Visit to Italy: Rome

This summer, we made the decision to take our teenage boys to Italy for their Fall Break, we visited three areas so I am writing individual posts for each. I will say up front that I do not have photos of every piece of food we consumed – haha! Wanted to share our lodging, itinerary, and restaurants we enjoyed in each location in the event you are planning a trip to Italy!

Our first stop was Rome, we decided to stay a total of four nights given everything there is to see. We booked an Airbnb that was within walking distance to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon. It was nice to have the extra space with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, the 2nd bedroom had two twin beds so that worked out well for our boys. There was also a terrace with an amazing view looking west towards Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica. Here is a link to the listing. I made a quick TikTok with a view from the terrace, you can watch that here.

We arrived fairly late on night one and had pre-arranged transportation through the Airbnb so that we could effortlessly arrive to the apartment, worked out great!

A few weeks before our trip, we pre-booked almost every activity we were doing and decided that for the Colosseum as well as the Vatican, we would use a company that offered private tours. We were happy to connect with Cristina Giannicchi who we found in one of Rick Steves’ travel books. This was a very easy process and well worth it.

Before heading out for the day, The Hubby went downstairs first thing to scope out places for breakfast and located Caffè Olimpia right across the street from our apartment. With a fairly wide variety of options, this was a great choice for all of us.

We first did a tour of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill, with the Colosseum, we also booked tickets to go to the underground – if you are going there, I would suggest planning ahead to get these highly sought after tickets! We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Mauro our tour guide. He had so much knowledge of ancient Roman history and how it evolved to current day. We learned so much from him during the time we spent together.

After our tour ended, we enjoyed lunch at BIBO Ristorante e Bar dal 1969. The food was delicious and it was then that we realized how happy we were with the European portion sizing! Also, pretty much every where we went, the servers assumed our boys were drinking wine with us. They taste tested in a few places, but generally weren’t super interested in consuming it!

With it being our first full day in Italy, we HAD to stop and get some gelato! Giolitti was right down the street from our apartment so we went straight there, it was a very popular spot and this is where we learned that in a lot of these types of places, you need to pay first!

At the recommendation of Matteo who checked us into our apartment, we enjoyed dinner at Osteria del Sostegno. This was a quaint restaurant with a small patio area and a beautiful indoor dining room lined with brick walls. It was at our first dinner and we discovered that most people don’t eat until 8:30 – 9:00 p.m. We also learned that having a reservation was key! Luckily, it was about 7:00 p.m. when we arrived and they were able to fit us in before the dinner rush. The food here was VERY good and we were also beginning to realize that the prices for food (and wine) were very reasonable. My older son chose the Straccetti con Rughetta (aka Rocket Salad, aka Arugula Salad). The straccetti was a delicious thinly sliced beef that is cooked and served with the arugula and shaved Parmesan cheese. It was quite delicious!

On our way back to the apartment, we decided to see the Pantheon, as we followed our mapping directions on the phones, we literally turned the corner and BAM there it was! With shops, restaurants, and even an Italian deli, L’Antica Salumeria, all surrounding the square – we were quite surprised!

Right next to our apartment, there was a bustling placed called Coso Ristorante, we were able to convince them to allow us to sit in the outside area, normally reserved for full dining, to enjoy desserts.

Through Cristina Giannicchi, we also booked a private cooking class along with a visit to a farmer’s market – this was lunch for us. Before heading to meet the chef, we enjoyed “breakfast” at DEROMA – Farine Romane, I say that in quotes because they really didn’t have any breakfast offerings, but the place we planned to go was closed and this was nearby. I saw these sandwiches in the bakery window – so we each got one – they were massive!

Our day of cooking was quite enjoyable and it worked out a bit perfectly as it rained off and on all day. We met Chef Luca at Mercato val Melaina where he described what he thought would be best for lunch and what we needed to purchase from the market. Purchasing the food and wine was part of our fee for the class, so he handled everything at the market. At one of the deli/butcher spaces, he had a connection and they put together a small platter of Italian meats, cheeses, and breads to enjoy. He packaged up what we couldn’t finish so we could take it back to our apartment at the end of our time together.

With Chef Luca at Mercato val Melaina

To start, we made the tiramisu so that it had time to set up in the refrigerator. For our primi piatti (first meal) we made an orecchiette pasta with zucchinis and tomatoes. Our secondi piatti was straccheti with rocket salad – the same dish my son enjoyed the night before. He was pretty excited to be making it! We prepared and enjoyed the food in an apartment not too far from the market, it was our understanding that he established this place with his cousin for purposes of these cooking classes. I admit that I was so excited about the straccheti that I failed to snap a photo of it! Trust me, it was delicious!

Beef for the straccheti

We headed back to the apartment to hang out for a bit, then headed back out and walked through the Pantheon and visited the Spanish Steps. My boys and I trekked all of the way to the top of the steps to admire the view. Everyone was so full from lunch, we decided to skip dinner that night.

The next morning we hit the Trevi Fountain – we had been there after visiting the Colosseum, in the afternoon, in the rain, and it was packed. It’s quite the massive fountain – happy that we took the time to go back and toss in our coins. We thought we could grab breakfast in that area, but everyone else had that same idea, so we headed back to Caffè Olimpia since we enjoyed it so much the first time!

In the guide books we read, we thought it was best to visit Vatican City in the afternoon, so we had a 2:00 p.m. tour scheduled. This again was with a private guide through Cristina Giannicchi. We decided to walk over to Vatican City, it wasn’t terribly far from our apartment and it gave us the opportunity to see an area of the city where we hadn’t been. As we approached, it became very clear how big St. Peter’s Basilica really is! We crossed the international border and did a little bit of shopping, then decided to grab a bite to eat right next door to the Vatican wall. The waiter convinced us to get the largest pizza they had! But it was fine – he was a fun, Italian that enjoyed serving customers!

Our guide Alessia was fantastic and so knowledgeable! We were lucky to be able to spend a few hours with her learning about all of the history of the Vatican!

With our guide, Alessia in St Peter’s Basilica
In St. Peter’s Square

Later that evening, we headed to dinner at Le Grotte, we enjoyed good food and wine here – we never really did have a bad meal during our entire visit!

Our final breakfast in Rome was at La Panetteria Ristorante, not too far from the Trevi Fountain. We headed back to our apartment to collect our belongings, then took an Uber to the Roma Termini train station to catch our train to Florence….more to come!

You can see the full video of our time in Rome that I posted to TikTok here.

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