blankets, riding segways and go carts, and having snacks.  It was very well shaded, and lots of greenery…something we hadn’t seen much of elsewhere in the city.

We exited the park and took a stroll down the high-end restaurants and hotels along the Vittorio Veneto.  Given that we had been out in the sun all day and walking a ton, we didn’t really fit in on that street.

Next up, it was time to eat again.  We found our way to a restaurant on a little side street again for more pizza and pasta.  First up, some appetizers…bruschetta and prosciutto with melon.  Then we enjoyed some good bread and a bottle of wine as we waited for the main course…pizza for Curtis, lasagna for me, and pasta with bacon and a red sauce for BC (the names all run together at this point).  It was voted BC and I’s favorite dinner of the trip!

Isn't it a cute place?

Isn’t it a cute place?

Looking real good.

Looking real good.

My 5 euro lasagna!

My 5 euro lasagna!

Post-dinner, we made our way back to the Metro to take our lovely commute back to the hotel.  Along the way, we passed the Trevi Fountain again as it was starting to light up for the evening.

More panorama action from the BC.

More panorama action from BC.

Tuesday morning was reserved for a trip inside the Colosseum.  We didn’t have tickets, so we arrived at 9:00 am when it opened, and luckily we didn’t wait in line really at all.  (I should point out that we hadn’t gotten breakfast before we arrived, so we had to get something from a vendor nearby.  Unfortunately, breakfast wasn’t much of an option.  Curtis & I had a pastry ring and BC had a nice little chicken sandwich.)  Anyway, it was incredible inside, although overwhelming to think of the horror that took place there so long ago.   We decided to pay an additional 6 euros each for an audio/video guide that was actually an iPhone.  Always nice to have a little extra information, but it wasn’t quite as specific as we had hoped for.  We spent a good hour and a half walking through the building and learning more about the Colosseum.  It was already steamy out by that time!  Inside the Colosseum there was little breeze also…definitely put a small damper on it for me, but hey – we were at the COLOSSEUM!

Me & BC

Me & BC

Listening to the audio.

Listening to the audio.

Wide shot.

Wide shot.

The underground pathways and cages for animals.

The underground pathways and cages for animals.

BC's inside panorama.

BC’s inside panorama.  Pretty sweet.

Our ticket for the Colosseum also got us into the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum.  Palatine Hill is one of the seven ancient hills of Rome.  It is one of the oldest parts of the city, supposedly where the original Romans lived, and estimated to have had people living there since around 1000 BC.  Today, you can still visit the ruins of the palaces for a few of the Roman Emperors (Augustus, Tiberius, and Domitian).

Palatine Hill Ruins

Palatine Hill Ruins

Palatine Hill Ruins

Palatine Hill Ruins

Palatine Hill Ruins & Art

Palatine Hill Ruins & Art

Then we wandered down to the neighboring valley known as the Roman Forum, which was the center of government in Ancient Rome.  There are many ruins from several governmental buildings and statues/monuments that were once there.

Roman Forum Ruins

Roman Forum Ruins

Roman Forum Ruins

Roman Forum Ruins

Roman Forum Ruins

Roman Forum Ruins

After that, we made our way back into the hustle and bustle of the city center streets in search of yet another pizza and shady seating.  We ended up nearby the Pantheon again for lunch.  We were a little disappointed by the price of lunch this day, but I suppose we should have assumed given the proximity to the monument.

More pizzas!  Hungry yet?

More pizzas! Hungry yet?

We had decided that we should try to do one of the double-decker bus tours in the afternoon for two reasons: 1 – we had been walking all day, every day, and we could probably cover more ground on wheels, and 2 – we had hoped for a good breeze up top!  Unfortunately, we didn’t plan for the 15 minutes standing directly in the sun at the bus stop waiting for a bus to arrive, and then the 15 minutes on the top of the bus before it departed.  Once it got going, the breeze was nice and we were able to see some new places/get some information on places we’d been on foot.

Bus Tour

Bus Tour

Feeling really nasty at that point!

Feeling really nasty at that point!

And this is what I looked like AFTER the tour:

This is what happens when you live somewhere with no sun and then go on vacation.

This is what happens when you live somewhere with no sun and then go on vacation.  Still paying for it today.

Clearly it was time for some sort of frozen treat at that point.  We went to a gelato place that we had seen and drooled over previously for a few scoops of goodness.  Unfortunately, the jerk-face working the counter thought it would be hilarious if he made fun of my brother’s tattoos.  Thus, we left without purchasing.

It turned out to be to our benefit, because we ended up stumbling upon La Casa Del Caffe, where we had the most amazing frozen coffee treat that has ever been invented.  Yes, that good!  I will be recommending this to everyone that I know that ever goes to Rome. 🙂

Whipped cream, frozen coffee, whipped cream.

Whipped cream, frozen coffee, whipped cream.

We did some souvenir shopping, as this was our last afternoon in Rome.  We browsed through several different souvenir, accessories, leather, and wooden shops, and we did make a few purchases!  I have to show you this one photo – there was a wooden products store, and they (as did many others) had some Pinocchio toys.  That’s where this happened:

Favorite photo of the trip!

Favorite photo of the trip!

After that, we stopped at a cafe near the Spanish Steps for a couple beverages…where BC was able enjoy a big ole Peroni (Italian beer) while I had a glass of wine.  From there, we headed to dinner.  This is where I was yelled at by a tiny, little, old lady because apparently ‘my shorts were too short for the city’??  I think my shorts were much more reasonable than a lot of what I was seeing.  And I might have passed out earlier in the day if I had any more clothing on.

We settled in for dinner at a restaurant just across from the previous evening’s spot. They gave us a free glass of champagne to entice us – and it worked.  We started with a yummy bruschetta again, and then some tasty spaghetti varieties for BC and I, while Curtis got crazy with swordfish!  He voted this his favorite meal.

Mine had cheese and black pepper, and it was yum.

Mine had cheese and black pepper, and it was yum.

We headed out the following morning, but not before we found one last frozen cappuccino (or two…each)!

At the airport.

At the airport.

What a great trip!  We really enjoyed visiting somewhere that was so unique, and full of so much history.  The food in Italy is so amazing too – how could you ever get tired of fresh pasta and delicious pizzas?!  We also really appreciated the service at restaurants in Italy, as in comparison with the lack of attention you typically receive here in The NL.  We loved listening to the Italians speak too.  The language is pretty, although we concluded that it often sounds like they are disagreeing on something when in conversation.

Naturally, we rented the movie Gladiator that evening when we got back, in honor of our trip.  I think it’s a requirement.  Anyway, we dropped Curtis off at the airport the following morning for his big trip back to the States.  I am so incredibly happy that he was able to come see me!  I had the best time showing my lil’ bro around my new home and making some ridiculous, once-in-a-lifetime memories with him!!  Love you so much, Curtis!!  THANKS FOR COMING!

Now back to reality and planning for the next round.  We are going to Eindhoven this weekend to hang with friends and go to a concert/festival.  Should be a lot of fun!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!  Ciao!

Until next time,
-MK-

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