Early morning flights are a great idea until you’re waking up at 3am fumbling around in the dark trying to pack the last minute bits without waking up your boyfriend before you have to. Forget never wake a sleeping child…never wake a sleeping man before it is necessary to! Once we were all packed, home locked up and in the uber I started to relax. We were on the way to the airport to begin our adventure and…wait…we were driving in the opposite direction to the airport! Quickly rectified and we were on our way again – to the airport!
Watching the sun rise over Heathrow Airport, we became one of those strange couples who visits Wagamama for breakfast – only on holiday right? – before enjoying a smooth flight to Rome. It’s been a while since we were on a plane big enough to have the 2-3-2 seating, but thankfully this time we managed to bag a window and aisle seat without having to be bothered by the middle seat. Woop!
Arriving at Rome airport, we made our way straight for the train. After successfully navigating our way around a delightful man trying to scam us into getting a bus with a longer journey time and at a higher price, we took our seats on the train and were in the city centre in just 30 minutes. Backpacks on, the decision was made to walk to the hotel to save ourselves some pennies, get some sun and see a bit of the city. Rookie decision, as it turns out it was just a great way to find out how much two people can sweat in half an hour. Spoiler: It was hot…so a lot!
Arriving at the hotel, the kind man Mirko working there took the time to sit down with us, make us a cuppa and explain what we should be seeing, eating and drinking. I’ve never had a welcome like it, and couldn’t wait to have a quick freshen up and get out to explore some of his recommendations.
First stop, just minutes from the hotel, was Piazza Popolo. As fans of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, we were keen to visit one of the churches in the square as it features in the book. Unfortunately for us, the church was closed, so it was on to the viewing platform Terrazza del Pincio to soak up the panoramic views of Rome. Making our way up the smooth stone steps, the words ‘wow, this is slippery’ had barely left my mouth before a lady slipped and bounced down a few steps. After stopping to check she was ok, we took the rest of the steps very carefully. As viewing platform loomed into sight, I could hear loud music, and soon found a concert stage with warm up sessions going on for Earth Day. Although the actual event wasn’t yet underway, the atmosphere was great and we had a look around the stalls before moving on to the Spanish Steps.
It turns out that our timing for arrival in Rome wasn’t great, as we’d turned up on a national holiday. This meant crowds…everywhere. As someone who usually visits places in the winter, I’m not used to big crowds and long queues, and as we approached the Spanish Steps I couldn’t believe how many people were bustling around the bottom for photos. Taking just a quick walk through, thinking it was so close to our hotel we could come back another time, we were soon on our way to the Trevi Fountain. Another sight I couldn’t wait to see, and as we turned into the square where the fountain is, I was shocked. There were so many people densely packed in that it was only with some serious coaxing from my boyfriend that we got closer. Within minutes I’d been kicked by people trying to squeeze through the crowds, and I was done. I took quick refuge in a shop to calm down before deciding that enough was enough and we’d have to come back another time.
Knowing it’s best not to argue with me when I’m crowd-stressed, my boyfriend followed closely as we made our way to a coffee shop Mirko had recommended. One of my favourite things about wandering from place to place in a city is seeing all the sights in between. We wandered past a Pinocchio shop where I had a few photos as and with Pinocchio, past Temple Adriano which is an impressive pillared building en route to the Pantheon. Sadly the Pantheon was closed at that time, so we continued through the square and on to Sant Eustachio II Cafe. Recommended as the best coffee to be had in Rome, we worked out what we wanted from the menu – mine is always a cappuccino – and ordered along with a few biscuits to keep us going.
I don’t know that it’s the best coffee I’ve ever had, and it was certainly priced as if it should have been, however the history of the cafe and the atmosphere was enough for us. Let’s just say, it won’t be my new favourite coffee shop. Feeling slightly perked up, it was time to try our luck again with the Pantheon. As we neared we spotted a queue at the door, which we promptly joined in true British fashion. As we tried to see ahead, I could see that the doors looked as if they were closed. Hmm. As I watched closer, the queue we were in was just to peek through the gap in the closed doors. Needless to say we quickly left.
Piazza Navona was next on the non-existent hit list, and we followed the crowds to pop out in the expansive piazza, full of street performers, small market stalls and people milling around enjoying the atmosphere. As we were hoping to visit the different stops from Angels and Demons, Piazza Navona was a quick and easy one to tick off, but we didn’t stay for long as I had quickly decided this was one of my favourite squares in Italy – yep, the whole country – and that we’d be coming back again. Instead, we opted to wander back towards the hotel through some back streets that aren’t well noted on the map – we’re not lost…we’re definitely not lost… – along a couple of bridges, Ponti Umberto and Ponti Cavour, before winding back in the direction of the Spanish Steps.
As we hadn’t been in any churches since we arrived, hours ago, we spotted a church that didn’t have any dress code signs outside and quickly popped our heads in to whet our appetite. Outside was a lovely water feature, and after the early morning, crowds and unaccustomed heat of the city, it was so relaxing to take a seat and just watch the water bubble away as the sun started to set in the background. It’s this feeling of relaxation I always seem to so easily find in Italy that makes me love the country.
Deciding it was finally time for dinner, we settled on one of the many restaurants in the charming back streets near our hotel. We’d been looking forward to tucking in to some traditional Italian dishes since we booked the trip, and I opted for a pizza while my boyfriend went for a delicious pasta dish with bacon. So delicious in fact, I’d already decided what my dinner tomorrow night would be!
After the early start we’d had, we were ready to turn in by half 7. Wild ones, right? We could totally justify it because the hotel had found out we were in Rome for my boyfriend’s 30th birthday and were sending a bottle of something bubbly to our room to help us celebrate! So after dinner we went back for a highly sophisticated evening of drinking bubbly mixed with orange Fanta (our choice), well needed showers and time spent researching the other Angels and Demons spots we needed to fit into our time. While our first day in Rome had been super crowded and a lot of sweaty walking, I was determined that tomorrow would be the day I’d fall in love with this place!
Day 1 | Next Day