My husband and I decided to buck tradition this holiday season, and instead of racing around the country trying to visit every branch of our family tree we flew to Italy and spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s in Rome. Our trip wasn’t as spur-of-the-moment as it sounds…my husband proposed at the Pantheon, and ever since our wedding in 2002 we’ve been saying we would go back to celebrate our 10th anniversary. With grad school, work, and travel plans already filling up the coming year, we decided it was now or never. It was a great choice–not only did we take advantage of off-season pricing, but we discovered that winter is a great time to visit the Eternal City. Now that I’ve had a couple of weeks to catch up at home and the office, I’ll spend the next few blog posts sharing the highlights.
I first need to give props to our hotel, the Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese. We landed at Leonardo da Vinci airport at 7:11 am after a very long flight and, even though we arrived at the hotel way before check-in time, our room was ready. They even upgraded us to a corner room with three windows overlooking the gardens across the street. (“Our Christmas present to you,” said the attendant at the front desk.) The decor was elegant yet comfortable, and the lobby had a hint of old-Hollywood glamour with sparkling chandeliers, rich wooden bookcases, and dramatic black and white photos on the walls. A breakfast buffet was available each day, but at 30 euros per person it was pricy. Most mornings we opted to order a la carte or grab the complimentary breakfast-on-the-go (croissants, apples, and bottled water with a news summary available in English, Italian, or French). The new rooftop restaurant, La Tarrasse, had fabulous views of the city skyline and St. Peter’s Cathedral, and it was the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine after a day of sightseeing.
When I think of Rome, the first thing that comes to mind is the juxtaposition of ancient and modern. I love seeing legions of Smart Cars zipping past the Colosseum. Wandering the narrow streets, it’s amazing to see so many Italian women navigating the cobblestones in sky-high heels. And tourists use smart phones to snap pictures of historic monuments like the famous Fontana de Trevi (Trevi Fountain) and the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps). In December, the city was decorated for the season, with lights strung between buildings, store windows filled with gift displays, and a huge decorated tree next to the Colosseum.
The first day, we focused on the ruins. We started at the Colosseum and then spent hours wandering around Palatine Hill, where the city of Rome originated in 753 B.C., and The Roman Forum, where the monuments have curious, magical names like the Arch of Septimius Severus and the Temple of Vesta. The weather was perfect — sunny with a clear blue sky and temperatures in the 50s — and the crowds were much smaller than the last time we had visited, in the peak tourist month of June. It was the perfect beginning to the week.