Ah, Rome. The end of our trip. We quickly learned that Rome is a tough place to end a three week European vacation. It’s a very busy city with loads of cars (something I had not experienced since Germany, more than a week ago!) and their public transportation system makes you want to pull your hair out. Our guide book suggested that visitors would benefit from staying in nicer accommodations than usual because Rome can cause sensory overload. But really? What do they know? For the first time in our trip, Brant and I booked a room that was not on the “recommended” list and boy did we regret it. When I asked the caretaker about the broken lights next to our bed, he proceeded to flip the switch, peered into the lamps and shrugged. Apparently that was his way of saying, “Oh, well. Sucks for you.” Given this, I didn’t bother to complain when I nearly fell into the toilet because the seat wasn’t attached or when my room was 50 degrees Fahrenheit because the heat was broken. Apparently the guide book did know a thing or two.
Given the state of our room, we were eager to hit the streets of Rome and return to our room as late as possible. Our stateside friends had recommended a particular pizza restaurant for dinner, claiming Dar Poeta had the best eats in the city. Since the guide book confirmed this, we knew we couldn’t go wrong. In fact, this restaurant recommendation was very, very right. Dar Poeta’s wood fired pizza was a gift from heaven. The crust was perfection. The toppings were simple, and yet the combination was incredibly tasty.
For dessert we ordered the highly recommended chocolate calzone. We certainly did not have space in our bellies to eat this monstrosity, but we figured breakfast would be pretty sparse in the morning and it was a good idea to have a backup. (And it was a good thing we did! Besides – chocolate for breakfast is always glorious idea!)
Dar Poeta proved to be so delicious that we returned there all four nights that we were in Rome. Each night we ordered a different dessert to go with our meal. The chocolate mousse was similar to something that I make at home and even though I thought my stomach would explode from overeating, I finished every bite. Above is a picture of a dessert they called Crema Poeta and it is comparable to vanilla pudding with Lady’s Fingers and miniature chocolate chips. When I got home, I promptly googled a recipe for vanilla pudding and found one that rivaled the Crema Poeta. I’ll be sure to blog it soon!
The Roman ruins were by far my favorite part of Rome (aside from Dar Poeta’s desserts ). The Coliseum is obviously one of the most fantastic ancient buildings around. The Roman Forum, which I knew nothing about, came to life when we listened to a free audio tour by Rick Steves. Huge monuments like the ones pictured above were once completely buried and later discovered by archaeologists. Can you imagine how much dirt must have been excavated to unearth these structures?
These huge stone monuments and buildings become even more impressive when you remember that they were constructed hundreds (if not thousands!) of years ago without the aid of machines. Brant was completely awed at the columns supporting many of the buildings. For instance, the column in the above photo is a single piece of granite and was brought to Rome from Egypt!
Equally impressive as construction of these buildings is the amount of time spent decorating their interiors. The above ceiling in the Vatican is one of many that include more paintings than most American art museums. And the best part? Those “frames” are painted. The artists did a great job of making them look three-dimensional, didn’t they?
All our walking around from one historic ruin to another was making me hungry, so I asked Brant to find me a spot to eat a quick lunch. This sandwich shop was clearly pandering to American stomachs. It seems they forgot to check People magazine for the name spellings!
The Romans are famous for their aqueducts and to this day water flows freely from fountains all around the city. Irony is when you choose to eat lunch at a place directly across from one of these fountains only to find that they charge you for water.
After lunch is, of course, dessert! This gelato place came highly recommended and it did not disappoint. Notice how they include an extra mini-cone in the top of your huge scoop. This dark chocolate ice cream hit the spot!
This statue was the first ever purchased by a Pope for the Vatican Museum. People loved it so much that they flocked to see it. Popes continued to add more and more art to the collection until it became the four miles of artwork that it is today.
How do I know this? Because my trip to the Vatican was almost as illicit as you could get. Brant and I bought one audio tour and plugged in a Y-jack so that we could share it. Then we bypassed all the initial sculptures and exhibits so that we could spend ample time in the Sistine Chapel before heading back to see the rest of the museum. The Sistine Chapel is just as amazing as everyone says it is and the audio tour helped me appreciate it even more. Once we had our fill of the famous chapel, we headed back toward the rest of the museum. Only there was a problem. There was a guard standing there, and he refused to let us pass. Apparently the traffic flow in the museum is one-way and your visit ends with the Sistine Chapel. Imagine our dismay. We had seen absolutely nothing except the chapel.
We formed strategies as we followed everyone else to the museum exit. We could explain our situation to the guards. Or, better yet, we could find a door that would lead to the inner courtyard and then just start back over again. Or… wait! The guard who was supposed to be watching the exit was distracted helping someone else. We jumped over the barrier and ran back toward the entrance. Looking back, the coast was clear. We made it. We pretended like nothing was amiss and started the museum tour from the beginning this time.
As we made our way through the museum, we happened upon an English speaking tour. Of course we did not pay for this tour, so we could not join the tour group. Instead, we kept our museum audio tour plugged in but paused it so that we could listen to the far more interesting English tour. Not getting caught overhearing their tour was a game of “pretend” that involved pointing to random sculptures and taking pictures in front of meaningless tapestries, all in an effort to stay close enough to the tour group to hear what they were saying but far enough away that they would not suspect our intentions. And that, my fair readers, was how I know that the above sculpture was the original Vatican artwork.
This is probably one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. (To be honest, it’s probably one of the only sunrises I have ever seen!) I took this picture from our plane. We were finally headed home.
My European vacation was amazing. As you have read, we saw and did so much, but we were ready to come home. We wanted to sleep in our own bed, snuggle with our kittens, eat foods we prepared for ourselves, and celebrate simple things like fireplaces, washing machines, and, of course, free wi-fi.
Now that I’m at home, my goal is to bring Europe to us through tasty homemade treats like the ones we experienced when we were abroad. As I find and perfect these recipes, I will be sharing them with you, so check back soon! In the mean time, arrivederci!