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Italy April 2017 Trip Report

We are just back from our second trip to Italia! Bags are unpacked and laundry is in the machine and I thought I'd capture our trip report while it is still fresh in my mind. I'm going to have to split this report up into sections as I always write too much! Thanks to the many who answered questions and helped us plan it - we had a great time! We were celebrating our five year anniversary; we honeymooned in Italy and have been wanting to return ever since. This return trip was unfortunately shorter since DH has limited vacation time, so we decided to focus on southern Tuscany and Rome. Southern Tuscany was completely new to us and we loved it. As for Rome, it was interesting to see things again that we had seen before, especially after visiting other places in between. We had a new perspective on things the second time around. It was also great to see new things in Rome, including the Colosseum at night, Domus Aurea, Trastevere, and Ostia Antica.

To start, I thought I'd briefly cover some miscellaneous things discussed lately on the forum:

Shoes for ladies - anything goes! I saw an incredible variety of styles and colors of tennis shoes. Everything from brown leather to white to black to bedazzled to pastel to neon. And lots of booties. I personally wished I had packed two pairs of tennis shoes to alternate between while in Rome as we did a serious amount of walking. My Fitbit recorded me at a little less than 15 miles a day. My feet got tired of the same shoes every day and could have used a break from the same pair.

Rental car and driving - we used AutoEurope and the car came from Hertz. The car was the nicest we've had so far, a sweet little Audi hatchback. It came with it's own built-in GPS so we hardly used the GPS that we had brought. Ours came in handy for the places we had pre-programmed into the unit. Other than that, we didn't even need it. DH enjoyed driving in Tuscany. He had read up extensively on the road signs which was good - I have never seen such a variety of road signs as we had seen in Italy. ZTL and parking signs are well-marked and easy to spot if you are looking for them.

Weather and clothes - it was great sunny weather all but one day. A cold front came while we were in Rome, so while it was still sunny and in the 60s, the wind blew hard and had a bite to it. I was so surprised to feel such hard wind; I'm used to it in Kansas but was not expecting it in the city. We both fortunately brought the recommended layers which worked well for us but we found it surprisingly chilly due to the wind. I did not account for the wind early enough and ended up with extremely uncomfortable wind-chapped lips that are still healing. I am not a regular chapstick user but will plan ahead for that on future trips!

Easter holiday - almost all the tourist type stores in the towns we visited were open both Easter Sunday and Pasquetta Monday. I had read about Sundays and Mondays and shops being closed so I had anticipated this, but, in fact only a few were shut down. It was a busy time at Easter so I'm guessing most did not want to miss out on the commerce of extra traffic moving through the area.

Bringing back wine - I used reusable "wine skins" that I bought off Amazon. And nothing broke! We brought back four bottles of wine, one bottle of olive oil, and a couple of tins of olive oil. We packed it all in my carry on piece (which we checked) and used dirty laundry to pad around everything, which filled it up entirely and the suitcase ended up weighing around 28 pounds by the time it was fully loaded. This was the first trip that we brought back so much liquid goods; also the first trip that we had a luggage scale and I was happy to have it for peace of mind of knowing exactly what our luggage weighed.

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Sharing food and reservations - more than once we ordered a dish to share and no one batted an eye - in fact, every time we did so the restaurant would split it for us on separate plates without us asking them to do so. We typically would order one dish to share and two dishes for each of us (either first or second courses) and found it to be plenty of food. I'd definitely recommend making reservations if you want to dine at any particular place; we saw several people get turned away.

Let's get on to the good stuff...the trip report! Looking back, I think we ate and drank our way through Italy! 🙈😜 We left on Thursday April 13 and returned Sunday April 23. We had four nights in Tuscany and five nights in Rome. Even with it being our second trip to Rome I was glad to have so much time there. I could easily see returning to see more; it is a big, history-packed city and it seems like all we have done is scratch the surface. So, get ready for a long-haul; my trip reports are never short! 😁

Day 1 & 2: Flights were easy and uneventful. We flew ICT to ORD to FCO. The customs lines to come into FCO were insanely long with only a few people manning them. I wasn't sure if we would make our bus to Siena; it took about an hour to get through the lines. We had been diverted into a lane that only had two stations; the other lane had five open and moved much faster. I have never been so relieved to get through a line in my life. I was thankful we had gotten into the line when we did; several flights had arrived after us and the lines behind us were much worse. I had pre-bought tickets for Siena that departed directly from the airport; the service is called SitBusShuttle. On this particular Friday morning there was no need to have pre-purchased; there were several empty seats. I had been concerned it might sell out but this was not the case. We arrived Siena at 1:50 getting off at the Piazza Gramsci stop; it was an extremely easy way to go to Siena, avoiding having to go into Rome proper. Seats were comfortable but no bathroom on board.

We arrived to our B&B “Il Corso” in Siena. Room was very lovely with rough hewn exposed timber ceilings. We freshened up after the long flight and left to do a little exploring. Mostly needed food from not having any for hours. Decided to try Bar Il Palio on Piazzo del Campo. Wonderful views of the tower and square. Food was actually good too - ordered mozzarella bruschetta and Sienese cheese and salami platter. Practiced my Italian ordering and got a smile out of the waitress. We enjoyed the views and the people watching and headed off to the Duomo. Didn't make it in time to catch the Heavens Gate but that was ok - we were more in a mood to relax. The cathedral was beautiful. I was surprised by a floor scene showing what I think was the murder of the babies ordered by Herod. Medieval art can be shockingly graphic!

We then decided to stroll Siena and take in the lively scenery and the cute shops and the great people-watching. We kicked-off our gelato extravaganza and indulged in our first delicious gelato. We got it at Brivido Gelateria; it was pricey but also some of the best gelato we had on our entire trip. We walked to the Piazzo del Campo and we joined the masses and sat down on the bricks and again enjoyed the scenery around us. Finished up our gelato and walked and explored more of Siena. After getting our fill of strolling, we again went back to Bar Il Palio for a few drinks and a fabulous view to enjoy the evening. Piazza del Campo was hopping; full of people enjoying each other's company. I noted an incredible amount of birds dotting the skies around the tower and many pigeons running around stealthily under the tables, looking for a snack.

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“We will die for sure one day, but we will not die thirsty” - wine-loving quote from our waiter Luca at dinner that first night. We had our B&B make reservations for us at La Taverna di San Giuseppe for their second seating of the evening; we had an absolutely wonderful meal with wonderful wine. And, we had an incredible surprise at the end of our meal! It was both absolutely charming and hilarious. Out of nowhere they turned the lights off, turned on some crazy discotheque music, and served us a funky little fruitcake type dessert with a candle in it for our anniversary. Even the chef came out to celebrate! At first I thought everyone was getting this treat but then I realized it was just us and another person celebrating their birthday. What a hoot! Also, just beyond this restaurant was a little church and fountain. If you walk down below this, you will come across a street that has incredible nighttime views up to Siena. Very romantic!

Day 3 Saturday: We ate a good breakfast at our B&B and had them call a taxi for us to take us down to the Hertz. Picking up the car was easy and we headed out of town. We decided to do some exploring of small towns along the way - Asciano, Chiusure, and Montisi. All were lovely and pretty quiet. We made several stops along the way to take pictures and marvel at the beautiful Tuscan countryside. It was a little overcast but still gorgeous!

We stopped in Pienza for lunch and to explore. We were excited about the gorgeous views and wanted a place to dine where we could soak them in. We decided to try Il Chiostro. The service was impeccable, the views were outstanding, but I found the food to be overpriced and a fancier than what we were looking for. In order not to overspend, we ordered lightly and moved on to explore Pienza. It was full of gorgeous old buildings and fabulous views. We spotted beautiful wisteria in bloom with its unmissable scent. I found Pienza to be a great shopping town, full of everything you could possibly want. The cheese shopping was a little intimidating; stores were very busy with people and not knowing much Italian we were unsure of how to ask for samples. We did find a place that had samples precut and we ended up buying a sample pack of four different types of cheeses that we ate for each breakfast at our B&B the next mornings - very good! I also found a cute pair of teal Italian leather flats at a reasonable price and bought them. Can't wait to get wear them here at home.

DH was ready to drive on to Montepulciano and get checked into our B&B which was actually an AirBNB property. We paid more than our usual budget but as it was a special occasion, we thought it would be worth it. Our apartment had incredible views over the Tuscan hills and was impeccably decorated and comfortable. The owner is a local artist and had completely revamped the flat. We enjoyed it very much and really enjoyed sitting out with a drink on the terrace and soaking up the sun and the views - wow! We did a little exploring of Montepulciano and bought some goods at a little shop for our breakfasts. We had 7:30 dinner reservations at Osteria dell'Aquacheta (reservations an absolute must here!). DH was really, really looking forward to that monster steak. They seat you family style at big tables with other people. Luckily for us, the folks sitting around us were very friendly and explained the specials of the day that were written only in Italian on a separate paper menu. There were several things to try and everything we had was delicious! We ended up making friends with a couple next to us that were from Milan and went out for a nightcap with them after our meal. We had a very good night together just talking and hanging out. All I had wanted to do originally was go to bed early but when life presents you an opportunity to make new friends and cross cultures, of course, you must accept it! So, we stayed up too late which made for a hard next morning but had a great time! 😴

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Day 4 Easter Sunday: We had a late start getting up this day because of our late night before. DH made a fabulous spread for breakfast which we enjoyed on the terrace. We got ready and then got out and about and explored some more of Montepulciano. There was a special little market going on inside the Fortezza where we bought some olive oil to take home.

We hit the roads to make our way to our lunch at Monticchiello at Osteria La Porta. Truly, one of the best meals of my entire life!! And, the price was incredibly reasonable considering the view and the quality of food. We had made reservations a few weeks before our trip and they seated us at a private two person table up high overlooking the gorgeous countryside. We shared a starter that had incredible ham slices and a combination cheese and black truffle mix which was incredible. Followed with an artichoke cannoli. We then had separate lamb and goat dishes. The cannoli and goat were traditional Easter dishes; I have never had goat before and I was surprised at how much I liked it. We had a super Tuscan wine, also good. Ended the meal with a berry panna cotta and they brought a cherry dessert wine which was fabulous and haunts my dreams. I've never had a dessert wine before that I have actually liked. I found Monticchiello to be one of my favorite hill towns; it was incredibly picturesque and charming. Perfect for exploring and a photographer's delight.

After lunch, we drove to Montalcino. On the way we came upon GORGEOUS Val D'Orcia scenery! While everything we'd seen before was beautiful, this was the stuff that I'd been dreaming of. Rolling green hills and beautiful cypress trees. We parked and hiked and took lots of pictures. We arrived to Montalcino and took a hike around town. I didn't find it as scenic (at least to my eyes) and it full of wine shops. We stopped in the Fortezza where they also offered wine tastings. We didn't really have time for this though as we had a tasting scheduled at the winery Poggio Antico. We walked back down to our car and drove on to the winery. The scenery was full of beautiful vineyards with bright green leaves; young and kissed by the sunlight. Poggio Antico's road was lined with gorgeous cypress trees. On the west were more beautiful grape vines; on the right were olive trees. The estate had beautiful rosemary hedges that made for great photos. We had a tour of the processing area - stainless steel tanks, cellar with wood casks, cellar with wire carts full of bottles. We eventually had our wine tasting but did not find the wines overly amazing; good but not justifiable of the price. We did buy one bottle that we both enjoyed. In retrospect, I think as far as tastings go, one at the Fortezza in Montalcino would have suited us better. We could have had a larger variety of wines to sample. I would say Poggio Antico was worth it for the views and the experience of visiting a winery but I would have perhaps only paid for a couple of wines to sample instead of a large grouping.

We then drove on to Sant'Antimo Abbey. It was gorgeous in the evening light but hard to photograph with the light behind it. Kids were playing soccer in the field - crazy to think the building is from the 800s and kids are casually playing right next to it. I was surprised how much I loved the crazy animal sculptures and the Celtic knot work in the stonework. Regrettably, we only had a few minutes inside the church before they closed it. I have determined that I am a huge fan of Romanesque architecture and need to seek it out more on future trips. We would have returned to Sant'Antimo had we had more time and it had not been such a long drive from Montepulciano. Our return drive was full of beautiful evening light casting a lovely shade over the countryside. We stopped for a few photo opportunities and parking was easy. Our BNB hosts recommended Osteria del Conte for dinner; we found it to be just ok.

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Day 5 Pasquetta Monday: After late starts the other days, this morning I was determined to get off to see a bit of Tuscany with the early morning sun. So, no shower and a bite of cheese and off we go. As we were walking down to the car park, an orange gato wanted a bite of my cheese but I kindly told him no. We set the GPS to San Quirico but never made it as we saw the little church, Capella di Vitaleta, and turned around to go explore it up close. The dirt road we turned onto had incredible views, worthy of calling a little slice of heaven. Beautiful rolling hills in multiple shades of green, bright yellow flowers, crisp blue skies with fluffy white clouds. Birds were chirping and we could hear a few faint crows of roosters in the distance. Cypress trees and stone buildings dotted the more than picture perfect landscape. Tuscany at its finest and we bathed in its beauty and soaked it all in! We leisurely strolled down a gravel road to get to the church. It was a bit brisk but still lovely. The church was closed to the inside but very picturesque on the outside. The early morning sunlight was very pretty and was what I had been looking for.

We then hit the road to Bagno Vignoni. We parked and walked and found the old center of town with the ancient stone baths. Walking down from the center we found a small park with a very small local market, mostly kitschy things with a few interesting local items like wooden pipes and agricultural products. At the end of the market was a walking path down to more thermal baths. There were ancient Roman baths that had been partially restored where the water flowed from the top, down the walls into pools below. There were also grooved paths for the water to be directed to different areas. Big pits which looked to have been swimming pools. Down low there were water-operated mills and the most beautiful aqua thermal pool.

After exploring, we departed for Buonconvento. I had read that there was an antiques market there and being a junker my curiousity was piqued. What we found was a street with antique shops, mostly furniture and not a lot of it. The furniture was gorgeous but obviously too big and not coming back with us. So, we hit the road to go back to Montepulciano. Roads were noticeably busier at this point with holiday traffic. Parking was an absolute nightmare and Montepulciano was packed. We ended up parking higher up in town and it was very stressful to do so. We spent a few hours strolling and did a few wine tastings in local shops. Ca Ricci had a stunning ancient cellar from the 1500s but we found the wine to be just ok. We also sat out on our balcony and relaxed for a while. The scenery was once again gorgeous; the skies were the clearest of the trip and we could see the lake and snow covered mountains in the distance.

We had reservations at Il Podere Casale and decided to go early in case we wanted to buy goods to take home. The views at Il Podere Casale were yet once again something out of a storybook. We decided to do a cheese tasting paired with glass of wine out on the terrace. All of the cheeses were very good but I loved the French style goat cheese and the fresh pecorino. We also sampled their olive oil - very good. The owner, Sandra took us for a tour of the farm where we learned a lot. She was Swiss who started the farm in the 80s with her husband - they wanted to know where their food came from. They seem to run a very ethical operation, treating their animals well and not letting anything go to waste. I would have never have guessed the most interesting story she told us about the famous Pienza cheeses...Look around you at the scenery and see what is missing...sheep! She told us that the fields of Tuscany used to be dotted with livestock. Now, no one wants to raise them anymore as it is too much work so they truck milk in from other places (such as France and Switzerland) to produce the famous pecorino cheese. Who would have known?!?

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We had a lovely dinner looking out to the stunning scenery. Pienza to the west, Monticchiello to the east. And, right below them in the valley, the famous road from the Gladiator movie. If we go back, we now know where to find it. It was too chilly in the evening to dine outside on their terrace so we sat inside. We enjoyed their wine very much and it was reasonably priced; we bought some and are having it shipped to us. I am excited to be able to have a taste of Tuscany back at home. I would have loved to brought back some cheese but did not want to lug it around in Rome with us. We also bought some olive oil and brought it back in our checked baggage. Il Podere Casale was a definite highlight between the views and the hospitality and the quality of food. It did not disappoint and I highly recommend the experience! We drove back to Montepulciano and called it a night.

Day 6 Tuesday: We had a more relaxed start to the morning, finishing up yesterday's journal and packing up all of our stuff up to hit the road to Civita di Bagnoregio and eventually Rome. We parked in the center of Bagnoregio and it was a long walk up to the top. There looked to be closer parking at the approach to Civita; with more research, we probably would have known that. We finally got up there and Civita was a view to impress. Weather was less than ideal as a front had moved in and it cool and windy with a bit of misting rain. We were ready for lunch and we found L'Arco del Gusto at the beginning of town. I had a tomato, pecorino, green olive paste on focaccia and it was one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten! Definitely a great stop! Also tried a ricotta-based gelato (who knew that was a thing?) with frutti di bosco which was different but good. I regret not having the pecorino cave cheese with truffle sandwich but I was worried that cave cheese could be funky. So, I asked for a small amount of it on the side instead...and found it very good and not funky at all. We strolled around town taking non-stop pictures; it was very picturesque, even overcast and cool.

We then drove to Orvieto to drop off our rental car. It was a treat to see it from a distance - the Duomo is incredibly impressive as you approach! As was Orvieto in its own right. We stayed there three nights on our honeymoon so we did not feel the need to explore it this trip; we took the train and arrived Rome about 5. We checked into our B&B and hit the streets. No big plans, just a little exploring and relaxing. We had a great time sitting at a table in front of the Pantheon; DH had a large beer and I drank plenty of water to hydrate. The area was humming with people and street life. I did regret our choice a little bit as I found the person who seemed to be in charge of the restaurant a bit of a pig making fun of some people as they passed by. I would not have chosen the place had I known but I don't know if any of the surrounding places would have been much better. We walked to the Campo de Fiori and found a lovely little restaurant called Verso Sera to eat at tucked around the corner. It had a beautiful exterior and interior, a very nice spot. We originally sat outside but they convinced us to go inside to eat; thankfully - about 15 minutes in the wind starting to absolutely howl! Everyone outside moved inside at that point. It never really rained. We tried artichokes Guidea (had no clue how to eat them properly) and they were good but found the tips of the leaves to be sharp on the tongue. My serving of lasagna was huge. The veal meatballs were delicious. Service was a bit slow and forgetful but we found the prices good and food really excellent. Finished our evening with another peek of the Pantheon and Giolittis (this time cioccolata Bianca and tiramisu, yummo!!).

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Your enthusiasm jumps off the page!
You had a wonderful trip, thanks for sharing; and we cant wait for the next chapter on Rome!

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What great descriptions! Can't wait to take off!

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Great report, Julie. What a grand adventure you had. Fun to read and travel along with you to new and familiar places. Thank you for all the useful information!

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Thank you, Julie, for this report. Very interesting, especially because in about three weeks we fly to Europe for one month: Switzerland, Italy: Florence and Tuscany, then villa in Lazio - somewhere between Civita and Orvieto, then Rome and flight to Prague plus more of Czech Republic. I am getting inspired by your report what to see in Tuscany.
You wrote "We left on Thursday April 13th and returned Sunday April 14th." You probably meant different day because April 14th was Friday. And you wrote that you were getting wine, olive oil and so "We packed it all in my carry on piece." Weren't you afraid that they could confiscate all your wine at the security point at the airport because of current ban on liquids? I would not risk it.

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Thanks for this great report. I'll try to remember to refer to your airport experience when someone asks how long it takes to get through immigration on arrival - the answer is, it takes as long as it takes, and there's nothing you can do about it!

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Glad everyone is enjoying so far! We had such a great time. :)

Ilja, thanks for catching that on the dates! My brain is tired yet and I've fixed it now in the report. Yes, we stuffed my carry on piece full but we most definitely checked it. It was at maximum capacity. DH had extra room in his luggage so my clothes moved over to his bag on the return trip home. I am envious of your upcoming trip - sounds wonderful!

Harold, so true! Everyone is at the mercy of the circumstances of each particular day. Hard to predict. And, had we bailed to the other line it would have gone faster. Another couple next to us did just that and they were long gone by the time we made it through. But, there's no way of knowing that the other line wouldn't come to a screeching halt as soon as we would have done that.

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Julie, what a great report! We're going to Italy later this summer, and will be in some of the same places (on the Village Italy tour.) Your enthusiasm and appreciation of Italia just shine through. Thank you very much!

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Day 7 Wednesday: This morning we got an early start and headed out to see the Trevi Fountain. Very quiet (compared to the rest of the day) and it was very lovely. We then headed to the Pantheon so we could see it with fewer people around as well. We did the RS audio guide and learned a lot; we really enjoyed it.

Next on the agenda was to do the RS Heart of Rome Walk. In my mind I had not realized that there were two Farnese buildings; I had confused the Palazzo Farnese with the Villa Farnese. We got to Palazzo Farnese and realized that it was not a building we could enter. I looked on my phone and figured out there was a Villa Farnese. I thought I recalled read that the museum was good so we walked across the river to start there. I found the building to be interesting and beautiful; the art inside was nice but not exactly our thing. If I were to do it over again, I would give that one a pass. We then crossed the river back to the Campo dei Fiori area to start the RS Heart of Rome walk. While there, we bought fresh fruit cups from a vendor, delicious! Once again, I thought the RS audio tour to be very good and we learned a lot about things we'd seen before but didn't know. We took it all the way to the Trevi fountain and stopped there and took a break at our B&B which was very close by. DH has back problems so doing a bit of stretching and getting a short break was good for him.

We then walked down to Vittoriano to go up the monument to get views of the city from up high. The sculptures adorning the building were very impressive from up close. The views of the city were good; many domes and mountains in the distance. After getting our fill of views from the top, we decided to walk down to the Colosseum to see where we needed to collect our tickets for our night tour. I do not know why CoopCulture makes you switch out your tickets ahead of time as it caused me to worry about it (which turns out was unnecessary). So, we walked along the forums to get down to the Colosseum, taking pictures along the way. While walking in the area, we saw the office for tickets to the forum night shows so stopped and bought tickets for Caesar night show for Saturday night. I had tried to buy the tickets ahead of time from home but I couldn't get their website to work. It was good that we bought ahead because the first show was already sold out. Upon arriving at the Colosseum, we asked a person controlling the entry line how to retrieve our tickets for the night show - easy - we just needed to return about 20 minutes ahead of time slot and change the paper out for a sticker. Now having peace of mind, we walked around the Colosseum for more pictures and to take it in from the outside. While walking around it, we witnessed an INTENSE altercation between an older man who had received a lot of honking from a taxi driver. He parked his car and got out and started yelling at the taxi driver. He then got back in his car and started driving and the the taxi driver veered towards his car and almost hit it and pinned him into a spot he couldn't get out of! The taxi driver then got out and started yelling at the man in the car and then to his fellow taxi drivers (I'm assuming in regards to the situation). I became incredibly uncomfortable about the whole situation so we walked on - I do not enjoy confrontation.

We walked kept walking down the road and ended walking up into Parco del Colle Oppio. Great evening views of the Colosseum. We called for reservations at Li Rioni and walked there to eat at 7. Pizza was good, and we ate our first suppli which were really good. House wine was too sweet. Tiramisu turned out to be the best of the trip and I regret not ordering a full portion! It was a busy place but had a fairly quick turnover.

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We returned to the Colosseum for our night tour. It was very, very good - what a thrill to walk where the gladiators walked down below! The arena floor reconstruction was very good and gave a good sense of how things worked down below. Back in the day, I'd imagine it was a dark, dank and awful place really between all the people and animals and oil lamps. We very much enjoyed the tour; a real highlight. We walked our tired feet back to the B&B, stopping for gelato and a pastry for tomorrow morning and crashed in bed.

Day 8 Thursday: At this point, I regret to say that I stopped my daily journaling. Our Rome days were too much for me and I had no energy at night to keep it up. So, I will be reconstructing these last days from memory and photos.

We were starting this day with a private tour with Marta Marsili to see both the Forum and Palatine Hill. We ended up taking about four hours, 8:30-12:30, and she gave us a very good price so it ended up being the same price as the Through Eternity small group tour we had been considering. I was very happy that it worked out so well. She was very excited to tour Palatine Hill (I guess most tourists don't ask for this) and we went a little long in the area so our Forum time was cut a bit short. We had visited the Forum on our honeymoon with Through Eternity so we did not mind so much. Her guided tour really gave us a much better understanding of the Palatine Hill and we thought she did an excellent job bringing it to life for us. It's such a massive place and it such ruins that it can be difficult to understand. We wrapped up at the Forum and she recommended a quick pizza place to go and we went and got ourselves a slice to eat on the go. We had to get to our CoopCulture Colosseum tour early to change out our tickets and were running short on time.

Our slot was at 1:20 for the third ring and underground. I had quite the struggle obtaining these tickets online, waking up super early and fighting an awfully slow server for about three hours incredibly early in the morning to get them. It was worth it. While our guide for the night tour was good, our guide for the day tour was really good. She was a pleasure to listen to and it was good to see the underground area by daylight as well. The third ring was a real treat getting to visit without the hordes of people around you. Great views from up high.

Since we were so close, we decided to pop into the Capitoline Museum. There was some sort of event going on outside, looked to be political perhaps with media there. On the sidelines there were people in togas and gladiator costumes. We enjoyed the museum very much.

As we hadn't spent any time on either trip, we thought it would be a great time to explore Trastevere. We crossed the Tiber Island and stopped at a cute shop for gelato on the island. The early evening lighting was beautiful and it was a pleasure to stroll through the old buildings in Trastevere at this time of day. We loved the beauty of the neighborhood. We randomly came across this small pastry shop, Biscottificio Artigiano Innocenti, that was almost a hole in the wall. It was busy with locals and we knew we had found a good spot! We selected an assortment random treats that were so good that we devoured them as we walked along through the neighborhood. When returning back to our neighborhood, we walked adjacent to the river, which is lined with sycamore trees. With the wind blowing, they were really dropping fuzz - wouldn't you know it we are both very allergic and had itching eyes and started sneezing like crazy!

We ended up eating dinner close to the B&B that night at Trattoria Scavolina. It was ordinary fare, nothing special. We finished the night off with more gelato from Giolittis, which we love!

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Day 9 Friday: This was our anniversary day! We made the trek to Ostia Antica and arrived at about 9:30; it was very easy to get to. Do not waste your money on the 2€ map, we did not find it very helpful. The site was packed full of groups of school children and the entry area was particularly congested. We used the RS Ostia Antica tour and once again very much enjoyed it. If the children had not been there, I think the place would have been very quiet indeed. It was a photographer's delight and a very enjoyable way to spend our day. We ate a light lunch at the cafeteria on site and it was good. I could easily see bringing your own picnic and enjoying that, too. We spent about five hours exploring and also briefly visited the museum.

Upon returning to Rome, seeing that we were already on the metro lines, we took it to the Vatican. I had promised my sister that I would bring her back a rosary as a favor and wanted to get one from a shop in that area if I could find one. I did not see a special Vatican Museum shop (I'm not sure but it seems that you actually have to go into the Vatican to get to it), so I bought one from a street vendor instead.

And, I can't forget to add that when walking from the metro stop to the Vatican we came across a gelato shop called Lemongrass. This is tied with the shop in Siena for the best gelato of our entire trip! It was so good I ended up getting three flavors instead of my normal two. If you are in the area, don't miss it! 😋

We originally had dinner reservations at Romolo nel Giardino della Fornarina. They did not have a menu posted online so we walked by it to check out the menu and determined that we would rather dine back at Verso Sera again because our meal on Tuesday night had been so good. So, we cancelled at Romolo and scheduled at Verso instead. It did not disappoint. This time I had their amatriciana pasta and again the veal meatballs. Very, very good. Since it was our anniversary, we got a bottle of Chianti. I did not realize it but it ended up being a 2012 vintage which I was charmed by because that is our wedding year so it was special to us.

Day 10 Saturday: We started the morning by settling our B&B bill and getting a taxi arranged for our trip to the airport in the morning. We then mosied down to the Trevi fountain to throw in our coins. It will not be the last trip to Rome for us!

We then started walking to our 9:45 CoopCulture Domus Aurea reservations. We once again changed out our paper for tickets and stood in line to do so. The guide was very good. Part way through we put on virtual reality headsets and it was such a treat to get a glimpse of how it all would have looked prior to destruction and time changing everything. I was concerned that I might get motion sick but I did not. I've used a VR headset just once before for work and it amazes me how it tricks your brain into thinking you are really there in that reality. While in the VR, I remember looking down at the ornate floor and expecting to see my feet sitting on the floor! I knew better but it still got me.

After our tour, this day consisted mostly of just random walking and popping into shops and exploring Rome. We did not have real plans and just wanted to explore and soak in Rome. We checked out the Monti neighborhood and enjoyed it. We eventually walked up to the Spanish Steps area where we had lunch at Caffe Colbert located inside Villa Medici. I loved the interior of the space and the food was pretty good too. They have an outside terrace area that was very nice but reservations were required to get a table there.

We had enjoyed the Trastevere area so much before that we decided to walk back there for more exploring and some evening drinks and a little relaxing. We found Pimms Good Rome and stopped there where we ended up staying for a while. They had excellent drinks and a great atmosphere which we really enjoyed. We walked to Dar Poeta for pizza and it was good.

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Our last day in Rome was capped with an 8:40 Caesar's Forum at Night tour. After a busy trip, several long days of walking in Rome, and knowing we'd be getting up super early the next morning, we were so tempted to go back to the B&B. However, we pushed through our tiredness and made it to the show. It was excellent! The light show and tour was very good. After the show was over, we grabbed a taxi to take us back to the B&B since our dogs were barking and we wanted to get back quickly.

Day 11 Sunday: What a long and hectic day. We flew FCO to LHR to DFW to ICT. Our first flight was at 8 so we got up about 4:30 and taxied to the airport at 5:15. FCO was easy and we had extra time, but I prefer that versus worrying about cutting it close. I did find a Vatican Museum shop in the airport in case anyone is interested.

Dallas airport ended up being an absolute nightmare. We had a 1hr 50m layover and needed every minute of it as we walked up to board just as they were beginning to board. I tried to do the Mobile Passport on my phone when we landed but it wouldn't accept it (perhaps because I hadn't done the update while we were traveling). So, we went through the automated machine. We got randomly pulled to go stand in another line to have an agent talk with us. These lines were moving very slowly and it took about 25 minutes to get through this. We then went to baggage claims where there were lots of people (evidently ALL the flights came in at the same time!). After collecting luggage we got in line which at this point was several people wide and already extended pass the full length of the baggage carousel (there was only one line for everyone to go through unless you had Global Entry). Of course, with people pouring in, the lines got crazy long. It ended up snaking down the entire opposite length of the room and then back again. I would imagine there were many people missing their flights getting stuck further back in the line. We finally made it through, switched terminals, and got to our gate just in time. Incredibly stressful but so thankful we made our return flight home!

I hope you've enjoyed our report and thanks for following along! All in all, we had a wonderful trip. Looking back, I think taking in the beauty of Tuscan countryside was the biggest highlight for me. So, now we will have to see if get to go back in another five years and celebrate our ten year anniversary there, we have lots more to do and see! 😊

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Julie, absolutely fantastic trip report. Thank you for taking the time to write and share. Your photos on Instagram are stunning; your words as well! I just love your descriptions of the Tuscan countryside, it sounds so magical. And such detailed helping notes! Thank you and I'm happy you had such a wonderful wonderful anniversary trip.

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Julie, thank you thank you. You brought Rome back to me; I can't wait to return. (Next year? Maybe?)

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Julie,

Thank you so much for this very detailed trip report! So wonderfully written. I was especially thankful for the B&B “Il Corso” & Siena report. I will be staying there two nights in October. Also enjoyed (well I enjoyed all of it really) the bringing back wine/olive oil & customs/shoes tips. Really wonderful. Sounds like you & hubby had a very wonderful trip. Again, thank you for taking the time writing this all out. It was greatly appreciated!
Kate

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Kate, Il Corso - Alberto is incredibly helpful with any questions. Breakfast was very good and room was very nice, location is stellar. Unfortunately, I found it the least comfortable bed/pillow combo of the trip, but all in all I'd recommend it!

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Julie, I can't thank you enough for your wonderful detailed trip report -- I know I already wrote above, but now I have to write again, since THANKS TO YOUR WRITE-UP and your IG photos, I had a wonderful time myself. I set off for and found the spectacular Cappella Vitaleta thanks to your tip, and while I thought you had gotten deterred on your way to the Abbey of Sant'Antimo, a re-read shows me that we both enjoyed that as well!! We even ended up at La Porta in Monticchiello for dinner-- by coincidence, as my Italian husband had it in his Gambero Rosso (Italian restaurant guide) and wanted to give it a try. Our experience there was a little different, as it was a chilly evening, so we had a nice cozy dinner inside without the view, but the food was indeed so delicious. The main thing for me was those spectacular Tuscan vistas. I had been before to Florence, and Siena, and San Gimignano, but there was something different about being in a car, and it being early May -- perfect! -- and the beauty of everything was so glorious.

So - thank you again! You helped your Okie neighbor enjoy her trip very much!!

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Julie, first of all... Happy Anniversary. You did an awesome job of researching your trip. Thanks for all of your great details. I have to agree with you about the light in the Tuscan countryside. It just seems to be golden, especially at sunset. I would love to do a driving tour like you did. When we took the RS best of Italy tour my husband did a Tiramisu tasting tour. He tried it in almost every town we were in. I discovered panna cotta and fell in love with it in addition to the awesome gelato. Thanks for your post. Loved it!

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I am saving this for reference ... thank you so much for the great details and suggestions!

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Coming in later here. but this was a superb report, Julie, and a terrific read. Thank you!

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Haven't checked in, in a while - so glad everyone has enjoyed our report!! Kim, sounds like you guys had a great time!! I wish we would have had more time inside Sant'Antimo. Did you get to enjoy it thoroughly?

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Julie-- To be honest, we just kind of dashed inside Sant'Antimo . . . my husband for some reason did NOT seem at all motivated to stay there, he kind of hurried out. So even though we would have had time, we ended up with the same effect of a short visit.

I had made some notes on a notecard of some of the places you had mentioned, especially the Capeletta Vitaleta, but hadn't for whatever reason written down Sant'Antimo. So when I came back and re-read your message and saw that you had also been there, I couldn't believe it!

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Gee, I am really sorry that you didn't take the time at the Villa Farnesina to see one of Raphael's greatest creations: The Triumph of Galatea. SInce you seemed to lack a guide book, for some strange reason, you were fated to miss some of Rome's greatest
sights. You hopped through the Palatine museum but were you not aware that the Campidoglio, where it is located, was designed by Michaelangelo and is one of the most beautiful public spaces in the whole wide world? There's nothing wrong with good pizza and pasta and wine and olive oil but if you are going to spend thousands of hard earned dollars to see the most beautiful and important city of the whole world, it makes sense to actually go SEE the things that make it beautiful and important: art, architecture, churches, classical ruins...the history of the world is written in Rome. People should save their money and splurge on a long trip to Rome alone.
One month, with most time dedicated to art and sightseeing and small breaks for coffee and pizza, will be your lifetime education.
You will become obsessed with Rome, you will start reading wonderful books about it, you will start hearing about your friends' trips......you will be a different person, not just a tourist. We lived there for two years and know what we are talking about. There's no place like Rome.