Italy Travels: Rome and Amalfi

Here it is, finally – the second leg of our Italy trip. (In case you missed it, here’s my recap of the first half of the trip.) After leaving Florence, we headed off to Rome for a few days.

Looking back now, I think I had pretty low expectations going into our time in Rome. Maybe because it is such a huge city…I’m not sure why. All I know is that when we arrived, we were very surprised by how beautiful it was.

After time in Venice and Florence where there are hardly any trees (at least in the main parts of the cities), we loved the many gorgeous tree lined streets in Rome. Just like Venice and Florence, Rome is a very walkable city and we walked down this lovely street countless times since it was right between our neighborhood (Trastevere) and the main part of the city.

We arrived in the afternoon between meal times and though we weren’t hungry enough for a full meal, we definitely needed something to eat. After more of my habitual frantic searching on TripAdvisor, we found a truly awesome little place called La Proscuitteria that was just minutes away. We weren’t sure what we wanted so we just asked them to make us something good. I’d say they delivered! This meat and fruit tray was seriously phenomenal. The staff was super friendly and fun, and they had fun music playing – we loved the atmosphere. In fact we loved it so much, we ended up coming back for dinner on our final night in Rome.

I was constantly stopping to take photos of the gorgeous buildings in Rome. Can you blame me?

This is me on the way to dinner, doing my best impression of someone named Jordana, a (maybe/maybe not fictitious) perpetually pouty hotel receptionist in Miami featured in one of the best Amy Schumer stand up routines ever. I wish I could link to it but since we first watched it, we have never been able to find it again. Pretty sure it was removed from YouTube due to DCMA violation. So sad, because it is the greatest. Anyway, this is me as Jordana. I impersonate her at least once a day. On a related note – my four year old is all Jordana, all the time.

We didn’t do many upscale or fancy meals during the trip since we wanted to just explore at our own pace, but we did decide to do one such dinner. We spent the evening at Moma and thoroughly enjoyed their tasting menu. Everything was beautifully presented and incredibly delicious. I would definitely go there again for a special evening out or a splurge meal (as if a trip to Italy weren’t splurge enough!) This was the one place we took a cab to because 30 minute walk on cobblestone streets + 4 inch heels… the math just doesn’t work.

This is the lovely little courtyard at the hotel we stayed at – Hotel Santa Maria. We really liked it there! Since we went aaalllll out for our Amalfi hotel, I was looking for something more economical in Rome. However, I’m still very picky about hotels and also wanted a good location. Once again, TripAdvisor came to the rescue. Hotel Santa Maria was great and we would love to stay there again. The rooms are nothing fancy and the bathroom was on the small side, but the for the location and service at that price, I think it is hard to beat. They have a gorgeous continental breakfast every morning which you can enjoy in the courtyard under the orange trees. (By the way, Italian continental breakfasts put American continental breakfasts to shame. Not hard to do, I know, but I really wish we could follow suit here so that “continental breakfast” wouldn’t mean “I’m going to Starbucks.”)

Also, a note about the area. We stayed in the Trastevere region and LOVED it there. This place is full of great restaurants and little food shops down every winding, picturesque street. Once evening hits, the whole place transforms into a lively party with the streets full of people – it is a fun and lively atmosphere! (And amazingly, there was somehow no street noise in our actual hotel, though there were lots of birds singing in the night to make up for it.) I highly recommend the Trastevere region as a location to stay, especially for foodies.

Our first morning there started off with good intentions of getting to the coliseum early, but due to a navigational error that nearly derailed our marriage, we ended up arriving there when they had been open for quite a while already. The line was incredibly long so we decided to visit the Roman forum instead. It is literally right next to the coliseum so it was a good alternate option.

Of course, I go to Rome to visit ancient ruins and end up taking pictures of pretty little flowers. Naturally. Other highlights for me (not pictured) included a lizard I saw on a tree and a (probably feral) cat hunting among the ruins. I’m not sure I got what I was supposed to out of this particular experience, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.

Though we were hot and tired from our morning of mostly futile walking, the forum was really amazing to see. It is huge and you could wander around for quite a long time there. I would like to see it again late in the evening when it is hopefully less crowded. Also, a note about Rome – similar to the Firenze card in Florence, you can buy the Roma pass to see main attractions in Rome. I’m not sure we necessarily needed them since we only saw two things that required the pass, but it was still nice to use the much shorter lines when we did visit the monuments.

After the rough morning, there was obviously only one cure – pizza. One of my wonderful readers recommended La Renella to me on Instagram and again, this was just minutes from our hotel so we went to check it out. It was definitely my favorite pizza that we had during the entire trip. They had quite a few different types of pizza to choose from. We tried the classic bufala mozzarella with tomato sauce and another kind with squash blossoms and some other fresh cheese – maybe mozzarella again. Both were amazing! This place is legit – definitely check it out if you get the chance!
We enjoyed a long afternoon nap and then trekked over to see the Pantheon. This was really incredible to see in person. (Though again, the experience was slightly marred by people both wielding and selfie sticks left and right.)

So awesome to see those columns up close!

We didn’t realize it beforehand, but behind that iconic imposing front is a domed building that is extremely gorgeous. We loved the view from the inside almost as much from the outside.

Just another beautiful building seen wandering the streets near the Pantheon.

The Trastevere neighborhood is separated from the rest of the city by the Tiber river, so we enjoyed this view crossing over the river several times each day. So pretty!

I went a little photo crazy in Rome. Don’t mind me.

Later that evening we took another reader recommendation and had dinner at La Scala, also in our neighborhood just minutes away. I had mixed feelings about this place. I liked it overall, but I wasn’t blown away. The food was pretty good but I’m not sure I would go back and would be more in favor of trying someplace new. I had truffle gnocchi which were delicious but so rich, I only ate a few bites before trading plates with Ben and stealing his seafood pasta.

The next morning we decided to give the coliseum another go and made sure to get there just after it opened. We saw this pretty courtyard on the way there.

This was another thing that was just so incredible to see in person after seeing it in photos and learning about it in school for so many years.

The coliseum seems to be in a constant state of restoration which is completely expected given its age. However, it is still awesome to see. Loved it!

So, this is where things get kind of crazy! I did something very un-me and signed us up for a food tour. I normally dislike guided tours but I knew we would need something additional to fill our time in Rome so after reading extensive reviews, I bought tickets for the daylight Trastevere tour from the company Eating Italy. I purchased them on our first day in Rome and almost instantly had buyer’s remorse. I was convinced that I had made the wrong decision and that we were going to end up on a tour full of senior citizens shuffling around at a snail’s pace. (Nothing wrong with senior citizens of course, but I had seen so many tour groups while in Florence that I was sure this was what we were in for.) We even had a plan to bail if it seemed to be not our thing. However, we were pleasantly surprised. The guide was young, friendly, and incredibly knowledgeable and all of the other people in the tour group (maybe 10 total) were great fun to talk to.

The tour hit nine or ten stops over the course of about 3.5 to 4 hours. We tried food at each stop, though just small portions since we didn’t want to be too full to try all of the offerings. We visited a bakery, a pizza place, a cheese shop, a meat shop with the best porchetta, a market (pictured here), a biscotti shop/factory, a gelato shop, an enoteca and one other very nice restaurant. I really loved that the shops highlighted were small family run shops that had been in business for multiple generations. Every bit of food we tried was fantastic!

In hindsight, I really wish we had done this tour on the first day of the trip so we knew more about where we might like to eat during our time in Rome. As I said, I was incredibly wary of the entire experience but I would very highly recommend this tour.

I ate a lot of gelato in Italy (at least one serving per day, sometimes two) and the gelato we had during the food tour was by far my favorite. None of the other places stood out to me but Fatamorgana is perfecto! They have many unique flavors and also seem focused on where they source ingredients from. The flavors pictured here were something like peaches and strawberries with rum and the bottom scoop was popcorn. Both were fantastic and I loved it so much that we came back later that night!

One thing I learned during the tour was that any restaurant called enoteca specializes in wine and has an extensive wine collection. This restaurant (Enoteca Ferrara) was one such place. We tried several pasta dishes there as well as enjoyed some wine. I would like to go back to this restaurant for a full meal in the future!

We were a little sad to leave Rome the next day but not too sad because we knew the very best part was still to come. We took the train from Rome to Naples where we had a private driver pick us up and take us to our resort. The road to Amalfi is very winding and curvy so I think a private driver is the way to go. Also, if you are prone to motion sickness (Ben is), be sure to bring dramamine. You will need it.

Here’s the deal. The resort we stayed at in Amalfi – Monastero Santa Rosa – it is the reason we came to Italy. We were originally trying to decide between several potential countries for our trip but when I came across this place, it was a done deal. The hotel is actually a former monastery from the 1600s. Much of the original architecture has been preserved but it has been functioning as a hotel for around 100 years. It is not a big place and has only 20 guest rooms. When we arrived, we were instantly greeted with warm towels and fresh lemonade (made with lemons from their garden!) and ushered onto a little terrace to look out over this view.

After checking in, we were shown to our room where this was the view from the bedroom and bathroom windows. New favorite place on earth? Most definitely.  Also the bathroom floors are heated. You can’t know how great that is until you experience it but trust me, it’s GREAT.

They also left fresh apricots as a snack. (This picture is missing a few because I was feeling ravenous.)

This lovely terrace was just down the hall from our room. A great place to let that indescribable Amalfi blue sink in.

This is the view from the terrace looking down over the grounds of the resort. The restaurant is in the top right corner.

What is this you ask? Oh, just a huge wall of fresh rosemary on the way down to the pool. I might have hugged it several times. Maybe.

So here’s the deal. I had all sorts of plans for exploring Amafli, Ravello, and other neighboring towns, and maybe Capri during the days we were there. However, once we arrived, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. For one thing, transportation is more limited since the roads are narrow, steep and curving. The area is generally much less walkable than all of the other cities we visited. The hotel does offer a complimentary shuttle to take you into Amalfi but I just felt done exploring. If we had had even one more day there I’m sure we would have ventured out but with only two full days on the resort, I decided it was time to rest and relax after all of our doing and seeing in all the other cities. I also realized that I haven’t had the chance to lay by the pool and relax since Andrew was born more than seven years ago so that ended up being my only objective.

Heaven on earth, I’m telling you!

I’ve always loved ordering drinks poolside but this view took it to a whole new level. (Psst – that’s another aperol spritz. Recipe here!)

Since we ended up staying at the resort the entire time, we ate at their restaurant the whole time. Breakfast is included with the room rate and is phenomenal. We ordered lunch poolside both days and loved their more casual, low key offerings. The restaurant for dinner service is definitely fancy but the food was impeccable and we loved every single thing we tried. I have a few things I will be trying to recreate and share with you. The dish that stood out the most to us was this smoked lobster appetizer. I have never had smoked lobster but it had such a unique, wonderful flavor. This was an awesome dish.

Back poolside the second day and loving every minute of it. I don’t regret a thing. I’m certain we will be back, we will stay for much longer, and then we can explore the coast more. But I will still have at least two pool days.

I did leave the pool briefly to go to the spa. Rough, I know. I had a facial and a pedicure (both were wonderful) and then went right back to my pool chair. All in all, these were two of the best days of my life. Every detail of this place is perfectly thought out and impeccably maintained.

The last evening I was feeling a understandably moody since I didn’t want to go home (or face the 3:30 am wake up for our early morning flight out of Naples), so we ordered room service for dinner instead of getting all dressed up to go to the restaurant. I had a lobster BLT and that was, yet again, amazing. This trip was such an incredible experience and I feel so lucky that we were able to do it! Of course it has only intensified my wanderlust so who knows when or where we will go next!

If you have any questions about our trip, feel free to leave them in the comments! Also, several of you have requested tips on how I packed (I only took a carry on for the whole trip). I may do a separate post about this with some odds and ends left over so if there is something you want me to address, please let me know. Thanks for all of your feedback as always! It is greatly appreciated.