Caio from Rome, Italy!

We made it and Rome and intentionally did not pre-plan much of our first day in Italy. We tried that a couple of years ago but a mechanical issue caused our flight out of Omaha to be canceled and we lost money on pre-purchased tickets for a Vatican tour. We ended that day eating Papa John’s pizza at Omaha’s Sleep Inn. We weren’t going to make that mistake again, so we left our first day in Rome wide open.

Since it was about 60 euros each way to take a taxi from our hotel into the city, we opted to save money by taking a shuttle bus and train instead. It was our first day abroad, after all, and we wanted a little adventure. We took the free shuttle bus back to the airport, then paid 14 euros each for a train to the main station. From there, we walked what seemed like 68 miles to buy a 24-hour Metro subway ticket for 7 more euros, each, so we could get to the Colosseum.

Our first stop in Rome was the Colosseum and Forum.

We’d toured the Colosseum a few years ago, but didn’t have a chance to walk around the Forum much, so we thought we’d try that if we could get a ticket. We walked around for a bit trying to decipher Italian signs and find an entrance to the Forum. We walked up and down hills, across cobblestones and flagstones, and even in and out of a church, looking for the entrance to the Forum. We finally figured out that tickets for the Colosseum and Forum were one in the same so we headed to the entrance of the Colosseum.

The forecast was not looking good when we arrived.

As we drew close, every five yards or so we were approached by a vendor selling everything from bicycle rides and guided tours to bracelets and hats. It was incredibly annoying. Finally, one of them asked if we would like a 40-minute guided tour of the Forum for 25 euros each. We considered paying the overpriced fee for a quick second, but then noticed dark clouds moving in and told him we’d come back another time. He insisted it wasn’t going to rain and pointed to a small corner of sky that was only partly cloudy. Knowing it seemed cloudier now than  just two minutes before, we still opted to try for the Forum another day.

Boy, are we glad we did. We walked back to the subway just as thunder and lightning began to fill the sky. We were hungry by then, and decided to look for a place to get our first tastes of authentic Italian pasta and wine.

We remembered a wonderful little place we’d eaten when we visited Rome three years ago, but couldn’t remember the name or location of the restaurant. Then, I had an idea! I remembered taking a photo of Steve pouring wine from a liter pitcher at the restaurant and searched through the photos on my phone. Finally, I was able to justify to Steve why it is necessary to keep 27,502 (and counting!) photos on my phone.

A search for wine in my iPhone photos found 150 matches. And no, I am not ashamed.

I easily found the photo from the restaurant (by searching for “wine”) and we got back on the subway to head that direction. When we arrived, we were about to leave the station when we realized it was a complete downpour outside. People were coming down the steps from the street above completely soaked. We shared a smile that we weren’t standing like wet dogs in the Forum.

Thunderstorms filled the sky on our first day in Rome, Italy.

At this point you probably assume that we reached into our trusty backpack and pulled out our rain gear. Well, you would be wrong. We forgot to pack any (#travelisreal). Instead, we reached into our pocket and pulled out 10 euros to buy two overpriced “Roma” ponchos from yet another random guy wandering around the station selling them to make a quick buck.

Yes, we paid 10 euro for two glorified garbage bags.

Thinking we had two or three blocks in the pouring rain to the restaurant (best we could tell from Google maps) we emerged from the underground station and had a good laugh when we saw the restaurant about 30 steps from the subway entrance.

Cute Roma poncho, don’t you think?

In any case, we made our way in, ordered a liter of the house wine, and enjoyed a wonderful Italian meal.

A liter of the house wine was just what we needed after a long day/night of traveling.

We started our Italian food experience with a four-piece bruschetta appetizer. The picture below shows three of them. Steve was just little eager to taste the prosciutto and mozzarella one and had it in his mouth stomach before I could take my 27,503rd photo.

The four-piece bruschetta sampler.

We shared a caprese salad (one of our favorites) and each ordered a pasta dish. Steve had the bucatini all’amatriciana (thick spaghetti with a bacon and tomato sauce) and I opted for the carbonara. Both were delizioso!

One of our favorites, caprese salad.

We ordered two pasta dishes, one with a tomato and bacon sauce and the carbonara.

After our late lunch/early dinner, we took the overly crowded subway (and when I say overly crowded, I mean my body was touching at least six people at the same time) back the main train station, bought a ticket, and attempted to find the correct train back to the airport. It was a bit confusing and when we asked for help, we were directed to the wrong train. I got on before Steve pulled me back off.

One of our many stops at the train station on our first day in Rome.

We then went to the wrong track, backtracked, and missed our train. Thankfully, we could easily catch another one. The airport express runs every 15 minutes, unless the train is running late, which it was. We finally got back to the airport and then hopped the free shuttle to the hotel.

Rome is a busy city, full of people from all over the world. We were happy to represent Crete, Nebraska, USA.

By the time we got back we were ready to be away from the crowds of people that had surrounded us all day and get some sleep. We showered, did a quick load of laundry at the hotel (it will likely be our last chance for 10 days) and crashed. For about nine and half hours, to be exact.

Next stop – Siena, Tuscany, and our time with Massi the Driver and Italy Unfiltered. If you missed our earlier post about our hosts, Deb and Massi, you can read all about them HERE.

PIN FOR LATER

What we did in Rome, Italy, when we arrived with no pre-booked tickets or plans.

  • One of our favorite stops on our hosted food tour of @visitkansascityks was the @403club. Sure, they offer a great selection of locally crafted and larger production domestic beers. But they also have pinball machines. In fact, they even have a pinball league.⁣
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We spent about an hour in this fun spot, sipping, playing, and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. It will definitely be on our list of places to go again, someday. Beer and pinball are a pretty good mix.
  • On our visit to Italy, we visited the Prosecco region. While we toured a number of wineries, we actually stayed at an inn run by the Roccat winery. ⁣
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Prosecco is a sparkling wine, and people often see it as intergangeable with champagne. This isn't the case at all. Champagne is made from the Chardonnay grape, while Prosecco comes from Glara. Because of this, the two wines are completely different.⁣
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We enjoyed a tasting at Roccat, where they served us glasses of crisp, clear, delicious wine alongside some crunchy breadsticks that were just the right thing to enjoy with the wine.⁣
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If you ever have the opportunity to go to Italy, make sure you include time to head to Valdobbiandene and try some Prosecco.
  • Located in @clearlakeiowa, the historic Surf Ballroom has hosted some of the biggest names in music. It was on this stage that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson performed their final show on February 3, 1959. After the concert, they boarded a plane for their next town on their tour. That plane crashed shortly after takeoff, and the date has been remembered ever since as "the day the music died."⁣
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@traveliowa
  • Set in Millennium Park in Chicago is one of the city's most iconic art installations. It's a giant, shiny bean which reflects everything in sight. It's fun to walk around (and under) the bean and see how the shape distorts what it reflects.⁣
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Folks come from all over to see this art installation and take it in. Children love running around it and gazing into it, not realizing they are learning about convex and concave shapes. ⁣
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Standing here you'll hear a multitude of languages and see people from all walks of life there to enjoy the art. And that's why we love public art so much--it brings people together.
  • On our cruise from Italy to Greece, we made a stop in Mykonos. There, we had the chance to take part in a Greek cooking class in a woman's home learning from her.⁣
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We spent an afternoon with lessons about Greek cuisine, and how they waste nothing, not even excess juice from a cucumber. We also saw how to make incredible dishes like this spanakopita, or spinach pie. Sitting in her dining room, enjoying the light, flaky crust and delicious filling is an experience we won't soon forget. ⁣
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While traveling, we try to find opportunities to experience local culture. It's amazing how similar people in the world really are if you just take some time to see what life is like.
  • Do you remember that song from "The Music Man" about trouble? You know the one about the kids in the knickerbockers, shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool hall window after school. ⁣
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Well, we got to peek in a replica of that pool hall on a recent visit to The Music Man Square on our hosted to Mason City, Iowa. It's the town where "The Music Man" creator Meredith Willson was born and raised and his legacy lives on. ⁣
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Before you go see @thehughjackman and @suttonlenore in this Broadway favorite, consider a visit to the real River City.⁣
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Click on the link in our bio to see our latest blog post about why fans of "The Music Man" need to visit Mason City, Iowa. ⁣
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@themusicmanbway
  • When we heard that there was a community garden in Clear Lake, Iowa, we figured we'd stop and check it out. We've seen small town community gardens before, and were expecting a few flower patches, some paving stones, and maybe a bench or two. After all, it was built and is maintained by volunteers in a small Iowa town. ⁣
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What we found, though, was simply astounding! First, the entire garden had been designed beautifully; a small stream even meandered through the gardens, pausing in small lily-filled pools before continuing on its path. But the flowers took the cake. So many varieties, each more beautiful than the last. And the entire space had been planned out to take advantage of the spring, summer, and autumn species. ⁣
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if you enjoy gardens, put the Central Gardens of North Iowa on your list of places to visit.
  • Calmar, Iowa, near Decorah, is home to Pivo Brewery and Blepta Studios. There you'll find high quality craft beers, in a relaxed, fun environment. Upstairs from the taproom are the studios, where you can try your hand at art while sipping your beer.

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