Day 15-17 - Rome

Rome is a city of contrasts and contradictions, where ancient history meets contemporary life, and every corner reveals a new layer of its fascinating story. It's a city that captivates the imagination and leaves an indelible mark on all who visit. As you walk the streets you see a mixture of old ancient and modern contemporary buildings side by side. It truly is a combination of grandeur and simplicity.

I have to say that arrival into Rome was a bit overwhelming at first.  After two weeks in smaller venues, Rome is a bustling city full of locals, groups of executives walking down the streets in three-piece suits and tourists busily trying to see all Rome has to offer. We hit the ground running as there was so much to see. 

Homemade pasta being rolled and cut.

Street cafes are abundant.

The Spanish steps

 Italian restaurants and pizzerias are abundant and diverse and local shops offer an array of options for lunches.  With that said, as I write this it seems we consumed a lot of pizza.  The pizza toppings and crusts varied, so we never felt like that was our only option and we were able to try some new combinations not available at home. We also opted for crostini, arancini, which are stuffed rice balls, and other small bites in little cafes as we wandered the city streets.

A street vendor roasting chestnuts.

Trevi Fountain

We walked by la Taverna dei Monti on our way back from the Coliseum and the menu looked enticing.  We made a reservation for 8:00PM. This turned out to be a great decision as it was crowded when we arrived. They were turning people, with no reservations, away at the door.  

Seafood Risotto

Limoncello and a classic Italian dessert cookie called "Biscotti" or "Cantucci" were complimentary. Note the bill was 50.50 Euro or about $50-54 USD and included wine.

Eggplant Parmesan

This was my favorite of the three restaurants we dined at in Rome.  From the number of customers, it is obviously a popular place for locals and tourists. 

House wine

Rome is the spiritual heart of Catholicism, home to the Vatican City, the world's smallest independent state and the seat of the Pope. St. Peter's Basilica, with its awe-inspiring dome and Michelangelo's masterpiece, the Pieta, is the largest church in the world and a pilgrimage site for millions of Catholics. The Vatican Museums house priceless art collections, including the Sistine Chapel, adorned with Michelangelo's breathtaking frescoes. We spent our second day walking and consuming all the history we could surrounding these landmarks. The Sistine Chapel was phenomenal and not what I expected.  Map in hand, must have walked at least eight miles this day alone taking in all the fountains, churches, museums and piazzas on the way to and from St. Peters.

A monument in one of the squares.

Waiting outside to get into the Pantheon.

Tour boat in the river.

So much incredible art to see everywhere you turn!

With Rome such a fascinating and historic city, we accessed many of Rick Steves audio files for site such as The Colosseum, The Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums and Ostia Antica (our extra day trip after the tour was complete). The presentations are very well organized and walk you through each site with insightful commentary and tips.  Rick Steves' website is a great place to start for audio files. You can browse his selection of guides, podcasts, and other materials to help you make the most of your travels.

Our second dinner was at (Pietro) Punturi. It is located next door to La Bottega Ristorante and owned by the same family (in Rick's book). The restaurant has a nice ambiance, not very crowded, the service was excellent, and the food was delicious.  We ordered meatballs, linguine and clams and shrimp with asparagus and watched the chef prepare it in the open kitchen. Our hotel was not far away so we were able to walk off at least part of this delicious meal.

The chef preparing our meal.


John likes his linguine and clams and tried it many places.

Shrimp and asparagus

In planning our tour with Rick Steves, we also added an extra day to the end of our tour so we could have more time in Rome with our friends.  We covered the Pantheon, more churches, fountains and the Galleria Borghese home and gardens which boast masterpieces by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael. The streets of Rome are adorned with countless fountains, piazzas, and sculptures, creating an open-air gallery of artistic splendor we couldn't get enough of.

Galleria Borghese Museum and Gardens

One of the favorite places we went on our free time was the Galleria Borghese Museum and Gardens. Overall, the Galleria Borghese Gardens offer a tranquil oasis providing visitors with an opportunity to immerse themselves in nature and admire art.

Walking through the Galleria Borghese Gardens offers a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of Rome's city center.  From certain vantage points within the gardens, you can enjoy panoramic views of Rome's skyline, including landmarks such as St. Peter's Basilica.

The Galleria Borghese Gardens offer opportunities for various recreational activities, including jogging, cycling, and picnicking. We picked up sandwiches (forgot to take a picture) from a local food cart and found a nice sunny bench to eat on while we people watch and enjoyed the scenery. We walked by several musicians also enjoying the sun while entertaining those walking by.


Map of the gardens and museum.

I think they call these umbrella pines, and they are located all over the gardens.  Honestly, they looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book to me! Maybe this is where he got the inspiration for some of his book illustrations! 

“You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Street musicians and food trucks dot the gardens. 

One of the fanciest dinners we had on our trip was Piperno. (We were a bit underdressed, based on the other clientele. Oh, well!) Located in the historic Jewish Ghetto neighborhood, Piperno has been serving traditional Roman-Jewish cuisine since 1860, making it one of the oldest restaurants in the city. The restaurant features classic Roman décor, including vaulted ceilings, marble floors, and antique furnishings, creating a timeless and atmospheric setting for dining. Specialties of the house include carciofi alla giudia (Jewish-style fried artichokes), baccalà fritto (fried cod), and spaghetti with bottarga (cured fish roe). After dinner we wandered around the neighborhood before crossing back over the river and back to our hotel for a nightcap. The meal was excellent and worth a visit.

Fried Seafood

 Jewish Style Fried Artichoke


Ox Tails

Our last dinner in Rome was at Hostaria Romana, known for their traditional Roman dishes.  A busy bistro, this restaurant is situated in the historic center of Rome, near popular attractions such as the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and Campo de' Fiori.

It was a beautiful night and we sat on the porch area of the restaurant.

Sea Bass

Seafood Pasta

  As we said our goodbyes to the new friends we made on this tour, some continued onto other destinations like Sorento and Sicily, some headed back to the states, Daniella prepared for another tour, and we left with nothing but incredible memories of our time in Italy. Throughout our Italian vacation, we immerse ourselves in the rich history, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality of this remarkable country. Whether your focus is exploring historic cities, savoring regional cuisine, or admiring breathtaking landscapes, The Best of Italy in 17 Days is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories as it did for us.

Buon viaggio!