I would recommend the Hotel Modigliani, which had been recommended to us by friends. It's a great location, very central, and although our room was tiny (by American standards) we had a balcony looking out to the hotel's back patio, where jasmine and citrus grew, scenting the air. The hotel has a good breakfast room and the staff were incredibly nice.
I would also recommend taking a walk to the Trevi Fountain, tossing in a coin (to insure your return to Rome) before making your way up the Spanish Steps. If you happen to do this at dusk when the light on the city is magical, all the better. Sure these are on every 'top things to see in Rome' list, and for good reason! Order an Aperol spritz or an espresso and do a little people watching.
make reservations for a tour of the formerly not accessible lower and upper levels. This tour is amazing! You're taken to the lower level, which use to be under the Colosseum floor. Slaves, gladiators, animals, etc. were kept here and brought up using dumb waiter style apparatus'. It's awe-inspiring standing there, looking up and out of the stadium's walls.
The only way to enter the Sistine Chapel is to go through the Vatican museum, but the museum is really interesting so it's hardly a bother. We picked a few rooms to explore along the way and soon we were stepping into the (not)peaceful chapel.
Once we had sufficiently crooked our necks, inspecting all the intricate paintings, the Rick Steve's guide proved itself again by directing us to a "tours only" exit which is a short cut to St Peter's Cathedral. No one stopped us or asked which tour we were a part of, and in minutes we were inside the cathedral, again skipping multiple hour long queues.
May 21, 2011? Hilarity ensued.
I wish I had more recommendations on dining in Rome but I have always found that the big foodie cities of the world require careful planning or they can end up serving you the most banal meals. We had researched, made lists, etc. but the city is huge and without knowing for sure where we'd be at any given time, our lists were a bust.
Drinks were easy to come by anywhere; Aperol spritz, beer, wine, martinis, no problem.
Our best meal was a lunch we had after visiting the Vatican. We hopped in a cab and sped over to La Campana restaurant, which is one of the oldest in Rome. The interior was cold and boring but the food was amazing!
Fried artichokes, fried zucchini flowers, pasta with truffles... we all loved it!
And of course we had pizza at Forno in the Campo di Fiorini one afternoon. The bianci was good, the mushroom was better. But I would have happily just grazed the market that was going on instead.
And on our last night we fancied it up and dined at the Michelin starred Mirabelle. The food was good, none of us were blown away, but the view was amazing. We had a table on the balcony, overlooking part of the city for sunset. The air was heavy with jasmine and the whole thing felt very over the top!
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