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maitaitom Jun 19th, 2009 11:55 AM

Et Tu, Tom? The Maitais Take a Stab At Rome For Christmas
Buon giorno Fodorites!

Having wreaked significant havoc in Washington D.C. last month, it looks like Tracy and I will spend the week of Christmas causing problems for The Eternal City. Upon hearing the news, Pope Benedict called an emergency meeting of the College of Cardinals trying to institute the “No Presbyterians at Christmas Act,” but alas it failed.

I emailed the Pope to see if we could attend the Christmas services, but he sent back an email stating, “Since you are a Presbyterian, there might be a breakdown in Mass communication, but you are welcome to stand outside.”

We have been to Rome on a couple of other occasions, so like we did in Paris a couple of years ago, we will attempt to become locals and comply with the age old motto “when in Rome, do as the Romans do,” which I believe means to eat well and often while drinking plenty of vino.

I have read some trip reports of people who have visited at Christmas, however I do have some questions if you will indulge me (hopefully none of these queries will set off a flurry of posts on the ‘Pet Peeves’ thread).

Any restaurant recommendations for Christmas Eve, Christmas and the night after Christmas would be helpful. I am scouring the Internet, however personal recommendations are always appreciated. FYI, we are staying in Trastevere, so for those of you who are in Rome at Christmas, you might want to avoid that area as I have been known to get quite boisterous (see "too much wine") during the holidays.

Even though we have visited the Borghesi, done the Scavi and Vatican tours, we might repeat those. I am getting older and forget things easily, so it will be new to me again (sort of like Magnum PI reruns).

If there are any new exhibits or off-the-beaten-track places you have visited and enjoyed, I would much appreciate your input. I am diligently researching all the attractions and restaurants I can find.

Sadly upon my return, you will be subjected to a long trip report, but that's the price you pay for being a loyal Fodorite.

Thanks for any help or insight you can provide on Rome at Christmastime. As usual, we are very excited about our next journey.


SeaUrchin Jun 19th, 2009 11:59 AM

Maitai, if you want to take a day trip down to Naples, it is wonderful at Christmas. I am sure you have read about it but I can personally vouch for the atmosphere.

maitaitom Jun 19th, 2009 12:05 PM

Thanks SeaUrchin, that was not on my radar, but sure is now.

I did forget to ask: Would Hadrian's Villa be something to see at this time of year?

Thanks all.


LowCountryIslander Jun 19th, 2009 12:10 PM

Hi Maitai!

Bummer, the last 2 years I spent Christmas/New Years in Rome and decided to not do it this year, I'm going in October instead! :-D

Last year we had New Year's Eve dinner at Spirito di Vino in Trastevere (my trip report chronicles the "event"). We really liked the restaurant and not because it's a Rachel Ray pick or the fact that she and her husband were also there last New Year's Eve having dinner. It's a slow food restaurant and our 9pm reservation resulted in a meal ending just after was New Year's Eve afterall (including being served lentils as the clock struck order to bring us a prosperous new year...not sure how well that is working out for me!) We thought the food was good and the service (mom is is in the kitchen, pop, son and nephew handle front of the house) was very attentive. The menu was all in Italian but pop came to every English speaking table to translate the menu.

I'll go back and look at some of my other restaurants. Although there were restaurants open on Dec. 26th many of the ones I had researched and wanted to go to were closed that day, but not to fear, there were many others open, so you won't starve or go thristy.

NYCTS Jun 19th, 2009 12:26 PM

<i><font color=blue>"Hadrian's Villa be something to see at this time of year?"</font></i>

Winter being winter, any villa is more resplendent in late May/early June. But my first visit was in April rain and I was still fascinated.

Zerlina Jun 19th, 2009 12:27 PM

Spirito di Vino is no more a slow food restaurant than any other restaursnt in Rome. A New Year's Eve dinner in any restaurant would last three hours; ordinary meals last around two hours if you have a full Italian meal. And Spirito di Vino is not a restaurant recommended by SlowFood, which has a very precise definition of what "slow food" means.

Jean Jun 19th, 2009 12:27 PM

We enjoyed the national museum in Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.

Add a visit to St. Paul's Basilica nearby.

maitaitom Jun 19th, 2009 01:32 PM

Thanks everyone for your input. LowCountry, I have your reports on my radar, and will look at them over the weekend. Maybe I'll run into Rachel.

Jean, St. Paul's is on my short list.

I was also thinking perhaps Orvieto for a day trip (64 minutes by train, I believe i read).

Thanks again.


anniemackie Jun 19th, 2009 02:03 PM

Dear Maitai,

Please, please, please visit Orvieto and take a trip (but not literally) down the well. I would absolutely love to read about it in your trip report. BTW, it's a nice train ride and a fantastic way to get out of the big city atmosphere for a brief time...and the wine is pretty good, too.


daveesl Jun 19th, 2009 02:08 PM

We were at Hadrian's Villa 2 years ago at Christmas time and it was really great. Very few tourists, nice sunny days.

dorkforcemom Jun 19th, 2009 02:11 PM

Hello Maitai from a fellow Presbyterian - I was in Rome a couple of weeks ago, walking from the Pantheon to Trajan's market. I passed a church with "Reformed Evangelical" on the outside sign. Wandering in to this beautiful protestant church, there was a very kind, young gentleman to tell us about the church. After giving a brief history, he said it was First Presbyterian Church of Rome - I share this story in case you're interested in exploring Christmas Eve or Christmas day services.

YvonneT Jun 19th, 2009 06:18 PM

Oh, yes, Orvieto is a great place to visit. See if you can get on the underground tour, bookings are available at the tourist office, opposite THE Duomo!!! And walk to the eastern end of the city, to see more of the medieval part. Go early, stay late. Oh, I want to be back there. To my regret I never went to Civita di Bagnoregio when in that neck of the woods; I don't know how that would work out from Rome.

Leave some wine for the rest of us, please.


nancy Jun 19th, 2009 06:52 PM

I took a train trip to Ostia Antica and stopped along the way at St Paul's Outside the Walls. I loved that church and it's a short walk from the train station. I have added it to my top favorite churches in Europe amd I've seem way too many.

Easy walk back to the train to Ostia Antica which is a favorite of mine for old Roman ruins. It's a great day trip.

If you have to choice, definitely go to Orvieto. Lovely town, beautiful church but I spent 3 nights so could wander and shop which is very nice. Because we were there long enough we heard a German choir in the church. If you go, check with the tourist office in case there is something going on.

Luhimari Jun 19th, 2009 07:28 PM

Hi Maitaitom:
I can recommend Sora Margherite in the Ghetto for lunch. It's a hole-in-the-wall type of place which I'm positive you will enjoy. Do make reservations. The following review is from 2005 but it describes the place perfectly. I have the telephone number somewhere, I'll post it when I find it.

SeaUrchin Jun 19th, 2009 07:47 PM

Another note in case you decide to visit Napoli: there are traditional Neapolitan Christmas musicians, buskers—street musicians—usually two of them, dressed as shepherds (or they are real shephards who come of out mountain villages for the season) who wear colorful traditional costumes with sheepskin vests, white stockings and dark cloaks.. one plays the Neapolitan bagpipe (sometimes made of sheepskin) called the zampogna and the other plays the ciaramella a kind of folk oboe.

One year I visited the whole area with the handmade nativity scenes, some families have been making and presenting their crafts for generations. It is like a street party with the food and the musicians. There are probably better web information sites than the one I offered.

Oh, you are going to have a wonderful trip!

Also make sure you have the Seven Fish Dinners at Christmas Eve.

LaurenKahn1 Jun 19th, 2009 07:57 PM

Just be aware that the weather can be rainy and cold. I did a home exchange in Rome over Xmas several years back and the first 10 days were rain, rain, rain. One day we had golf ball size hail. My girlfriend and I simply started laughing when the hail began as the weather had just been terrible.

We did not go to midnight mass on Xmas Eve because (a) we are Jewish and (b) we were staying too far out of the center making it difficult to get back home on public transportation afterwards. Be aware that public transport is basically down Christmas Eve and much of Christmas day. The same thing happens on New Year's. Plan accordingly. Italians like to spend those days with friends and family and not much is open.

By the way, the last week of the trip (it was 17 days) we had good weather but I came down with a miserable cold. Another case of Lauren goes on vacation.

PS We had a good time anyway.

NYCTS Jun 19th, 2009 09:08 PM

<i><font color=blue>"I did a home exchange in Rome over Xmas several years back and the first 10 days were rain, rain, rain. One day we had golf ball size hail."</font></i>

I will never forget that year. I have photos of the hail and flooded 3 AM streets (couldn't sleep from the noise). It really was a wet one.

LaurenKahn1 Jun 19th, 2009 10:33 PM

We had fun in spite of it. I remember my girlfried and I being so frustrated that all we could do when the large hail came is crack up. I think people thought we were nuts.

Very frustrating for sure, but we managed. I can't say that we focussed on outdoor Rome. For those wretched weather days, Rome has museums. The low point was when I came down with the cold. Yuk! One day I simply went back to the apartment to sleep because I was sick. Now that is not fun on vacation.

Then there was the "great" European vacation where two hours into the trip, I tripped and broke my ankle. That was the trip where I learned a lot of German words for body parts. Next stop was the emergency room. It is funny how the disasters are what you remember from trips. They make the best stories after you are home sleeping in your own bed, but not at the time they are happening.

maitaitom Jun 20th, 2009 09:43 AM

Thanks everyone.

Luhimari, Sora Margherite looks right up my alley!


Dayle Jun 20th, 2009 09:58 AM


On my last trip, the day trip to Tivoli to visit Hadrian's Villa and the Villa d'Este was a real highlight. As long as the weather is good, I'd go! I don't know if the Villa d'Este has the fountains running year round. Anyone?

Orvieto is one of my very favorite towns with much to see, eat and drink. Highly recommend, but make it a full day!

Buon viaggio! I'm envious.

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