We’ve finally arrived at the last stop of me re-living our European vacation with all of you! It’s taken longer to talk about it than it did to do it! With all these pics and me blabbing on, we’ve somehow made it to the end: Rome!

We arrived in Rome via train from Venice (click here to re-cap), and I will say once again that we LOVE train travel! You can’t get views of the Italian countryside like this from a plane!

Just like in Venice, our hotel in Rome was just a short walk from the train station, so we hauled our bags down the street and started our adventures.

I do recommend the hotel we stayed at in Rome, just like I did the one in Venice. It’s the Starhotels Metropole and you can click here to reserve. After a little snafu with trying to assure we had two rooms for our family which were together, we ended up in 2 junior suites and they were very nice. And the breakfast, which is included with the stay, was fabulous! Tons of pastries, eggs, bacon, cereals, and fresh juices and coffees as well. And the location was great–just a short cab ride to almost anywhere in town.

We ate a quick lunch near the hotel, then began exploring the city! We started out walking the Via del Corso, which is a popular shopping strip. Also in this vicinity is the amazing Column of Marcus Aurelius, dated sometime between 180 and 193 AD!

Also nearby are the Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps.

We stumbled upon a cute place called La Buca di Ripetta for dinner, which was both charming and delicious! And then, of course, we found some gelato afterward because it had become pretty much an addiction by then. (Good news: The gelato shops in Rome are just as frequently found as the ones in Venice!)

The next day, we started off first thing with a tour with a private guide. We made this decision because we saw nothing but bad reviews on the big bus tour companies and wanted to be sure we got the most out of our time in Rome. Even though it was pricey, it was well worth it, and we got to see everything we hoped with a very informative commentary! Plus, we opted for the van with a chauffeur, so we were able to ride from site to site without spending more time walking! Our guide’s name was Valentina Di Lonardo and she was great. She had an iPad and illustrations to help explain in detail the history behind what we saw. We booked her through Rome Private Guides (click here to get more info).

We started the tour at the Colosseum and we were all just taken back by the amazing history of this structure! So unbelievable, the events that took place here.

Our guide explained how different the Colosseum looks today compared to its early days, and there are still a few hints of the luxurious elements here and there, like this slab of marble which used to cover the floors.

Also on our tour was the Circus Maximus, where chariot raceswere held…

The Forum…

The gorgeous Orange Grove with fabulous views…

The beautiful keyhole to Rome, which has a gorgeous view through a hedge archway of St Peter’s Basilica!

(Too bad it doesn’t show up on camera!)

The Fountain of the Four Rivers…

The Trevi Fountain (which, unfortunately, was under construction)…

The Spanish Steps…

The Pantheon…

And more!

That tour lasted about 3 hours, then we had a quick lunch and met up with another guide for a tour of the Vatican. Once again our guide was very knowledgable and gave us a lot of the history behind the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and other art we saw.

The Vatican tour included the Sistine Chapel (which you are not allowed to photograph) and St. Peter’s Basilica and took almost 2 hours. Let me note that adults and older kids might be more interested in this than the younger. It is a long walk through and very crowded on most days. They also ask that men wear long pants rather than shorts and women wear shirts cover their shoulders. Also, it can get very hot in some areas as there is no air conditioning. These are just a few points to keep in mind.

After our tour, we had to rest a bit before continuing on, so we took a cab to a place Valentina had recommended: the Villa Borghese gardens, just up the steps from the Piazza del Popolo. It’s great spot for resting awhile and enjoying a great view!

After a rest, it was back down the steps to head to dinner!

We ate where our guide had recommended: Gusto! And it was delish!

A little dessert at this bakery was the perfect end to the day.

For our last day in Rome, we decided to wander some more to see what we could find. Our first stop was Campo de Fiori, where there’s a market set up in the square…

And then a stroll to the nearby Piazza Navona, where the Four Rivers Fountain is.

There are more leather shops all around Rome, but the prices seem to be a little better in Venice, so keep that in mind if you’re traveling to both!

When we needed a rest from shopping, we sat awhile at the Spanish Steps…

And then we were back at it again.

Near the Pantheon is a fabulous gelato shop called Della Palma with over 150 flavors!! This is a must-see for gelato-lovers like us!

And just down a side street off Via Nazionale, we found great place to eat called L’Antica Fraschetta. The food was great, as well as the atmosphere, and prices were good as well.

We ended our last night of the trip back at the Colosseum to see it lit up at dark. And as dusk closed in, the views were beautiful and the street sellers were out in full force! They pegged me right away for a sucker for jewelry and I spent every last euro I had on these bargains! They talked me into everything and it cracked me up. (Got the beads for $3 and the bracelet for $2! Woohoo!)

And that concluded our European vacation! If you’re wondering why on earth we’d try to take our entire family on such a big trip, well, the opportunity was there and we took it! There will never be a chance quite like this for us again as Grant is leaving for college in the fall and Abby is graduating next year. We also just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We had two solid weeks of close family time, and more memories than we can ever count. I hope I’ve been able toconvey that it’s not too difficult to travel as a family to Europe. Expensive? Yes. It can be, but doing some research can help you save a lot, and if you start saving early and plan ahead, it can be possible.

Thanks for sticking around for my tour! If you havequestions on something, just let meknow! And click on the links below for the other cities wevisited…