Buon Anno da Roma!
After a long haul back from the U.S. with one day of work in between, we had planned Rome a while back knowing our friends from Cali would also be in Europe again this New Year’s Eve. We had met them for the first time at New Year’s in Barcelona and it was amazing catching up again. To top it off, our friends from DC decided to join in during their Europe tour too, as well as a good friend from Stuttgart. We were a full house of friends, figuratively speaking, coming together to meet for the first time across the pond in Rome, Italy. How cool is that.
It was the first time in visiting the city for some and a repeat for others so during the day for the most part we ventured out and about doing our own thing. Day one, following much time wasted with a super annoying hotel debacle (thank you for correcting it Travelocity) we met at The Pantheon, a former Roman temple in the city center that is free to enter with a huge dome ceiling and detailed architecture all around. The best part about Rome is there are ruins everywhere you look. It is really miraculous how such large structures have made it with such detail remaining, from centuries ago to today. Every time you visit Rome you will find something new to see.
It would not be Italy without something we planned, not going as planned. Before arrival, the hotel messaged us asking about our check-in time since reception isn’t 24 hours (normal). In the message, they also gave us the address to check-in to the hotel when we arrive. Upon arrival, we took a taxi to the location to find it was not a hotel but an apartment/office building with no check-in or markings on the door buzzers (odd but still not that odd for Italy). The hotel, who had been in great contact with us up to arrival had suddenly stopped responding to messages, so we called – no answer (this is not normal now). After waiting about 30 min, we called Travelocity to see if they could reach them, they could not. While on the phone with them to see what our options were, an hour later, a friend of the hotel owner shows up to check us in (she was very nice, did not speak English, which for us is not an issue, but image if we were customers who didn’t understand Italian, it would have been even more of a nightmare) . At this point, we confirmed with Travelocity that this location was not connected with the hotel we booked, we were about 2 km away, which is about a 30 min walk from the area we reserved and paid for. The friend is immediately able to reach the hotel owner (surprise, surprise) and the owner yells at us for being ungrateful for not wanting to accept this alternate accommodation since the hotel we had booked was now full and they had no place else for us to stay. We should be happy to have this apartment, they said, “you do not know Roma!”
Ok, now we are officially in Italy, and sorry for them, I speak enough Italian to get by, and have family in Italy, so yes, I am not from Rome, but I am also not stupid. After several extremely frustrating calls, due to connection/disconnection, with Travelocity, we managed to book an alternate hotel and they were very understanding about it. It was the connection that really made the process tough. The hotel we were moved to was in the original area we had booked. We could walk to pretty much everything major including the areas our friends were staying, all within 10 minutes.
We will definitely recommend the Hotel Quirinale. It was the best stay we could have asked for, the service was wonderful, room was quiet and clean and historic in a good way, plus they have hotel to airport transfers that cost the same flat rate as a taxi – too easy. We will be back.
Taxis: Do NOT go with any of the taxi/car people inside the airport. Go outside to the taxi line to be put into a white cab with a flat rate/no meter to the city center. It was about 48 euro one way total with the rate listed on the outside door of the car, NOT per person as some of the illegal car people will say. Uber was not available in the app from what we could tell, then later we saw a sign saying it is illegal in Italy? Within the city, anywhere we wanted to go was about 10 bucks so not bad at all.
Train travel is also great in Rome, however being a holiday weekend, the holiday schedule is not as easy, so we walked and cabbed it everywhere with no issue. DO NOT count on any cabs the day/night of NYE. Plan to walk. From the airport, the train is also possible to the city center, but it takes about an hour or so.
After the Pantheon and a bar or two the first night, day two we spent making our way from our hotel which was next to Piazza della Repubblica to the first Roman bath ruins of Diocletian (Terme di Diocleziano), and Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. The church was designed by, and houses paintings of Michelangelo. From there we wound our way down to the always over crowded Trevi Fountain for selfies, then stopping everywhere along the way to end in Piazza Navona where a food market was going on. From there, we walked over to Trestevere for a beer before heading back to change for the NYE festivities.
Go to all of them for good varieties of regional craft beer. #2 is the only one without food and is located in Trestevere just over the bridge. The other two are near main attractions in the center.
We were in the mood for pizza a lot this trip for some reason, but the best we had, despite the more expensive price, was hands down Piccolo Buco.
The best cheap restaurant with good house wine and pasta and homemade Tiramisu was Taverna del Seminario near the Pantheon.
Eataly was ok, and was near the hotel for coffee the next day, but unlike NYC and Firenze, we were not impressed with the food as much.
New Year’s Eve in Rome
With no plans other than getting to the Colosseum for fireworks, we looked up restaurants and clubs but decided to wing it. Fortunately, our friends are fabulous and decided to wing it too, and throw a party at their place with nibbles.
After spending the day walking around visiting new and old tourist stops, we attempted to nap, then rally for the night out. Now starving, there were a few restaurants open in the area that we tried to grab dinner in before heading to our friends apartment. After 40 minutes of “another 5 minutes” wait, we grabbed pizzas to-go at Strega (thank the Lord they were open with both seating and take-out service, plus they were really, really nice).
Our friends had the perfect loft setup for a fun gathering. A couple we met at a bar the night before from Ireland joined us too. Just before midnight, we walked up to the Colosseum where there was the anticipated crowd, plus cars parking every which way in the center of the streets for a view. At the strike of midnight, we wait for it, and nothing…
If you think the photos of the fireworks over the Colosseum are normal at NYE, apparently they are no more. The Mayor had banned fireworks in the city, but then the ban was revoked. Apparently, no one got the message. There were a few fireworks in the crowds which were great, plus floating lanterns from the top of a nearby building, but overall, the big show we were all expecting, did not happen. Disappointing. However, it was one of the best NYE ever. The best new and old friends, the best food, wine, prosecco, a car that died covered in glitter rolled down the hill then came back to life, and the luck of the Irish with us that night.
At 3 a.m., we ventured out again because La Festa di Roma at the bridges begins from 3:30 a.m. into the evening of New Year’s Day. We didn’t make that far to the Piazza or the bridges to take part, we ended up wondering back by the ruins of the Roman Forum with no people but us in sight. It was a great walk back to the hotel, and a good, unproductive, fun and exhausting New Year’s Eve.
Next year, we are London. Who’s in?
View the photos here.
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