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 wasn’t going to 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. The destination would be Rome, but 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 were headed we arrived at Leeds Bradford Airport. Suitcases out of the car we made our way to the terminal. Avoiding 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 have no idea !” I replied, Vicky explained it was a surprise. Our suitcases were weighed and sent on there way, passports checked and boarding cards handed to me, the destination finally revealed, ROME ! Incredible, I honestly couldn’t believe Vicky kept this a secret for so long, I thought she would crack at some point with all the excitement.
Starting with the standard airport breakfast of a bacon sandwich and a cuppa, travel guides and tickets for trips already booked were handed over. 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 lets 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 change of clothes we grabbed a quick bite to eat, pizza, from a fab little place just on the corner from us called Pinsere. Freshly made and very tasty. Now to find our bearings. Our stay for the next few days would be the beautiful Marcella Royal Hotel situated 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’m here. Stood looking up at its columns and huge 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 were deemed 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. THANK YOU !
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
The day of Jason’s 40th birthday had arrived. I knew that one of the places 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.
I bought ‘skip the line’ tickets direct from the Vatican Museums 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 that 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. Lets 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 moved very 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 got to both of us though 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 moments 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 !
Day Three – Arrivederci 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. The fact 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 get chance 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 very clean and we had a roof terrace, one of only a few hotels in Rome to have one.
Travel Smarter With A Rome City Pass
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We hope you enjoyed reading this blog, we had a blast writing it and reminiscing. As previously stated this was our first trip to Italy. Since then we have been to Naples and have a trip planned to Sorrento next year. I think its safe to say Italy has us hooked. Leave your comments below as we would love to know what you think. Did you like our blog ? Are you planning on organising a surprise trip to Rome for your loved one or friend ? Hopefully this will give you a few ideas for your 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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