Hitting Europe in early October is like hitting Cape Town in March/April – you miss all the mayhem, the queues, the mad heat, the traffic and the pumped-up season prices. The big gamble is the weather. You’ll more than likely nail it, but there’s a chance it will be miserable. Turns out we nailed it…
The pool at the Rome Cavalieri
We made use of a 50% discount at the hotel Cavalieri in Rome. So that’s 50% off LOW season rates – which begins 1 October. They give these 50% discounts if you pay in full upfront. I stumbled upon the 5 star Rome Cavalieri hotel as I searched online for a snazzy place to stay for three nights in Rome. Being accustomed to the likes of the Mount Nelson in Cape Town and the Westcliff hotel in Johannesburg I was pleased to hear that the Rome Cavalieri has previously been home to everyone from the Obamas and Nic Sarkozy to George Clooney, Leonardo Di Caprio and Julia Roberts – she stayed there while she filmed ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’
The concierge desk at the Rome Cavalieri
Our driver from the airport confirmed our suspicions that the Rome Cavalieri was the “best hotel in Rome” and this fact was further compounded as we walked into the lobby – greeted by priceless works of art (turns out the Rome Cavalieri is home to one of the greatest private art collections in the world) and a highly efficient concierge team. Our bags were whisked away to our room as we checked in. Once in our room I realized why they emphasized different prices for rooms ’with Rome view’ and rooms ’without Rome view.’ You can tell by the pics below that ’with Rome view’ was very much the way to go – absolutely breathtaking and wonderful for reflecting over each day’s touring around the ’Eternal City.’
Our room ‘with Rome view’ at the Rome Cavalieri
And so began three glorious days and nights. There is no faulting the Rome Cavalieri – it was supreme 5 star beyond the highest European standards, with killer breakfasts (let alone dinners at ‘La Pergola’ – their 3 Michelin star restaurant on the roof), two pools, full gym, spa, steam rooms, jacuzzis – the works.
I should just make a special mention of the pool area, as we spent most of our hotel time there – total and utter indulgence. I included some pics below of the incredible scene, including Italian businessmen doing deals around the pool, spoilt dogs and even the odd guy brushing his hair – at the pool – speedo et al. Gotta love it.
In terms of Rome itself, we nailed the Vatican City and Sistine Chapel on the first day, opting for a guided tour, which includes the all-important queue skip. I don’t need to tell you how awe-inspiring it is to be there, as I doubt you have never heard anything to the contrary. The Muse was naturally relating everything we saw to different scenes from the movie Angels and Demons. For me I was just fascinated by the power The Vatican used to wield (and still does, for that matter!) – originally being the official government of Italy and now it’s very own principality. Like Monaco, but without any good looking people; and certainly similar amounts of cash and scandal. An aside: interesting too is that Avignon, which is just down the road from our place in Menerbes (Provence – France – where we were before visiting Rome), used to be where the Pope resided (1309 – 1377), before moving across to Italy.
On the second day we did a stunning little walk, recommended by Jono, a premium tour guide in my family. This is how it goes: Start at the Spanish Steps and head down Via del Condotti to check out all the big names (Louis, Gucci, Burberry, Versace and the gang). Stop by Cafe Greco (opened in 1760) and have a ham and mozzarella sandwich. It will cost a bomb, but you will love being there. Diet Cokes go for a gentle R90, but hey, when in Rome… Go back up to the Steps and hang a right, heading through to Trevi Fountain (made famous in the movie La Dolce Vita). Do the tourist thing and make a wish by throwing a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain. Once you’ve attempted to avoid the Italian shoe shop next to the fountain, you should continue over another (less-expensive) shopping street (via del Corso) and on to the Pantheon. The Pantheon will blow your mind – built in the times of Jesus, this great circular building with a giant hole in the roof, now holds the tombs of the likes of Raphael. Google for more.
Another little treat, also recommended by Jono, is a restaurant called Mongrovia Rome (Via Milazzo 6, near Termini train station) where we ate on the first night. Usually exclusively frequented by groups, we let the maitre D, Serafino decide what we should eat and boy did he nail it! We had some kind of seafood pasta which blew our socks off, but nothing could prepare us for the Seabass (insert Dumb&Dumber joke here), which he filleted in front is us – wow! Give it a go and speak to him or Pasquala when you arrive – tell them Jono O’Reilly’s cousin sent you
One thing is for sure, South African restaurants need to learn about Al dente pasta (cooked, but not so that it becomes overly soft) – its definitely the way to go.
And that was that – a stunning three days and nights in Rome. We could have done more and would need at least seven days to scratch the surface. Needless to say, we will be back! Our taxi dropped us at the airport on the final morning – headed for Athens, where we boarded our seven day cruise. More on that to come.
(I’m writing this on day 4, just leaving Corfu, en route to Croatia – our first cruise and loving it!).
Check out some pics below of the Rome Cavalieri hotel, some Vatican and Rome pics, Italians at the pool etc.
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