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Last year (2017) it was my 40th birthday. I wasn’t really up for celebrating the big ‘four zero’ but the year before Vicky had an idea, “let’s go away” she said. I definitely would not argue. There was one condition though, the destination was to be a surprise and I would only find out at the check-in desk on the day we fly. Would Vicky be able to keep the secret? If you are looking to organise a surprise trip to Rome, then read on!
The Day Arrived, The Big Reveal
Fast forward 18 months to September 2017 and the day of the holiday. Still no idea of where we would travel to we arrived at Leeds Bradford Airport. Suitcases out of the car, we made our way to the terminal. Trying to avoid all the departure boards, we eventually got to the check-in desk. “passports please,” the girl behind the counter said. “where are you flying to today?” she asked. “Funny you should say that, I do not know!” I replied. Vicky explained it was a surprise. Our suitcases taken, weighed and sent on their way. Our passports checked and boarding cards handed over, the destination finally revealed. ROME! I honestly couldn’t believe Vicky kept this a secret for so long. I thought she would crack with all the excitement. But hats off to her superb job!
Starting with the standard airport breakfast of a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea, travel guides and tickets for trips already pre-booked, she passed over to me. This was going to be an amazing few days. The bucket list was going to get hammered! This was also to be the first time either of us had been to Italy. Another country ticked off the list.
Day One – Let The Surprise Trip To Rome, Begin
Anyway, enough with the airport talk. Let’s get on with the trip. First highlight, flying over The Alps. Light clouds covered the snow-topped mountains. I’ve flown over The Pyrenees countless times, but this was something else. Absolutely stunning, tiny villages and bright blue lakes all nestled between valleys with a single road connecting them all.
We arrived at our hotel and after checking in and a quick change of clothes; we grabbed a quick bite to eat. Pizza, from a fab little place just on the corner called Pinsere. Freshly made and delicious. Now to find our bearings. Our stay for the next few days would be the beautiful Marcella Royal Hotel on via Flavia. With a stunning rooftop view out over the city. Only a few minutes walk into the centre passed glorious fountains and some incredible architecture.
Time To Roam Around Rome
The Pantheon. What an amazing building. A former Roman temple now used as a church. I’ve always wanted to visit this place and now I am here. Stood looking up at its columns and vast dome. Burial site of two Italian Kings and one of the most famous painters, Raphael. There is a dress code to enter. We nearly didn’t get in. We knew about this before we visited, so we thought we would be fine. Vicky had her shoulders covered, but they deemed them not covered enough. This was after seeing another girl being allowed to enter with denim shorts up her bum! We were heartbroken we couldn’t enter until a member of staff who was helping organise the cues lent her a scarf.
We wondered the streets some more. Had delicious Gelato from Venchi and did a bit of shopping before eventually finding one of the most famous fountains in the world, the Trevi fountain. We joined the hundreds of people who were also here to see this beautiful work of art. Of course, before we left, we did the touristy thing of throwing coins over our shoulders into the water. Money collected from people doing this goes towards helping Romes poor. This is only day one and we are quickly falling in love with this city.
Day Two – Jason’s Birthday & More Surprises
The day of Jason’s 40th birthday had arrived. I knew one place he’s been wanting to visit more than anything was The Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica. He is a huge history nerd and even though we don’t follow a religion, we always love to visit churches and other religious monuments, and what better place to do this.
Spending The Day At The Vatican Museum
I bought us bought ‘skip the line’ tickets directly from the Vatican Museum’s website months before our visit. These came in handy because the queues to get in were huge. We definitely saved some time here. Doing my research before the trip I read you would need a good two or three hours to see everything here, including the Basilica. Wrong! The museum is full of rooms and exhibits. This is a full day experience, so don’t rush it. There is so much to see here. Let’s not forget that besides all this, it is also home to the Sistine Chapel!
The amount of things on show, Roman history, an Egyptian museum, the art, the sculptures, religious relics, the list just goes on. Looking around and soaking up everything just left us speechless. Before you leave the museums behind, don’t forget to send yourself a postcard from the Vatican’s very own post office, a nice souvenir to arrive when you get home, stamped with the Vatican’s very own post mark!
St Peter’s Basilica
Next, we headed to St Peter’s Basilica. We were fairly late arriving here because we spent a hell of a lot of time in the museums. The queue to get in was big, but it moved quickly. Tombs of countless Popes and Saints. The sun shining through St Peter’s Baldachin (a monument that stands over St Peter’s tomb) at the far end was magical.
The one thing that struck both of us was the tomb of Saint John Paul II. There was something quite surreal as we sat and had a moment. Everything felt right with the world. A moment’s peace. A silent thought for family and friends we both had lost in recent years.
This was an incredible day, one we would certainly never forget. Walking back to our hotel, we hit up a few more shops and got tiramisu from Pompi. If you go to Rome, make sure you check this place out. The day ended with food at La Bottega Ristorante Punturi again just down from our hotel on via Flavia. The food was delicious, lasagne and a bottle of wine. Happy Birthday Jason!
Time To End Our Surprise Trip To Rome
Our last day in Rome ended with a trip to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus. Knowing the stories of what happened here. The heart of the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar, what a place to be. So much history all in one place. That all this is still here, still standing after thousands of years, is quite remarkable. A testament to everything they did and still do for us to this day.
All these places are busy, very busy. But don’t let that put you off. You can’t come to Rome and not do any of these sights. Some of this stuff is once in a lifetime. Although we would love to visit again, and we will, to fit in a ton more stuff that we just didn’t have time to do. We absolutely fell in love with this city and can’t recommend it enough. Our hotel was incredible, the staff were so friendly, rooms were spotless and we had a roof terrace, one of only a few hotels in Rome to have one.
Travel Smarter With A Rome City Pass
You can also buy a Rome city pass that gives you access to free transport, a tour by bus and free entry and discounts to all the top attractions. Click the banner below for more details.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post; we had a blast writing it and reminiscing. This was our first trip to Italy. Since then though, we have been to Naples and have a trip planned for Sorrento next year. I think it’s safe to say Italy has us hooked. Leave your comments below as we would love to know what you think. Are you planning on organising a surprise trip to Rome or anywhere else for your loved one or friend? Hopefully, this will give you a few ideas for your next trip. Let us know in the comments.
Have you been to Rome? Tell us about your time there.
Looking For Some More Italian Inspiration ?
Since writing this blog we have travelled to Naples and Sorrento, links to these blogs you can find below.
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