Monday, March 21
Picking back up! The end portion of our trip was like the icing on the cake, so I absolutely cannot leave it out. (If you haven’t seen the rest of my Ireland/Italy trip recaps, check out March 2022 in my Travel Page for days 1-9!)
Monday morning we were up early and took a taxi to the Dublin airport. Our flight to Rome left at 9:55 a.m., so not too early, but we had to allow plenty of time. We had heard things were crazy at the airport with staffing shortages and lingering pandemic related issues, etc.
I am glad we got there when we did. Check-in itself went smoothly (had to provide our covid vaccine documents, etc.), but the line for security was the longest I think I have ever seen!!! It wrapped around and around…. so long. I was a little nervous, but at least it seemed to move along at a decent pace.
We made it with time to spare. I think we even had time to grab some quick breakfast and tea before boarding.
Our one real “snafu” involved, of course, our bags + Ryan Air.
If you’ve ever flown Ryan Air in Europe, you might know- they are notorious for advertising nice, super low fares…but that fare often basically allows you to bring yourself + the clothes on your back. There are LOTS of add-on fees with this airline, from checked bags, carry-ons and more, although it can still work out to be cheaper than the main airlines.
I thought I’d read all the fine print (and there is usually a lot of Fine Print with Ryan Air), but I guess I missed something. Apparently, our tickets didn’t actually include carry-ons bags, exactly. Oddly, we were supposed to have checked our carryon backpacks (included with our fare), along with our bigger checked suitcase (which we had already checked). (The wording was very weird! Looking back later it made sense, but it honestly never crossed my mind that we were supposed to check our carry-ons! I feel like it usually costs more to check bags, not less…).
Upon arrival at the gate, they informed us that since we had neglected to check our carry-ons at the main check-in, we now had to gate check them- for a fee of 60 euros a piece. Grrr…. Luckily, the boys’ little backpacks counted as “personal items”, so we didn’t have to check those. I tried, unsuccessfully, to argue it, but in reality, I guess it was our fault for misunderstanding. Oh well. Lesson learned to TRIPLE check Ryan Air tickets…
They were very excited to be going to Rome!!
At one point the pilot announced that we were flying over the Alps. It was so beautiful!!
The flight was ~3 hours, I think? Uneventful, from what I recall.
Made it to Rome!
When I had reserved our Rome hotel on Booking.com, they had a special deal going on for a free taxi ride from the airport to our hotel. This was nice! The ride was all pre-arranged and supposedly the taxi driver would be tracking our flight to be there waiting.
And he was. 🙂 I can’t remember his name, but he was a bit of a hoot. VERY friendly and welcoming. He was Italian, but had lived in Spain for over 15 years. So he spoke fluent Spanish- which was great, because none of us speak Italian.
Here he is below, in his driver’s suit, chatting with Ivan as we walked to the van. Really a nice guy.
We had flown into the Ciampino airport (the other main airport is Leonard da Vinci).
Our actual ride to the hotel was….. just ok? HA. This guy was a crazy driver!! He was very animated, talking a lot and very fast the whole time. We got his whole life story.
He was also driving very fast. And, he kept turning his head back to us in the back seat, mid-conversation, for what felt like too long of periods to have your head turned around to the backseat while driving a car…. It was all I could do to not yell, “BUDDY, EYES ON THE ROAD!” lol! 😬
I think the boys were very entertained by all of this (either that, or they were just enjoying watching my already jumpy-in-traffic mother freaking out).
This was their first time in a big European city, besides Dublin, but Rome traffic is on a whole other level. There was just so much going on, motorcycles weaving in and out, it all looked so different to them… I think they were kind of in awe of everything. 🙂
Hotel- near Campo de Fiori
We made it to our hotel in one piece. The hotel was a small place, right in downtown Rome, very near Campo de Fiori, if you know Rome. The only bad thing was that it was on the 5th floor, in a very old building.
If you can see, the elevator is quite small. And it was slow. So we lugged our bags and suitcases up the 5 flights of stairs, which felt more like 12…Seemed like each “floor” had at least 3-4 short sets of stairs. Almost had a heart attack, but we made it up.
I chose this hotel primarily for the great location, but ended up being very happy with it. It was rather simple, but tasteful and very comfortable and nice for our needs. Our room for the 4 of us was actually a little suite, with 2 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms. My parents had a separate hotel room down the hall.
The boys’ room:
LOVED having two bathrooms and the extra space!
Each room looked out to the city below:
By this time it was mid-afternoon. Actually, maybe around 3:30? I can’t remember exactly. I think our flight got in around 2 pm, plus transport time, etc.
The plan was to head right out for St. Peter’s Basilica. Given the relatively few number of days we had in Rome, I was trying to be rather strategic with our plans.
We were planning to get tickets for the Vatican Museums on Wednesday afternoon. You might think it would make sense to just go to (adjacent) St. Peter’s Basilica then- and you’d be right; this is probably what most people would do!
However, I remembered from my first time there….. The Vatican is A LOT. Your brain can really only process so many religious relics, beautiful things and history at once. I was afraid that if we toured St. Peter’s after (or before) the actual Vatican museums, it would be too much for the boys to really handle all at once. (It takes hours to go through the Vatican Museums.)
The Basilica is so amazing, too; I didn’t want to shortchange it in any way.
So, I decided we should go and see just the Basilica (which is free of charge) on Monday night, allowing plenty of time to soak that all in, and then go back Wednesday to tour the Vatican Museums, separately. Since it was already late afternoon, it was actually the perfect activity to fit just one main thing in on that first evening in Rome.
This was a good call all around. The lighting (sunset time) on our way out of the Basilica was AMAZING. After an early morning and travel day, the walk over there felt great, and what better introduction to Rome than St. Peter’s! I had gone back and forth in my head a lot (in advance), thinking about how I wanted to handle the Vatican, and I’m very satisfied with what we did.
While I gave the hotel clerk our passports for photocopying (weird little custom in Europe….whatever!), Ivan and the boys said they’d wait downstairs.
It took my parents and me less than 10 minutes to meet up with them, but of course, this is how we found Ethan:
Haha. Of course there was a gelateria across the street.
We set out for Vatican City! Not too far from our hotel- maybe 20 minutes by foot. The boys were essentially geeking out at their first impression of Rome. It was cute. They were like, WHOA! WHOA! THIS IS SO COOL!!! Look at this! Look at that! 🙂
The boys kept taking pictures, which was fun and a first for them. (This was the first vacation we’d been on where they had their own phones.) They’d occasionally send some pictures to friends, etc. I think they really liked being able to do this.
Whew, somehow I’m at a LOT of words already. Think I’ll have to split the rest of this evening into another post. I knew this Rome part was going to be so hard to recap succinctly! (Not that my recaps are ever succinct, and obviously I’m not exactly trying to be brief here. So much good stuff, so many pictures! I want you to feel that you were there with me. 😆 Hahaha.)
Here’s a sneak peek of St. Peter’s Basilica- it was so exciting to catch a glimpse as we approached. My parents were very thrilled for this part, too. They’d never been anywhere in Italy before, and of course these sites are so world famous and historical, it’s hard not to get a thrill when you see them!
Stay tuned for the rest of the recap of St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica and our first night in Rome- including our first of many pizzas. 🙂