The Hotel Forum has a wonderful rooftop restaurant where they serve breakfast every morning. Getting to sip at a cappuccino while staring out over this gorgeous city made waking up early well worth it. Their breakfast was pretty standard, consisting of fruits, cured meats and pastries as well as the tiny boxes of cereal more for the travelers from the US.
Finally dragging myself away from the view, we got ready back in our room and then wandered down a couple blocks to catch the hop on hop off bus. The double-decker bus will take you around the city and has multiple different stops near most of the best sights so you can get off and wander around for a bit. They’re very reliable and run at something like every 15 minutes or half hour, so when you’re done sight seeing, you find your way back to the bus stop and hop on until you get to the next one you want to check out, or if you’re not feeling like walking around just stay on the bus and enjoy riding around the city for however long you want. The passes are usually good for three days but you can get them for different time frames I’m sure.
TIP: Almost all major cities in Europe have some kind of hop on hop off bus so look around. They’re usually pretty inexpensive and make for a fun way to get around and see the sights!
We only had four days in Rome so we had taken the Vatican off of our list of things to see. We knew that with so much to see and the lines to get in to see all of it that we’d end up wasting most of a day just in that one spot. We hadn’t counted on the hop on hop off bus tickets to fall into our lap though. We decided to stop off and check out St. Peters square and look around at least. The lines stretched almost all the way around the square with people waiting to see the splendors inside.
TIP: I didn’t know this at the time but for a bit extra you can usually get a city pass that will help get you past the long waiting lines at a lot of attractions.
From here we wanted to get back across the river and make our way to the Spanish steps and then pick up our bus again after. We ended up looking at our map wrong and wandered in a different direction than we had planned. This added about a half mile onto our walk but it let us see quieter much less tourist parts of this amazing city.
It began raining quite heavily so we ducked into a restaurant to grab some lunch while we hoped the rain would pass a bit. the tiny hole in the wall place had some magnificent food, which seems to be common in Rome. after a half an hour or so the rain began to die down.
We continued on our way and finally got to the Spanish steps. Even with the rain the place was packed. I found a place on the stairs to people watch while my wife made her way to the top to take pictures.
I’m somewhere down in that crowd.
After she fended off another merchant trying to sell her half dead roses we walked back a block or so and waited for the bus to come by. We decided to ride around for an hour or so and just take in the city that way for a bit before hopping off back at the main stop that we had started at and picking up a different bus tour that the tickets also covered.
This one was more archaeology based and took us to the outskirts of the city and showed us the catacombs that line the Appian way, the oldest street leading out of Rome. We happened to catch the last run of the day so we didn’t get to hop off anywhere along the way. Once back at the original stop which is a block or two away from our hotel we made our way back to our room to rest for a bit before going out to dinner. After another excellent dinner we found ourselves back the cafe with our new friend Mimo who made us feel like old time regulars within an hour of being there. He fed us cappuccinos and lively conversation deep into the night. Around 3 am we wandered back to our hotel and passed out knowing that we would be up again in a few hours to do it all over again starting with the amazing rooftop breakfast.
Again it started with a breathtaking view of the city that never got old while sipping cappuccino and eating fresh fruits and cured meat at the rooftop restaurant at the Hotel Forum. We sat and planned out what we wanted to accomplish on our third day in Rome. By now we were sore and tired constantly. We were a bit out of shape but still walking between 3-5 miles a day and it was taking it’s toll. We were still in a good mood though.
We wanted to get to see some of the amazing churches that are scattered throughout the city. The lines at the Vatican were too long for our tastes but there were plenty of churches that were just as interesting with no lines at all and some of them were just down the street from us, although I didn’t know that at the time.
We started at the furthest of four from our hotel figuring that we’d work our way back slowly toward the hotel. It was the gorgeous Basilica de san Giovanni in Laterano which is the most popular church attended by every day people in Rome.
It is said to have the steps that led to Pontius Pilates’ home inside it so religious travelers often climb the stairs on their knees while saying prayers. They also used the doors from the old Roman senate as well, which as you can see are just massive and have stood up incredibly well after all these centuries.
the inside of this magnificent church is filled with awe inspiring pieces of artwork everywhere you look. I could have easily spent most of a day just wandering around in here looking at all of it and not one piece of it is behind glass.
From there we wandered down the street toward the Colosseum and found a small cafe for an afternoon al fresco lunch before heading onto our next church. It was a simple meal but filling and the people watching out on the terrace was well worth it.
After lunch we strolled down to another, smaller church the Basilica di San Clemente. It is an ancient church with a beautiful painted ceiling. We were asked not to take an pictures inside so we respected their wishes, thusly I have nothing to show you how wonderful and different this old church is compared to the grandeur of Di Giovanni. It had a much older and rustic feel to it and was considerably smaller but just as spectacular in its own way. The celing is painted gold and there are mosaics everywhere.
Tip: when they ask you not to take photos please be respectful and don’t. We saw many people inside the church taking pictures and you could hear the frustration from the guides and people working there. Don’t be rude and disrespectful to the people that are being nice enough to show you around it just looks poorly on all travelers.
From there we walked back past the Colosseum and up by the Domus Aurea which was closed for renovation at the time sadly. We enjoyed the park outside of it for a bit and did some people watching as the early afternoon passed by. We decided to explore a little bit and take a different route that we knew would bring us back to the general area that we wanted to be in but not the exact location. This led us to find an unexpected treasure in the church of San Pietro in Vicolli.
It hadn’t been on our original list to visit but we stumbled upon it and it had to be my favorite church that we saw by far. Inside it had a much darker, gothic feel to it with skulls and skeletons worked into some of the designs which were both beautiful and slightly terrifying.
By far the most amazing part of this small church on a hillside is the statue of Moses by Michelangelo sitting right out for all to see only kept separate by a single velvet rope.
The slightly larger than life statue was mesmerizing to me and I took in every detail as all the noise from other visitors faded off into the background. I studied it intensely for a bit. I had never been this close to such a historic piece of artwork that didn’t have bulletproof glass around it and here in Rome it seemed almost commonplace to share space with such immense beauty.
The other visitors crowded around in front of the statue trying to get a picture of the complete piece which includes busts of other faces and patrons off to the side of Moses but after taking a look at the rest of the piece I quickly noticed that only the statue of Moses itself had actually been done by the master. The other pieces were clearly done by his apprentices, at least it was clear to me. This is why I only got photos of the statue itself instead of the whole piece. On a quick little side note, my wife got a good laugh when she discovered I was right. She was leafing through a book in the gift shop a little later and read that the rest of the work was indeed done by Michelangelo’s apprentices and not him.
From there we walked down some incredibly old steps and back onto Via Cavour which was the main street near our hotel. I had no idea our walking trip would bring us back as close as it did to where we started but it was a happy little surprise. We made one more stop at a tiny church down the street from our hotel and got to see the tail end of a mass being held which was the perfect cap to a day spent in churches.
The tiny church was unadorned on the outside with only a small plaque to let you know it was even there
It was simple, beautiful and had a wonderful feeling of spirituality on the inside and this is coming from a devout agnostic of over 20 years.
We waited until the mass was over before we left and continued happily along our way. The tiny side street this church was on was the same as our hotel a couple blocks away. We stopped by our room to freshen up.
We like to have one night where we splurge when we travel and tonight was that night. We dined at a very posh restaurant on via Cavour called Cavour 313. We got a quiet table in the back and enjoyed some amazing food. It was my first time trying beef carpaccio and the best I’ve had since. Even here in a high end restaurant though the street merchants will still find you. A young man wandered in and insistently tried to sell people half dead roses until management finally told him to leave.
The evening ended at the Cafe where we were quickly becoming regulars and my friend Mimo again plied me with copious amounts of cappuccinos.
After three or four hours relaxing and laughing with Mimo, Erina and other patrons we made our way back to our hotel where we collapsed and slept hard until the morning.