For our November 2019 trip, we started in Rome as that is the easiest city to fly into from Dallas (we had to do a short layover in Philadelphia). Also, my mother-in-law had never been to Italy so we thought she may want to see The Eternal City. We stayed for three nights in a small boutique hotel near the Trevi Fountain. We also planned two tours with a private guide, Paola Barbaneri at Paola Tours. Our first day we were all jet lagged from the flight so we stopped by the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon and then had an early dinner and called it a night.
We also visited the Pantheon, which dates to 113 AD and was built by the Emperor Hadrian. It was a former Roman temple (now a Catholic church). The columns for this building came from Egypt and were floated on a barge down the Nile. I also love the coffered dome inside with the oculus.
The next day we were up early to meet Paola for a private tour of the Vatican, which included the museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Paola, as always, did a great job highlighting points of interest, giving us history and the background of objects and explaining how the tiny city-state of the Vatican works.
We then visited the Sistine Chapel, which is stunning but no photos are allowed. Following that we moved onto St. Peter’s Basilica.
The next day we had another private tour with Paola to visit The Coliseum and the Roman Forum. Steve and I actually never visited the Coliseum during our last visit to Rome because the line was so long. If you have a private guide, you get to skip the line and walk right in!
We did not go into the “basement” of the Coliseum as that requires a special pass and it was actually closed to all visitors during this time for restoration work.
After the Colisuem, we were off to the Roman Forum. I have to say that the Rick Steve’s “walking tour” of the Forum in his Rome Guidebook is really just as good as any guide.
What else did we do in Rome? We walked a lot to various spots, including the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona and Trastevere and we ate a lot! My favorite meal is a highly recommended (and hard to get into) little trattoria called Armando al Pantheon. We sampled some rabbit crostinis and pasta here that was incredible (no reservation but we did get there right when they opened for lunch at 11:30 and got one of the last “open” tables). My favorite Roman dish is cacio e pepe, just a simple pasta with lots of cheese and cracked black pepper.
We did a lot of sightseeing so after this we had a driver pick us up and take us to Southern Tuscany for 3 days of chilling out and relaxation.
I will say that as much I like Rome, I really enjoyed Florence so much more as I found it to be more compact and walkable and more scenic (and had better food)