A Roman Welcome to Italy

The trip to Rome from Tel-Aviv was full of a few surprises here and there. After a 3:45 AM wake-up for our 6 am flight, we made our way to the airport for the ever so intense Israeli pre-flight security. I can tell you that our visit to Petra and corresponding stamp to Jordan is going to linger with us for as long as we have that passport and visit Israel-I had to answer the question as to why we went to Jordan at least 5 times in our 3 minute conversation.

Post security, we boarded our first flight to Istanbul and within moments Debbie was sleeping while I was finishing up a book and enjoying a little snack on the 2 hour flight. Upon landing, we had to go through security once again and posted up in the lounge for our 3 hour layover. We were pretty tired and didn’t move too much from the couch before hearing the announcement that our plane was boarding. Before we could even make it down to the gate, they were on final boarding and we were among the last ones to enter the bus before it left for the gate.

The flight to Rome was a little longer which just meant a little nicer meal. For us, every meal today was just a snack to tide us over for the main event- the Food Tour that Debbie’s brother Sam had gotten us for the evening. Upon landing, we had a very long line to enter Passport Control that resulted with a open your passport to whatever page you want and receive a stamp to enter.

We collected our bags and boarded the train to the city center and made the 20-minute walk to the hotel. I’ve tried to not go into too much detail on some of the elaborate components of our travel but today’s was so unique that I felt we needed to spend a little time covering. The Marriott app usually shows you what kind of room you have so upon checking in to the hotel, you know if you want to put a hard sell on to ask for an upgrade.

We had a basic room so when we got to the desk, I, in my usual attempt, asked for an upgrade. The front-desk person laughed at me and said Mr. Meyer, we’ve actually upgraded you to the Villa for the evening- it’s one of the largest rooms in Europe. Debbie believed him immediately but the natural skeptic in me was thinking that the app says it’s a basic room and I’m not falling for it.

The “room” wasn’t ready so we went to the bar for a welcome glass of champagne before the GM came over to take us up to the room. Upon getting in the elevator and hitting a high floor, I started to think something special was going to happen. Then when we got off and saw the double door room (the sign you have something nice), I was beyond surprised when he opened the door to our multi-level massive room that is larger than our house in Chicago. It’s a shame that we’re only here for one-night as we didn’t really get to enjoy it too much (that and over 1/2 of the doors and the suite itself is locked/shut-off as I think someone important is coming here tonight). That said, no questions asked the nicest hotel room I’ve ever been in, seen pictures of, or any sort of anything in my 7+ years of aggressive travel.

It’s a long movie, but I’d recommend just a few seconds of this to fully understand why words won’t do it justice aside from, elevator, Turkish bath (locked), and a vaunted ceiling of vaunted ceilings.

Youtube Link- https://youtu.be/5D60cFUvShY

By the time we checked in we had only about an hour before it was time to head off to the food tour. We made our way to the local train station only to discover that it was closed and we didn’t have time to wait for a cab to make it to the start. We immediately jumped in to the car and were able to connect with the tour company to let them know we’d be a few late (we were not the last to arrive by some miracle, another group showed up 4 minutes after us).

The group of 12 and our very passionate guide, Jess, made our way throughout a wealthier neighborhood of Rome surrounding the Vatican over the course of 4 hours and five stops full of food and wine. I did a decent job taking pictures in the beginning but an awful job as it went as we were enjoying the company and the attractions for us all.

In an effort to be concise (and we’re trying to get out of our hotel)- the first stop was for meat and cheese, the second stop for pizza, the third for meat and cheese again, the fourth for pasta, and the final for gelato.

On the meat and cheese front, we had a ton of prosciutto and various mixes of cow, sheep, and goat cheeses ranging from stronger to very mild, hard to very soft, and every which combination you could imagine. On the pizza front, we went to Bocci which has a few locations in Rome and also 2 in Chicago (randomly)- excellent pizza where you pay based on the size of the slice. On the pasta front, we had some cheese/spinach ravoli which was the weakest item of the evening but the gnocchi was awesome. And finally, the gelato, what more do you need to cap off an evening, was great. I tried the Mint but didn’t get it as it was far too strong given the sensory overload we’d had thus far and was happy with a cookies/cream and caramel combo.

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