I’ve always said I should have been born into an Italian family (not that I don’t love my actual family). I’ve just always wanted a Nonna who invites me over every Sunday for home-made lasagne and tells me to “Mangia, mangia!”. Since I love Italian food and have an insatiable appetite for adventure, Italy seemed like the perfect summer destination.
My brother and I toured around Rome, Florence, Pisa, Manarola Cinque Terre, and Venice and saw everything we possibly could. I can’t wait to share it all with you, but I’ll first start with Roma and some tips and tricks that I hope will help you plan your next big trip!
Before I get into the details of our trip, let me just say that Rome is exactly what I thought it would be. An architecturally stunning, loud, bustling city with the most mouth-watering food you’ll ever taste. Although Rome doesn’t have the je ne sais quoi of Paris (I’m biased), it was absolutely breath-taking and I would go back in a heart beat.
We took an overnight flight to Rome from Toronto and arrived at 9:30 AM on Saturday. I love overnight flights because that way I don’t waste precious exploration time on the chaos that is traveling. I’m always exhausted on that first day but it’s totally worth it. We immediately (lol no we got lost) checked into our hotel- Hotel Victoria on Via Campania. This hotel is beautiful and the rooms are giant by European standards. An extra perk was the gorgeous roof top terrance. I book all of my hotels through Trivago. They compare other websites’ prices, making travel planning easy and time-efficient.
On Sunday morning we headed out for our first full day of adventure. We started bright and early with a tour of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum that I booked with TicketItaly. It was extremely hard to find a Colosseum tour and although the TicketItaly website is not very user-friendly, the tour itself was fantastic! Our guide was so knowledgeable, I’m pretty sure I could defend a doctoral thesis about Ancient Rome. Did you know that the statues and buildings (like the Arch below) were colourful in Ancient Rome? Purple, yellow, blue, red. Nothing was plain. I can’t even begin to image how fabulous that would have been!
Another bonus of the tour was having access to the dungeons and the top tier of the Colosseum, something that non-tour people don’t get to see.
I wore my Mango off-the-shoulder dress that you’ve seen before. It is very hot in Rome this time of year and this dress kept me cool in the sweltering heat. I paired it with my beloved boat hat (stay tuned for a heart-breaking story in one of my next posts), Joe Fresh black flip flops and a Tory Burch cross body I bought a few years ago during their summer sale.
Although the tour was fantastic, it’s not for the faint of heart. It lasted three and a half hours and about half of that time was spent in the sun. So after it was done we obviously went to try some of their world famous pizza. We found a restaurant across the street with a full view of the Colosseum and got the “spicy pepperoni pizza”. Absolutely delicious. I was hooked!
We then wandered over to the Pantheon. The sheer size of everything in Rome is mind-boggling and the Pantheon was no exception.
Tossing a coin and making a wish at the Trevi Fountain has been on my bucket list since I can remember. While the fountain itself was stunning, the area surrounding it is about as big as my closet (not really but it sure felt like it). Also, I guess making a wish at the Trevi Fountain is on everyone else’s bucket list too because there were millions of people there (again, an exaggeration). I had to jostle for a spot at the front and once I did I almost jumped into the water (pretty sure that’s prohibited though). So the mob of people kind of took away from the experience, but it was still worth it to cross this off my list.
We had dinner at a little pizzeria around the corner from Hotel Victoria. If I could recommend one thing when traveling, it’s to stay away from touristy restaurants. I want authentic Italian food, not the tourist version. Try to find the “Mom and Pop” shops if you can.
The food here was delicious and the waiters were so charming and funny. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of being called “Bella”. One of the waiters, Bonifacio, actually used to live in Ottawa and knew all of the street names. It really is such a small world! He said he was going to play a game and if we couldn’t join in we’d have to pay double for our meal. He then began to sing the Canadian national anthem. My brother and I promptly jumped in. So here we are at a pizzeria in Rome proudly singing our national anthem. What’s that saying? “When in Rome”! After we were finished, everyone clapped and it was super embarrassing but it was something I’ll never forget.
What are your favourite spots in Rome? I absolutely plan on going back to the heart of Italy.
Photo credit: Jesse Market