Trastevere Food Tour

If you’ve followed along with me, you may have read about a food tour we did in Florence. One of our favorite things we’ve done in Europe. So we thought we’d try another one ūüôā This time we booked a tour with Eating Italy Tours.

Our party had 4 adults and 4 kids (ages 1-12). We didn’t pay for the baby because she wasn’t eating her own portions, but the other kids we did pay a discounted rate for. The kids did great on the tour. We all got a little bit of history and the kids were kept entertained by all the snacks and treats! Our tour was in the Trastevere neighborhood on the south side of the Tiber river. It was wonderful to be guided around the area, because we probably wouldn’t have do it on our own and our guide knew exactly where to go for the best stuff!

Here’s a peak at some of what we sampled.

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Here we are being led through the back part of a bakery. Seeing where the pizza and foccia are made! And yes I’m pushing my stroller right through there.

Not pictured here are the artisan gelato spot, ristorante¬†where we ate spaghetti carbonara and ravioli, the ancient wine cellar, and the cookie bakery. Definitely come hungry to a food tour. By the end, my husband’s stomach hurt so bad because he hadn’t moderated his portions well at the beginning. Take your time and sample everything, but be careful not to overdo it. It isn’t a cheap thing to do on your trip, but from my experience food tours are well-worth the money!¬†Our nephew grew very fond of our guide Francesca. He was a little heartbroken to say goodbye to her.

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Francesca and our nephew, best buddies!

As a side note, in Rome these water fountains are everywhere. It is fresh running drinking water. I found them to be a life saver, especially when in most other european cities water is only purchased by the bottle and often more than beer or wine! Bring water bottles around with you and fill up whenever you see one!

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Our nephew demonstrating how to turn it into a water fountain you can drink straight from if you don’t have a bottle.

After all the walking during the food tour, we decided to find a place to sit down and sip some drinks. IMG_1295

And baby girl decided to test out a Vespa.

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Later that evening, we miraculously made room in our tummies for some dinner. We chose a restaurant not too far from the Trevi Fountain. We put some tables together outside, and after being in the stroller most of the day, my daughter was ready to move around. She set off crawling down the street and sidewalk. Of course, she ended up covered in dirt and dust. Before I could sit her down to wipe her down with baby wipes, this sweet Nonna scooped her up and practically bathed her in the bar of the restaurant. It was so cute. I’m not used to getting help like that from strangers, and in this instance I did really appreciate her helping me out!

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Wondering why she’s getting washed off by Nonna.

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Getting some water before dinner.

We closed the night by wandering back by the Pantheon, isn’t it gorgeous at night?! I just love going back through these pictures, Rome is a wonderful place to visit! Food, architecture, history, so much to offer!

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Wandering Rome

After touring St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning, we spent the rest of the day wandering the city. The beautiful thing about Rome is there are churches, ruins, monuments, fountains, something to see around almost every corner. Not far from the Vatican is Castel St. Angelo.IMG_0705

Exploring Rome can be quite exhausting. There’s lots to see, and if you’re there in the summer it’s hot, hot, hot! Rome is very walkable, but all that walking can wear you out. Make sure to slow down and stop for breaks! Enjoy a cold one or some gelato, then head out again!

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Beer time for the mamas!

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Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona.

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In the ancient Roman Forum.

A note on strollers in Rome. I’m not sure if there’s a perfect answer on this one. This rickety umbrella stroller wasn’t ideal for the uneven cobblestones, and gravel paths through the forum. But it was ideal for easy folding and carrying up and down stairs. My daughter did ride in it most of the time and I was glad to have it to give her somewhere to nap. Carrying her in the¬†Ergo the whole time would have been really hot and tiring for me. So take it with a grain of salt, and realize there’s no perfect solution sometimes. Just make the best of what you have!

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Eventually, the sun started to go down on the city. Rome is magical at night. You absolutely have to walk around and enjoy the charm in the day and in the evening.IMG_1400

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Famous gelato spot.

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Vatican Revisited

My hubby and I had visited Rome and the Vatican on a previous trip in 2012, but it was our family’s (who was visiting from the states) first time. The best thing we did on our first trip to Rome was to wake up early to get to St. Peter’s Basilica right before opening time.¬†IMG_0511

Getting a picture without hoards of tourists around is a big bonus to getting there early. Also, you will be able to wander the basilica without being crammed in a crowd. The crowds start arriving a couple hours after opening time. So take it from me, get there early and be done looking around before everyone else gets there! Just a quick FYI, it is free to enter the basilica but to tour the Vatican museum you need to purchase a ticket. And it is highly recommended you make a reservation online or book a guided tour to avoid waiting in extremely long lines in the hot Roman sun!

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The family decided to climb the dome. Because I tend to have issues with heights, and tiny spiraling staircases, I opted to stay down below with my daughter. I had a terrible time climbing the tower at the cathedral in Cologne. I felt sick after what seemed to be never-ending twisting stairs, and had a hard time enjoying the view. Since then, climbing towers and domes has been very low on the priority list for me. But if you don’t have the same issues, you should absolutely do it! I mean look at this view…incredible!

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Photo credit to my brother in law!

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The dome on the left is the Pantheon.

While everyone was ascending the magnificent dome on St. Peter’s, I was below trying to manage a 15 month old. If you haven’t visited St. Peter’s you should know that it is a quiet atmosphere. It is a holy place where people come to not only tour, but worship. It is really important to be respectful. I was doing my absolute best to keep my toddler happy and quiet. The last thing I needed was a crying fit. So when my daughter decided she wanted to crawl instead of walk I had 2 choices: 1) repeatedly pick her up and put her on her feet, risk crying outbursts OR 2) just let her crawl. I chose the latter.

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In case you were wondering, the floor of the basilica is not clean.

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We ended up leaving the basilca shortly after the crawling episode and waiting outside for everyone to descend. I thought that a bit more appropriate than letting her crawl all over the place. What are you gonna do? Pick your battles when traveling with a baby!

We spent the rest of the day wandering the city, more to come!

Colosseum

In the summer of 2014 we had some very special visitors from Texas, our family! They met us in Germany, then we flew all together to Rome for four days. I never actually wrote a post about it (shame, shame)! So of course almost two years later, the details are a little foggy…oops! However, I’ll still share some of the pics and how we spent our time. Enjoy!

We stayed in a two bedroom apartment and were within walking distance to the Colosseum. Not bad for a morning stroll…

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We spent one day touring the colosseum. The big kids seemed to like it as much as the grown ups. Even our little girl enjoyed toddling around the ancient ruins. My biggest take away for visiting the colosseum is to pre-buy tickets online or purchase the Roma pass. Both of those should allow you to skip what can be a very long line at the entrance. On our first visit to the colosseum it was just my husband and I, we downloaded a free audio tour via Rick Steves. It was nice to get some more detailed information about what we were looking at. Highly recommend it!

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After touring the colosseum, we walked a little further to the Trastevere neighborhood and this riverside strip of restaurants, market stalls, and entertainment. It can really be a lively area, lots to see and do. If you haven’t checked it out yet, put it on your list for next time!IMG_6119

Vatican City

We ventured into a whole other country-Vatican City! ¬†I think it’s the smallest country in the world. ¬†The best ideas we had for this day were to get there early and make reservations. ¬†We took the metro over to St. Peter’s Square and were there by about 8 AM. ¬†As you can see there were hardly any people there yet, making for better pictures, less stress, and less waiting in line. ¬†We snapped a few shots, jumped in the security line and were able to walk right into the basilica.

Good morning Vatican!

Bernini’s statues lining the piazza.
Member of the Swiss guard.
Looking out onto the piazza, this area used to be used for chariot races.

Roof of St. Peter’s Basilica.

There were several small groups of nuns and priests touring the basilica.
Base of the dome, you can see Jesus in the center panel.
Altar designed by Bernini.

Looking up into the dome.
Statue of St. Peter.
Beautiful light filling the church.

One of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was seeing Michelangelo’s¬†Pieta. I was so disappointed when I realized I wouldn’t be able to get close enough to really see it. ¬†I don’t know if it is always blocked off, or if it was just a fluke, but we had to stand quite a bit aways from it. ¬†It was smaller than I thought it would be also. ¬†It’s protected by bulletproof glass-apparently some crazy person snuck a hammer in years ago and started hacking away at it!

Michelangelo’s Pieta
Super zoom lens-this is the image of God depicted at the very top and center of the dome.
Bernini’s golden dove window at the far end of the church.

¬†I was in awe of the basilica. ¬†The building is enormous, and so ornately decorated. ¬†There are beautiful statues lining the walls and the way the light comes into it is so serene. ¬†I loved learning about the history of the church as well. ¬†We listened to an audio tour and wandered around in there for at least an hour. ¬†There weren’t many people there when we first came in, but by the time we left, you could tell the crowds were coming in and the line was growing quickly. ¬†One thing that really surprised me to see in the basilica, is that they have taken the body of Pope John XXIII, who passed away in the 1960’s, and put it on display. ¬†It hasn’t decayed and you can walk right up and pray next to him. ¬†I, myself, not being catholic and being a little bit of a scaredy cat-found it quite creepy. ¬†We also went down into the crypt where all the other popes are interred, you can’t see any of their bodies though (thank goodness). ¬†I suppose it’s actually quite nice for followers to be able to go there and pray at the feet of their church’s leaders-however, it was still a little creepy for me.

¬†After we had finished up at the church, we had some time to kill before our reservation at the Vatican museum. ¬†That’s when we made one of our biggest mistakes of the trip-we ate at a cafe right across the street from the Vatican Museum. ¬†Why is this a mistake you ask? ¬†Well, because of the supreme location of the cafe, they have deemed it appropriate to charge you an arm and a leg for everything! ¬†We started out with some granitas and ended up eating full on lunches here so that we didn’t get hungry while in the museum. ¬†This lunch ended up costing us over 50 euro for mediocre pizzas, drinks, and granitas. ¬†The only thing that made us feel better was looking at the unmoving line that stretched around the block (literally) and knowing we didn’t have to wait in it. ¬†Moral of the story: if you can make a reservation, you should!
The Vatican Museum has the biggest collection of art and artifacts I think I’ve ever seen. ¬†There is just no way to see it all and really appreciate everything they have in there. ¬†They have everything from ancient Egyptian art to modern paintings by Dali. ¬†Of course the highlight is Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. ¬†It really is impressive to look at. ¬†We again listened to an audio guide to explain the panels and talk about what we were viewing.
taken with the iPhone, believe it or not

One more look at the Dome from the Museum.

Onto the next adventure!  Ciao Roma!

Sights of Rome

From walking around the city, we had seen this huge monument that we had to go check out. ¬†It sticks out because it is so massive and it’s bright white (and it’s apparently not a favorite of the locals). ¬†Rome is so interesting because it’s a regular modern city, but then you walk around the corner and there’s some stunning piece of art/architecture/history. ¬†This monument is for Vittorio Emmanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy in the 1860’s. ¬†It also houses a museum about Italian military history.

Vittorio Emmanuele II monument, also nicknamed “the wedding cake.”

View from the top.
Taking a little break in the shade, it was REALLY hot.

After exploring this monument, we went to see another icon of Rome-the Pantheon. ¬†We had seen the outside at night already, but wanted to see the inside of it. ¬†This building was and still is used as a church. ¬†It was built in ancient times, and the dome was studied by Brunelleschi when he was designing the duomo in Florence. ¬†It’s made of concrete, and at the base is some 20 ft. thick, but thins out as it climbs up to only about 5 ft. thick.

These columns were shipped from Egypt, and are solid 40 ft. pieces of granite.

When you walk in, the view of the domed ceiling is breathtaking.  The giant oculus in the middle shines light into the entire building.

Around the Pantheon are statues of saints.  There are also some tombs of some notable Italians.  The artist Raphael is buried here as is Vittorio Emmanuele II (the man for whom the previous monument was built).

Raphael’s tomb.
Tomb of Vittorio Emmanuele II.

After all the walking around in the heat, and the sightseeing we needed a little something to cool us down and pick us up. ¬†There is an old coffee place around the corner from the Pantheon,¬†Tazza d’Oro, ¬†that is supposed to be a favorite among Romans. ¬†We got the treat they’re known for a caffe granita con panna-basically a coffee slushy with whipped cream. ¬†It was AMAZING! ¬†So delicious, if you go to Rome you have to get one of these! ¬†We didn’t take pictures because we were too busy scarfing them down, but this is basically what it looked ¬†like:

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Another successful day in Rome, we had one more day left before it was onto a new city!

Colosseum & Roman Forum

The next morning we got an early start, sipped our cappuccinos at the bar, and headed over to the Colosseum.  We bought a Roma Pass which let us skip the long line and took us right inside.  No waiting=worth the money for the pass.

Buongiorno Colosseo!

We had planned ahead and downloaded another audio tour, but when we got there for some reason it wasn’t working, and we spent probably 30 minutes trying to get this thing to download and play properly-which it finally did. ¬†Frustrating but still worth it.

Constantine’s Arch from the Colosseum

Exhibits inside displaying orders of some of the columns.

The Colosseum is amazing to see and think about how it was used in the days of ancient Rome.  They had elevators to make gladiators and animals appear from the floor.  They would bring in trees, props, and scenery to create different backgrounds for the fights.

Right next door to the Colosseum is the Forum-which was the cultural and political center for Rome. ¬†On the way we passed Constantine’s arch. ¬†Before the emperor Constantine, Christianity was illegal and Christians were persecuted, crucified, fed to the lions, etc. ¬† Constantine is the one who legalized the religion.

Constantine’s Arch
Temple of Romulus and Remus-the green door is original from ancient times

The site where Julius Caesar was burned after his murder, people still place flowers here for him.
Temple of the Vestal Virgins behind us.

I didn’t really know the story of the Vestal Virgins before this, but it is pretty interesting. ¬†Rome would select young girls (6-10 years old) to be Vestal Virgins and tend to the flame of Vesta that was kept burning in the Temple. ¬†The girls were responsible for keeping the fire burning at all times. ¬†They lived in a luxurious house right next door. ¬†They had their own box seats across from the emperor in the Colosseum and lived with a lot of privileges and wealth. ¬†However if they were caught not keeping to their virginal ways they were buried alive-because there was a law saying you couldn’t lay a had on them. ¬†They served a term of 30 years before they were allowed to “retire” and get married.

The house of the Vestal Virgins.
Hubby grabbing a snack off one of the trees in the Forum.
The Forum and Colosseum are very dusty and dirty! ¬†Don’t wear your nice shoes!
On top of the Palatine Hill (area where residences were next to the Forum) with St. Peter’s Basilica in the back.
One last look at the Colosseum.

This day also happened to be my birthday!  Not a bad way to spend it.  That night after washing my feet, we went out for steak dinners (which were amazing) and of course I had to make a birthday wish into the Trevi fountain.