We just returned from a week in Rome, a belated anniversary trip without kids and planned somewhat spontaneously. I have not travelled extensively; there are many places on my list that I want to see, but I have always been enchanted with the idea of travelling deeply and learning about a place by visiting more than once, each time with a different perspective. The last time we were in Rome, four years ago, we were introducing our kids to travel abroad, and I spent most of the trip teaching, warning, and carrying all of the gear. This time, Rick and I had time to really see things, to get off the beaten path, and to explore on our own.
I’m sure that I will write more about this, but in the interim, I want to give lots of credit to Allison Collier at Allison Collier Travel. Allison’s commitment to getting to know her clients is extraordinary, and she struck the perfect balance for us. She is thoughtful, communicative, and organized and her suggestions for hotels, transport, food, and activities have never missed the mark. I cannot recommend her enough, and we are already working on the next family trip (maybe two!).
We stayed at the glorious Crossing Condotti this time, just a short walk from the Spanish Steps. This special place houses six guest rooms in a renovated space that fuses lovely antiques with high modern style. Not only was the space beautiful, but the service was impeccable. Gerald, our concierge, was a wonderful guide and host, steering us to fabulous restaurants in the neighborhood and giving us great suggestions for out-of-the-way spots to tour. I don’t think we can say enough good things about this place. It was simply perfect.
We were lucky enough to schedule a couple of last-minute tours that made our trip even more special. Our day trip to Orvieto culminated in a tour of the Madonna Del Latte Winery in Sucano. Leon, the owner, took us on a tour of this beautiful little vineyard, and we tasted his special wines while overlooking fields of grapes and lavender. It was one of those incredible afternoons that can render you a little speechless (and not because of the wine!).
We also spent a morning on a bike tour down the Appian Way, culminating in a spin around Aqueduct Park before we navigated the ancient tufa paved road back to our starting point. Eco-Bike Roma, and our intrepid and knowledgeable tour guide Daniel, showed us a whole new side of Rome. We learned so much pedaling under the Roman sun!
Finally, I was able to spend a morning with my new friend Kelly Medford, whose small painting of a red Moka pot has adorned my office wall for years. Kelly is an exceptionally talented artist, and her paintings of Rome and its surrounds perfectly capture the feel of the city for me. I have been known to scroll her website when I’m feeling a little “Rome-sick.” She also offers sketching tours, which you can schedule on her website, and I was thrilled that our schedules lined up so that I could spend a morning with her. As an architect who spends most of her drawing time looking at a screen, it was a refreshing shift to work with pencil (no eraser!), ink and watercolor to loosen my hand and let go of my perfectionist tendencies. I’ll be devoting more time to sketching now, inspired by her guidance and encouragement.
Travel is certainly more complicated these days. While we have been vaccinated for some time, we still had to take a Covid test in Rome so that we could return to the US. (I highly recommend bringing a test with you – we purchased ours through the airline and did the test via telehealth.) And we were somewhat prepared to stay longer should we have had to quarantine, purchasing travel insurance and taking our laptops if we needed to stay. Italians are masking indoors, which we didn’t mind. Truthfully, I would wear a Hazmat suit to be able to stand under the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
We did not hear many English speakers in the city, and our guides and hosts also commented that we were some of the first Americans they had seen in a while. There was reduced capacity at the museum and some of the sites, but we only missed one spot that I wanted to visit, the newly opened Mausoleum of Augustus because I didn’t try to get tickets until about an hour before we decided to go. We ate almost all of our meals outside, which is the best place to eat in Rome anyway; we were lucky the weather cooperated. We did take public transportation, including the subway, bus and regional trains: for the most part, we have found that the city is easier to navigate either by foot or public transport and even then we managed to log between 10-15 miles on foot daily.
We are so grateful to the folks who helped us plan our trip, hosted us, guided us and inspired us. As a former “do it all myself” person, I have learned that working with talented people as we travel has greatly enriched our experiences, made us better travelers, and helped maximize our time and money. So at the end of this journey, I want to extend a very sincere thank you. Can’t wait until the next time.
Travel agency: https://allisoncolliertravel.com/
Hotel in Rome: https://www.crossingcondotti.it/condotti
Rome bike tour: https://www.ecobikeroma.it/
Wine tour in Orvieto: https://www.madonnadellatte.it/en/winery
Artist and sketching guide: https://www.kellymedford.com/