Helllooo Rome!

After a lengthy flight delay in Dubai, we landed in Rome many hours late, exhausted and smelly – yep, after 29 hours on a plane, you stink! Despite this, we were excited to finally be in Italy – fricken’  I-T-A-L-Y!!! Woohoo!

We were SO pleased to have booked a driver to collect us from Rome’s Fiumicino airport, and there he was, Alberto, waiting with one of those big white signs emblazoned with my name – spelled incorrectly, but who cares? I was pleased he didn’t have to recognise me from a photo, as I looked rather dishevelled, to say the least – and I didn’t want to get too close, due to the smell factor. He politely whisked us, together with our luggage, into his lovely freshly-scented Mercedes, and off we flew into Roma at great speed!

It was wonderful to be delivered directly to the door of our B&B. If there’s one thing I would highly recommend, it’s that you get a transfer from the airport after a long flight. It cost only slightly more than the train fares and a taxi for the two of us. We would have been very grumpy and disorientated passengers had we been negotiating public transport, then finding a taxi or walking to our B&B with luggage in tow.

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The view from our window – Sant’Andrea della Valle church

Our Home in Rome

After doing a fair bit of research, we decided to stay at B&B Al Centro di Roma – and we weren’t disappointed. Our host, Daniele, was warm and welcoming, sharing loads of local knowledge, providing us with a map and simple directions for the places we wanted to go. The building looks fairly plain on the outside and is on a busy street, but the rooms are on the fourth level, and all the windows are double-glazed, so we had no noise issues.

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The entrance to B&B Al Centro di Roma

The B&B is in a terrific location, right in the heart of the historic centre of Rome. Which brings me to an important point – I believe that where you stay can have a big influence on your enjoyment of the city you’re visiting. On another trip to Rome, we stayed in a different area and had a very different experience of the city.

Al Centro di Roma is not only attractive, well-appointed and clean, it’s only 2 blocks from Piazza Navona, opposite Sant’Andrea della Valle – a stunning church, within easy walking distance of the Pantheon, Trevi fountain, Camp di Fiori, the River Tiber, Trastevere and many other wonderful attractions. We walked everywhere in central Rome – never got on a bus or a train. I have to say, we felt safe, although we had taken the precaution of purchasing slash-proof, cross-body bags, which also left our hands free to take photos. With so much to see in Rome, we felt that we saw more of the city by walking too, and it was a great way to exercise off the wonderful food!

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Our first meal in Rome – pasta with Romana cheese, not Parmesan

Sampling the Roman Cuisine

On the evening of our arrival, we ate a quick bowl of pasta accompanied by a glass of red wine at a little restaurant across the road, then went back to the B&B for showers and flopped into bed about 9pm – beyond exhausted. It wasn’t surprising to be fully awake about 4am – our body clocks were completely out of whack!

An early start

We’d planned ahead, bringing a water boiler from home so that we could make an early morning cuppa – kettles are not supplied in most Italian accommodation. Thank goodness for research! We read our guidebook and surfed the net for a while before venturing out for a walk about 7am.

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One of the beautiful fountains in Piazza Navona

We strolled just two short blocks to find Piazza Navona, which was almost empty. During the day, this place is abuzz with tourists, artists, stalls and locals alike, all gathered around the fabulous fountains, so we were  very pleased to be able to enjoy and photograph the beautiful fountains without hordes of people.

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Piazza Navona, early morning, before the crowds

We walked across to the Pantheon, which was also very quiet, so we were able to take unobstructed photos there as well. There are some bonuses in being an early bird! It was lovely to receive a “Buongiorno”, or Good Morning, from local shopkeepers and café owners who were out setting up for the day – it brought a smile to our faces.

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Pasta choices at Campo di Fiori markets

So much to see in Rome

After returning to the B&B for breakfast, we ventured to bustling Campo de Fiori markets, where we found a range of stalls packed into the piazza (or square). It’s a favourite meeting place, particularly in the mornings. The displays were amazing, with vendors selling fresh flowers, seasonal fruit such as strawberries, vegetables such as tomatoes, peas and artichokes, fresh pasta, oils and vinegar, an amazing range of fresh pasta, olives, cheeses, plus aromatic herbs and pungent spices. Everything was so fresh and delicious.

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Tomatoes for everyone at Campo di Fiori markets

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Artichokes at Campo di Fiori markets

Our Segway Tour of Rome

Our orientation to Rome was provided by Rex Tours, on a Segway! Neither of us had ridden a Segway before, but this was a trip full of adventure, so Day 1 was a good time to start :-). We arrived at Rex Tours office, full of anticipation and nerves, which were quickly settled by the charming young men who run the show! Max and Leo are brothers of Italian and German descent. Passionate about Rome, they made the Eternal City their home and set up the company about 3 years ago. They had just relocated to new business premises and the opening was being held that night. Before we’d even ridden the Segways, they had invited us to come along for drinks!

We met our guide for the day, Simone (or Simon to us Aussies), who was lovely as well. Getting on a Segway for the first time is a little nerve-wracking. It’s all about balance, and very gentle movements. You have to lean forward slightly to go forward, and tilt the steering handle gently either way to turn. The trickiest part is that it’s continually moving, even when you stop, the sensors under the foot plate are so sensitive that you keep moving back and forward slightly, like a rocking motion. Simone told us to beware of driving too close to ancient stone curbs, pedestrians and fellow Segway riders! After about 15-20 minutes of instruction and practice, we were let loose on the city.

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With our Segway guide, Simone, on the bridge to Castel Sant Angelo

Simone’s knowledge of the history of Rome was just incredible. He told us so much about how the city and country have developed over the centuries. They call him The Professor, as he seems to know just about everything in Roman history – what a memory! This was particularly impressive to a couple of almost-fifty year old women whose memories often fail them.

A History of Rome – on wheels!

Together with a mother and daughter from Canada, Simone led the four of us along busy, crowded streets full of people (we took pleasure in whizzing past them), through small ancient alleyways just wide enough for pedestrians, into beautiful hidden piazzas we would never had found on our own. Of course, we also took in all the main tourist attractions such as The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill, Trajan’s Market, Castel Sant’Angelo, River Tiber, The Pantheon and Campo di Fiori, which is just around the corner from the Rex Tours base. Simone took us to a park overlooking the Colosseum where we were able to get a photo with the landmark in the background.

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The Besties awkwardly posing on Segways in front of the Colosseum – bloody things kept moving!

Let me tell you, trying to hold a Segway still while posing for a photo on a hill is challenging – hence the strained look on our faces! We covered more than 15 kilometres in about 3 and a half hours, which is way further than you could ever walk in that time.

At about 2pm, we reluctantly returned the Segways to the office – we did offer to bring one home but they’re worth about $15K each – so we said goodbye to Simone and the crew, with the boys again inviting us to join them for drinks that evening. We said, “OK, we’ll try to get there”.

Time for Lunch

We were starving by this stage, so before we left, we asked where we could get a late lunch. Simone recommended Osteria La Quercia, right around the corner, where we enjoyed parpardelle bianco (pasta in a creamy sauce) and fettuccine porcini (pasta with mushrooms), which were both delicious, washed down with a glass of wine, of course. Thanks goodness they were open for lunch from 11.30-4pm!

After lunch, we walked back to Campo di Fiori, where we purchased a yummy fruit salad in a cup, which you eat with a skewer.

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Delicious fresh fruit salad at Campo di Fiori

We then wandered back through some of the shopping streets and bought stamps and postcards to send home, in the vain hope that the postcards would arrive back in Australia before we did.

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Salumeria or deli – Campo di Fiori – they sell cheese, meats and alcohol!

An invitation accepted

About 4.30, we headed back to the B&B. By this time, we’d decided we may as well go and have a drink at the opening of the new Rex Tours office (we don’t usually get out much!), so we changed and strolled back there. The boys welcomed us again and promptly handed us a drink. We met their family and friends, all of whom seemed lovely, but few spoke English, making small talk rather difficult. We spoke with Simone for a while, had another drink, then bade them farewell. Just quietly, we didn’t want to have too many drinks before attempting to find our way back to the B&B! Neither of us drink much when we’re at home and this was only our first full day in Rome!

When we were within sight of our B&B, we ventured into a little place called Pizza Rustica, where we shared a Pizza Margherita, which consists of tomato, mozzarella and basil, together with the biggest glass of red wine I’ve ever seen – it would be 2-3 drinks in Australia. It was a good thing we only had to walk half a block to the B&B. Now, with all this eating and drinking, you can see why we needed to walk everywhere! 🙂

Exhausted at the end of the day

By 9pm, we were tucked into bed and ready for a good night’s sleep. We did sleep well, but were both awake once again at 4am the next morning!

After just one day in Roma, the Bestie and I decided it was well worth the long wait to visit. Everything about Rome was amazing – the sights, the tastes, the smells… Bellisimo!

Want to know more about our adventures in Rome? Check out these posts:

5 alternative things to do in Rome  –  Finding the best gelato in Rome  –  A delicious twilight tour of Trastevere  –  Exploring Villa d’Este in Tivoli

The Besties Do Italy series is about how Seize The Day Project’s Lyndall and her long time best friend ventured to Italy to celebrate a significant birthday – sans husbands and children. Shhh, don’t tell anyone they’ve gone!

Read more posts in this fascinating series here:

Positano, you stole a little piece of my heart

Exploring Lake Como: The Greenway Walk

Some Enchanted Evening in Venice