Day 1: Seeing & Tasting the Best of Rome
From the first leg of our journey in Capri, Italy, we took a ferry from the island back to Naples. There we transferred from the marina to the Naples train station for our comfortable and scenic ride to Rome’s Stazione Termini. If you happen to be connecting between European cities, the high-speed trains can be very comparable to flying, but at much less expense. We booked first class seats in advance and enjoyed every moment of the ride in a very comfortable seat. The train has good wifi and a bar-car for all the refreshments you would like.
Upon arrival at the Stazione Termini, we had some time before the hotel would be ready for us to check in. Knowing this early, we made special arrangements with the car service to give us a 1-hour overview tour around the city to get the lay of the land. The Rome-Chauffeur private limousine service drove us around the surprisingly compact city center to give us a good perspective of the city along with some helpful tips and guidance before dropping us at our Pantheon-adjacent hotel.
We arrived at Albergo del Senato hotel in the heart of Rome. The traditionally styled hotel is literally right next to the Pantheon, which can be best seen from its rooftop bar. Location is everything with this hotel. The Pantheon is literally on the hotel’s doorstep, and it is situated nicely in the middle of many of Rome’s famous landmarks. Better yet, the hotel was well appointed, and the service was fantastic the entire stay. It was easy to understand why this hotel has such great reviews. We were very happy we chose this hotel.
With dinner reservations coming soon, we had a couple hours to walk around the surrounding area to catch some of the sights and sounds of the city. On this hot August day, we wound up returning to the Albergo del Senato for drinks on the rooftop. As in Capri, we found Aperol Spritzes were a great way to cool down on the hot summer days in Italy. There we watched the crowds in the Piazza della Rotonda below.
For the first night, we treated ourselves to one of the most incredible truffle restaurants, called Ad Hoc. This restaurant gives visitors an incredible perspective of a truffle dining experience. First, Ad Hoc requests guests to arrive 30-minutes early to enjoy aperitifs and bites to eat in their truffle tasting room just around the corner from the restaurant. There they treat you to champagne and wine while tasting some of their fine truffle products. There you can purchase their products for rather reasonable prices. Some of their honey, salts, and cheeses were definitely worth taking home to enjoy later.
With our taste buds were warmed up, we were directed to the restaurant where the hostess seated us among walls covered with wine bottles. The menu was extensive with incredible food and wine options. To get the full experience, we opted for the chef’s dinner and wine pairing. While the pairing was on the pricier side, it was only slightly more than putting a full meal together a la carte. The benefit was that everything was impeccably paired to perfection. Each ideally portioned dish arrived with a perfectly matched glass of wine. From appetizers to dessert the pairings were a symphony of flavors that were out of this world.
Day 2: Venturing into the Vatican
Because of our short stay in Rome, we aggressively packed our schedule with tours, starting with Through Eternity tours Special Sistine Chapel (before it opens to the public), Vatican Museum, and St. Peter’s Basilica tour. To make the 7:30 AM start time, we were up early to get breakfast at the hotel and catch a taxi to the meeting point that the tour company explained very well. From the meeting point, we walked over to the entry of Vatican City where lines were already forming for the day. Thankfully, our special tour allowed us to jump the lines and get started on our day’s adventure.
From the moment we entered what is officially known as the Vatican City State, the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world, we were blown away by its beauty and opulence. The architecture, art and ritual demonstrate the deep history rooted in the Roman Catholic church. Our tour guide peeled back the layers of history that led up to the Vatican as it is today. With an unbiased and perhaps agnostic view of Rome’s history, we were exposed to the various periods of the Catholicism’s past which were woven through the architecture and art everywhere you glance. Her viewpoints were truly enlightening, enriching every moment of our journey through this fascinating nation. The best part was that she was scheduled for our tour the following day.
Admittedly, we were ready for a light siesta in our air conditioned hotel room after the nearly six-hour tour in the hot halls and rooms of the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Instead of taking a car, we opted to walk back to our hotel to soak in the rich ancient architecture of Rome. By the time we reached the Piazza della Rotonda, we were ready to freshen up and rest a little before venturing back out.
As the sun began to set, we snuck out the front door to the Pantheon to see one of the oldest structures of Rome that has been very well preserved. Walking around the outside of the Pantheon, we were amazed at the engineering that went into constructing arches and walls to support the massive dome that sits on top. In front, the majestic columns greet visitors as they enter the marble floored and intricately decorated walls that draw the eye up to the dome above that lets natural light enter through a hole at the very center. Simply standing in the center of this circular structure, one can feel the religious and governmental history that took place.
Following the Pantheon visit, we headed off to dinner at Fontana di Venere. Again, we were so happy to have chosen a hotel in the heart of the city. Along the walk to the restaurant, we passed Trevi Fountains and other beautiful sites. We arrived at the charming Fontana di Venere where we were quickly greeted and seated. Here we found a menu of local dishes and wines to enjoy. The busy Fontana di Venere was a pleasant and casual place to grab an easy and reasonable bite to eat before retiring early for the busy day of touring coming the next day.
Day 3: Storming Ancient Rome
The second full day of touring started a little later at 11:30 AM, giving us the opportunity to sleep in, grab a bite to eat, and take in more of the sites on our walk to the meeting point near the Roman Forum. We arrived early at the meeting point, close to the Altare della Patria, also known as the “wedding cake” building. We couldn’t help but to be elated to see our tour guide arrive again for an exciting day.
She kicked off our day in the heart of the Roman Forum where we admired the remains of the grand empire. Magnificent columns and weathered statues sprouted from the ground, echoing the opulence of the dawn of civilization. As we climbed Palatine Hill, we were struck with awe when we learned that beneath us were layers of a grand structure that was once a palace. Atop that hill, we could view all of the structures that humankind materialized throughout time. Our guide’s understanding of the culture and history enriched every step we took in this city unlike any other in Europe.
At this point in the day, we were ready for a rest and cool beverage, so we asked our guide to recommend a nearby cafe to enjoy some local food and cold beverages. She led us to a cafe near our next stop, the Colosseum. Some pizza and ice cold beer recharged us for the final stop in our tour. We walked the two blocks back to the famous Colosseum to marvel at this venue.
The special access the tour granted made our visit to the Colosseum truly unique. It gave us access to the underground area, which gave us a unique perspective of how the gruesome gladiator fights were orchestrated. We gained unique perspective as to how they may have filled the arena with water to carry out a historical battleship fight. We ascended to the stage where gladiators and performers were thrust in front of thousands of onlookers above. Lastly, we climbed the steps to the third tier where we could see the Colosseum from the vantage point of the crowds who cheered on epic battles. With the exception of the third tier, we were the only ones allowed access to these areas. It was an incredibly unique experience we will never forget, and one that we would highly recommend to anyone seeking a unique and private view of the Colosseum.
There was little time for a break after our tour, so we quickly freshened up and headed to dinner. Because our reservations were never confirmed by the restaurant we contacted, we asked the hotel for a recommendation. The suggested we try a nearby restaurant, called Il Falchetto. It was a lovely establishment tucked away on a side street. We opted to enjoy our meal outside to take in the last evening of the sights, sounds, and good old fashioned people watching in Rome. While Il Falchetto seemed to be a typical hotel recommendation, we enjoyed the food, drinks and service.
Day 4: Departing Rome
With a lunchtime departure, we woke early to pack and get a good breakfast before checkout. As frequent Uber riders in the States, we gave Uber Rome a shot. We were excited to see a new clean Mercedes E-Class show up. Even though the driver spoke little English, he quickly understood our destination – Fiumicino Aeroporti di Roma. He kindly transported us to the airport where we would catch the flight to our next destination, Santorini, Greece.
- If booking during August, remember that it’s when locals go on holiday, leaving mostly tourists in the city and limiting some touring options. Check in advance that businesses will be open.
- Rome really heats up in the summer and many attractions have no A/C. Wear summer clothes and drink lots of water.
- See our recommendations on private tours, which give you a unique local perspective on Rome’s history and culture within a limited amount of time.
- Restaurants can be touristy. With a little homework, you’ll land reservations for some of the best dining in the city.