The drive back to Rome from Florence was better than on the way. If you recall, I accidentally drive most of the way from Rome to Florence avoiding toll roads. Since I had to return the car back to Fiumicino Airport that day (no need for a car in Rome) and didn’t want to rush, we chose to just pay the tolls and the take the A1 the whole way. We got to Rome without much traffic and checked into our Airbnb before grabbing some pasta at a place recommended by our host. After dinner, T stayed at home while I took the car back to the airport, then caught an airport bus back to Roma Termini. I took advantage of the time alone to catch up on some podcasts.
Before this whole quitting-to-travel thing, I had an hour-long commute to work, which gave me plenty of time to keep current on a number of podcasts. You’d think that with all the travel time I have, it wouldn’t be a problem to keep up. The problem is that podcasts are perfect while driving because you can’t (or shouldn’t) read or watch stuff while driving. If I have downtime in a lounge or on a train/plane, I feel like I should spend that time doing something I can’t do on the move, like reading or watching things. That really just leaves walking but then I’m usually talking to whoever I’m walking with.
Our Airbnb was an apartment in the San Lorenzo neighborhood, which isn’t well known because it’s nowhere near the main tourist attractions. From the quick research I did before booking, I read that it was an up-and-coming area known for a hipster bar scene and restaurants that were popular with foodies. Since we’d both been to Rome and would just be doing casual sightseeing, we were okay with staying further away from the action and getting more of a local experience. It was also somehow only $60/night, while other Airbnbs/decent hotels in the city were all going for at least $100/night. Plus, it maintained a 5-star rating on Airbnb with over 100 stays, so we knew it had to be decent.
However, even after reading reviews that said not to be intimidated by the neighborhood at first sight, we second guessed our choice when making our way through the neighborhood the first night. It was dark outside by the time we arrived, and walking through San Lorenzo’s rundown, graffiti covered buildings wasn’t all that comforting. We were fine by the next day, when we saw families and kids walking around, and the next night, when we saw that most of the restaurants’ and bars’ patrons seemed to range from working professional-types to middle-aged couples.
The apartment itself was fine – not bad, not a 5-star hotel – but it was as advertised. I won’t waste your time with pictures, but if you want to see it, here’s the link. It did have a pretty tiny shower, and we had to duck when walking in the loft area where the bed was, but it was pretty spacious in other areas, having what amounted to two living rooms. We’d definitely stay in the area again, but would probably try out a different place.
My dad and step-mom arrived in Rome a couple days after we did with only 2 days to explore, so they took advantage of one of those hop-on hop-off tour buses. While they took the bus around, T and I did our own thing and met up with them for meals.
Even though we had a very relaxed attitude about re-visiting the major tourist attractions, we somehow still ended up going back to almost every single one. It was worth it, as we got some good pictures, plus we got to visit everything as a couple this time (please pretend that’s not as sappy as it sounds).
I mentioned it briefly in my post on Florence, but the lack of space between ancient sites and commercial buildings can be a bit ridiculous. Realizing that places like the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon have been surrounded by hotels and gelato shops almost makes it feel more like you’re in Las Vegas than in a city that was founded over 28 centuries ago.
Food and not food
Since we had 5 days of meals to eat, we decided to spend a couple meals on seeing what Rome’s international cuisine was like. So far we’d had good Chinese and good American-style hamburgers and wanted to see if we could find any other gems.
First, we tried a Vietnamese restaurant that, at first glance, appeared to be run by Vietnamese people. It was not. Best we could tell, it was Chinese-run, and the food was just okay. Wasn’t terrible, but I wouldn’t eat there again.
Later, we tried a Filipino restaurant near the Vatican. My dad and step-mom kept running into random Filipino people around the city and one of them suggested a Filipino restaurant near the Vatican to try. We were supposed to meet up with them for it, but it didn’t work out timing-wise. It did, however, give us the craving for some Filipino food, so we found another place to try, also near the Vatican. Unfortunately, it wasn’t great. The meat was overcooked and the “sunny-side-up egg” was more like a flat hard boiled egg. Might eat there again if I was dying for Filipino food, I guess.
The night before my dad and step-mom flew back home, we had one last meal together at…Wang Xiang Lou, the Chinese restaurant we found when we first flew into Rome. It was just as good as the first two times. I’m telling you, if you find yourself close to Roma Termini and are craving Asian food, go try this place out.
We still ate our fair share of Italian food, of course, and it was pretty much all good. The most interesting place we came across was a pizza-by-the-kilo place. Essentially, they have big square pizzas behind some glass, you tell them (or gesture) a rough idea of how much pizza you want, then they cut it out and weigh it for you.
The best all around place we tried (twice) was Pensavo Peggio. It was a 5-minute walk from our place and has a 4.5 bubble rating on TripAdvisor. The owner/manager is a young, friendly guy, and the service was great. They give everyone complimentary flutes of Prosecco, and during our second visit, his adorable maybe 8-year-old daughter helped bring out some of the dishes. Try them out next time you’re in Rome.
I recently learned that “arrivederci” is one of those farewells that means “until next time”, which is appropriate for us, as T and I definitely want to come back and stay for a while. We’ve only ever been north of Rome, so we’d like to visit more of southern Italy. Their two popular islands, Sardinia and Sicily, also look amazing, and we want to spend some time there, too.
We woke up early our last day in Rome and hopped on an airport shuttle bus headed down to Ciampino Airport, Rome’s other, smaller airport, to fly over to Marrakech, Morocco. We’d be staying in a riad, a traditional Moroccan hotel, in the Medina area of the city. We heard it could get a little hectic, but we learned first-hand that hectic is a bit of an understatement for much of this part of the city.