In case you haven’t read Donald’s posts, I should start off by saying that we took an overnight flight to Rome from Boston on Tuesday (May 10th), and arrived in Rome early Wednesday morning. I think Donald may have gotten a bit of sleep on the flight over, but I didn’t.
We spent 7 nights in Rome, staying at the Hotel San Pietrino in the Prati neighborhood of Rome, north of the Vatican. I liked the location, as it was far enough away from the Vatican that it wasn’t crowded and touristy. There was a great coffee shop across the street where I could have my morning espresso or cappucino and a pastry, and a gelato shop a few doors down. I found the hotel in the Lonely Planet guidebook, and I agree with the authors that it was “a fabulous choice”, but have to disagree most strenuously about the “comfortable beds”. I don’t think I’ve slept in a harder bed since my trip to Japan, where I mostly slept on not-very-thick futons on the floor. Donald liked that the hotel had wi-fi.
We ate lunch at a place called Hostaria dei Bastioni, just outside the Vatican walls. In fact, you can see the walls in this picture, behind Donald.
The restaurant was okay, but nothing special. Despite what Donald implies in his post, I don’t insist on eating only at restaurants I found in a guidebook. I do think it’s good to have a destination in mind when you’re going out to eat in a strange place; then, if you find something that looks better along the way, you can go there instead. Also, if you’re in a very touristy area where most of the restaurants have big menus out front in 4 different languages, it can be good to know where else to go instead. Restaurants in Rome can also be kind of expensive, so the guidebook was helpful in identifying places that were more moderately priced, since I kind of wanted to have a reasonably decent sit-down meal at least once a day, rather than just grabbing pizza or a sandwich whenever we got hungry, and Donald kind of wanted to not spend over a hundred dollars on each of these meals.
In any case, I did find this lunch restaurant in the Frommer’s guidebook, which tends to have better restaurant recommendations than Lonely Planet, though they’re still kind of hit or miss, especially in the “inexpensive” category.
Speaking of guidebooks, this was my first international vacation since getting a Kindle, so instead of lugging around big paper guidebooks (or photocopying selected pages), I bought both the Frommer’s and Lonely Planet guides for the Kindle. The Kindle editions are definitely better than trying to carry around a thick guidebook when you’re already trying to find room in your purse for a bottle of water, a camera, a wallet, a wrap for the evening in case it gets cold, and maybe an umbrella, and your husband doesn’t want to carry any more of your stuff in his backpack. However, the maps in the Lonely Planet guidebook are completely useless in the e-book edition, whereas they’re somewhat useful in the paper books (you still need to buy a more detailed map of whatever city you’re in, especially if it’s a city like Rome with confusing streets). Of course, the Frommer’s maps are useless even in the paper edition, so no change there. The Lonely Planet e-book is better organized overall (the Frommer’s doesn’t even have a Table of Contents! For shame!). But I found myself using the Frommer’s more, not just for restaurants, but also for more useful and detailed information about various attractions. (Lonely Planet is better for hotels though, if you like to stay at cheaper places like we do.)
After lunch we went to the Pantheon.
The streets around here are very narrow and confusing, and very crowded, as this is the historic city center, full of tourist attractions. On my last trip to Rome, I spent quite a bit of time wandering around in this area, getting lost, seeing whatever I happened to come across. But Donald’s not quite as much of a fan of wandering aimlessly through strange cities, so we didn’t do that as often on this trip.
We had walked to the Pantheon from our hotel, but on the way back we decided to take the metro. I dragged Donald past the Trevi Fountain on our way to the metro. It was sort of on the way. And it’s famous.
For dinner, we went to another restaurant I found in the Frommer’s guidebook, this one a Sicilian place called Sicilia in Bocca (which I think means something like “Sicily in the mouth”). I had a fava bean and greens soup, which I liked, and something else I can’t remember. Donald had a seafood salad, and then beef rolls (thin slices of beef that were breaded, fried, and rolled around a filling). I liked the food here a lot better than at the place next to the Vatican. It was also more expensive, even though it was listed in the “Inexpensive” section of the Frommer’s guidebook.
On our walk back to the hotel, I noticed a nearby pizzeria that looked good, and made a note of it for future evenings, even though it wasn’t in the guidebook.
This may have been an ambitious schedule for our first day in Rome, with almost no sleep the night before. But the next day would be even more tiring.
(to be continued)