Italia September 2008
Rome & The Amalfi Coast
Where we stayed
Hotel Panda, Via della Croce 35, Rome, near the Spanish Steps
After leaving the Spagna train station we easily found Via della Croce and our Hotel. We stayed at Pensione Panda. Check in was easy. We didn't think our room would be ready, we were just going to leave the bags, but it was ready so we changed and cleaned up a bit and then headed out. I have very mixed feelings about Pensione Panda. The hotel is in a great location. We easily walked to must of the major sites and it was nice to have the train station as well as buses nearby. The first room we had was #20, a double room with a bathroom, which was right next to the check in desk and steps to go outside. It's window opened up right over the main street. Of course we slept with the window open it being pretty warm in Rome. That night was so bad for me. The noise on the street all night long was way too loud. That morning I asked if there were any quieter rooms and with no problem at all they let us move to #36. which was all the way at the end of the hall. It had a little spiral staircase to go up and had an additional bed for a third person. The room was larger, the bathroom was larger too. It had nice exposed wood beams. The window opened out to just other buildings and courtyards and it was amazing how much quieter it was. We had a very uneventful stay there From 9/11 - 9/15. The room was always cleaned, new towels, firm yet comfortable bed, etc. We paid 108 euros/night and I made the reservations directly via email about 8 months in advance. Here's where the trouble came.... I also had made reservations (at the same time) for our last night in Italy 9/24 with them. When leaving on 9/15 I confirmed that with them. I also called from Capri on 9/23 to let them know I would be arriving around 10 pm on 9/24. Wouldn't you know that when we arrived on 9/24 at 9:45 and checked in they gave us the keys for #26. We walked into the room to find a tiny single bed. I had in writing that I had reserved a double room. The man said that was the room that was assigned to me by the woman who runs the hotel, and that there were no other rooms available. I of course demanded as nicely as possible that something must be done about this. He made a few calls and found us another hotel to stay at in our price range, called a cab and gave us 20 euro to pay for it. We arrived at the other Hotel - Hotel Azzura near the Barberini Metro stop around 10:45 pm, the ride cost 13 euro. The man who runs the hotel, Renato, was very nice. However the hotel was very old, rundown, on a dirty street with not so nice looking people hanging around outside. We told him we needed to leave at 6 am which lead him to instructing us how to open the doors since they would be locked for the night at midnight. I asked about a wake up call and he pretended not to understand. We were starving and had been traveling all day, so we headed out to get something to eat. He said we needed to be back by midnight. I was so looking forward to this last night of our trip and our last night in Rome and now I couldn't even stay out late and see the city. When we got back at midnight I asked Renato in Italian about a wake up call, and he said he didn't do those, and he'd be sleeping at 6 am. He proceeded to take 30 mins to find me a tiny little clock, that wound up not alarming at all. We paid 100 euro for this room. I am so upset that after being a good customer at Panda and already having paid them for 4 nights, making reservations in advance, confirming countless times, them not having my room and then having them force me to stay at a place they had to know was not the greatest, was just inexcusable. Other hotels know things about other hotels, right?? The guy did try at Panda I suppose, he gave us the 20 euro, and apologized and really it wasn't his fault as he just worked the desk but still. Businesses shouldn't be that way. I've taken many trips (this being my 2nd to Italy and 3rd to Europe) and never had something like this happen.
Where we ate
For the most part we had cappuccino's or nothing for breakfast! If we didn't go somewhere for lunch specifically we had grabbed something while walking by a shop for lunch. Usually a slice of pizza or something. I imagine we had gelato every day. Maybe twice some days in place of lunch! We had a supermarket right near or hotel so we bought water there and carried the bottle around with us, there are water taps all over the city to fill up at and the water is clean, fresh and delicious.
piazza de'renzi, trastevere
September 11th dinner - Our first dinner in Rome was on a Thursday! Gnocchi day! da augusto was not only in our DK top 10 Rome guide but was also specifically recommended to me on fodors.com for gnocchi. We got there around 8 pm and it was quite busy but were seated quickly next to an Italian couple. They offered us gnocchi with a tomato basil sauce and a meat sauce. We got one of each. Bread and water. Both gnocchi dishes were amazing! perfect little pillows that just melted in your mouth. They sauces were both very good and very different from each other. We had wanted to order a secondi, but waited quite some time for the menu, which never came, and we decided we were full anyway so we paid and left. The bill was only 16 euro.
via della lungaretta 86
September 11th wine after dinner - we stopped here while in trastevere and sat outside after dinner for some wine. it was recommended on Chowhound and fodors. I had a dolcetta and Chris had a rosso di montalcino. they gave us some bar snacks - peanuts and corn nuts.
Via del Governo Vecchio 114, near Piazza Navona
September 12th lunch- We heard this was Rome's most famous pizzeria! It was also in our DK top 10 Rome guide as well as recommended on fodors and Chowhound. When we arrived though there was a sign on the door saying it was closed for lunch but to go to Da Baffeto 2 with a little map and the address. We found it easily, but I never wrote down the address. It was closer to Campo di Fiori. We sat outside and it wasn't very busy at all. The menu is quite large with lots of choices, not just pizza! We had a plate of suppli (rice croquettes) and pizzas. Mine had tomato sauce, cheese and zucchini flowers. Chris had tomato sauce, cheese and vegetables (zucchini, eggplant and red peppers). Both were amazing as it all pizza in Italy pretty much! We split a beer and water and the bill was about 16 euro.
Trattoria da Armando al Pantheon
Salita de' Crescenzi 31
September 12th dinner - We had walked in around lunch time and made reservations for that night at 9 pm. Recommended on fodors and Chowhound. For an appetizer we had bruschetta with wild boar, cause we love wild boar. I had spaghetti cacio e pepe (cheese and black pepper) and was instantly in love! Chris had ravioli with mushrooms (very good) and Abacchio a Scottadito - baby lamb chops, which were amazing! With bread, water, cover charge and a bottle of Aiola 2005 Chianti Classico the bill was 60 euro.
Hostaria dei Bastioni
Via Leone IV 29, near the Vatican
Sept 13th lunch - this was recommended by Rick Steve's. It was right across from the Vatican Museum and we had a few hours to spend in between our scavi toiur and museum tour. So we sat inside. I was a little turned off by the signs outside listing all the names of travel guides the recommended the place. We had a lovely plate of red and green roasted peppers in oil, very yummy. Chris ordered a tourist special which was a pizza with mushrooms, a mixed salad and a soda. I got spaghetti amatricana, which has pancetta or pig cheek. It was very good. We also had tiramisu, which was a bit strong and overpowering. The staff mostly spoke Italian and were very nice. Chris thought the bathroom wasn't so great though and suggested I use the one a St. Peter's again instead. with bread and cover charge the bill was about 25 euro.
ristorante all rampa
near spanish steps at piazza mignanelli 18
September 13th dinner - this restaurant was recommended by Rick Steves as well as chowhound. We sat outside and had a very hardworking pleasant waiter. We had a 1/2 liter of house red wine, which was good. I had fried stuffed zucchini flowers and gnocchi alla romana. Both really good. The gnocchi alla romana are huge semolina disks, different than "regular" gnocchi, and soft like a little polenta cake. Chris had spaghetti with mushrooms, clams, mussels, shrimp and calamari as well as rabbit with polenta. He loved the pasta. The rabbit was something we were testing out. It was ok, I thought it tasted like chicken. The sauce on the rabbit was very yummy! The polenta however was just so so. I've had way better polenta. With bread, water and cover charge the bill was 50 euro.
September 14th dinner - A few steps from the top of Via Veneto, on the corner of Via Campania and Via Toscana. recommended on Chowhound. This place was huge, and reminded us of an Italian restaurant at home called the chateau. Anyway it was full of locals. A family sitting next to us got pizzas that looked amazing so of course thats what we had. We started with plate of mixed fried items, zucchini flowers (which had anchovy in it and I didn't like), olives, arancini, etc. Chris had pizza with proscuitto and I had the capricosa which had an artichoke heart, mushrooms, black olives and an egg on top. with bread, water and cover charge the bill was 29 euro.
Via della Croce, 76/D
this wine bar was right near our hotel so we dropped in and sat at the bar for some wine. We each had a glass of different red wine, can't remember which ones! They were 6 euro each. We wanted to eat dinner here on our last night in Rome, but sadly that plan never happened (see the Hotel Panda review for details).
Via Uffici del Vicario 40, near Pantheon
we had gelato here and it was really yummy. I forget though the flavors we had....
Piazza Navona 30
we had the tartufo to go and it was very rick and decadent!
Via Paneterria 42, near Trevi Fountain
I had their signature honey gelato and something else.... really tasty!
Manzetti, or I think that was the name, it was similar to our last name, so I'm confused!
This was on the street to the entrance of the Spagna metro stop. If approaching the entrance its on your left. We went there often for cappuccino, and it was very good. I think we might have had gelato there once too. They had another little shop next door with pizzas, etc that looked really yummy but we never had them!
Da Gasperone, somewhere near the Trevi Fountain.
September 24th dinner - On the very last night of our trip, after finally getting a hotel room, we were pressed for time and starving. It was 11 PM and almost every place we walked into said they were closing! we finally wandered into Da Gasperone and they were more than happy to serve us. The prices were reasonable. We stared with proscuitto and melon, which was outstanding, the melon was so sweet and went so well with the proscuitto. I had cacio e pepe and it was very good but more oilier than when I previously had it. I forget what Chris had, but pasta of some kind and he liked it.
What we did in Rome
I thought we did A LOT! We still missed a few things though that we had wanted to see. I blame that on the stupid bus from the Amalfi Coast that should have gotten us back to Rome on our last day around 7, but didn't until after 9 and then the whole Hotel Panda Scandal, etc. I thought we might have squeezed in a few more things. Taking the bus from Rome to the Amalfi Coast was great! But taking it back was a dumb idea and we basically wasted our whole day (more on that later!)
We are so glad we had the Roma Pass. Using it's transportation card we were able to easily get on trains and buses. We had it for Thurs, Fri and Sat and it definitely paid for itself. The sites card we didn't use until Fri, so it was good for Fri, Sat and Sun. We didn't take full advantage of the pass as we only went to 2 sites, so they were free, but we could have used it to get in elsewhere at a discount and didn't. It also saved us from needing to wait in line at the Colosseum which was enough of a reason to have the card itself!!
Thursday September 11th
Earlier in the day in search of lunch at Pizza Re (which was closed), we saw Piazza de Popolo and sat on the steps of the church there (along with a lot of other people!) eating wonderful pizza that I unfortunately can't remember where it was from. We also walked past and peeked in the windows at the Arc Pacis and sat by the fountains outside. After that we had a much needed siesta and showers! We then rode the train from spagna to termini and got on a bus we thought went to trastevere. However it didn't, we rode it the whole length and then back to termini. I still have no idea where we were! Once back at Termini we got on the right bus, the "H" line which took us to trastevere. We followed Rick Steve's Trastevere walk and saw most of the major sites. We got a strawberry granita type thing at Sora Mirella, a little kiosk mentioned in Rick's walk, which was really good. We saw the outside of the Church of St. Cecilia and went in the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. We then ate dinner at da augusto followed by wine at enoteca trastevere. Trastevere was a really cool neighborhood and I am sad we didn't go back there. We then followed Rick Steve's "Night walk across Rome" which lead us from Trastevere to Campo de'fiori, piazza navona, the pantheon, piazza di pietra, piazza colona, the trevi fountain, up via del corso to the spanish steps and back to our hotel. We especially loved the Pantehon at night all lit up as well as the Trevi Fountain. The piazza di pietra all lit up at night with blue lights was really beautiful too. Rome was truly alive that night, more than any of the other nights we were there. People where everywhere, and everything was open so late!
Friday September 12th
Today was a big day! We took the train to the Colosseum stop. We didn't expect to walk right out of the station and see it - but there it was! and so amazing. We were starving and didn't want to waste time or unnecessary prices sitting somewhere near the Colosseum. We walked to the left with our backs to the train station and crossed a busy intersection. On a small street there was a little shop with a woman standing outside making fresh crepes. I of course got one with nutella. Chris got zuccherie and limon (sugar and lemon) Both were delicious and just what we needed. We had to wait in a short security line and then used our roma pass to gain entry. We loosely tried to follow the tour in rick steves book. The colosseum is really impressive and beautiful. We easily spent an hour of 2 just roaming around. We saw the Arc of Constantine and then headed over to the Roman Forum. I thought the Forum was free. Whatever entrance we were at though required a ticket to enter. So we stuck our Roma pass through. After entering we saw entrance to Palantine hill on the left, so I guess that is what the admission fee was for, though it is included in paying for the colosseum. Who knows? We walked and explored the forum, loosely following rick steves tour and saw all the major highlights. We had planned on staying and going to Palatine Hill and other sites nearby (I wanted to go to the keyhole viewing point on aventine hill as well as the bocca della verita - the mouth of truth) but we were very hot, tired and hungry. So we left and went to lunch at Da Baffeto. On the way back to the hotel we stopped in and saw the inside of the pantheon, very impressive! as well as made reservations for dinner that night. We went back to the hotel and probably slept for way too long. When we got up, showered, etc it was pouring and we went out anyway. It did get worse, and we were pretty wet since we had only one umbrella. We found shelter under the pantheon and waited for our reservation for Armando's.
Saturday September 13th
Day at the Vatican!
we had booked in advance via email the scavi tour and the vatican museum tour.
The scavi tour was amazing! There were about 8 people total and our guide was wonderful. It was so interesting to walk through such old burial sights so far underneath St. Peter's Basilica. Actually seeing Peter's grave site and bones was just amazing from a historical and religious viewpoint. By far this was one of the most interesting and unique things we experienced in Rome.
The vatican tour was interesting and helpful. we were able to bypass the tremendously long line, which in itself was worth taking the tour for. Our guide was very knowledgeable. The tour group was rather large though. She took us to the major highlights which was helpful otherwise I feel it would have been hard to really understand and see everything important by yourself. I enjoyed the education provided on the sistene chapel. We stood in one of the courtyards in front of a small poster section on the sistene chapel and she explained each section in detail. That made it so much more meaningful once in the sistene chapel to understand what I was looking at. I am sure there is a lot more to see at the Museum that we missed but I feel we got a good tour and saw the highlights and most important sections.
Sunday September 14th
Today we went to capitol hill. Used our Roma Pass for free admission to the Capitoline Museum. We followed Rick Steves tour in Italy 2008. Also saw Santa Maria in Aracoeli church. Afterwards we took his shortcut to the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument and Piazza Venezia.
We took a long walk and went to see Ponte Sant'Angelo and Castel Sant'Angelo. Very beautiful and a great view of St. Peter's as well.
We walked all the way up Via Veneto to the edge of the gardens at villa borghese park and had out last dinner in Rome at il Pomodorino.
Monday September 15th
luckily we talked to a sweet kid at the desk of our hotel. He told us about a bus right near the hotel that would get us to rome tiburtina station a lot easier than we had planned. We thought we'd have to take the metro line A to termini and switch to line b to then get to tirbutina. instead we had to walk to piazza de popolo with our luggage to get the bus but it was not very far. you can take either 490 or 495 to the last stop which is tirbutina and then across the street from the main metro/bus station there is another bus station and that is where we got on our 7 am marozzi bus to positano! we had come to tiributina a day earlier in the week via the metro in order to purchase the tickets.
Wednesday September 24th
after a very long bus ride from the Amalfi Cost we got back to Rome after 9pm. the hotel panda incident wasted a lot of time, and then we had one hour to find something to eat before Hotel Azzura would lock us out at midnight. it was a bad day!
Thursday September 25th
after barely sleeping in fear of not waking up in time to get to the airport. we headed out at 6 am for the metro to termini. got tickets for the leonardo express and headed to the airport. relaxed and shopped a bit (bought some olive oil and cinghale salami!) before boarding our plane home! the flight to JFK was ok, I slept a lot. At JFK we went through customs who took away our wild boar salami after much protesting from me that it was obviousl not cow, already cooked and vacuum sealed, etc. Our flight to Boston sat on the runway for over an hour waiting for it's turn to take off. Turned a 45 minute flight into a much longer ordeal! Once home we discovered our only bottle of limoncello was broken and and drained in the suitcase, our car wouldn't start (and we had just ordered Chinese food to be picked up!) and Chris nearly almost flooded the basement trying to drain out the furnace. All in all we were happy to be home!!! Seems our trips home never go very well...
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