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.

  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.
  • We'd never heard of cannonball rocks before we drove past them at North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and asked each other, "did you see that?" We'd never seen anything quite like these natural "concretions" created when water leaked into pockets of minerals in the ground. Now, as a hill erodes, these formations are exposed.⁣
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Seeing these rocks was such a cool experience because it reminded us of why we travel. We never know when we'll find something new, something that we never knew existed. We got along fine not knowing about cannonball rocks, yet now that we've seen them, our lives are a little richer. ⁣
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The world is a pretty cool place. Check it out.⁣
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@ndlegendary

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