European Vacation Fall 2013 – Rome

European Dream Vacation

Deb and I took a dream vacation to Europe this in late September 2013. After our fabulous experience, we will be returning soon. This post is just one of five posts sharing the stories and images from our trip.

Rome, Italy – Saturday, September 28

Its Saturday 10:00PM Rome time and we finally arrived. We lost a day because we started on Friday mid-day. Even if we account for the 7 hour difference, it shouldn’t take 25+ hours to get to Rome from Peoria. Some of that is my fault because we flew through Heathrow before flying into Rome. The other part is on Alitalia. I was warned that Alitalia was notoriously late. True to form our 4:25 PM departure from London became 6:30 PM. Our driver must have been frustrated by the 2 hour delay too because he drove 100-110 km/h into Rome. Here we are in the back of a Mercedes racing through the busy streets of Rome at a high rate of speed. I thought I was going to die like Diana. But hey, we are here in Rome. Deb has returned to the mother land.

We decided to take a European vacation prior to my business trip to Winchester, England. So, I suggested we spend some time in London then head over to Paris for a couple days, but that was quickly shut down in favor of going back to Deb’s mother land. I spent weeks planning the trip, trying to pick the perfect locations among so many places in Italy. The final choice came down to Rome and Tuscany (Florence). With the help from, I selected a custom vacation to Italy.

Who would have thought Deb would find the best Creme Brulee she'd ever had in Rome? Better yet, who would have thought Deb would be awake after 10:00 PM? I think Italy is going to be a big hit.
Who would have thought Deb would find the best Creme Brulee she’d ever had in Rome? Better yet, who would have thought Deb would be awake after 10:00 PM? I think Italy is going to be a big hit.

We chose a less than direct route to Italy, flying to London Heathrow before hopping over to Rome. That made for a painfully long trip. The expected eight hour flight to London took even longer thanks to American Airlines’ incompetence. Someone lost the log book for our plane. So, we were delayed by almost two hours waiting to pull away from the gate. That’s bad enough but when you booked a “by the hour” hotel room at Heathrow (, it makes you a bit uptight. What’s worse is that AA would not upgrade us in spite of the gazillion miles I have racked up. So we were flying coach for an extra two hours.

When we arrived at Heathrow almost two hours late, my biggest concern was that our hotel would be cancelled. Fortunately, the Yotel held our room and gave us a little extra time. As planned, we caught a couple hours sleep and a shower so we could adjust to the time change and get ready for our final leg into Rome.

Between the crazy ride into Rome and the excitement of finally arriving, we were a little too wound up to call it a day after checking into the Victoria Roma. It was too late to eat at the Hotel’s roof top restaurant, so we walked a few doors down the street to wind down.

Sunday, September 29

Walking tour of Rome

  1. Hotel Victoria Roma
  2. Spanish Steps
  3. Trevi Fountain
  4. Altar of the Fatherland (Emmanuel Monument)
  5. Pantheon – Raphael was buried there. Died at age 35 or 37 but young.
  6. Piazza Navona
  7. The Colosseum by way of the Emmanuel Monument
  8. Roman ruins
  9. Paletine Hill
  10. Exit Roman Ruins
  11. Arch of Constantine
  12. Dinner across from the Colosseum

Click on the links inside the map below for more photos and videos


Rome wasn’t built in a day but I think we may have seen it all in one day. Sunday was supposed to be a light day with an afternoon Colosseum tour scheduled. But we thought we would walk to a couple spots and see what else we could get in before our 3:00 PM appointment. We started at the Spanish Steps and ended at the top of Paletine Hill. In between, we visited Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. There was so much to see, so much activity to take in, we didn’t realize that we had walked over 6 miles before dinner across the street from the Colosseum. We sure weren’t walking back to the hotel because after dinner that 6 miles and an entire day on our feet did catch up to us, so we caught a cab.

The surprise of the day was the Altar of the Fatherland, which was built in honor or Victor Emmanuel, the first King of a unified Italy. That reminds me. Italy has been a unified country since only 1861. Who else knew Italy is a younger unified country than the US? The Emmanuel Monument also acts as the tomb of Italy’s Unknown Soldier. We didn’t know in advance but at the top of the monument, you can see a panorama of the entire city of Rome. The pictures and videos we captured from there are breathtaking. Even though it was spitting rain I didn’t want to come down from the roof because there was so much to take in. You could see Vatican City, the Pantheon, the Roman Ruins, the Colosseum, and everything you would want to see from one place in Rome.

The Emmanuel Monument was also a surprise because we didn’t plan to stop there. Deb says she likes this map of Rome with pictures because she can read it so well. Her picture map took us to (D) the Emmanuel Monument when we were trying to get to (E) the Pantheon. As they say, sometimes surprises are the best things that happen in Rome. “When in Rome…” Right?
I wonder what’s up there? They want 7 Euro per person to find out.

The panoramic pictures from atop that building are simply awesome. See for yourself.
After we returned from our pleasant detour and back on our intended route, we found (E) the Pantheon then (F) the Piazza Navona. Along the way, we couldn’t help but notice obelisks like in Dan Brown’s books. I also could not help but be fascinated by the magic that these guys in bright orange were doing. I’m sure there’s some simple tick to this but I didn’t care. Too cool.

Considering that (E) the Pantheon was originally built before Christ, I was amazed by the engineering of this massive building. It is still one of the largest concrete dome structures in the world. And (F) the Piazza Navona was originally in the center of Rome and was where Roman games were played. (Be sure to explore the bigger pictures behind the thumbnails below. There’s many more treasures from our Roman tour too.)

Funny story: As we were walking through the streets, Deb says to me, “Look around. I see my nose everywhere. There’s a whole city of Debbies.”

Colosseum and Roman Ruins Tour

After a light lunch next to the Colosseum train stop, we walked to the meeting point for our guided tour of the ancient structure and Roman ruins. Our tour guide, Elizabetta, a PhD in archeology, explained that our tour was planned to be a three hour tour but it could go longer. We just completed five hour walking tour of Rome and were already tired. I could only think of Gilligan’s Island when Elizebetta said three hour tour, trapped with no way home. I could not imagine how it would take three hours to walk through the Colosseum and the Roman ruins.

Looking back, 3.5 hours slipped away. Elizabetta told us stories that brought us into ancient times when Romans ruled this land. She was simply outstanding. She shared that the road from the Colosseum to the Piazza Venezia, Via del Fori Imperiali, cut the ruins of the Roman Forum in half. Mussolini created the road as an homage to himself. Elizabetta said, “in spite of the controversy of this road, according to me, we should not tear it out because it too is part of our history.” (Her favorite saying “according to me” was a way to editorialize so we knew it was her opinion.)

The ruins included the Roman Forum, the Roman senate building where the conspiracy to murder Ceasar was hatched and of course the Casa delle Vestali (Vestal Virgin Castle). One treasure that archeologists revealed was Victory Road that was the original stone path rising from the lowest level in the ruins to Paletine Hill. Victory Road was often the path taken by the Emperor when celebrating a recent conquest.

We ended our day with a light dinner across from the Colosseum, tired but satisfied with our day’s adventure. Tomorrow we are off to Vatican City then train to Florence.

Spanish Steps Trevi Fountain Panoramic Rome Piazza Navona

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