Italy: Part 4

On two of the days I was in Italy, Noah had class, so I was left to entertain myself. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to do more of the super-touristy activities Noah had already done.

The first activity was Rick Steves’ ‘Heart of Rome’ Walking Tour. This tour brought me through all the major sights in downtown Rome. The walking tour started at Campo de Fiori – a piazza in downtown Rome that houses a market every morning.

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The market sold pretty much everything you can imagine from fruits to pasta to clothes to kitchen supplies:

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I got a late start to the day, so by the time I was finished exploring Campo de Fiori my stomach was grumbling for lunch. I stopped in at a pizzeria and bakery that looked to be very busy (I took this as an indication that it was very good). The crowds seemed to indicate the truth, because the veggie pizza was delicious. I also ordered an aroncini to try (a fried Italian rice ball):

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After lunch, the tour’s next stop was Piazza Navona with the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) and some impressive Baroque architecture.

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The tour led me by the Pantheon again:

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The book described the light coming down through the Pantheon’s oculus as ‘the greatest column in all of Rome.’

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I thought that was really beautiful. 🙂

After the Pantheon, it was time to pass by the Parliament buildings…

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…which just happens to be nearby to the most famous gelatteri in Rome: Giolitti!

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Obviously, I needed to try it out for myself.

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It did not disappoint! I tried the nutella and crema flavors – but I wanted to try everything! The nutella was especially rich and delicious.

After gelato, I moved on to the Trevi fountain:

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Perhaps because of the small space, this site seemed more packed with tourists than any of the others!

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The tradition goes that if you through a coin in the Trevi Fountain, than it will ensure your return to Rome. Hey, it worked last time – so might as well!

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The final stop on the ‘Heart of Rome’ walking tour was the Spanish Steps:

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The Spanish Steps get their name from the Spanish Embassy which has been near them for over 300 years. The steps themselves don’t have any major historical significance, but they’ve become a media icon through Roman Holiday and the fact they were a popular hang out spot for John Keats and other Romantics.

For my next solo day, I explored the Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum. Rick Steve’s ‘Roman Forum Walking Tour’ starts at the Arch of Titus – a monument to commemorate the defeat of Judea:

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The Arch of Titus is the gateway to the forum, and the rest of the tour explores the various ruins of temples, legal buildings, and outdoor pathways. Highlights include the Basilicae where people met for matters of law or business (and after which Christian basilicas would later be modeled):

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The Temple for Julius Caesar, dedicated to the spot where he was burned after being assassinated:

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The Temple of Vesta where Vestal Virgins kept an eternal flame lit:

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And the only original door from Roman times:

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From the Forum, I walked up to Palatine Hill where the emperors built their homes palaces. The remains on the hill were even scanter than on the forum…

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But there was a fairly well preserved garden area that had been used for exercise:

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Well preserved perhaps due to the modern upkeep 🙂

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Visiting the Colosseum certainly will take your breath away.

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The structure is massive (hence, it’s name), with a base of 6 acres. Imagining the terror that occurred inside is a little scary though.

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Used for gladiator fights and other spectacles, the Colosseum was the site of much blood and brutality. When it originally opened, a 100-day festival followed that resulted in the death of 2,000 men and 9,000 animals. Workers had to move around the building spraying perfume to mask the smell of blood!

Once Christianity became the dominant religion and slaughtering people wasn’t considered PC anymore, the Colosseum closed and has been in a state of deterioration ever since. Nonetheless, it is fairly well preserved and an incredible testament to the structural abilities of the ancient Romans (or rather, the abilities of their slaves!).

After the Colosseum, I went for lunch at a restaurant in the area recommended by Rick Steves. They gave me a free drink since they saw I had the Rick Steves book!

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Other Italy Posts
Italy: Part 1
Italy: Part 2
Italy: Part 3
Italy: Part 5

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Italy: Part 3

One of the biggest highlights of my Italy trip was biking the Appian Way.

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The Appian Way, or via Appia, is an early and strategically important Roman road. This was the first long road that could be used to transport troops outside of Rome. The road connects to areas south of Rome, and it was the main way to transport military supplies and troops. Now, the road is used as a walking, jogging, and biking trail amid beautiful landscapes. Along the trail are also several sights, including several churches, catacombs, and circus of maxentius.

Noah and I decided that biking the Appian Way would be a great way to spend one of our weekend days together. We took a bus out to the road and rented bikes at a small cafe.

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We traveled leisurely, stopping to look at all the sights:

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The trail was beautiful:

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The secluded trails felt so distant from central Rome even though we weren’t that far away:

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After biking the length of trail and backtracking to the bike-rental cafe, we decided to get lunch:

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After lunch, we read more Rick Steves while we waiting for the bus:

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Rick Steves is the best. All of his walking tours are incredibly informative, easy to follow, and interesting! I would highly recommend his guidebooks to anyone interested in self-directed travel.

When the bus came, instead of heading straight back to the city, we made a detour at Aqueduct Park. The park was really neat for two reasons. First, it shows the remains of Rome aqueducts – an incredible engineering accomplishment! Second, the park was full of Italians having picnics, grilling, and enjoying the sunshine. It was fun to be in an area with real Italians living their regular lives instead of in the city center surrounded by tourists.

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Walking through the park and exploring the aqueducts gave us a little hike, and we had a lot of fun making our way through the park’s trails:

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When we got back after the park, we were both exhausted from all the adventures and time outside. The solution to our fatigue took the delicious form of a restaurant call Il Brillo Parlante.

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Il Brillo is a wine bar/restaurant with an assortment of traditional Italian dishes and homemade pastas

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I ordered a pesto pasta dish and a side of veggies. Noah ordered bruschetta and lamb.

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This pasta dish may have been the best meal I had during my visit. The noodles were small and tightly twisted with a wonderfully chewy consistency. The pesto sauce was phenomenal, and the pasta was served inside of a fried bread shell that was DELICIOUS. The vegetables tasted so fresh and flavorful even though they were only prepared by boiling. Big win for the restaurant!

Other Italy Posts
Italy: Part 1
Italy: Part 2
Italy: Part 4
Italy: Part 5

Italy: Part 2

My second day in Italy, we took another free walking tour that ended at the Vatican. It was a perfect opportunity to check out St. Peter’s Basilica!

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St. Peter’s is enormous! There are markings on the floor to show how many of the world’s other large churches would fit inside this one. The dome inside is the largest in the world, reaching nearly 450 ft in height!

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Entrance to the basilica is free, and Noah and I did a Rick Steves’ walking tour while inside to learn all about it. Afterwards, we walked to lunch, passing through Piazza del Popolo:

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Lunch was something I have looked forward to for approximately 2.5 years. No kidding! About that long ago I went to Italy with my fabulous besty for a fun-filled 10 day tour. While we were in Rome, we ate lunch at a vegetarian restaurant that had THE MOST DELICIOUS BUFFET IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Part of our obsession with that lunch may have been due to the fact that we were super hungry when we got there. Nonetheless, I have thought of that restaurant ever since, and it was probably the #2 thing I was looking forward to on my visit (after seeing Noah, of course).

The restaurant: Il Margutta RistorArte.

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Could the lunch buffet live up to my idolized memory of it?!

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Why yes, yes it could. So good! I wish this restaurant lived in Minneapolis. Or maybe I don’t…it would probably put a dent in my wallet. And have the opposite affect on my waistline.

After lunch, we decided to check out the Rose Gardens.

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We sat on a bench in the garden for a while talking and enjoying the beautiful weather/surroundings. Look what we found – a beautiful heart!

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tots.adorbs.

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My second day in Italy wouldn’t be complete without….

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Gelato! Gelato is seriously EVERYWHERE in Italy. Every other storefront seems to sell it. So, obviously, by the end of the day, it’s pretty hard not to have some. Noah and I found a great little gelato place near the B&B where we were staying that had a wide range of flavors (listed in English as well as Italian), plus some interesting gelato pops and balls:

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We went to this place several times during my visit and always tried different flavors:

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Mollie: “I feel guilty eating gelato twice in one day.”Noah: “That’s okay. One time I had gelato twice in the same lunch period.”

Other Italy Posts
Italy: Part 1
Italy: Part 3
Italy: Part 4
Italy: Part 5

Italy: Part 1

Hello again! Sorry for the long hiatus in blogging. I have a good excuse though:

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The countdown got to zero…so I’ve been in Italy! Or should I say, Italia. Traveling there went smoothly – with the exception of a mix-up regarding the bus schedule that led me to frantically take a taxi to the airport:

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Sadly, my exact change that I had so deliberately collected for the bus ride there will now need to be used for laundry:

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When, I got to the airport, I made it through security and had time to eat the lunch (almond flour pizza for one) I brought before boarding:

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Obviously, a quick stop at Caribou was necessary:

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I was going to go to Starbucks since I like their tea selections better, but it makes me mad that Starbucks expects you to pay more money for a medium tea than a small when they’re only giving you more hot water….so, Caribou it was!

After a quick layover in Philadelphia, I was on my way to Rome! The best part of international flights? Definitely the individual entertainment stations.

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Yes!!! Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 2. Doesn’t take a lot to keep me happy. 🙂 In addition to watching Twilight and Life of Pi, I also read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food which I bought a couple weeks ago at Magers and Quinn. I loved it! I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about a common sense approach to nutrition and eating.

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If individual entertainment stations are the best part of international travel, in-flight meals are the worst:

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I special ordered a vegetarian meal prior to the flight, so my rice/veggie mixture was bad but not terrible (really I was just super excited for all the delicious Italian food I would be consuming over the next week!). When I finally made it to Rome the next morning, I was SO EXCITED to see this handsome fellow waiting for me at the airport:

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While we were waiting for the train to take us from the airport into Rome, Noah got a Cappuccino at the bar (very Italian!):

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When we got into the city, it was too early to check into the Bed & Breakfast where we were staying, so we went to Noah’s apartment. There were great views from the window!

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We also visited a nearby fruit market with loads of produce, flowers, and prepared foods:

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I got some oranges and pears to eat during the week:

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When we finished at the market, it was time to head to the B&B! We were staying at a place called Parioli House near the Policlinico Metro Stop. It was very cute with tea, fruit, and snacks available all the time in the foyer:

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After we got settled in the room, we set off to take a walking tour. There’s a company called Rome Free Walking Tour, which is exactly what it sounds like. Perfect for the stingy traveler! Noah and I took two tours: one through the Heart of Rome and one from the Spanish Steps to the Vatican. The one to the Vatican was MUCH better, but we saw a lot of cool stuff on both. Highlights include….

The Colosseum and Forum:

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The Trevi Fountain:

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The Pantheon:

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Piazza Navona:

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and the Vatican:

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Stay tuned for more information on these places later….

Also, did I mention that we are silly and love Rick Steves?

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And finally, the perfect ending to the first day…DINNER! We went to a restaurant that specialized in wood-fired pizzas:

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There were neat paintings all over the walls:

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We ordered a tuna pizza and a veggie pizza:

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Plus a side dish of eggplant:

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Sooo good. And, in true Italian form, an espresso after the meal:

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Check back soon for info on St. Peter’s Basilica, biking the Appian Way, and great Italian cuisine!

Other Italy Posts
Italy: Part 2
Italy: Part 3
Italy: Part 4
Italy: Part 5