Thursday, July 12, 2012


A Getaway to Rome, Italy

Join us this summer as we take a little virtual road trip, visiting some fun spots across the world!

It's not very often that I get an offer to write about European vacations, so when Kristin from Two Canoli offered to tell us all about Rome, I jumped on it!!  She does an excellent job showing us why it is a wonderful place to take the family......
Familgia a Roma
Rome is perfect for family trips

Rome: one of the most beautiful and scenic cities in the world, with cuisine to match.   There are plenty of opportunities to eat and photograph your way through the city and surrounding areas, and families around the world flock to Rome for an Italian experience like no other.

First things first:  find a hotel that works for you.  Especially with older children and teenagers, there is a fantastic boutique hotel with a sparkling pool within walking distance to Vatican City (    The area of Gianicolo is quiet, yet easy to navigate and find your way to other spots in the city.    Yes, you can stay closer to some of the main attractions, but this hotel is safe and spotless, with panoramic views of the city at the top of the hill.   They also offer an American buffet breakfast, which is key if you have picky eaters.
American expat Wendy Holloway runs a quaint B&B (bed and breakfast) just 20 minutes outside of Rome called Flavor of Italy (     The countryside looks like the Tuscany region as you approach Flavor of Italy, and the inn has a beautiful outdoor pool.  She creates delicious native Italian dishes, and will also teach custom cooking classes to you and your family and friends.   Everyone is issued an apron, and Wendy dispatches orders quickly and efficiently; meals are served inside and outdoors on the terrace on the red-checked tablecloths of your Lady and the Tramp dreams.
And the attractions…. Where to begin?  Grab a gelato and go.
1)     Wear very, very comfortable shoes.  The streets are cobbled and difficult to navigate if you have even the smallest kitten heel.  Wear tennis shoes or sandals made for heavy walking.

2)     Hold onto your pocketbook!  Gypsies are well-trained here and count on your distraction.  Keep the zipper toward the front so you can keep your eyes on it.  Do NOT keep your wallet in your back pocket.  Especially if you go in and out of Termini (the train station) which is notorious for being the roughest part of town for tourists.

3)     Cabs aren’t always easy to find.  If you can get to a large piazza, they are almost always nearby.  When you’re eating dinner, ask the water to call you a taxi.  “Posso chiamarmi una tassi?”

4)     Learn a few phrases in Italian and you’ll be fine – most people speak even a little English. 
a.     “Grazie” [gratz-ee-eh, with a rolled “r”] -  thank you.  The cab drivers simply say, “Gratz”.
b.     “Buon giorno” [bwon jor no]– good morning (until 3 PM). 
c.     “Buona sera” [bwoh na seh rah] – good afternoon/ evening (after 3 PM)
d.     “Una Ricevuta” [ree chee voo tah] – receipt.  “Per favore” [pear fa voh’ reh] – please
e.     People really do say “Ciao” a lot and even “Ciao bella” [Chow bel-lah]
f.      Just say “Non parlo Italiano.  Parla inglese?” [Known parlow ee-tal-yano.  Par-lah een-glay-zeh]
g.     Ask in advance if you want to use a credit card, especially at a restaurant.  Say “Posso pagare con carta di credito?” (Can I pay with credit card?) or “Accettate la carta di credito?” (Do you accept credit cards?).  Write this down on a card and hand it to the waiter if you’re not confident with your Italian.  They will say “Si” or “No”.
5)     Churches with the most beautiful art I have ever seen from Michealangelo, Bernini and Corvaggio:
a.     St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (of course)
b.     Santa Maria del Popolo, at Piazza del Popolo
c.     San Luigi de Francesi (near the Pantheon)
d.     Santa Maria della Pace, at Piazza della Pace (near Piazza Navolo)
e.     Basilica S. Andrea della Valle, at Vittorio Emanuele at Piazza S. Andrea della Valle, between Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori
f.      Santa Maria Maggiore, near the train station (Termini) is really beautiful – one of the oldest and most beautiful in Rome overall
6)     Shopping:
a.     Castel Romano (Designer outlets) if you have an extra day – it’s a 40 minute free shuttle from Piazza della Repubblica:  Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino (the least expensive thing I saw was a purse on sale for 350 Euros), La Perla, etc.  This outlet mall is out in the middle of nowhere outside Rome.
b.     From Piazza della Repubblica, walk down Via Nazionale for many, many local shops.  Great clothing!  (Remember that most clothing in Rome runs quite small)
c.     Via del Corso and Via del Tritone, near the Fontane del Tritone by Bernini, also have reasonably-priced shopping
d.     Near the Spanish steps, on Via Condotti, you’ll find boutique stores by Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Valentino.  Expensive but fun to look at!  Lots of shops in this area.
7)     Don’t miss:
a.     Fontana di Trevi, especially after dusk, when it’s lit.  Very crowded during the day.
b.     The fountain at Piazza Navona (Bernini).  Perfect photo spot.
c.     Castel Sant’Angelo (from the medieval period)
d.     The Vatican – go inside the basilica– more about the cupola in #9
e.     The Colosseum and the Forum, of course
f.      The panoramic view at Piazzale Giuseppe Garbaldi and Passagiata del Gianicolo
g.     The Piazza Navona any time – artists throughout the square painting various scenes.
h.     On my way to the Piazza del Popolo from the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo.  I came upon an open-air market between the Castel and Palazzo di Giustizia, along the river on Lungotevere Castello.
8)     Eating out
a.     Tipping – look for the words “servizio” or “servizio e pane” – service, or service and bread – to see if you’re already paying the tip.  Typically, 10% is standard if you have good service, up to 15% if you really loved your waiter.
b.     Have gelato at Blue Ice near the Palazzo Farnese – there are a few of them in Campo de Fiori, near Piazza Navona
c.     Have Prosecco anywhere! 
d.     Have dinner at Pierluigi at Piazza de Ricci 144.  It’s off Via Monserrato, near Piazza Farnese.  Skip dessert here and get a gelato at Blue Ice, near the Palazzo Farnese, just a quick walk away.
e.     Near the Colosseum, we had a surprisingly good dinner.  (Surprising because it’s in a very touristy area.)  But the gnocchi and rigatoni all’amatriciana (pasta tubes with tomatoes, bacon, and onion – very standard) were very good.
f.      There is a place that has a wonderful atmosphere and is recommended in the guidebooks called Hosteria della Campidoglio at Via dei Fienili, 56.  It’s beautiful and the food is passable.  Not the greatest food I had, but not the worst (that dubious honor went to L’Angoletto at Piazza Rondandini near the Pantheon).
g.     Speaking of the Pantheon, there is a great cafĂ© there right in front of the ancient building with a wonderful view.  Stop and get a cappuccino or gelato, depending on the time of day.
9)     The Vatican City
a.     We decided to hit the Sistene Chapel (via the museum, which you must go through to get to) at about 10:30 AM on a Saturday and got through the line in about 20 minutes, no problem.  At lunch, we sat next to a Canadian couple who had gotten in line at 8:30 and waited for two hours.  All the tour groups will be coming in early, so don’t do it.
b.     The Sistene Chapel is very crowded and felt like a cattle call all the way in.  But still, you must see it and it’s amazing to see it in person.  Don’t use flash in the chapel, although some tacky tourists will snap away, flashes popping.
c.     I toured the Basilica Sunday afternoon at about 2 PM and got right in.  You must wear Capri pants or skirts at or below the knee, and your shoulders must be covered.  If it’s hot, just wear a scarf around your shoulders and you’ll be good to go.  They sell those all around the Vatican. 
d.     The cupola is magnificent but be VERY sure you are not claustrophobic or afraid of heights before undertaking the climb.  You can take an elevator to the mid-level and see into the dome for 7 Euro, or you can spend 5 Euro and walk up the 200+ steps.  Either way, in order to get to the very top, there is no elevator and you will walk another 320 steps on very, very small spiral staircases.  And you can’t change your mind mid-way – there is only one way up and one down.  I don’t get claustrophobic, typically, and I had to take some deep breaths. 
e.     Don’t miss Michaelangelo’s Pieta on the right side of the Basilica itself when you walk in.
f.      There is a very nice store that sells rosary beads, mosaic jewelry, and all kinds of trinkets called Mondo Cattolico at Piazza Pio XII, 12.  The awning reads “Articoli Religiosi”.  Closed on Sunday.  However, Gioello Religioso is at Piazza Pio XII 8, just around the corner, and it’s almost as good.  Open on Sunday.

IN BOCCA AL LUPO!  (The Italian way to say “Good Luck!”)

Kristin is a mother of a sweet 2-year-old boy and wife to a 6th-generation Texan, living in Austin, Texas.  Loves: family, airplanes, airports, classic cars, sports, Italy, and dessert; not necessarily in that order. You can reach her via Twitter @AustinKVS or via her blog

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