The third and final leg of our Eid trip was to fly to Rome and spend a couple days exploring the ruins, Vatican, and social scene of Italy.
We chose Ryan Air because of their ridiculously low rates. The plane was pretty terrible, but not bad when you consider the price and time. We arrived safely and grabbed a cab. Uber proved to be a little annoying at the airport. The driver took us to our hotel, The Boscolo Exedra, in the city center. I really don’t think it is even possible to go through and tag all the amazing sights and buildings we saw in the next three days. I will just try to hit the highlights. Sadly, the hotel messed up our reservations so we were stuck sharing a bed for the first night. It absolutely amazes me that even in a 5 Star Marriott with two platinum guests, they still manage to mess things up. Oh well #firstWorldProblems.
First thing first, we needed some real Italian pizza. Yelp suggested a little spot around the corner. Walking outside we were immediately enveloped in a damp blanket of heat and humidity, but we had to push onward. Pinsere finally arrived. This stuff hit the spot. Of course, we had to follow up with some gelato.
Finally we were able to head to the museum. We figured that the Museo e Galleria Borghese would be a good place to go. We didn’t realized you had to book tickets in advance. We grabbed some tickets for Friday and headed out into the gardens. Once we got our bearings, we made our way to Trevi Fountain. Sadly, there was some fashion show being setup so we couldn’t get close enough to throw coins. From there we checked out the Pantheon. It was cool to hear live music while admiring a 2000 year old building.
We were now very hot and hungry. So we hopped in an Uber and headed out. Let me warn you here. Uber is not a cheap alternative to cabs. They only offer UberBlack, UberLux, and UberXL here. Cabs are tough to find and ATMs are even scarcer, so sometimes you have to give in. But it is not the optimal choice. We made our way to Brasserie 4:20 to try some food and local beer. Before coming to Italy, I was dreading the limited choices and probably force to drink wine. I was so pleasantly surprised to learn about a growing trend towards real beer. The Italians were catching on, and they are creating some amazing liquids. Huzzah! B420 was one of these great places. In addition to great beer, they also made food well, and gave a lot of it.
We decided we should head back to the hotel and relax before our long next day of touring.
When planning everything, I decided to just stack one day with tours so the others would be free to explore. In the morning we would hit the Vatican and then, after a break, we would go on the Colosseum by Night tour. For the Vatican we went with City Wonders. The morning departure and Skip The Line make the tour well worth it. Everything else is just gravy.
Now, I may not be Catholic, but experiencing the Vatican in person is something every human should do. It is beautiful. The reverence that you feel there is so impactful to your life and soul. It was hot, but it was so good to spend the time learning and listening to a guide. Doriana has her PhD in archaeology which added so much value to our information. After my whole personal revelation in the Jeita Grotto, my time in the Sistine Chapel was severely impacted. Pictures are strictly forbidden, but yet everyone and their mother (literally) thinks they are outside the rules. I looked around and just saw the filth of selfishness on all these people and realized that is how bad I was in the cave. I am a big guy, and people were trying to use me to shield their crimes from the guards. I wish the Vatican would just take a hard stance and confiscate all cameras and phones. Allow guests to purchase them back for 500 euro. Ugh. People.
After the tour, I purchased some prayer beads and had them blessed. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.
From there, we went to a nice little neighborhood called Trastevere and found a little place called Bir & Fud. Mit had booked a 90 minute massage back at the hotel, so he had to jump, but I sat and enjoyed my parma ham, buffalo mozzarella, savory pizza, and refreshing beers. Then I headed across the street to Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa to continue my beer session. My last stop was to hit Open Baladin. Here I met an awesome bartender named Sylvia. Italian people seemed so nice. They all were very helpful and friendly to me as a tourist.
Alas, it was time for me to heads back to the hotel to get ready for the Colosseum tour. We used Walks of Italy for this tour, because the night would mean smaller crowds and less heat. As it turned out, we got to have Doriana as our tour guide again. We learned all about the shaping of Rome and how the name Colosseum isn’t the real name. Then we got to go inside. Just a group of 20 of us. Inside. downstairs, where the gladiators stayed the night. This was such a cool tour. Honestly one of the best I have been on.
Afterwards, Mit needed to go catch up with his friend Bodin, and I needed to swing by Brasserie 4:20. They had promised me a cool tap handle for my collection. From there, I met back up with them at Cacio e Pepe to eat some of the best pasta in Italy. The carbonara was amazing. I have tried to make this dish many times, but never have I come close to this.
At this point, I was fully racked. I needed to hit the hay. Mit and Bodin struck a match and lit the midnight oil. I headed back to the Boscolo. Luckily they finally got us into our correct room with two beds.
I woke up just in time to put on clothes and head across town to catch our time slot at the Borghese. I would not miss this. I am so happy I didn’t. The artwork, the sculptures, and even the rooms themselves were beauties to behold. I admired them for what they are and what they were. It is times like these that bring my artist to the forefront. He stands and stares and can not understand why there is such hatred in the world, when such beauty could exist.
One of the things, I knew I needed to do before leaving was to eat at a real Italian deli. Yelp and TripAdvisor helped me find just the spot: Ciacco & Bacco. Some reviews mentioned they only spoke Italian, so I was ready to do some pointing for my order. But the staff member spoke fluently. I ordered a local beer, a meat plate, and a sandwich. Absolutely perfect. This is hard to beat. The meats melted in my mouth while the cheeses carried such flavour.
I made my way back to the hotel for a quick nap then some time at the pool. Turns out the pool closes early. I don’t get why the hotel would want to lose out on the revenue they generate from guests buying drinks in the pool. But whatever, I am not the manager. Mit kept talking about the Aperetivo meal, so we cabbed over to Freni e Frizioni. Apparently, you buy a cocktail or beer, and you get to snack on the veggies and light foods. Okay cool. But by now, we were ready for a real meal. We were ready for some exploring. We headed back to Bir & Fud, but this meal was not nearly as good. They crammed us into a corner table with no airflow. So I think I cooked a little for the 45 minutes I was there. Out we went, it was gelato time. This neighborhood was awesome. Shops and restaurants were open. People were walking and talking. Live music poured through the streets. Then I thought we should try to go to the little island in the river, Isola Tiberina.
Money decision! turns out. All summer, they are holding outdoor movies and music with pop up bars and restaurants on the island. This place was awesome. We were finally able to relax and absorb the atmosphere. Over the past 8 days, we had seen historical places, experienced once-in-a-lifetime things, tasted amazing beer, sampled delicious food, observed historical ruins, walked and walked and walked and walked. But we could finally sit down and breath. Then I met Emanuela. She was like that first breath in after being under water. It was so nice to talk to someone for hours. She was smart and sweet. It reminded me that there are amazing people in this world. I am living in a bubble in the Middle East, and it distorts social realities. I miss the human contact. It was just what I needed.
I headed back to the hotel and left Mit and Bodin, so I could do some introspection. Sometimes the mind and the soul need to have conversations. It helps when you’re surrounded by thousands of years of growth and prosperity… and of course gelato.
What a night. What a trip.
We woke up and got packed, ready to head back to the Kingdom. It had been such an amazing Eid trip. The driver picked us up and whisked us away to the airport. Of course as soon as we got back into the Middle East, things started messing up. Our connection was delayed so we spent 4.5 hours in Jordan. But whatever. This trip was worth it.
Italy was the perfect cap to an amazing trip. I will be back. There is just so much to do.
Until next time.