Country #34

Country #34 - Italy Day 2

The Touristy Spots

After doing Vatican City earlier in the day today, I then spent the second half of my day exploring Rome a little more. I walked from Vatican City to the bridge past Ponte Sant’Angelo, Ponte Umberto I. Ponte Umberto I actually has the best view to take a picture of the Tiber and the Vatican from. I walked through a little market on my way there, and after crossing I made my way to Giolitti. Giolitti is located right by the hotel that I stayed at on my first trip to Rome four years ago so I went for sentimental reasons, but regardless it is definitely one of the top places to get gelato for a reason. It’s pretty fantastic gelato and the atmosphere inside is really unique and worth seeing.


Gelato in hand, I then made my way to some of the main tourist spots in Rome. Piazza Navona was my first stop. This is my favorite square in Rome and honestly is probably that for most people. It has a great vibe and there are always things to see. Personally, I like walking in the small church, Sant’Agnese in Agone. I sat and ate my gelato and just people watched for a while before heading to my next stop, the Pantheon.

There was a long line to enter the Pantheon, but it moved so quickly. Like, I was inside within two minutes. That didn’t stop two separate attempts by people to break me in line! I refused both attempts, but two of the guys just went behind me. They were Americans giving us a bad name, and I gave them a look throughout the visit. If you can’t wait two minutes in line then I think that’s a problem. The other would be line breaker (also American) thankfully went to the end of the line. I guess maybe I just look like an easy person to break in line in front of, but that’s not going to happen on my watch!

The Pantheon is interesting, but as it was my second visit it was definitely a quick walkthrough, as there is not a ton to see. Afterwards, I walked to the infamous Trevi Fountain. I found a spot to sit for a bit and, once again, just enjoy the fountain. I made sure to throw in three coins as is tradition, and it’s a good thing that I did - it means I’ll definitely make my way back to Rome someday!

If you were wondering, all of these stops are within really close walking distance to each other, so thankfully I was not running myself silly all over the city. My last stop before dinner was the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps, while not super exciting in theory, are one of my favorite things to see in Rome. They are beautiful and an amazing place to just sit and watch the city. The view from the top is great, and I just really love the vibe that I get when I’m there. After sitting for a bit I made my way to the top of the steps to take the metro to dinner.

I was going to try another one of the top rated pizza places in Rome, but unfortunately, I failed to realize that it was a national holiday until I arrived. This meant that, even though it was a summer month and Rome was filled with tourists, almost every restaurant was closed for dinner, which was obviously not ideal. I ended up walking back to Trastevere, but it felt completely different to how it felt yesterday. Yesterday it was lively and filled with tons of people, but today I struggled to find an open restaurant.

I eventually found a spot (after tons of walking) and ordered, of course, a Margherita pizza. It was really tasty, but the best part of dinner was making a new friend! Sitting at the table next to me was a man from Chicago. We talked about all sorts of things including my trip, his work in the music industry, and travel in general. It was a super interesting conversation and I really enjoyed it! After a longer than expected dinner, I then walked back along the Tiber towards the Vatican. I found an open gelato shop, L’arena Sto Gelato, but it is not one that I would recommend. The size was much too small for the price compared to much better spots in Rome! However, it was still gelato, so I wasn’t too disappointed.

I made my way back to Hearth Hotel for a good night’s sleep before an early flight back to the U.S. tomorrow!

The Travel Nightmare

Today started off like any other early travel day, but it quickly turned into a mess. I made my way to the Rome Airport (FCO) by taking the train from Roma Termini, where I would be flying on a family pass (non-rev) back to the United States on American Airlines. The flight had plenty of open seats, so it should not have been a problem. Easier said than done, however. In an earlier blog, I talked about how flying on a pass can be either a blessing or a curse, and today was the epitome of the curse.

With all of the open seats, myself and all of the other non-revs were waiting to be issued our boarding passes. However, they never called our names. Instead, after many questions and much confusion, we learned that they would not be allowing us on a flight (that has over 30 open seats) due to a weight restriction. I have flown a lot on passes throughout my life, but this was a brand new one to me and everyone else who was flying.

The worst part, though, was that they would not switch us to any of the other U.S. bound flights that were leaving at around the same time, and wouldn’t seat us if we switched ourselves. It was insane and unlike anything I had ever encountered. Left without any options, it looked like I would be waiting to fly out until tomorrow.

By this point, it was around noon, and it would be really expensive and complicated to go back to Rome for another day. Luckily, in the new international terminal, the Rome Airport has a ton of comfy chairs and even a couch. After a few hours, I decided to stay in the airport and work and try to spend the night there. I was joined by two fellow non-revs who were about my age who decided to the same. This worked out really well because we could watch each other's things when one of us wanted to walk around.

I worked for a while, walked around the airport for a bit, found pizza and gelato for dinner, and then made my way back to try and sleep for the night. We were worried that eventually, they would kick us out, but amazingly it never happened. I decided to sleep on the couch and actually slept quite a bit. Other than the sound of the TVs and the cleaning crews there was nothing to disturb us as we were literally at one point the only people in the terminal.

After a better than expected night’s sleep I made my way to my new gate and boarded within an hour of waking up. The best part about the entire conundrum was that I was able to get a business class seat on the flight back home. So I went from being entirely messed up by flying on a pass to having one of the best seats on the plane in twenty-four hours. Literally a blessing and a curse. I slept a few more solid hours on the plane before arriving in Chicago where I had a few hour delay before finally flying to Birmingham.

It was a very long two days of travel, but it could have always been much worse. I had an incredible time in Italy and am looking forward to having a few days to rest before leaving again for Europe!

35 countries down, 161 to go.

Read about my first day in Italy here.

Read about my day in Vatican City here.

To learn more about Hearth Hotel click here.

Country #34 - Italy Day 1

The Food

It was a great (albeit hot) day in Italy! Italy is, and always will be, one of my favorite countries in the world. There are so many unique cities (I love Venice, Florence, and Milan) and so much amazing food to eat. I could literally eat pizza and gelato from Italy for every meal of every day and not get tired of it. Other than the U.K., Italy is probably the foreign country that I have spent the second most amount of time in, and with very good reason.

Today lived up to my standard for another great day in Italy. I have been to Rome before, but it has been four years since my initial visit, and last year I only transited through. I’m really looking forward to seeing a few new sights, but also to revisiting many places that I have been to before. The Colosseum, for example, will never get old. I’m also going to spend more time at places that I quickly walked through last time, which I’m looking forward to.

I started the morning off with breakfast at Hearth Hotel. I then headed to Mass at the Vatican! I’m not Catholic, but I wanted to see the Pope so I made my way over. It was very crowded. I arrived about thirty minutes early and waited in line for security. Once I was in Mass started right away. It was entirely in Italian, but it was really cool to see the Pope! He was in a tiny window and very far away, but it was definitely him! It was over within ten minutes but it was a really cool experience if you are ever in Rome on a Sunday.

I started the morning off with breakfast at Hearth Hotel. I then walked to St. Angelo Bridge to make my way to the other side of town. It is a hot day, but it’s still definitely worth walking everywhere to really enjoy the city. The bridge sits directly in front of Castel Sant’Angelo, which I have been to before and am not visiting again, but I highly recommend. From there I walked through Centro Storico, one of my favorite parts of Rome. The buildings are old and historic and it looks exactly how you would expect Rome to look. In Centro Storico I grabbed my first gelato of the day at Frigidarium. It was highly recommended by my hotel, and I think I have a new favorite gelato place in Rome. It was so good! You get great value for your money, and they dip your gelato in chocolate for free! I definitely enjoyed my strawberry, lemon, and chocolate cone.

From Frigidarium I then made my way towards the Colosseum. I walked in a beautiful church, as well as past the Largo di Torre Argentina ruins, and the Altare della Patria building. I have visited Altare della Patria before, which has an amazing view on the roof that I highly recommend! The sun was absolutely killer, and it wa over one hundred degrees today, so the walk was pretty brutal, but definitely enjoyable as well. It’s hard to be upset about the weather (or anything for that matter) when you’re in Italy. I really appreciated how in Rome there are lots of places to refill your water bottle, because it definitely came in handy today.


When I got to the Colosseum I walked around and took pictures for a little while before heading inside. Yes I’ve been before, but like I said earlier, it’s a place that to me will never get old. There was a line for tickets but thankfully it moved pretty quickly. You can buy them online ahead of time, but I completely forgot until it was too late. Once inside I got an audio guide which I actually really enjoyed. It was nice because I could find a spot in the shade to listen to it, then walk in the sun again, stop and listen, and on and on. I walked around / sat and listened / marveled for about two hours before heading across the street to the Forum.


The forum is a really unique spot that you definitely shouldn’t miss. The entire area is huge, and although I had been before I feel like last time I didn’t see most of what all there was to see. I took my time and tried to see everything. The ruins are fascinating and there are many great views to be had of the Forum itself as well as of Rome and the Colosseum from inside. After spending another two hours in the Forum and staying until closing time, I then made my way towards dinner.

On my way I walked past Circus Maximus only because it was on my way. It’s probably the most disappointing sight in Rome if you go in having any sort of high expectation, which you shouldn’t. It is literally just a field that you walk by on the side of the road. The walk took about thirty minutes as I headed to the Trastevere area. I had done a lot of research on the best pizza places in Rome (of course) and tonight I decided to try Pizzeria Nerone. Man, was it a good decision. It was one of the best pizzas I have ever had! The restaurant itself was really small and quintessential Italian. The Margherita pizza was just so good, I definitely recommend it!


After dinner I had another thirty minute walk. This time, it was along the River Tiber. It was about 9pm, but Rome is always so lively that I have never felt unsafe here. I really enjoyed walking along the water because the views are amazing, especially once you get closer to Castel Sant’Angelo and The Vatican. After the long walk I was ready for my second gelato of the day! I tried Old Bridge Gelateria which was really close to The Vatican and Hearth Hotel. It was my second great gelato of the day!

When I got back to the hotel I met the owner, Guido. He was so cool and I loved talking with him about travel. At this point, he has been to more countries than me! I love that he turned his love for travel into such a warm and welcoming hotel. He told me he hopes that one day I can help someone like he helped me, which I hope to do!

By the time I got to my room my feet were dead and I was so tired, but it was all around an amazing day. I am really looking forward to day two tomorrow, as well as my time in Vatican City!

34 countries down, 162 to go.

Read about my day in Vatican City here.

Read about my second day in Italy here.

To learn more about Hearth Hotel click here.