City Break - Rome Day 1

I did wonder for a while whether I should post about our trip away (you may have seen my pics on Instagram last week), after all, I'm not a 'travel blogger'. In fact, as someone who has only been abroad once in the last 7 years (for my honeymoon) it'd be almost laughable for me to hope to impart much wisdom at all.
However, despite travel not being my particular blogging 'niche', I wanted to share our quick couple's getaway to Rome with you. It was a bit of a parenting challenge: balancing the delight of being 'child-free', the anxiety of travelling, the excitement of discovering somewhere new and missing the children, but it was well worth the effort. Read on for a glimpse into our mini-Roman adventure.

(Or just take a look at the photos, I won't be offended)

For booking the holiday we used the services of Martin at SW13 Travel who had previously organised our honeymoon back in 2011. Since then, both Matt and I have worked with him a few times and he recently helped with Matt's business trip to San Francisco. After we told him what we wanted he got back to us quickly with different options and was able to find us a really good deal on flights, hotel and transfers.

To maximise the time we had in the city, we took an early flight with Ryanair from Stanstead to Ciampino and jumped on the transfer bus to Termini in the city centre, arriving at our hotel just after midday.

Hotel Artemide was easy to find and central to most of Rome's major attractions. The concierge at the Reception desk was charming, knowledgeable and extremely helpful. Our room was small but luxurious and everything was to a very high standard. The hotel also had a restaurant and rooftop bar and a spa which we could use with a 50% discount.

After checking in on our first day we used google maps to help us make our way to the Hard Rock Cafe which we had booked using Expedia for a 2-course set menu at only £17 each. It might not be very Italian but we booked before we travelled and were happy to just have at least one meal taken care of, saving us the stress of trying to decide on somewhere to eat just after arriving. I have to say, the food was really good and we ate enough pizza, pasta and gelato over the next two days to feel like we didn't miss out on traditional cuisine.

Matt was a big fan of the chocolate brownie dessert. Declaring it one of the best he'd ever tasted and finishing off mine when I was full to bursting.

From the Hard Rock Cafe it was a quick and easy walk to the Spanish Steps and shopping district. A perfect opportunity to check out the designer shops, boutiques and the small but impressive Alberto Sordi

We booked the trip in the summer before I left work and so saving for our trip was frantic and in the end we had to work to a tighter budget than we first thought. We were lucky that Rome has so many 'sights' to visit that don't cost a penny and the most fun we had was just exploring the city on foot and soaking up the atmosphere. The Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain were very close together and so we were able to do a lot in just a few hours.

As you would expect, the Trevi Fountain was very busy (I'd recommend visiting early in the day if you don't like the crowds) yet impressive. Before seeing it I think Matt was of the opinion that it was 'just a fountain' but, like everything we discovered in Rome, the scale was astounding. We liked it so much that we returned on the morning of our last day, just to take another look.

The streets directly around the fountain are touristy - and I love that! The shops there were (alas) more suited to our budget constraints and were interspersed with busy restaurants and colourful gelaterias. 

We made our way back to the hotel easily enough and after a welcome drink on the hotel's roof terrace bar we ventured into the Eternal City at night and made our way to the Colosseum.

I visited Rome for the first time over 15 years ago and returning has been on my wish list ever since. It's something I always wanted to do with Matt because Roman history is a particular area of interest for him and there was so much about the city that I loved and wanted to share with him. Because of this, we knew the Colosseum would be the highlight of our visit and we were both excited to see it lit up at night.

We were not disappointed.

Finding it was easy using the map given to us at check in. We were able to make our way around and I felt confident and happy walking the streets, even in the dark - quite a marvel for me.

Our only moment of discontent happened near the entrance to the Colosseum which still felt quite dark - we were approached by a man in a dreadful (I'm a re-enactor remember, I know what a good costume looks like) Gladiator outfit who wanted us to have our picture taken with him. He wouldn't take know for an answer, even going so far as putting the helmet on Matt's head and snatching at my phone to take a selfie. It was dreadfully awkward and then he demanded 10 Euros. Embarrassed and terribly British I paid up. I regret being too polite to walk away. The photos were rubbish too.

Anyways... the Colosseum itself was stunning, the ruins nearby were lit up and beautiful and I loved it. It was exactly the type of magical experience you want to have when you visit Rome.

Walking back to our hotel, the streets were full of hidden delights. Restaurants, lots of boutiques and shops full of curiosities and a gorgeous little place selling macarons and gelato. It was hard deciding where to eat as everywhere looked nice and I found I didn't want to make a decision in case we found somewhere even better after our meal... I can be like that sometimes. It drives Matt crazy.

Finally, pleased that we'd found the perfect place to fill our rumbling tummies I tried my first (and last) aperol spritz (was not my thing, it's been added to the same category as gin) and tucked in to an amazing pizza. Matt bravely picked a 'green apple juice' which arrived looking like something brewed by the Wicked Witch of the East but tasted delicious.

It had been a long day. We'd left Matt's parent's home at 2am and the flight had been delayed for a short time before take off, it may only have 9pm but it felt an awful lot later and so I feel justified in telling you that we were tucked up and snoring our heads off early that first night!

I'll be finishing off this post tomorrow where you can read all about our adventures on Day 2 and Day 3- we packed in an awful lot over a few days! So if you'd like to read more, you can do find part two here.

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