Travel: Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo & Personalised Magnums

Not a well talked about place, I’m very grateful to Libby for recommending this place. We sought shelter after the rainstorm, and were there when the sun came out and the paths (and people) literally started to steam as they dried out.

 photo Castel SantAngelo 15_zpssrzt60ty.jpg photo Castel SantAngelo 16_zpscqerwzgr.jpgNot only does the Castel Sant’Angelo provide some of the most stunning views of St Peter’s Basicila, it’s also one of the most interesting castles I’ve visited. It’s not very ‘touristy’, there’s little signs everywhere, you just have to explore. There’s lots of little paths to take, lots of hidden bits to look at.

 photo Castel SantAngelo 1_zps77uzxomp.jpg photo Castel SantAngelo 5_zpsrif66yet.jpg photo Castel SantAngelo 11_zps0mnc2bsp.jpgThis photo was a complete accident – my camera has a touch-screen, and I’d forgotten to take touch-shutter off. It was taking photos at virtually every step I look as the camera moved against me. Turns out it is one of my favourite photos of the trip!

 photo Castel SantAngelo 12_zpstmkym1kd.jpg photo Castel SantAngelo 2_zpssz8pi5xh.jpg photo Castel SantAngelo 9_zpsmlmdjydf.jpg photo Castel SantAngelo 13_zpsh06xlqio.jpgI peered through a dusty broken window (as a joke) and found the most stunning painting hidden from view behind it. We wandered through stunning, ornately decorated rooms (not expected in a castle!), peeked through arrow holes, and climbed our way up the narrow, winding staircase out to the top. I’m quite glad the thunder had stopped by that point!

 photo Castel SantAngelo 7_zpsp6i3syoj.jpg photo Castel SantAngelo 10_zpsdfsnxxlc.jpg photo Castel SantAngelo 4_zpsvw2pjzpd.jpgI wore one of my favourite summer pieces – a midi skirt with H&M in a burnt-orange colour. Perfect for travelling as it covers knees (a necessity with a lot of places in Italy), and it packs up really small. I threw it on with a black vest top, then had a white shirt over the top as shoulders should also be covered in the Vatican. It proved useful in the rain too…and protected my blistered shoulders very nicely!

 photo Castel SantAngelo 3_zpsrumzjdte.jpgAfter a good few hours in the castle (at €7 for students, less in off-peak months, it’s a bit of a bargain) we wandered along the river, dodging more blimming selfie stick sellers. The above photo isn’t actually blurry – the paths (and people!) were steaming as they dried out from the rain! We were hunting down a place I’d found mentioned on a school friend’s year abroad blog; the Magnum Pleasure Store.

Not exactly Italian, but W is a huge fan of Magnum’s, eating them probably five nights a week.I knew we couldn’t pass up the chance to visit!

 photo Magnum Store 8_zpsyramf92d.jpg photo Magnum Store 6_zpss0a67p0s.jpg photo Magnum Store 5_zpssexfi5ic.jpg photo Magnum Store 4_zpstqkdsiwl.jpgProbably the most expensive Magnum you will ever eat at €4, you choose between a vanilla or chocolate ice-cream filling. It is then dipped in either white, milk or dark chocolate, and scattered with up to three toppings before being finished with a drizzle of more chocolate. Not only is the product yummy, the store is lovely, vibrantly decorated at the front, but quite trendy and ridiculously comfy (and air conditioned!) out back.

 photo Magnum Store 2_zpsbvexvkd4.jpg photo Magnum Store 3_zpsdnzzmfyd.jpgHere’s a challenge for you – guess which one was mine, and which one was W’s! The white one was a chocolate ice-cream, covered in white chocolate (duh), sprinkled with salted caramel, hazelnuts and pretzels, drizzled with dark chocolate. The brown one was a vanilla ice cream dipped in milk chocolate, topped with rose petals, raspberry and brownie pieces, drizzled with white chocolate. So, whose is whose?!

 photo Magnum Store 1_zpsgcusvvws.jpgBoth were damn delicious anyway…

Do you like exploring hidden gems, or do you stick to main tourist attractions? And the most important question – what would you top your magnum with?

Travel: The Vatican City & A Roman Thunderstorm

Alongside the Colosseum this is the most talked about ‘attraction’ in Rome. It’s also another one you have to book a ticket for. It costs no more to book in advance, but you save yourself queueing – and the queue was around three hours long when we arrived at 11am.

 photo Vatican City 16_zpsneexedmf.jpg photo Vatican City 3_zpsirdp39fj.jpg photo Vatican City 4_zpsmhrxkzg0.jpgIt was ridiculously hot and humid that day, and unfortunately that didn’t help us whilst wandering round the museum. By the time we were shepherded into the extremely busy Sistine Chapel we’d both had enough. The crowded room wasn’t somewhere we wanted to spend much time, as beautiful as it was. The whole building was stunning, the detail on the ceilings, the sculptures, the paintings – all just wonderful.

 photo Vatican City 5_zpse5lknpi5.jpg photo Vatican City 6_zps7nbkrhjs.jpg photo Vatican City 7_zps5m29o3vg.jpg photo Vatican City 8_zpsbfarvgum.jpg photo Vatican City 9_zpscvt2uqsz.jpg photo Vatican City 10_zps8prspohy.jpg photo Vatican City 12_zps49m9qu4m.jpgPhotos weren’t allowed in many areas, and they were very strict about that – I saw one woman escorted out, having had her camera examined and the offending photos deleted. All my photos were taken in areas where photography was permitted, but they don’t show the beauty of the place. It really has to be seen, and I wouldn’t recommend a trip to Rome without visiting!

My top advice? Take lots of water if visiting in warmer months! It’s a long walk round, there’s no way to by-pass bits, and nowhere to really stop off. On that note, go to the toilet beforehand too…

 photo Vatican City 2_zpscaseqaqy.jpg photo Vatican City 13_zpsevrwmlfm.jpg photo Vatican City 15_zpsccut2pw7.jpgWe also sat in the lush gardens to relax a little, before struggling to find our way out!

 photo Vatican City 14_zpsl5ixorcf.jpg photo Vatican City 17_zpswq0withk.jpgWe headed towards St Peter’s Basilica, but the queue was snaking along and seemed a good hour long – there doesn’t seem to be a fast-track for this. We decided to give it a miss and settled down in the shade (a good choice!) to eat a packed lunch and watch the most stunning clouds roll in…

 photo Vatican City 18_zpspzpmusbn.jpg photo Vatican City 22_zpstul8zw5w.jpg photo Vatican City 20_zpsn4myghps.jpg photo Vatican City 21_zps03zkf8qx.jpg photo Vatican City 23_zpsipjzvmyg.jpgThen lightening lit up the now dark sky, thunder exploded, and the rain came down. I’ve never seen rain like it, within five minutes roads were flooded. The queue evaporated, the thousands heading towards the shelter we had previous had to ourselves. Rain blew up, the selfie-stick sellers rain to their cars, returning with ponchos and umbrellas!

The rain began to slow, we made a run for it…only to have to press ourselves against a wall in a vain attempt to shelter again.

 photo Vatican City 19_zps5qut9lqg.jpgA stunning thunderstorm, spectacular to watch…though I was glad I was not up at the top of the basilica’s dome! It was fascinating to experience such a quick change in weather – my photos of the square and the Vatican gardens were taken at most 20 minutes apart.

Have you been to Rome? Did you go to the Vatican?

Review: The Perfect Sandwich @ Pane & Vino, Rome

Seriously, the BEST sandwich I’ve ever eaten!

I stumbled across this place on Trip Advisor in advance of our holiday, but swiftly forgot about it until the receptionist recommended it. A two minute walk away, rumbling bellies and tired feet made this perfect.

 photo Pane amp Vino 1_zpscnrzwfax.jpg photo Pane amp Vino 4_zpst4inyj2s.jpgFabio was the perfect host, recommending places to go and things to see (indeed he was the person telling us to look through the keyhole!). Nothing seemed too much trouble, and he clearly loved his job. He told us all about the ingredients, talked us through the combinations, told us how fresh everything was, told us his favourites.

The first day we both went for the first option on the menu, a ciabatta filled with prosciutto, mozzarella, and rocket, finished with a drizzle of olive oil.

 photo Pane amp Vino 8_zpskndgxra6.jpg photo Pane amp Vino 5_zpsjsq8p4di.jpg photo Pane amp Vino 2_zpsht0zmrlp.jpgThe mozzarella was fresh that day, oh so creamy, and a little rnny like the ever-trendy burrata. The prosciutto sliced in front of us. Melting soft, full of flavour, good fat marbling and plenty of it. The rocket was obviously fresh and added a good pepperiness, the olive oil adding a bit of lubrication. It was a whopper of a sandwich, and utterly delicious. If only all sandwiches were like this!

We tried to replicate it whilst in Venice, buying the ingredients (minus rocket and oil) for lunches and did a pretty good job, but I’ve not had a sandwich as satisfying since.

 photo PaneampVino2_zps7drvrugt.jpgOn our last morning in Rome we decided to grab a sandwich between us, to take on the train. We went with Fabio’s favourite, a combination of speck ham, truffled cheese and more rocket. Definitely an easier sandwich to eat, especially if taking away – and although not quite as good as the first I certainly enjoyed it. Again the meat was sliced in front of us, amazingly fresh and clean flavoured. The cheese was also sliced in front of us, and was creamy, strongly cheesy and lightly truffle-y. I’m not usually a fan of cheese (other than mozzarella) with bread but this was delicious!

 photo Pane amp Vino 11_zpstlonhtlh.jpg photo Pane amp Vino 9_zpswhrlozid.jpg photo Pane amp Vino 3_zpsizdw64wn.jpgAt €6 for a sandwich (some hot options are a little more), this place is a hidden gem. A stone’s throw away from the Colosseum it’s a calm oasis away from tourists providing damn good food and cheap wine (which smelt great, though we didn’t sample).

My only regret is that I doubt we will return to Rome, as I’m desperate for a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich!

What’s your favourite sandwich filling?

Travel: The Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

Probably the most iconic site in Rome, the Colosseum was high on my list of places to visit. It turned out our hotel was a 3 minute walk away so we saw quite a bit of it! I have early morning photos, shots from walking around inside, afternoon photos, sunset photos, nighttime photos. An awful lot of photos of this place!

 photo Colesseum 1_zpsucxzgqzv.jpg photo Colesseum 14_zpsltsghcvs.jpgWe booked tickets online, and I highly recommend you do so as the queue for ‘reserved tickets’ is so much quicker. It actually looks a lot longer than the other queue when you first get there – quite disheartening but I’d say the other queue must have been a couple of hours long. We were in there within 20 minutes! I would advise against paying a premium for ‘skip the line’ tickets as these don’t seem to actually exist – there are two queues, one for reserved tickets, one for buying tickets.

 photo Colesseum 11_zps2wjkkima.jpg photo Colesseum 10_zps4fa9pqis.jpg photo Colesseum 9_zpswkd9wpxm.jpg photo Colesseum 8_zpskqwycbpm.jpg photo Colesseum 7_zpsiiroghtx.jpg photo Colesseum 5_zpsxlbfbutg.jpg photo Colesseum 4_zpsgwpkcmbp.jpgIn all honesty, if the ticket price just included the Colosseum I wouldn’t say it was hugely worth it unless you have a specific interest in Roman ruins. It’s a stunning bit of architecture, don’t get me wrong, but I think you can get that impression without heading inside. We did enjoy exploring though, and some bits were very interesting – for instance the pretty modern lift system used fr hoisting the ‘wild beasts’ into the arena.

If you do go and visit, though, do one thing for me? Don’t take a selfie stick! They drove me mad on this holiday as so many people spent their time with their backs to the scenery taking selfies. And don’t get me started on the street sellers who have clearly cottoned onto this…

 photo Colesseum 17_zpsiumahfdn.jpg photo Colesseum 16_zpsumty9c9q.jpg photo Colesseum 15_zpsbcxci9yt.jpg photo Colesseum 12_zpsfwyzxvwv.jpgPhotos really don’t show the true scale of the Colosseum – it’s absolutely huge, and a really stunning bit of history. It looks especially wonderful approaching sunset, and I’m so grateful to have caught this on our final evening in Rome.

Now for photo’s not including the Colosseum! I’m willing to bet there are hundreds of tourists every day who visit the Colosseum and have no clue that their ticket also give entry to another site only 200 yards away. A site which, in my opinion, is far more interesting too!

 photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 11_zpsiktpruuy.jpg photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 10_zpsaoemnryh.jpg photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 9_zpsojgjhjqt.jpg photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 6_zpsmpww7kdz.jpgThe Forum & Palatine Hill is a pretty massive site, filled with various ruins and some pretty intact structures.

 photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 12_zps7y3hd4r6.jpg photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 8_zpsdvhxcuo9.jpg photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 7_zpsiepqtmli.jpg photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 1_zps3rwgvptc.jpgThere are viewing platforms offering stunning views over Rome, shady gardens to wander through, and it’s pretty easy to accidentally tag along to a guided tour too!

 photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 5_zpscbei21xj.jpg photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 4_zpsg6cw5nj8.jpg photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 3_zpsboiqxrmf.jpgThere’s also a pretty interesting museum included in the ticket price, filled with various artefacts that have been dug up. The sign posts dotted around are short, fact-filled and quite amusing – I was pretty impressed at the Roman toilet structure!

 photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 2_zpsqdyignjx.jpgHave you ever been to Rome? What was your favourite site?