Waking up in Italy is a treat in itself; however, waking up knowing you were headed to a place you have only read about in books and seen in movies adds so much more to the excitement. As we journeyed further south to Rome, we made a mid-morning stop in Assisi, a quaint little town in the Province of Perugia in the Umbria region. Pulling off the main highway to follow the winding road upwards to this tiny hillside village and legendary basilica of St. Francis (of Assisi) - the patron Saint of Nature (you might know him as the patron Saint of Animals). Although we didn't get to take any photos inside the basilica (you can look these up on Google), it was one of the most beautiful and memorable places I've ever visited. Untouched by time and the modern hustle and bustle of a major city, Assisi oozed with charm. We had a light lunch and did a little shopping and then resumed the road trip down to Roma! Click any image below to enlarge and view through.
I fell in love with Rome the second I laid eyes on it. I always knew I would - ever since I saw Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday on a random Saturday morning with my dad as a kid. Rome was my favorite part of our entire trip - not just because of the sheer size of it, but because of it's beautiful, yet sordid history as well as its hypnotic energy.
We arrived in Rome late Wednesday evening and TJ and I made a quick trip to the Roman Forum and Colosseum at night just before dinner. I got even more excited that we would be getting a private tour in the daylight within the trip - so I took the night views as a teaser.
On Thursday morning we woke early to ensure our spot in line for the Vatican City, which is the most ornate and mysteriously fascinating place I've ever been to. We made our way through the Vatican Museum and then through St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's Square - with eyes of awe and a humbled heart.
With a lunch break just off the piazza with the iconic Trevi Fountain and a gelato in hand, we waited for our walking tour of all the Piazza's and Fountains in Rome, my favorite piazza being the steps at the Piazza di Spagna (otherwise known as the Spanish Steps) and the Piazza Navonna (known for it's stylish boutiques and local faire). That evening we were exhausted, but were willing to have some foodie adventures nearby to our hotel.
The following day was off to another early start, beginning with a stroll down to the Roman Forum, one of the most interesting places in the world to me. Getting to see the rich history of the world (not just the Italian people) was immensely interesting as well overwhelming. I love that I can now say that I saw where Caesar met with the Senate, where he was stabbed, cremated, and where he ran his empire before all of that. The Colosseum brought back all the memories of one of my favorite movies with Russell Crowe, Gladiator. Are you not entertained?!?! Our tour guide walked us through the architectural layout of the structure as well as some of the gruesome tales associated with its history. If you are ever in Rome, you won't be able to pass this up, so make sure you pay the extra money to work with a tour guide OR download the mobile application for Rick Steve's Audio Europe to listen to as you walk through. SO worth it.
After seeing Rome's ancient history, it was time to take a foodie break and make our way to Trastevere, a sub-neighborhood outside the main metropolis to eat at Roma Sparita. This place is a local, family owned establishment first made famous by Anthony Bourdain's first trip to Rome. They're known for their Cacio e Pepe, which is a simple pasta dish where spaghettis is tossed in pasta water, butter, Pecorino cheese and black pepper. Simple as it may be, it's one of the most complicated and delicious flavors I've ever tasted in my life. Along with the pasta, we ordered their house gnocchi with clams, crispy artichoke, risotto ball and fried zucchini flowers. Top it all off with wine, a chocolate soufflé with hazelnut gelato and limoncello - it instantly became my favorite meal ever.