Roaming Around Rome – Day 2

After an exhausting first day of hitting all the sites in Rome, we had another full day.  Our sleeper train to Sicily didn’t leave until 11pm so we had a lot of time to fill.   Side note, I have a separate post about the night train experience.

We treated ourselves to a bit of a sleep in i.e. we got up around 830, instead of 6 as we had been for the last 3 days!  We had a lovely breakfast in our hotel, cappuccinos, local meats and cheese and fresh bread.

We sadly checked out and left our bags with the hotel to start our second day of seeing the sites!

Our big planned adventure for the day was the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Forum.  We bought time entry tickets months before to skip the long line.  Do this! Seriously! The line up to get in the Colosseum was crazy long! Your timed ticket is good for entry into any of the 3 sites at that time, and you can visit the other ones in the same 24 hours.

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Next up was Palatine Hill, a much more chill experience.  Much more room to wander without other people jammed in your space.  TIP: Palatine Hill has the shortest entry line – It seems like people skip Palatine Hill, and only do the Colosseum and Roman Forum if they’re short on time.  And once you’re in, you can effortlessly pop into the Forum without having to go back outside and wait in yet another line.

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And finally, we ended with a visit to the Roman Forum.

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All in, I think we spent about 3 hours wandering all 3 sites, with most of our time spent in Palatine Hill.  We really enjoyed it the most and that was due to less tourists shoving up into our business.  Oh and the shade!

We worked off our breakfast and were ready to eat, so we headed over to Roscioli for our lunch.  We had made reservations ahead of time, which I strongly recommend you do as well.  It was crazy busy and people were being turned away.  We picked to sit downstairs in the wine cellar, which I think only tourists do, but it was nice to be away from the front door which was super crowded and most likely a very annoying dining experience.

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Shawn enjoying some afternoon vino

Again, this dining pick was courtesy of Katie Parla’s website and I followed her dining instructions.  Get the burrata, some cold cuts perhaps, and pasta.  Avoid the mains.

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Over ordered again!

We both had a pasta dish.  Shawn got the matriciana o amatriciana, a delightful pork and tomato pasta with a bit of kick, and I had the insanely decadant raviolo di coda e pecorinola, a ravioli filled with oxtail and cheese in a foie gras sauce.  They were both so incredible.

We were way too stuffed for dessert, but they gave us little cookies with a chocolate dipping sauce to finish us off!

We decided we needed to walk lunch off, so we wandered our way through the streets to the spanish steps, tried to sit on them in the shade and rest, but were yelled at by the cops and had to keep moving.

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We hit 22,000 steps by the early evening, and still had 4 hours to kill before we could get to our night train! So more walking, through the shady Villa Borghese, before heading back down towards our hotel.
Treated ourselves to a few spritzes, and some sitting in a cute bar near our hotel trying to kill time.  I think that ends up being the one downside about catching a night train, trying to fill your day with activities, and then wanting to just sit somewhere comfortable!

We finally grabbed our bags from our hotel, bought some big bottle waters for the train ride and on our way to Termini found another cute wine bar with nice outside seating. We had a few glasses of wine and some brushetta. IMG_1074

Our train left at 11pm, so we got to Termini for 10 pm, passed through security to get on our track, and the train actually showed up on time! An actual night train miracle.

So long Roma, it was a busy 32 hours, but we had so much fun!

Roaming Around Rome – Day 1

In only 32 hours!

Not ideal, but since we seem to find ourselves in Europe quite often, we figured it would be a good first taste for Shawn, and I had been once before.

We arrived mid-afternoon after a 3 hour train ride from Milan.  It was HOT.   We schleped our bags the 20 minutes from Termini to our hotel, Residenza Torre Colonna Rome – which just happened to be in a 15th century guard tower! Essentially right next door to the Alter of the Fatherland and the Roman Forum!

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Residenza Torre Colonna Rome

The Residenza Torre Colonna Rome was a delight.  Its a boutique hotel so there are only 5 rooms total, each room is an entire floor of the tower.  And the customer service was out of this world.  I had indicated on our reservation that we were traveling around Europe for Shawn’s 50th, so they had a bottle of prosecco waiting for us!  And suggested we enjoy it on the roof. OVERLOOKING THE FREAKING ALTER OF THE FATHERLAND!

It was really hard to leave this.  We could have spent the next 32 hours just chilling in this hotel.  But, we had things to see.  I decided to give Shawn a world of wind tour of Rome.  As many sites as we could see in 32 hours.  And, I kind of killed it.

First up, obvs, the Alter of the Fatherland, since it was right next door.

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Then a stroll down to Largo di Torre Argentina, where Julius Caesar was murdered all those years ago.

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I think my favourite part about Italy is you’ll be walking down a modern street in a major city and then BOOM, this amazing piece of history is right there.  And then turn another corner and BOOM, more history!

Next up was the Pantheon, my absolute favourite to visit in Rome. IMG_0979

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We made a brief stop in Piazza Navona to try and see the fountains, too many other tourists.  So a quick stop for amazing gelato from Grom (get the pistachio!) and we were back on the move.

Headed over the Ponte Sant’Angelo to get eyes on the Castel Sant’Angelo.  Since I’m an atheist, Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican don’t tick a lot of boxes for me.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re gorgeous.   But, not my jam. And this area seems to be swarming with the scam tricksters who are constantly trying to get you to buy something or have you let your guard down for 5 seconds so they can steal all your shit.

So we went, and saw and then escaped as quick as can be, with all our belongings still intact.

And headed down to the Tiber for a stroll towards the Trastevere neighbourhood.

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Come on, how GORGEOUS is this city?!

Keep in mind, we banged all this out in around 2.5 hours.  Rome is so insanely walkable.  Another reason I love this city so much.  We were actually early heading to our dinner reservation in the most southern part of the Trastevere neighbourhood.  So we walked into a bar across the street, enjoyed some spritzes and waited for them to open… only to discover there had been a family emergency and they were closed.

Now what? Well I follow Katie Parla on instagram and used her restaurant suggestions on her website to book this now closed restaurant, so I hoped back on her site and looked for places in the neighbourhood over – Testaccio, a more working class neighbourhood, but one that would be on our way back towards our hotel.

And, like usual, her recommendation did not disappoint! We ended up choosing Piatto Romano, for a more roman dining experience.

That’s local wild greens in an olive oil dressing, rabbit with sauteed broccolini, black garlic pasta and a tiramisu.  We were stuffed! It was fantastic.  We got a carafe of house red, and it turned out to be a very reasonably priced meal.  If you’re in Rome and looking for a delicious meal, head to Piatto Romano!

We continued our walk home by heading back to the Tiber and following it towards the hotel.  We ended up passing by more ruins and the gorgeous Teatro Marcello.  We also learned that the ruins are loved by rats at night.  All of them were swarming with rodents! Bleh!

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We finished our day’s adventure passing by the Alter of the Fatherland, and briefly checking out the Trajan forum from above before crashing into our beds.  In total we did 24,695 steps!

Tirano to Milano – a long day on trains

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When you decided to train your way from Zurich to Sicily, you know its going to take some time and you’ll spend a lot of time on trains, but this day was rough.

We were only 4 days into our trip and already on our 3rd country.  Plus we’d just spent 4 hours on the Bernina Express, so we’d been sitting for half the day.  Which is why we decided to break up the day by spending two hours wandering around Tirano.

The Bernina Express ends in Tirano and you can race across the town square and buy tickets for the regional train to Milan that leaves in 20 minutes.  Or you can wait it out.  We recommend a wait.  Tirano is a lovely town, with loads of restaurants and some beautiful churches and scenery.  Why rush to sit on a train for another 3 hours?

We wandered away from the square surrounding the two train stations, because all the menus were geared toward tourists, and only 2 blocks away found Lo Scrocchiaro for some pizza and wine!

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Back in my happy place

Once fueled up, we walked the main street toward the cathedral we had passed coming in on the train Santuario della Madonna di Tirano.

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This town was a serious feast for our eyes.

After wandering around the church and back to the main square, I grabbed a couple beers for the next long train ride and we settled into our regional train for the journey to Milan.  Its just under 3 hours if the train is running on time… which didn’t happen.  It took us over 3 hours.  But the scenery was gorgeous.

After passing through farmers fields the train suddenly turns along the Lake Como coastline. I spent the next 45 minutes trying to find George Clooney 😉

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George? Where you at?

We finally arrived in Milan, just in time to stand in line again at a Tim Mobile store to get our Italian sim card.  It was another painful 30 minutes before I got out of there, but listen, if you plan on using your mobile phone abroad, I would hiiiighly recommend getting a local sim.  And here’s my “travel hack” –  I bring my old iphone and insert the foreign sim into it, essentially turning it into a wifi hot spot I can carry around.  That way my current phone still has all my phone numbers stored, my friends and family can reach me while I’m abroad, but I can still connect to the internet (and google maps!) without racking up “roam like home” charges.  Plus, the phone plans in Europe are so much better than our Canadian ones.

For 32E I received a plan good for 30 days, unlimited local calling – that’s every country in the EU, not just Italy – and an insane amount of data, like so huge I cannot remember it because I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.  And you can roam in other EU countries with these plans, so my phone worked in Malta and France by the end of the trip.

We used the data on that Italian sim constantly for the remaining 3 weeks of our trip, and we didn’t run out.

Anyways, back to Milan!

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How gorgeous is the Milan train station?!

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It was a brief walk from the beautiful art deco train station to the incredibly chaotic checkin at our hotel.  We stayed at the Hotel ibis Milano Central, as Milan was just a brief stopover for us.  We got a reasonable price and the hotel was clean.  And that’s about all of the positives I’ve got.

Dumped our bags, took showers, and took off to see the sights and EAT. MORE. PIZZA!

This post is getting long, but here’s another story for you.  I’ve been instagram stalking a pizza restaurateur, Gino Sorbillo, for years.  Constantly cursing that for all my trips to Italy (this is #4) I’ve never made it Naples to do a pizza pilgrimage.  Well reader, he has not one, but two!! pizza restaurants in Milan.  So we went to the one right off the Duomo.  And it was as religious of an experience as you can have as an atheist pizza enthusiast.  The pizza was perfect, my spritz was perfect, the waiters were so lovely.  I had the best time, and cannot wait to go try his OG location in Naples… one day… siiiiigh.

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In actual heaven

Still fighting the jetlag we did a quick zoom by the Duomo and then wandered back to the hotel to pass the F out.

 

I Like Piña Coladas, But Not Getting Caught in the Rain

That song’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it? You’re welcome! We heard it a few times over the course of our trip, along with some other island gems, like Margaritaville.

Anyways, it turns out I do like Piña Coladas, I tried my first one on the beach at Mawimbi.

Our week on Holbox was all about relaxing, which was a first for me.  My vacations usually involve me spending 3-4 very jam packed days in various cities trying to see ALL THE THINGS.   I did that twice in Europe in 2016 and will be doing it again in August, so a week with zero things on my agenda was a much needed change.  Shawn was a little worried I might go crazy, but you guys, I loved it!  I had no idea doing nothing can be so satisfying.  I don’t think I could handle two weeks of it, but 7 days of total relaxation? Yes! Yes! Yes!

So what did a day in the lives of Carly and Shawn look like?

Get up, have breakfast, lounge on beach, read, swim, read, swim, talk about where to have lunch, go for lunch, lounge on beach, swim, nap, watch sunset, walk around town and discuss dinner options, have dinner, have drinks, night time swim, bed.

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The food on Holbox is amazing.  We did not have a bad meal.  The seafood is so fresh, like caught that day fresh.  There were so many different options, mexican, seafood, italian, american, fancy, budget, vegan, sushi… you can find something to satisfy even the pickiest eater.  Which we are not.  There were almost too many options 😉

Las Panchas

Las Panchas was the first restaurant we ate at on Holbox while we waited for our hotel room to be ready.   It was Shawn’s favourite of the trip.  We ate there twice and wanted to go back a third time but they’re not open on Mondays.
We highly recommend the mixed ceviche, fish and shrimp tacos and guacamole.  Oh and the potions are massive.  When they say large, they mean it! The food was so cheap too, the large ceviche was $180 pesos, shrimp tacos $130 and fish tacos $100.  Beers were very reasonable at around $25 pesos I believe.

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Raices Beach Club

Raices was just down the beach from our hotel and responsible for all the terrible island music that got stuck in my head.  They have a stage and a band that sets up around 2 p.m. that plays until the sunsets.  If you don’t like live music this is not the place for you.

Also if you’re super fancy you will hate this place.  The tables are in the sand, with a few waiters who don’t speak much English and service can be slow and I’ve heard the food can be a little hit and miss, but we didn’t experience that.

We ate there twice and ordered their guacamole and whole grilled fish both times.  The fish, oh lord the fish.  I hated fish as a kid.  Over the last 10 years I’ve grown to like it, but this was the first time I had ever ordered or eaten a whole fish and I was pretty freaking nervous about what I was getting myself into.   It was perfect.  Garlic and buttery, caught that day, melt in your mouth.  God I miss that fish.  And eating grilled on the beach fish with your feet in the sand was a dope experience.  Prices were pretty reasonable, the grilled fish for two was around $270 pesos.

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La Isla del Colibri

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One of the few restaurants open on a Monday afternoon, Colbri was a delightful find right on the main square of Holbox.  The decor is very eclectic and bright, filled with art.  The service was friendly, a little slow, but that’s island time.  I think I had the largest margarita ever made.

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Seriously, that thing is like a chalice for kings.  It should be called “The King of Margaritas”.

I had the coconut shrimps and Shawn had fish with mango

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Some other restaurants we ate at that I would recommend are Taco Querto and Taco Gordo for cheap no frills tacos and really fantastic Horchata.

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Miriam

Miriam was the first restaurant we ate at on Holbox.   They didn’t seem to serve any alcohol, so that’s something to consider if you want a drink with dinner, but they have pop.  Its a small place, a few tables outside, a few in.  Salsa that came with dinner was very tasty and very spicy.  Shawn splurged and got the lobster and I had the octopus. And the food was so amazing we both dug in before I took any photos.  Whoops 😉 The lobster was quite spendy, but the octopus seemed reasonable.  Another tourist who was just leaving the restaurant told me I had made a great decision eating there as it was the best restaurant on the island.  I think he was right.  We wanted to eat their more than once, but it was also closed on Monday…

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Getting Your Booze On

There’s really no shortage of places to drink on Holbox.  Most of the hotels on the beach close to town have bars, and in the centre of Holbox there’s so many places within walking distance to get your drink on.  Our favourite was El Mesh

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Connected to the eco-hostel, El-Mesh was a few buildings down from our hotel, so we passed it a lot.

Only a few stools at a very lovely wooden bar, they make solid cocktails.  We found the drinks very reasonably priced, the service friendly and the music not the typical “island fare” or club noise.

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Hot Corner

We stopped at Hot Corner to pass the time waiting for Las Panchas to open.  It was a cute little set up with swings to sit in.  Very loud music.  Shawn really enjoyed his Mojito.  My margarita was solid as well.