Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Two Day Roman Holiday

Just returned from a fantastic trip to Vienna and Budapest a few days ago, so now I'm going to share some pictures from our Thanksgiving trip to Rome. Makes no sense, but it's been kind of a whirlwind here between travel and general holiday chaos (including a mad dash to get everything wrapped and shipped to the States before the postal service deadline), so it is what it is. 

Our trip to Rome, like many great ideas, was born out of some boozy, wine-induced conversations with friends about renting a villa over the Thanksgiving holiday. We decided on Rome since some of us had never been, not been in a while, or really...why not go to Rome? There's history, culture, art, architecture, and if you're not into any of that, there's always the great food and wine. Somehow we managed to actually coordinate 4 families (8 adults and 5 littles) for a 4 day trip. It was a Friendsgiving/Thanksgiving/Thanksgivukkah miracle. 

Graham fell into the never-been-to-Rome category, while I had been years before during my semester abroad. I can be a little fussy about revisiting locations, but for Rome, I was happy to make an exception. Our compromise was that he got to plan two days in the city seeing all the typical sights and I got one day to do something outside of the city, preferably dedicated to food and/or wine (more on that later).

Our two days in Rome were essentially a greatest hits tour. Rome has so much to see, but also so many things you can't miss, that it's impossible to do it all. But as far as the top "must see" places, we felt like we came close. We were up early every day (each family decided to do their own thing during the first couple days, then get together for dinner at the villa) and were able to see a lot of the city. Here are the places that made the 2-day list:

Borghese Gallery

Our first stop was my suggestion. The Borghese Gallery is a relatively small, but impressive, collection of ancient Roman, Renaissance, and Baroque art housed inside the Villa Borghese.

I love this small museum (seriously, it's the perfect dose of art - in fact, tickets are only sold in 2 hour blocks) and it was a highlight of my first trip to Rome. It contains several absolutely stunning Bernini sculptures, which I consider to be some of the most beautiful in the world (sorry, Michelangelo). Apollo and Daphne is a heart-stopper for me and I'm not normally that moved by marble sculpture. It will impress even the most disinterested of viewers, I guarantee. 

To top off the experience, the villa is surrounded by a park, which is the perfect sanctuary from the surrounding bustle of Rome. It's fun to imagine being a Roman and taking strolls with Cora and Chloe through such a pretty green space.


The Borghese Gallery was my top choice and this was Graham's. We opted for the tour that includes access to the underground and top levels. 

The tour was completely worth it, as we were able to see the Colosseum from areas that other general entry tickets couldn't, which also meant getting away from the crowds, and had great views over the Palatine Hill and Forum. Not to mention, our tour guide was interesting and informative.

Roman Forum

We continued the ancient Rome theme with a stroll through the forum.

The Pantheon

In keeping with the theme, the 2000-year old Pantheon was our next stop. 

Piazza Navona

This was our last stop of the first day before heading back to the villa. Vendors were just setting up for a Christmas market and it was interesting to see one of Rome's most iconic piazzas sharing its space with a carousel. 

St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums

No trip to Rome is complete without these two stops. We had pre-purchased tickets to the Museums, so getting in to see the Sistine Chapel was relatively easy, but we were stunned by how many people were lined up to enter the basilica. Luckily, it moved quickly (I had started to get a little flustered that we were going to have to give up) and we were inside the massive interior of St. Peter's.

There's really no way to describe how cavernous, yet perfectly proportioned and balanced, this space is. You are completely dwarfed;  it is truly awe-inspiring (and this is coming from a decidedly non-Catholic).

Graham with Michelangelo's Pieta. It is gorgeous, but I always think it's an interesting experience when you see a piece of famous art in person. When you see its image in pictures, you aren't aware of all the security measures, like bullet-proof glass and railings, or the fact that there is constantly a giant crowd of people jostling to get a look. The Mona Lisa is another perfect example of this.

Who doesn't love a man in a (funky) uniform?

Trevi Fountain

We had to ensure our next trip to Rome, of course. It worked for me last time, although it took the coin 11 years...

Piazza di Spagna

A quick pass by the Spanish Steps as the sun was setting was the end to our 2nd day.

So, there you have it. Our two day Rome itinerary. It's pretty standard and straightforward, but that didn't take away from the experience at all. These places are visited over and over (and the same ubiquitous images captured in photographs) with good reason. From ancient Rome to the Renaissance and beyond, this city contains some of the world's most iconic sights. 

Sometimes you have to embrace being a tourist. I loved every second of it!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Post-Thanksgiving Post

*I've realized that as much as I love sharing my travels and experiences through this blog, real life will always trump writing and posting, as long those things remain one hobby amongst many priorities, interests, and loves. Whether times are good or bad, and I've had large shares of both recently, it's more important for me to be present in the current moment, rather than sacrificing precious time to write about (and review, edit, and tweak) my past experiences. So, there you go, my somewhat vague justification for disappearing from the internet at random. I'll try my best to catch up and you can usually check in with me on Instagram (meghannbg).*

A couple things in the (very!) good times category:

We hosted a Friendsgiving potluck at our casa for 25 amigos. There weren't any elaborate tablescapes and barely enough chairs, but there was plenty of food (everything from gazpacho to cole slaw to pumpkin pie to jello with bananas), a fully stocked bar, and excellent company. Combining the best of both worlds, we deep-fried a fresh turkey from the carnicerĂ­a.

Friendsgiving was followed by a trip to Rome for the Thanksgiving holiday. We rented a villa just outside the city with a group of friends and their peques. Instead of turkey, we had gnocchi and in general, a fabulous holiday getaway, filled with equal parts sightseeing and indulging.

One small snag (well, along with a stomach flu that took out half our group for a day, yuck) was that there was no wifi at the villa, so here are just a few phone snaps that I was unable to share in real time.

I'd say that if your biggest problem during the holiday is a lack of internet at your Roman villa, you have much to be thankful for, and I certainly am grateful for so much, despite some very difficult times this year. It's a wonderful thing when friends can get together wherever they are to celebrate a holiday and feel like family.

I'll have more Rome pics to share (and more Baltic roadtrip recaps) soon!

Hope you all had wonderful Friendsgivings, Thanksgivings, and Thanksgivukkahs!