Wow, I am so behind on this, I know! I kept hoping to get around to it sooner, but all the excitement about little Lucy just took over and swept Europe completely under the rug. I have a feeling she'll be doing that for awhile ;).
Rome was, hands down, the absolute most exhausting, exhilarating day of the trip. Since we'd ended up having to spend more money on transportation than we either wanted or planned for up to that point, we decided to set aside everything extra we had to enjoy our day in Rome. Amsterdam, after all, had been "my" place. Rome was "Pierce's". And I really wanted him to get the whole experience.
As I mentioned before, the cruise excursions were outrageously priced, and while we were in Pisa we were approached by a woman who worked for a regional tourist company who basically keeps track of all the cruise ships coming in and out of port and where they're going. She offered us a sightseeing package for Rome, and of course we were skeptical of the price, but it wasn't so much cheaper that we knew for sure it would be a scam. So we went for it! After a night of looking up reviews online and talking to Guest Services on the ship (who had never even heard of them...we figured that was a good enough sign that they weren't total rip-offs), we decided to take the risk. It was simply too good to pass up.
We were SO glad we did! The regional company picked us up at the train station, had our tickets ready, guided us everywhere we needed to go, showed us all around the city of Rome, and didn't even ask for payment until lunchtime when we stopped halfway through the tour. It was a ton of walking, but we were able to see the major attractions whereas if we'd gone with the ship excursion (which only covered transportation to and from Rome), we would have had to navigate the city all alone. And even though I was almost fourteen weeks pregnant and thoroughly tired of walking, I was having the time of my life exploring the Eternal City with my favorite person.
After stops at the Colosseum, the Parliament building, the Fountain of the Four Rivers, and the Pantheon, we were given an hour for lunch. Honestly, it was the moment we'd been waiting for since our trip began. Pierce and I are huge pasta lovers, and we couldn't wait to have authentic Italian food in the most Italian city in Europe. So we took a leisurely stroll down a path close to the Pantheon, alongside dozens of little cafes, and finally found our way to a restaurant called The Dark Duke. We didn't know that's what it was called until it showed up on our bank statement, but it was exactly what we had hoped to find. It was quaint and quiet, with the perfect people-watching table right outside on the cobblestones. We got there before it was crowded and were treated like royalty. We ordered homemade bruschetta with their hand-tossed pita bread, and for our entrees we fairly Hoovered our plates of seafood spaghetti (oh, heaven...) and ricotta and mozarella ravioli. Pierce ordered a glass of wine, and apparently in Italy when you order a glass you get a whole sixteen ounce decanter along with it! That, along with the two limoncello shots they gave Pierce after our lunch to apologize for making us wait so long, gave my husband the perfect buzz.
In Rome, we saw all the tourist spots and did all the lovely tourist things. We tossed coins into the Trevi Fountain, ate gelato, and stood in line to see the Vatican. We took tons of pictures and walked around behind a guy with an umbrella, and we wouldn't have changed any of it. It was the one day we gave ourselves permission to just be like everyone else...because everyone in Rome is a tourist ;).