Tigerlily and I recently returned from a trip to Italy that was presented by “Adventures By Disney” (ABD). The “Viva Italia” trip that Disney offers is a 9-day trip that starts in Rome, goes thru the Umbria and Tuscany regions, visits Florence, and finishes in Venice.
We had originally booked a 6-day “Taste of Tuscany” tour thru ABD, which we had intended to extend to Venice. But a couple of months before the tour, Disney contacted me and said that the “Taste of Tuscany” tour had been cancelled and they were willing to move us into the Viva Italia trip at no additional cost, including air fare changes. As luck would have it, our previous tour aligned almost perfectly with the new tour, so rather than change airline schedules, I asked if Disney would be willing to comp us a room in Rome a day early instead. They complied, so we flew in 24 hours early, which allowed us to get a head start on the jetlag adjustment.
We landed in Rome on a Wednesday around noon. ABD had a driver waiting for us, so it was a simple task to wheel the luggage to the waiting Mercedes van outside the terminal and begin our trip into Rome. Little did I know, but that was the last time that I would lift our bags until we were dropped off at the airport nine days later in Venice.
Driving into Rome started out mundane. Our driver didn’t speak English, and we spoke no Italian. It didn’t matter. We were so busy gawking at everything that the drive flew by. What was a real mind-blower was when we entered Ancient Rome and came upon the Palatine Hill ruins.
Palatine Hill is a huge ruin situated on hill looking down on the Roman Forum.
To it’s south is Circus Maximus, where the chariot races were held...
...and to it’s north is the Colosseum.
We zoomed past these historical sites on the way to Barberini Square… home to the Triton Fountain, and the Bernini Bristol Hotel, our 5-Star address for the next four nights.
Upon arrival, we were met in the hotel lobby by Tina and Marco, our ABD guides for the next ten days. They helped us get checked in and advised us of a pre-dinner cocktail party to be held on the roof of our hotel the following evening. After the reception, dinner would be in the rooftop restaurant.
We got up to our rooms and collapsed. We had been traveling for 21 hours and we were exhausted. But we were hungry too. I walked outside the hotel and saw a man eating what looked like a very good sandwich. Of course he didn’t speak English (why, oh why, didn’t I listen to the “Learn Italian” tapes?) but I managed to convey that I wanted to know where he got his sandwich. He pointed up and across the narrow street. I walked up a half block and found a very small sandwich shop filled with nothing but Italian-speaking businessmen. I was in the right place. After observing the various sandwiches being made, I asked for 2 of “what he had”. I walked out with two focaccia bread, prosciutto, and buffalo mozzarella sandwiches.
No mustard, no mayo, no peppers, pickles, salad dressing… nothing. Just 3 ingredients… bread, meat and cheese. It was the best sandwich I’ve ever had. It was a promising start to an unforgettable adventure.
After lunch, we drew the blackout curtains and slept for about 4 hours. It was only then that we took a full inventory of our room. We had a window that looked out onto Barberini Square.
The walls were covered in padded silk.
The bathroom was all marble.
Everything about this hotel whispered luxury. I was in heaven.
After dark, we decided to take a walkabout to get our bearings and to see if we could rustle up some chow. We started walking west of the hotel. Within 15 minutes, we found ourselves at the Spanish Steps, a popular tourist destination in Rome.
The Spanish Steps are a popular gathering place for folks to sit and people-watch. People-watching is big in Italy, and it’s a lot of fun too. There are all kinds of people at the Spanish Steps, so it makes for an interesting time… kind of like people-watching at Disneyland’s hub. But we weren’t feeling that close to the masses, so we decided to move on and find a restaurant.
We walked down the precarious steps and walked right into Rome’s high fashion district.
Every imaginable haute couture retailer was present and it was a lot of fun to window shop without the threat of having to actually go inside since they were all closed. Thanks God for small blessings!
We continued walking and came upon a narrow street, or what we thought was a narrow street. It turns out that this “narrow street” opened up into a large piazza with an adorable little outdoor café.
We were seated outside and proceeded to order some wine and antipasti.
Darlene had crostini’s with tomato’s, basil, olive oil and mozzarella and I had a seafood salad. We then ordered pastas. I had spaghetti alla carbonara, and Darlene had spaghetti with a nice marinara sauce.
Both dishes were excellent, which was something we would come to expect in Italy. The food in Italy is something to be savored, celebrated and enjoyed. We had more incredible meals there than we’ve ever had… anywhere.
A partial view of Piazza di San Lorenzo...
After dinner we walked thru the narrow streets of Rome. Scooters are quite popular...
We eventually arrived at the Trevi Fountain...
...a beautiful water feature by one of Romes most famous sculpture’s, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Bernini also sculpted the Triton Fountain which was located in front of our hotel.
There were tons of people at the Trevi Fountain, so we didn’t stay too long. We knew we’d be back in a couple of days with our tour group. We soon left and walked back to our hotel for more much-needed sleep.
Tomorrow: We ride Romes subway, visit Palatine Hill, home of Caesars (real) Palace and meet our fellow Disney Adventurers.
CLICK HERE FOR DAY 2 OF OUR ADVENTURE!