We continue on to Rome from Florence in our Italy series. Btw, as I’m writing this, I realize how fresh the memories from this trip are although its been 3 years since we were there. It just seems like yesterday!
The Termini station is huge(seemed bigger than Milano Centrale) so give yourself plenty time to get in/out of the station. We purchased the 72hr Roma pass whiich is good for use on the Metro, Tram, and Bus for €18 from the Tobaccco shop (these shops have a ‘T’ sign outside) inside the Termini station. The Roma Pass is clock-based so the clock starts when you validate the ticket in the yellow machine inside the bus. To validate the Pass on the bus, you insert the ticket with the punched-side in. (there are no arrows on the Pass that show you the direction of feed). There is no need to validate it on future bus rides. However, for Metro rides, you need to insert the ticket into the turnstile. There are 2 metro lines A & B which can be accessed from inside Termini. You’ll use line A to take you to Vatican(Ottaviano stop) and Spanish steps(Spagna stop). Line B goes South. You’d use Line B to go South like to get to the Colosseum (Coloseo stop). The toilets at the Termini station are not free and costs €1 (cash) to use the facilities.
Our B&B was 3 blocks from Termini which made it easier to commute. We were in Rome for 2.5D/3N. We dropped off our bags at the B&B and headed towards Trastevere. There was some festival/protest going on near the Termini station, so the buses were re-routed to via Nazionale. After figuring out the stops and the signs, we got on the correct bus. All roads to the east of Tiber are cobblestoned so buses rattle as they go up and down the street. Trastevere is to the west of Tiber and the roads are paved and wider. The street leading up to the Basilica is lined with plenty of restaurants and very pretty. We ate a phenomenal lunch at Pianostrada laboratorio de cucina on one of the alleys near the Basilica, checked out the Basilica and headed back across the Tiber. Wrong bus stop, wrong bus, and an hour later, we made it to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was impressive. There is a circular opening at the center of the dome which made me wonder where the water drained when it rained since it looked like it’d fall right through onto the floor (I’d read somewhere that its magical to see the pantheon when its raining but we weren’t lucky enough, ah well). We then made our way to our very first Gelato stop- Gelateria san crispino, a block up the Pantheon. S got the Crema flavor which was delicious. I got the Cioccalata Rum and Honey flavor which wasn’t that great. A medium size cup and a cone of gelato was €7 which brought it to €3.50 a piece. We ate the gelato while people-watching from a bench in front of one of the little shops. Dusk had fallen by then so we went back to the Pantheon to see what it looked like when it was lit up. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go inside as there was a mass going on but the outside looked splendid. We then made our way to the Trevi fountain where there was loads and loads of tourists watching the water as if waiting for a dolphin or something to jump out of the water!
Dinner was at Nonna Betta at our Dentist’s recommendation. We had the Jewish artichoke (we’ve had better ones here in Califonia!), artichoke pasta, lamb and potatoes, and fresh pasta with meat. Wasn’t very impressed by the food.
We woke up at 7AM to get a run in before doing touristy stuff. The plan was to run from our B&B to Villa Borghese and back which was a little over 10k. We started off nice and strong. Half way in (past the Museo de Borghese), my Dexi (my Dexcom receiver which is a Continuous Blood Glucose monitor) started beeping – uh oh. Now is probably a good time to tell you that I’m a Type 1 Diabetic who love to travel, does crazy long bike-rides, who retired from running in early 2018.
Dexi beeping on a run/ride is never a good thing meaning my blood sugars are usually falling. Sure enough it was 83! I have my low alarm set to 85 and I know I usually drop a 100 points when I run which was why I’d put my insulin pump on ‘suspend’ mode and eaten a cake before we started our run from our B&B. Having a low blood sugar event wasn’t bad enough, we hadn’t brought any snacks or money with us and and my Phone was dead (although the battery was full when we started. Luckily we had drawn a map of the garden on a piece of paper before leaving the hotel in case we got lost. But first, we needed to find sugar or something sweet, stat! We thought, the best thing to do was ask the tourists in the park. But the looks of our luck that day, none of them spoke English! Well Dexi was now reading 78, not good! Now what? We made our way out the park and found the florist we passed by on our way in and asked him where to find sugar in broken Italian. He told us to ask at the bar inside the museum. We backtracked only to find out you needed a ticket to go anywhere inside the building. Dexi was at 60 and I started panicking. I tell S that we shouldn’t waste any more time standing around and should start heading back to the hotel. Luckily, we overheard 2 American tourists talking to a tour guide. Our hopes went up. We run after them and asked them if they had candy/sugar or anything sweet to treat my low. Fortunately, one of them handed me a tangerine – which saved my life( the 2 women who gave me a tangerine at the Borghese on Nov 29, 2015, if you’re reading this, thank you for saving my life!). My spirits were up. Although I know a tangerine would’t bring my sugars back up to normal, it would probably get us by for a few minutes. We start tracing our steps back, walking this time around. My fingers were frozen at this time inside my thick furry gloves. It was 38F when we started running that morning. Walking always brings my core temperature down instantly. After another stop at a street vendor with no luck, we found a cafe that was open. The lady behind the counter didn’t speak English – no surprise there. Somehow we manage to convince her we weren’t looking for pastries that were on display and all we needed was some sugar -luckily, there was a bowl full of sugar packets on the counter. After some pointing broken Italian later, the kind lady let me help myself to as many sugar packs as needed (We don’t remember the name of the cafe but if you’re reading this, thank you, kind lady!). Feeling great, we ran back to the hotel. It was only 9AM and we’d had our first Italian adventure! Score!
Shower and breakfast later, we headed to the supermarket around the corner and got some lunch for later. A huge slice of fresh potato sandwich, a packaged sandwich, a chunky piece of pizza vegatale came to a total €8.50! We then headed to Termini and jump on metro line B. 5 minutes later, we’re at the Colosseum. You can buy tickets inside the Colosseum which is what we did. There is a security check to get inside the building. Phone, bags, selfie-sticks, food were all allowed inside at that time. The Colosseum is impressive! You can close your eyes and travel back in time and find yourself sitting in one of the rows watching the games. Next stop was the Palatine hill which can be accessed from the Colosseum grounds. The place is huge-takes 2-3 hrs to see the whole thing. The Roman forum is also next door. We spent ~5hrs exploring the 3 sites. Both our legs were achy with all the climbing.
We then went up the Piazza Venezia, took some pictures and headed down to the bus stop. After ~30-40 min of waiting for the bus, we realized the bus probably wasn’t coming and walked towards Campo di Fiori. We got some Gelato at Grom gelato. I got the Crema di Grom which had bits of biscotti and chocolate chips (a far better version of our cookies and cream) while S got the yogurt gelato. Of all the flavors you could get in Italy, he wanted plain ol’ yogurt, ugh!
We ate our Gelato while walking towards the Piazza Navona. Dinner was at Caffè Barocco on the square. I was looking for the famous Suppli and hadn’t found any until then and got tricked into believing they had suppli by the Redbull -hopped-up hawker! After a disappointing dinner, we head back to our B&B to call it a night.
We had tickets for 9:30AM to the museum at the Vatican that we’d pre-purchased online. We got on the metro line A at 8:55 at the Termini station and 10 minutes later, we were walking to the museum. Once inside, you go thru a security check with a metal detector and x-ray for your bags. You’ll be required to exchange your voucher for hard tickets so they can be inserted into the turnstiles. We got one audio head set (which was probably extra) to share between the two of us and set off exploring the museum. The museum is huge! It took us ~6 hrs total to see the museum with a short 30min break for lunch ( we ate lunch inside the museum building). The ticket is valid for a single entry and for the day of purchase so if you didn’t pack snacks or lunch, cafeteria is your only option. The food was not that good. €9 got us bland pasta, water, bread and dessert. So do yourself a favor and pack lunch. We checked out the Basilica next (which is the the actual Vatican!). To see this, you can either exit the museum and go out on the street and around (another security check and hence long lines) or go out the Sistine chapel (take the door to the right near the exit) to St.Peters square and then to the Basilica. After walking some more thru the majestic Basilica, it was time for Gelato! There was a fantastic but tiny Gelato shop, Old Bridge Gelateria, across from the Museum entrance. Tiny place with 3-4 guys behind the counter. By the looks of the place, I had a feeling that the gelato would be fabulous! I got the ricotta pistachio and caramel flavors on a medium cone and S got kiwi and nutella flavors. Total €5 for 2 and the portions were huge! Best gelato so far! Don’t miss this place if you’re around the Vatican.
After savoring our gelato (or gelati?) on the Piazza, we headed down Via cola di renza to do some window shopping. S was looking for driving gloves and we found a nice pair of orange ones for €30 in one of the shops. A sports coat for S and a couple of sweaters for me later, we took the metro back to Spagna to see the famous Spanish steps. Unfortunately, the steps were under restoration at that time so we weren’t able to walk up it.
Good place(s) to Run: Villa Borghese
Its was our last night in Rome and we hadn’t yet tried the famous Roman pizza or the Suppli. A little yelping and wrong yelp directions later, we find our way to Origano Trevi. I got the pizza di buffala (special mozarella from a special place in Italy) and S got the Salmon pizza. Both were delicious. S also got a peach soda (just a couple of minutes earlier I was telling him we hadn’t seen any Italian soda in Italy yet). The soda was very flavorful with very little sugar 18g in 300ml compared to 50-60g in American sodas. With happy bellies, we took a bus back to Termini to call it a night. We finally found suppli at a Kebab place just around the corner of our B&B on Via cavour, score! The suppli was interesting, like a deep fried version of a balled up spanish rice. Satisfied with our Roman Conquest, we went to bed with alarm set for 5:30AM to catch our early morning train to Venice.