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Rome Trip Report: Mother/Daughter Duo Return to Rome for Christmas and New Year Holiday

Rome Trip Report: Mother/Daughter Duo Return to Rome for Christmas and New Year Holiday

Jan 25th, 2009, 07:21 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,478
Rome Trip Report: Mother/Daughter Duo Return to Rome for Christmas and New Year Holiday

First and foremost a BIG thank you to all the Fodorites who have posted information about traveling to Rome. I would be remiss without giving a special thanks to Fodorite Kristina and Ekscrunchy for their fabulous restaurant reports. There were multiple times when we raised our glasses of vino and toasted to these 2 ladies for the great advice!

A word of caution, I can sometimes get long-winded in these trip reports because I am not the best at self editing. Also, Mom and I are beginner “foodies” and so my reports tend to lean towards lots of food and restaurant information. Of course I throw in what we did and were we stayed too! But if you aren’t into reading about what and where we ate, this report may not be for you.

Here’s some background:

Mom and I went to Rome for a week at Christmas 2007. When we came home we were going through major Rome withdrawal (I’m sure some of you can relate!) and I started checking out airfares (out of curiosity) for Christmas 2008. You can imagine my astonishment when I found airfare from Savannah, GA to Rome for under $1000 at Christmas! We jumped on it and started planning for Christmas/New Years 2008 in Rome…a return to the Eternal City…what is it about Rome that keeps drawing me back? I just love that city!

The flight on Christmas Day:

Christmas Day approached and our bags were packed and we were ready to go. As usual, I tend to use an over-abundance of caution when getting to the airport. We left home with 3 hours to spare. Being Christmas day there was little traffic out on the roads.

I had checked-in for our flights online the night before…LOVE THAT! And when we reached the Savannah airport I could hardly believe my eyes…absolutely NO LINE at security. This has never, ever happened before. Truly we were the only ones at the security checkpoint…it certainly made the whole disrobing process much easier when we didn’t have a line of people behind us breathing down our necks…ahhhh…this trip was off to a good start.

We flew Delta Airlines and our little flight from Savannah to Atlanta was full and uneventful…35 minutes in the air.

We arrived in Atlanta and were at the departure gate for our flight to Rome about 2 hours before our 4:35pm flight. At about 3pm I hear over the load speaker “Passenger “LowCountryIslander” please see the gate agent.

At this point I am shaking as I walk up to the desk and I am praying we are not going to get bumped from this flight, my name never gets called! There were 3 of us that were in line because our names were the first called. The man in front of me says to the gate agent, “does this mean we are losing our seats?”, the lady behind me says, “No I think she has good news for us”.

And boy did she….we got upgraded to Business Class!!!! Merry Christmas LowCountryIslander and Mom…this trip was now REALLY off to a great start. I had never flown business class before and it was quite the treat! We were told the flight was oversold and they were upgrading all the Delta medallion members…it pays to be a frequent flier member and to fly on Christmas day when most business travelers aren’t flying…it makes me think I need to start planning a trip for next Christmas…but I am getting way ahead of myself here!

We board the plane first and we are in seats 3A and 3B. The flight attendants take our coast to hang them up! We can lay almost flat with our feet up to sleep…well, it did take us a few minutes to figure out to recline the seat!

Once seated we’re served champagne or orange juice as we watched the other passengers board…I know the look we got, only because numerous times I was the one walking through business class with the look of envy on my face…not this time!

We had real pillows and blankets and real china and glassware. We had a selection of 4 entrees for dinner and wine. Once comfortably ensconced we took off about 50 minutes late. Once airborne the meal service began and what a service it was!

The flight attendant came around asking us for our dinner order, and then served drinks. They even served warm nuts in little bowls! We were individually served bread and butter that was soft! Prior to that we got warm towels to wash with and the wine kept flowing.

The starter was a platter of 3 items, an onion dip with chunks of onions and carrots and celery, then red & yellow tomatoes on a bed of lettuce with feta cheese and lastly 2 really delicious shrimp with chopped avocado. That would have been enough for me, but our entrees were next. Mom had the Moroccan chicken with couscous and vegetables, the verdict, very flavorful, but a bit dry. I had the fillet of beef which was amazingly tender with endive, carrots and mashed potatoes, the verdict, delicious.

We were too full for dessert, but if we wanted we could have had a cheese plate, that looked great, or an ice cream sundae. We decided we would wait for the scrambled eggs at breakfast! See, I told you I would talk a lot about food!

Friday, December 26th 2008:

We landed in Rome at about 8:50am after being able to actually lay flat and stretched out for 4 hours. I didn’t really get much sleep, but just being able to have much more room was fabulous. We had our choice of cereal or scrambled eggs. We both choose the eggs, which were hot and remarkably tasty.

Once we got off the plane and freshened up a bit we hopped on the sky bridge train that took us to the terminal where we went through passport control. The line was long, but it moved pretty quickly and since we didn’t have any checked bags we were in the arrivals area by 9:30am.

We found our driver from Rome Cabs without any trouble and we were on our way into Rome (€45 + tip). It was about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, cloudy and raining when we arrived. We got to the hotel in about 30 minutes, just around 10am.

As we walked to the front desk of Hotel Smeraldo I said a little prayer that our room would be ready….
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jan 25th, 2009, 09:29 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Looking forward to more! I love how the coach class has to be reminded how lucky the business class is, having flown both I now trudge past the lucky ones.

Yes, love the food descriptions.
SeaUrchin is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 07:56 AM
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Love Rome, love food - can't wait to hear more...
hazel1 is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 08:23 AM
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LowCountryIslander, I love Rome, too, and I'm really enjoying your trip report!

We've been upgraded to business class before, also -- isn't it wonderful?
Samsaf is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 08:33 AM
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bardo1 is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 08:41 AM
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dogone it! I was hoping there would be more to read on my lunch break! pp
peppermintpatti is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 08:44 AM
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Looks like I'm in very good company with all the Rome-loving Fodorites!

Getting upgraded is wonderful and I apologize for gushing about it in the earlier post, but I just couldn't help myself being the first time and all!

I hope to post back tonight with the rest of the first day in Rome, impressions of Hotel Smeraldo and our first meal in Rome!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 09:36 AM
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LCI BRAG BRAG BRAG Baby! Ain't it great? I had a chance to upgrade to 1st class on a BA flight. Talk about spoiled. I can't possibly travel any other way again.

Can't wait to hear more.
Mamaw is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 10:26 AM
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Wow, I'm honored to be thanked up front in your trip report. I'm home sick today and reading that you toasted to me in Rome made my day.

That's so awesome you got upgraded to Business class!

Looking forward to reading more about the trip!
Kristina is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 10:53 AM
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We used several or your restaurant recommendations...we would have used more, but being the holidays a few places were closed that I wanted to try...that's why I'm going back in April!!!!! Just call me a Rome-aholic!

Hope you are feeling better.
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 12:01 PM
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Great start! I look forward to more, to keep from being too anxious for the next 2-1/2 weeks to go by so I can be back in Rome!
SusanP is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 12:14 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
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I'm so excited to read your report! Love, love, love Rome...

Thanks for painting a picture of what first class is like. I've always wondered if it was really that much better than cattle class. I guess so.

So what are you waiting for? Get working on the next installment!

Johanna (who is hoping for pictures, too)

gracie04 is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 12:29 PM
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ahhh...SusanP...lucky you going to Rome in a few weeks!

gracie04...pictures will definitely be posted. I have them already uploaded to the Kodak Gallery website, but didn't want to get too ahead of myself posting the pics before writing at least a decent portion of the trip report!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 05:33 PM
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On the ride to the hotel the thought occurred to me that since it was the day after Christmas, maybe the hotel wasn’t full the night before and they would have a room available we could check into right away. BUT, having been in the hotel business for 8 years, “once upon a time”, I wasn’t getting my hopes up.

Well, lucky for us, my prayer was answered! We walked through the door and up to the front desk. The man at the desk was not overly friendly, but I had read a bunch of reviews on Trip Advisor that said the front desk staff wasn’t too friendly, so I was not expecting much. The check-in process took less than a minute and we were on our way to our first floor room.

Here are my thoughts/observations about the hotel:
Hotel Smeraldo
Vicolo dei Chiodaroli, 9

I found this hotel in the Rick Steves Rome guidebook and in an article in my Budget Travel magazine. After contacting several other hotels and having rates of €150 to €200 quoted, I contacted the Smeraldo and they came back with a rate of €100 per night for the 8 nights we would be there. I thought that was a good price and booked. They did require a one night non-refundable deposit, but I didn’t have a problem with that.

The location for us was better than excellent. The hotel is a 5 minute walk from Campo dei Fiore in one direction and Largo Argentina in the other direction (great for transportation, bus & tram, connections)!

The room was clean and comfortable…heat worked when we wanted it/needed it to. The beds (twins) were also comfortable. There was closet with drawers to store our clothes for the week, so we didn’t have to “live out of suitcases”. We never felt cramped, but by American standards, the room was “cozy”, in fact there was a 3rd bed tucked away under a shelf and I can’t imagine 3 adults sharing this room…maybe 2 adults and 1 child could cope.

The bathroom was always very clean, and typical European sized bathroom…think on the smallish side. The shower stall, although small always had excellent water pressure and hot water…maybe it was because it was the first floor, I can’t speak of the water pressure situation on the higher floors (there are 5 floors). The housekeeping staff was very friendly, much more so then the front desk staff.

The walls are fairly thin, and we could here the comings and goings of the rooms next to ours as well as parts of their conversations. Being on the first floor and facing an often used street, there were a few times we could here street noise, but nothing that really kept us up at night.

The hotel breakfast, which was an additional €7 per person per day was less than stellar. We had it the first morning there and vowed not to go back again. The cappuccino was barely passable and the brewed coffee from the urn looked (and I am not joking here) like mud. The breakfast items were mediocre at best…some breads and cheeses and meat, cereal, yogurts and fruit…I usually don’t mind these types of breakfast items when they are appealing/appetizing…these weren’t. BUT…we found a little gem for breakfast and will talk about that more later!

Overall, I would go back to the Hotel Smeraldo and I would recommend it to travelers who are budget conscience and not expecting the Ritz Carlton treatment. The value and the location are the definite selling points to this hotel.

Another note…this hotel as a “satellite” property just steps around the corner. I didn’t get to go inside…it has key access and it’s not manned with a front desk staff…if you are in that building you check in and have breakfast at the main hotel.

More of arrival day to come...
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 05:47 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
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I'm having fun reading your report. I was in Rome the week after xmas. I'm positive I walked by your hotel several times (I was in the Ghetto, on the other side of the Largo Argentina). That hotel looks great for 100 euro per night!

And that' fantastic about the flight upgrade. What a great way to start your trip. I flew business for the first time on this trip as well (not a free upgrade, unfortunately) and I was like you- the flatbed was definitely more comfortable, but I still wasn't able to sleep. Better to be awake and comfy, though

Looking forward to reading more.
Apres_Londee is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 06:02 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 8,663

Welcome back. I've been enjoying all the Roman Holiday reports this year, especially as I was among the fortunate.

Looking forward to more of your adventures, dining notes and photos of course!

Your hotel sounds great for the price; thank you so much for the information.
Leely2 is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 06:08 PM
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Apree_Londee...I agree, the Hotel Smeraldo was a great deal...if they keep offering that rate I will continue to stay there when in Rome...not that I get there all that often!

Leely2...photos will be posted...I promise!

Now back to the rest of arrival day…

We had a game plan for this day and we were sticking to it! A little more background…last year when we went to Rome for Christmas, the day we arrived we had to wait until 1pm to check-in and we were going to take a "nap"…the next morning we woke up…can you say jet lag?? Probably not the smartest thing to do, so we had other plans for this trip!

Once we got to our room, it took all of what seemed like 20 seconds to jump under the covers for a nap…this time I set the alarm clock…we wanted to get up in the afternoon walk about a bit, have dinner and then go to sleep for the night at a normal hour. I love it when plans work out!

We were in blissful slumber in a real bed by 10:30am and we slept until about 4pm when we got up, and got ourselves together to go out and explore the area…one drawback to being in Rome in December/January…it gets dark around 4:30/5pm…but we weren’t going to let a little darkness stop us!

Our first stop was an ATM and again, the location of this hotel was great…there was an ATM one block away. We walked over to the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. This was a top priority for me because we did not get to go inside last year and I really wanted to see the interior of this church (that also becomes somewhat of a theme on this trip!) It was about 6pm and the church was open so we went in. I thought this church was just beautiful (but then again I said that a lot about the churches in Rome), we were there in the evening and didn’t get to go back during day light…would really like to see it with the light coming in the windows! The ceiling in the church is just stunning. Mass was being said in Latin and we stopped for a few minutes…it brought back a lot of memories for mom who was educated in Catholic schools all her life and she knows the Latin mass.

We left the church at about 6:45pm in search of a restaurant…I know, an early time by Italian standards, but we were just working off the scrambled egg breakfast from the plane, so we were getting hungry.

I had a lot of restaurant recommendations from various Fodors posts I had collected over the last couple years, but after the 3rd or 4th restaurant being closed (it was the day after Christmas) we stumbled upon a place we had been to last year called Trattoria der Pallaro at Largo del Pallaro, 15, just down the street from our hotel at.

This place has one set menu at €25 per person. As one Roman told us, “that place, you get what they want to serve you” . Every table gets the same thing, except you can choose between white or red wine. We had a carafe of white wine. The antipasti included lentils (which we loved last year, but seemed less spectacular this time around…not as much flavor, they tasted kind of “ho-hum”) , proscuitto, salami, olives, fried rice balls (can never remember the Italian name for them), and fennel. The pasta course was rigatoni with romano cheese and the secondi was roasted veal with spinach and mozzarella…it was all just ok…a decent meal that satisfied our hunger but didn’t overwhelm us with a “wow”. Dessert was a fruit tart that also had a peanut flavor and a shot of what we think was orangecello (do they make that,,,because it certainly didn’t taste like lemoncello!).

Since Der Pallaro doesn’t serve espresso after dinner and we like to end our meals with a good “cuppa”, we wandered over to my favorite café…Sant’Eustachio for the perfect cap to our arrival day in Rome.

Next up…the breakfast debacle…
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 06:35 PM
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You ask, I deliver. Here is the link to my Kodak Gallery photo album from this trip.

WARNING...there are 437 photos...view at your own risk!


LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 07:52 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 963

I wanted to let you know that I loved all of your pictures. I'm very impressed that you have them all captioned! Looks like you and your mom had a very nice time.

gracie04 is offline  
Jan 27th, 2009, 02:25 AM
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bookmarking for weekend reading, looks very interesting! thanks for posting.
marigross is offline  

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