Besides taking in all the sights and smells, we did some serious stuff too – caught up on the TV series (Americans, Silicon Valley..) that we had missed due to our hectic work/ social life!
Coming back to Day 6. This is when the Pisces in me started looking for water and sandy beaches. We researched and found a beach called Fregene that was about 1 – 1.5 hrs from Trastevere. Best way to get there is by taking a train to Maccarese from Rome’s Termini station (30 minutes) and then take a local bus to the beach. Probably we should have read up more, but the trip was disappointing. First, we got off too early and then had to walk miles to get to the beach, by which time we were ravenous (tip – carry snacks!). Second, the beach turned out to be not public and instead, serviced by private establishments (which didn’t seem worth it as half the day had already passed). Third, weather gods also didn’t play along – it was an exceptionally windy day and the sand flew into our eyes. Lastly, getting a bus back to the train station turned into an ordeal – buses don’t seem to follow any schedule in this part of the town! So you probably get the reason for no pictures and no mention of any more such adventures
Skipping Day 7 (just lounged around) and fast forward to Day 8. With renewed spirits, we took on the challenge to trek all the way up to Janiculum Hill (as the name suggests, it is an incline, so watch out for the heart pumping).
Fontana dell’ Acqua Paola
The panoramic view from Piazzale Garibaldi was stunning! In retrospect, would recommend timing it in such a way that you reach here just before sunset.
From here we started walking towards Vatican.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Next we went to Vatican Museum – we heard that there is a night tour on certain Fridays. The crowds were relatively less and doing it in the night saved our day. Only, we couldn’t see St. Peter’s Basilica from inside as it is shut at night. But the illumination covered up for it and more!
View of St. Peter’s Basilica from the Vatican Museum
While our interest was primarily to see the Sistine Chapel (the last part of the tour), as we walked along, we saw sculptures, tapestries, maps representing Italian regions and Papal properties, Raphael rooms..
Day 9 we visited the lesser known Piazza del Popolo
Low light performance of my phone camera sucks!
Just 5 minutes from here, we found Trattoria del Pollarolo. Most other places were shut for the day, so we settled for this as it looked popular with locals. We ordered rigatoni (decent), tiramisu (very good) and beer – costing us 20 Euros.
One dish that we loved but forgot to take pictures of each time was Cacio e Pepe – do try it (preferably the bacon version)! Its on the salty side with loads of pepper and delicious cheese!
Day 9 we had booked an authentic Italian cooking class with Francesca through BonAppetour. We fixed the time and menu (she was willing to teach variety of pasta and sauces; or pizza from scratch) through the website and reached her doorstep.
Took a slight detour through Piazza Santa Maria, Trastevere
Francesca invited us to her kitchen where over lots of conversation, we learnt how to make ravioli, spaghetti and gnocchi from literally scratch! It was an awesome experience and would highly recommend it. Many myths around Italian cooking were rubbished (she was aghast to learn that we add ‘oregano’ to our pasta sauce)
Having heard about interesting rooftop bars in Rome, Day 10 we decided to go to the one in Hotel Raphael called Bramante Terrace. As we waited for the evening to set in, we wandered around Piazza Navona.
Then walked up to the terrace and went crazy clicking pictures!
View of Piazza Venezia
St. Peter’s Basilica
We spent a few hours here and shared a bottle of wine between us. It cost us 36 Euros but the experience was well worth it.
Day 11 was time for laundry! We looked up laundromats close to us – there were several options in Trastevere. Just watch out for the opening hours/ days and carry enough change. The laundromats have soap (at a cost) so don’t worry about that. Depending upon your load, washing and drying might take time – we passed that time by getting beer/ coffee from the nearby store. There were video games as well inside the laundromat, if you so please.
In the evening we went to Spanish Steps. But unfortunately, the Steps were closed for renovation and we couldn’t re-live old memories.
The steps in 2013!
Day 12 we hired cycles from Rome For You for 15 Euros (full day). They even gave the cute Fiat 500 vintage car for rental (approximately 100 Euros for 3 hours) – we so wanted to do it, but they didn’t have any available that time (#retrospective tip: book in advance!).
We decided to cycle up to Aventine Hill to see the Keyhole. One big learning – don’t cheap out, and rent electric cycles if you have fitness levels as low as ours.
By the time we reached the top of the hill, I was ready to collapse!
So what is the keyhole? Essentially it is a nondescript-looking door with a keyhole vista that perfectly lines up the garden, centering on St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance.
That’s the keyhole
The actual view is much better than this!
Coming down the Hill, we turned towards the Pyramid of Cestius. Its quite strange to see a pyramid in Rome, in the midst of a busy street. Since we were on cycles, we just parked on the pavement, took a quick look and moved on. It is now that calamity struck us! We realised that our memory card has crashed, and data worth 11 days was potentially lost! Heart-broken and dejected, we distracted ourselves by looking for some mind blowing food. And did we find it! In the quiet neighbourhood of Testaccio, is Pizzeria da Remo, apparently a favourite of the locals. There was a constant rush of people – so be prepared to wait to get a table (you can start with the delicious fried appetizers while you wait). It is both indoors and outdoors. We tried the Remo Special Pizza and 2 Menabrea beers (costed us 30 Euros).
Must try this beer!
Tired, we headed back to Trastevere and of course, stopped to get our fill of gelato for the day! This time we tried OldBridge – chocoloate and strawberry for 2.5 Euros. Since the shop was almost closing, they were very generous with the serving! Both flavours were really good – must try!
We also crossed Fior di Luna – they have the most amazing gelato in Trastevere.
Unfortunately, they were closed that night. But we did return!
Day 13 we cycled around Colosseum and Monti. But soon the harsh sun got to us and we were hot and parched. Being a bit late for the usual lunch hours, it was a bit difficult to find a place to sit that had decent rating. We decided on Monticiani – people were raving about the steak here. First off, some chilled beer to cool us down.
The staff was super friendly and recommended dishes to us. We tried the Argentina steak with chimichurri sauce (the sauce was the highlight!). In all, it costed us 14 Euros – not a bad deal!
My travel hungry mom wanted us to drop the customary penny in the Trevi fountain – so that’s where we headed (though not a good idea with cycles given the number of people around).
Do try the gelato at Don Nino.
Coming close to wrapping up our time in Rome, we got nostalgic and went back to Pantheon armed with wine bottle from the store (there was a great deal – a decent wine for 6 Euros). We sat till late in the night, talking about our plans for future, our current life and all the musings of a refreshed mind.
For a quick dinner, we went to Habana Cafe and went for the set menu of a pasta, bruschetta and beer for 10 Euros.
Day 14 (last day) we went round the corner from our apartment and found a gem – Sette Oche. The ravioli alla norma was to die for – though a bit heavy on the stomach, but so good! They gave some free snacks and fresh bread too – what more do you want from a 11 Euros meal!
Feeling bit adventurous, I decided to try the peach colored drink that every person seemed to be sipping on in Rome – Aperol Spritz.There’s only one way to say it – I hated it! It was bitter and horrid. Wish I had stuck to beer.
For dinner we waited in the line at Il Ponentino – a cute outdoor/indoor place in Trastevere. An Americana pizza, house wine and beer costed us 25 Euros. They even sell cute fridge magnets that are very different from the usual ones at the souvenir shops.
Walking back, we decided to finally stop at Ak Bar – we passed it each day and every time we thought, we should go in. If only we had earlier – it had such a relaxed feel to it with some great music. The bar tenders were so friendly – they even let me browse through their playlist and take control of the music for the evening!
One last trip to the Tiber festival
And it’s a wrap! Time to pack and move to our next destination..