Returning to Rome for 2 whole weeks

You can’t imagine how wonderful it felt to be back in Europe, and Rome especially, as it is one of our favorite cities.

We heard and read of the difficulties getting in; the COVID tests, the documents needed to be completed, the long wait for airport check-in…but none was correct. They accept the rapid test, it is a fast and easy check-in at the airport (they only glanced at our documents) and we were through security in 15 minutes (a record from my prior travel experiences). So book your travel now while the crowds are still procrastinating and staying home!

Hotel

The Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel https://www.thepantheonhotel.com/– when we couldn’t get into our hotel of choice, Bio Hotel Raphael https://www.raphaelhotel.com/raphel-hotel-restaurant-in-rome.htm (fully booked), I decided to go for the points. So I booked this Autograph Collection from Marriott and was not disappointed in the least. It was lovely, very new and modern, with great service and a roof top restaurant and bar that we frequented daily for Aperitivo. And was in a great location, central to everything, Though if you are lucky enough to grab a room at Raphael, take it as it is a gorgeous hotel.

Tours

  • VIP Breakfast at the Vatican with Tour of the Museums & Sistine Chapel – semi-private City Wonders Tour https://citywonders.com/rome-tours. We had breakfast in the Vatican gardens, but best of all we had a Museum and Sistine Chapel tour before it opened to the public. We had toured The Vatican twice before and was packed in like sardines, rushed through, and felt like we saw almost nothing. With this tour it was almost empty and we had a leisurely, upfront and personal tour of the museums and Sistine Chapel with a very knowledgeable guide. Highly recommend it.
  • Colosseum Underground, Colosseum & Roman Forum – semi-private tour by Tours of Rome https://citywonders.com/rome-tours/colosseum-underground-tour. The Colosseum underground renovations were completed recently and opened around two months ago for public tours (cannot visit without a tour). We had access to areas of the Colosseum that are usually unexplored; the Gladiator arena, the underground backstage area where the animals and Gladiators waited to head out into battle, and then stepped out, as they did, onto the Area Floor where millions of fights took place. Highly recommended.
  • Old Frascati Food & Wine Tour – small tour offered by the local vineyard. The vineyard tour and wine tasting is performed by the original owners granddaughter, Paola, and she, as you would guess, is very knowledgeable and excited to share her family and vineyard history https://www.oldfrascati.com/ . The wine was light and fun and learned some tasting tips from Paola. Following the vineyard we were given a tour of the cute town of Frascati, and an enjoyable lunch by Chef Claudio. Recommended.
  • Small Group Tour of Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este Tourvery small group tour by Viator https://www.viator.com/tours/Rome/Small-Group-Tour-of-Hadrians-Villa-and-Villa-DEste-from-Rome/d511-12855P28 , as we were the only one who booked it so we ended up with a private tour! Both sites are UNESCO World Heritage sites and were breathtaking. We had a great guide who was extremely knowledgeable, friendly and enjoyable to spend the day with. The grand palace and magnificent gardens at Villa d’Este were the most beautiful I have ever seen. You can only imagine the grandeur of Hadrian’s Villa as you stroll through the ruins that go on and on and on. Highly Recommended.
  • Crypts & Roman Catacombs Tour – small group tour with Viator. The pictures looked really interesting, and we loved the Catacombs tour in Paris, but this was nothing like Paris. Boring at best, creepy at worst (the chapel built out of human bones – lamps and all) with no photographs allowed. Skip.

Wine Tastings

  • Rimessa Roscioli Wine Dinner – small-group unpretentious tasting https://www.rimessaroscioli.com/our-tastings/wine-food-tasting-dinner/ Loved it! We had booked the same tasting on our last trip to Rome and enjoyed it so much we booked one again. The wines are always different, interesting (small, artisan producers), and delicious, and the food pared perfectly. Alessandro Pepe is the founder and head sommelier with more energy and knowledge of wine than you can ever imagine. He leads the tasting and makes the dinner fun, entertaining, and passionate as he draws you in so you want to share and discuss the wines even if you are a novice. He is joined by Lindsay, the co-founder and sommelier from the US, who is charming, friendly and very knowledgeable. A great evening, highly recommended.
  • Vino Roma Wine & Cheese Dinnerhttps://vinoroma.com/en/events/wine-cheese-dinner/ – good tasting for a wine novice but was too basic for us (and definitely not enough wine – but plenty of excellent cheeses and cured meats).

Restaurants

  • Armando al Pantheon https://www.armandoalpantheon.it/ top rated Trattoria in Rome but was a bit disappointing this trip. Touristy (no locals) and serve heavy (or hearty) traditional Italian food (which I avoid in NYC). Though it did have the best Cacio e Pepe I ate in Rome. Most people I know love the restaurant (and we enjoyed it on previous trips) so could be worth a try.
  • La Ciambella https://www.la-ciambella.it/en/la-ciambella/ one of our favorite restaurants in Rome and we have dined there many times (at least twice on each trip). They describe themselves as a “Bar a Vin with Kitchen” and the cocktails and wine are billed as the stars, but we also love the delicious, beautiful and creative food. They remembered us, unusual since we hadn’t been back since before COVID, and was warmly greeted by the GM and given a big smile and wave from the amazing female chef behind the open kitchen. Try one of the tasting menu’s and let them pare it with wines (which, like a good wine tasting, they will explain in detail). We loved the “Three of Three”, but also returned to order off the menu on our second visit.
  • Antico Arco https://www.anticoarco.it/ our favorite restaurant this trip! The location is breathtaking, at the top of the Colle del Gianicolo, in front of the Arch of Porta San Pancrazio, and next to one of the most fascinating panoramas of Rome, Patrizia Mattei, Chef Fundim Gjepali turns out gorgeous, delicious food. Must tries are the “Open kebab slightly spicy”, “Carbonara sauce with spaghetti “Verigni and black truffle”, “TeMana Lamb with roasted artichokes and homemade mayonnaise”, and the “Sea Bass with misticanza salad”. And the wine list, heavenly!
  • Antica Pesahttps://www.anticapesa.it/ interesting, fun restaurant with good food and wine. You enter into a dark room with pictures covering the walls of the owner and every old film star and celebrity you can imagine. Then you are walked to the dining room which is made to look like you are dining outdoors in a courtyard (we think the roof may open in the summer, but not sure…). The owner is strolling the dining room, stopping to chat with every table; he is warm, funny and very friendly. We loved the food, the wine (great wine list), and the experience.
  • Colline Emilianehttps://www.collineemiliane.com/en/ really enjoyed this family owned and run restaurant, from the warm greeting when you arrive to the chit chat during the dinner. Food was wonderful; order the Antipasto delle colline emilane (assorted appetizers for 2), Tagliatelle alla bolognese, and the Giambonetto di vitella con purea (house specialty of milk-braised veal). And wine list is good also.
  • Le Tamericihttps://www.letamerici.com/ near the Trevi Fountain, this top-quality restaurant stands out among the many ordinary tourist-style options available in this district. The husband and wife team (husband the chef and wife the GM) provide warm, friendly service, yummy food, and interesting wines. The chef, Giovanni, does his own walkabout to check everyone is happy! Order one of the Tasting Menus, let them choose the wine, and put yourself in their hands. It will be an unforgettable evening.
  • Life Restaurant http://www.ristorantelife.com/ – sleek, modern Mediterranean restaurant which we just happened to stumble on for lunch one day. They specialize in meat, lobster & truffle dishes, and the food was beautifully plated, delicious and the service friendly and helpful. A great break from site seeing!
  • Da Enzohttp://www.daenzoal29.com/ this is the Roman trattoria you only see in dreams—and maybe The Godfather. There are bottles of wine stacked along the walls, checkered tablecloths, and daily specials scribbled on a chalkboard. It’s small, they don’t take reservations so you wait on line (where the staff walks around serving you samples of their heavenly pasta and drinks while you wait – a party in itself). This is a house wine kind of place—nothing too fancy, but plenty drinkable nonetheless. We had two large carafes with lunch and the charge for them was 14 Euros! We always head here for lunch on the day we arrive; our welcome back to Rome experience! You must have the fried Jewish Artichokes to start, then move to the Cacio e Pepe or Carbonara, and any of the daily specials.
  • Roscioli Salumeria con Cucinahttps://www.salumeriaroscioli.com/en/home-english/ is it a wine bar, a restaurant, both? Both! It is a bustling destination with an eatery, bakery, deli counter and wine shop. Everything you could want in a one block radius. And very, very popular so don’t forget to make reservations, even for lunch. We lunched there and it was a blast. They have the longest menu you can imagine but definitely try the “deli” to start.
  • Tonnarellohttps://tonnarello.it/#pll_switcher very casual, very reasonable restaurant in Trastevere. Think pizza, pasta, meatballs, house wine (that is somewhat drinkable but fun)! No reservations but the line moves very quickly.

Misc.

  • Aperitivo – this is an Italian cultural tradition that usually takes place between 6 PM and 8 PM. It is an event that serves as an appetizer to dinner with the purpose of socializing with friends while drinking sunset-hued cocktails and snacking on a selection of cheeses and salami, bruschetta and sometimes fried foods (our happy hour). It is the blissful moment between the end of work and dinner for locals. Usually when you order your drink, small dishes of olives, chips, nuts or crackers are automatically delivered with your drink. Aperol Spritz is the usual drink, but I prefer Campari & Soda, and the menus now include many other cocktails.
  • Walk, walk, walk – this is a city to walk in. Get lost, explore little side streets, find a small trattoria to dine, and just enjoy this wonderful city.

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