Eurotrip 2015 had taken me to seven cities thus far. Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Porto, Vigo, Tenerife, and Ibiza were all behind me. I boarded my flight from Ibiza to Rome in anticipation for what awaited.
I arrived at Fiumicino Airport at around 10pm. The airport is decently far from Rome’s city center and it took almost two hours for the total of waiting for the bus and bus ride itself. The buses from FCO to Rome’s Termini station (the main train and bus station, very near to city center) cost 4 or 5 Euros depending on the carrier but are not very reliable in terms of timeliness: my bus was 45 minutes late for departure from the airport.
For my first two nights in Rome, I stayed at the Freedom Traveler hostel about two blocks northwest of Termini. The area around the hostel is very good for travelers: there is a supermarket, a few mini markets, and several good restaurants. The hostel itself skews toward a young crowd, at least on the nights that I was there, which translates to chugging cheap wine in the common areas with new friends. And plus, it’s very close to Termini, which again is the main gateway for any bus or train you would want to catch toward any other area of Rome or the surrounding cities. For $30 USD per night, which included free WiFi and wine during happy hour, it’s a hell of a deal.
Day 0: Hostel Check In
I checked into the Freedom Traveler at nearly midnight. I went out for a quick slice of pizza at a nearby restaurant with another hostel dweller and returned to my room to sleep.
Day 1: Walking Rome
For my first full day in Rome, I woke up early and walked over twelve miles, sightseeing and visiting landmarks. I started by purchasing a bus pass from a vendor outside Termini: a two day pass ran 17 Euros. I then took a bus from Termini to the Vatican. I toured the Vatican and walked from the Vatican to the Coliseum and Roman Forum (it must have been about five miles using the convoluted route I took).
I arrived back at the hostel and joined a group of hostel mates for wine in the hostel kitchen, which was not very good, but the price was right: complimentary. We (or at least I) got pretty drunk and then headed out on my own to Trastevere, a neighborhood a few miles southeast of the hostel. I took a bus from Termini using the bus pass I purchased earlier. Trastavere is very lively, even on weeknights. There are a ton of bars and restaurants and there were a ton of people out.
Restaurant Pick : Cacio e Pepe , in Trastavere. Legit seafood pasta.
Day 2: Recovery and the Waldorf
I spent most of the morning recovering at the hostel. At around noon I finally checked my bag into their temporary storage and set out on foot to explore more of room, this time moving to the northwest to explore the area around the Spanish Steps.
I made the journey to my next hotel, the Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri, of which you can find a full review here . The hotel was super swank and shortly after arriving, checking in, and showering, lost all motivation to leave. I spent the night at the hotel bar drinking copious amounts of wine.
Day 3: Trastavere Again and the IC Rome
I checked into my next hotel, the InterContinental Rome De La Ville , at around noon. I traveled there from the Waldorf in the Waldorf’s shuttle, which dropped off about a half-mile from the IC, and walked the rest of the way. I then spent the day walking around Rome, seeing more sights and eating more delicious food.
Restaurant Pick : Cantina e Cucina , near Pantheon. Amazing Italian meal.
Day 4: Airport Hell
I originally had an airberlin flight from Rome to Vienna, scheduled to depart at 1pm. I arrived at Fiumicino at 1130am as I thought that would be enough time to check in and board, but I sorely underestimated the shit show that is FCO. Holy shit, the worst airport experience I have ever had. Granted, I don’t speak Italian, and the airport was undergoing massive construction due to a fire that had broken out in a terminal a week prior, but this day was just miserable.
Needless to say, the line was extremely long for both check-in and security. After 60 minutes in the check-in line, I was able to get to the front, signaling my airberlin flight had departed without me. The airberlin agent essentially said it was my fault and that I needed to go to the ticketing counter.
Rome Airport Tip #1 : You can’t get ticketed where you check in. There are ticketing agents (which don’t share a name with the airline you want to fly, adding an additional layer of confusion) that will issue you the tickets, and once you receive them you go to get your boarding pass and drop your bag at the airline’s counter, and finally you go to wait in line to pass the security checkpoint. If you are arriving at the airport without a ticket, budget about five hours from start to finish.
After about two hours of running back and forth between ticket counters and operating counters for Ryanair, Easyjet, Alitalia, and Airberlin, I was finally able to get through to an American Airlines ticketing agent via Skype.
Rome Airport Tip #2 : The WiFi at Fiumicino may be free, but it sucks balls. It will cut you off not only at random intervals just due to being crappy, but also after a few hours at which point you have to log in again. This poses a problem when you’re 45 minutes into a waiting-on-hold marathon for American Airlines, holding on to hope that you can find award space and get re-ticketed sometime this month.
So I finally was able to get through to American Airlines. I originally used 30,000 miles for an economy class ticket from Rome to Gainesville (with an 18 hour stopover in Vienna) but there was absolutely no saver space from Rome to anywhere on the US East Coast for the next three days. I asked the agent to search Rome to every available AA/US hub (Chicago, JFK, MIA, CLT, PHL, and DCA) in the hopes I could just get a cheap cash or avios fare back to Gainesville, but to no avail. I had to settle for AAnytime economy award from Rome to Gainesville, connecting in Charlotte, for 62,500 miles. And a refund of $20 on the taxes and fees.
I booked a hostel for the next two nights from the airport and then headed back to the city for a much needed drink, and dinner, but moreso the drink.
Day 5 and 6: San Lorenzo and the End of Eurotrip 2015
I didn’t expect to be in Rome for another two days and so I didn’t have any plans whatsoever. I spent the next day walking about and exploring more of the city. My final night I went out for drinks in the San Lorenzo neighborhood, which was great for a crowd. It’s minutes from the largest University in Rome so you’ll mostly find hipsters and other various cliques of uni students, but a very fun area and one that isn’t bad to hit solo. There were a few avenues in particular with a few bars on either side that had massive spillovers of people partying into the streets.
My favorite part of Rome? The food.
28 days, four countries, and a lifetime of memories. Can’t wait until the next one.