Finally, our most recent Italian adventure draws to a close! Because flights are least expensive out of Rome, we took the train there from Naples and stayed just one night before flying out the following day. So if you’re looking for a long, comprehensive Tour di Roma, look here and here. Today, instead, is the second-time-visitors’ eight hours well-spent!
We did mix things up a bit from our last stay. For one, we stayed in a different neighborhood, on a quiet street off the busy Via Cavour. I was charmed that we could step outside and be in sight of Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica!
That was one of the few churches we missed the last time we were in town, so we made it a point to stop in.
And to grab gelato on the way! Two scoops totally counts as lunch.
Because we were there on a Monday, when a lot of sights are closed, we did the only thing good Catholics without a concrete plan know how to do. We went to the Vatican!
Makes sense, as the Vatican was one of my favorite parts of our trip last time. And we were rewarded by a different view of the basilica than before – last time, there were many more barricades, so we couldn’t get a good look at some of the greatest parts. This time we could get up close and personal!
I had no idea every one of those rectangles and circles in the dome was a different portrait. Maybe those ridiculous-looking tourists with binoculars actually had the right idea, huh?
After visiting the basilica, we were actually starting to run out of steam (we’d traveled from Naples that morning, plus spent an extra hour in a hot train station to get tickets to the airport) so we headed back to the room to recharge with a siesta. This was a wise choice, because as I mentioned last week, we’d never seen Rome at night because we would exhaust ourselves during the day. This time, we rested up and headed back out just as the sun was setting!
We decided to walk from our hotel near the train station through the old town and hit all the grand piazzas. Our route took us near Trajan’s column and the adjacent forum, which has a neat display that “unravels” the battle story told on the column.
(I love this perspective because it demonstrates how the everyday city is directly adjacent to ruins. My favorite thing about Rome!)
We also passed by the nearby (and ostentatious) Vittorio Emanuele II monument...
... as well as this random excavation area in the middle of the city. Our free-at-the-hotel-desk map called it a “sacred area”, though as far as I could tell from the description on the sign, it’s the remains of a public works department and some latrines. Either way, this is another example of what I love about Rome: turn a corner, and you’re staring into thousands of years of history just laying there.
(Pssst, do you see the marble plaster worn off the brick column beneath? We’ll never be fooled by ancient “marble” columns again!)
We’d originally hoped to have dinner at a place near our hotel, which was recommended to us by the concierge as the best pasta outside of his grandma’s house. It was called La Carbonara, and even though he added, “But you don’t need to get the carbonara, get something else,” I immediately had a hardcore craving. When it turned out that there were no more reservations to be had at the restaurant that evening, we decided to just find a place in the centro storico... but I stipulated that it needed to serve carbonara.
We ended up wandering into this place, which was vaguely touristy and reasonably priced and served the best carbonara I’ve ever eaten. Can you sense how excited I am in this photo? I was so dang thrilled to eat that bowl of pasta.
Mr. P’s lemon chicken with zucchini was okay, I suppose. I only had eyes for the carbonara.
With full and very happy bellies, we then hit up the different piazzas. There was Campo de Fiori, followed by Piazza Navona.
I mean, St. Louis is pretty at night, but there’s a serious lack of fountains by Bernini.
Speaking of fountains, we were in luck the last time we wanted to see the Trevi Fountain, but this time, not so much.
Oh, the shrieks of horror from the college-age tourists who were told by a nearby security guard that it would be closed through December 2015! I think they were hoping it’d be back to normal by the end of the week.
Oh the other hand, we couldn’t see the Pantheon exterior last time, as it was covered in scaffolding for repairs. Four years later, it was completely unobscured!
Well, at least by scaffolding... our heads are a different matter. (It’s ok, I captured it in all its glory here, too.)
By that time, it was quite late and time to head back to our hotel. We had to fly back to the states the next morning, after all! While this won’t be the ultimate guide to Rome, our little stopover was the perfect finale to our trip – a little familiar, a few new things, and overall a lovely way to reconnect with the Eternal City where we had our first adventure together!