In Rome as the Romans, an anniversary with wine in Tuscany and country number 81

I wanted to do something cool around our anniversary in early September, so I decided to surprise Nace with a light weekend trip. From a vague idea with low expectations (we are still in the year 2021), everything finally turned into a grande surprise in Italian style. The following is the story of “in Rome do as the Romans do” in practice, how we celebrated our anniversary with Tuscan wines and sights and how we visited country 81 together.

Rome on a Vespa tour, Italy

The preparation

Initially, I was looking for tickets somewhere nearby, so that they are not expensive, so there are no regrets if they decide to cancel/change the flights or something like that in the dynamic times in which we exist. First in my field of vision was Italy, with 2 or 3 destinations. Considering the specific weekend of our anniversary and the fact that I wanted us to leave on Saturday and return home in the early afternoon of Monday at the latest (in time for the Greek course in the evening), Rome remained the only candidate.

So, five weeks before the departure date, I bought two return tickets from Sofia to Rome for a total of 46 euros. In the weeks that followed, my task was to do nothing and not to let Nace know where we were going. He only knew how long we would be gone. Of course, Ryanair changed one of the flights but we would even have about an hour more in Rome.

As I stood still and kept my mouth shut, I still read blogs on what to do in Rome. We both visited the city 110 years ago, but separately – in different situations, with different companies. I wanted to find something very cool that would give us both an overview of the Eternal City and still would not cover the most touristy places we had ever seen (although after 110 years our memory is trying to betray us). At first, I thought of doing something in the style of a mini Camino – to go where our feet would take us in the huge city. But then I stumbled upon some tours with Vespas, hidden places with graffiti, fountains without piles of people around them, million-euro views, gelato, and so on. Then I got an idea from the mother ship to check if there are tours to nearby Tuscany that combine wine, landscapes, beautiful cities, and more.

A day trip from Rome to Tuscany - wine tasting

The surprises begin

Five days before we left, I booked the two tours, filled out the PLF on behalf of both of us, found accommodation within walking distance of everything. On Saturday morning we headed to Sofia Airport, with Nace still unaware of where we were going. What did he pack, you’d ask? I told him to take from the summer clothes we wore in Greece until last week, to throw in a top and put on comfortable shoes.

So, at the airport, the secret destination remained a secret for a long time. We didn’t have any luggage to check-in – a small backpack was enough for each of us. The employees at the check before the escalators did not ask where we were going, at the baggage check – no questions were asked too. For a while I thought, Nace will learn where we’re going when we get to the gate! But before that, the passport control officer decided to make sure we weren’t confused, we weren’t kidnapped, or I don’t know what exactly, and when she saw the tickets, she asked, “Are you going to Rome?” I managed to throw a glimpse to Nace’s face at that moment, he looked very pleasantly surprised.

We had a lot of time until the flight so we played with Muzeiko’s experimentarium, we lay down on the new booths for relaxation, had breakfast and it was time to board. My task to remain silent continued – I wanted it to announce our two tours at the very last moment.

The Colosseum, Rome on a Vespa tour, Italy
The last of the New 7 Wonders of the World to visit together!

Exploring Rome on a Vespa

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Rome greeted us sunny and smiling. We reached Termini, and from there it was only a 30-minute walk to our accommodation. Along the way, we managed to get lost, buy a selfie stick from Chinatown and take pictures of at least five landmarks. We managed to settle in and even rest a bit in the room from the humidity of Rome. But there was no time to lose – we had to go to Trastevere for the start of our Vespa tour. We ate one or two slices of pizza in a street restaurant – you literally eat on the street. Immersed in the atmosphere of the lively neighborhood and well-fed, we headed to the starting point of the tour. The surprise for Nace was big and exciting – while he was wondering if we would ride a bike or get a moto-taxi, they already wanted his driver’s license. Our bright red Vespa was smiling at us from the street, and when our guide Mario came, we fidgeted through the narrow cobbled streets of the neighborhood with its many restaurants.

One day I will write a song about the feeling of riding on a Vespa in narrow streets and past fountains and churches, as well as on wide boulevards with views of the whole city. For now, passing under aqueducts and tunnels of trees, making sharp turns, changing lanes, and passing cars without taking away thousands of melodious Italian swear words, as well as the many stops to watch, photograph, and learn something new about known and unknown corners of the city with our local guide Mario – all this remains immortalized in a video. At the end of the four hours, we were tired and charged at the same time, because we were immersed in our elements – “follow the locals” and “support small businesses and warm-hearted people”. The result was the feeling “in Rome do as the Romans do” – literally and figuratively.

Vatican City – in a new country with style

Here comes the moment for a big surprise for me. During the Vespa tour, we stopped and walked around one of the most remarkable Rome landmarks – the Vatican City. I had decided not to include the city-state in this trip – there was simply no time to wait a few hours in line (as it was 110 years ago) in our program. When Mario told us to park in a back alley, go past some columns and be in another country, I could hardly believe it. But it was a fact – we passed delicately through the “backyard” and headed for the obelisk. St. Peter’s Square was just waiting for us – almost without any people, with the bright sun trying to fall just behind the basilica of the same name. We will leave the queues to get in it and in the Sistine Chapel for next time.

So far, a walk around the Vatican courtyard, a series of selfies (in which we almost broke our phones, the new stick was not very stable), the 360-degree smiles, and Mario’s stories were enough for us. And it turned out that because the ancient Romans knew how to recycle when walking around the Vatican, we also walked on the Colosseum. It is encouraging and inspiring to know that when there is a wish, even stones can be upcycled.

Vatican City, Rome, Italy

Tuscan festivities

On Sunday morning we walked to Piazza del Popolo (which we “flew by” with the Vespa on Saturday) to go on a Tuscany day trip. The lonely streets of Rome in the morning can be an experience themselves! In the square, Nace received another surprise, and I freed myself from the burden of keeping surprises a secret – this was the last of this trip! Our day was filled with many interesting stories and history by our guide Andrea, a walk through the amazing town of Montepulciano, yellow-green autumn Tuscan landscapes with magical cypresses. We stopped at a family winery for wine tasting and lunch, then continued to Pienza, where luck (the bad one in this case) broke the bus, which gave us time to drink another glass of excellent Tuscan wine. Salute! Can life get any better?

A day trip from Rome to Tuscany - wine tasting

On Monday morning we walked with our backpacks to Termini, the streets of Rome were not so lonely, but still full of charm. We waved goodbye to the Colosseum, to the Palatine Hill, to Circus Maximus. Of course, we did this mini Camino of about 50,000 steps. See you soon, our beloved Eternal City!

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