On my 35th Birthday Trip in Rome, I lived out one of my greatest dreams – cruising around Rome in a vintage Fiat 500!!! Or a small metal death trap, as Dan called it… He hates danger. Our afternoon was absolutely fantastic and a unique way to explore the lovely city of Roma, Italia!
In any case, tossing Dan’s fears aside, when researching trips for my birthday, I came upon Rome 500 Experience tours, which offer tours of Rome in a vintage Fiat or on a moped. I would have been inclined to go the moped route but, since it was December, I opted for the Fiat and booked the trip with a driver and a wine tasting (when in Rome and not driving?). Dan was not at all excited, but it was my birthday trip! I signed us up and paid for the tour before we left. He was left with no choice…
Rome 500 Experience tours starts in a random garage within walking distance of the colosseum. Our guide, the owner of the tour company and so many adorable vintage Fiat 500s, was waiting for us and let us pick out our car from inside the garage. There are several fiats to choose from – red, blue, orange, pink, perhaps others… I opted for the classic red one, complete with a sun roof! Her name was Trastevere, appropriate since Dan and I lived in Trastevere for a summer in 2008! After jockeying the car out of its tiny, tiny parking spot, we were on our way!
On tRome 500 Experience tours, you can drive the Fiat yourself (stick shift) or ride with the guide driving. We opted for the latter, as neither of us can drive a stick shift (though hoping to change that shortly)! After settling in, our tour started “off the beaten path” with a drive to Aventine Hill, but Dan and I had been here when we studied abroad. I was quite happy with this stop, because I love Aventine Hill. Its a gorgeous, upscale part of Rome, largely devoid of a lot of the tourist hoards. I would love to live in this area. In Aventine Hill, we look lots of silly pictures with the Fiat, which Dan really hated (haha), and then went inside Sant’Anselmo all’Aventino (a Catholic church). This was a really beautiful church and it was practically empty when we visited. Aventine Hill is also home to the Keyhole of Piazza Cavalieri di Malta, which offers a picture perfect view of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Garden of Oranges. We skipped these, however, as we had done this on our summer study abroad and there was quite the line…
We next drove the Fiat over to Circus Maximus, which is an ancient Rome chariot racing course. Despite being ancient, its still pretty intact and impressive. We stopped for pictures and a brief history lesson. The city of Rome was preparing for a NYE concert on the grounds, so that was certainly interesting to watch. There were even some real (police) horses on the racing course (which is still there)!
Next up, we drove around Rome a bit, passing by the Colosseum and the Mouth of Truth, ending up stopping near the Typewriter Building (i.e. the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II). At this point, the area was crowded and people were really staring at our car! Legit, posing with it, touch it, we felt like celebrities, ha! Our guide pointed out some of the oldest houses in Rome, which are right next to the Typewriter building. The weather was also gorgeous, and we were able to put down the sunroof and cruise around town.
After a few minutes in the area, we got back in the car turned towards the Pantheon and drove though some tiny, really crowded streets, eventually making our way to Trastevere, where we cruised around our old neighborhood! This was really fun, and we recognized a lot of our old spots! Funny how somethings still look the same 10 years later.
Our next to last stop was at the Spanish Academy, which is a small museum with, again, GREAT views of Rome! Here, we went through the museum and took lots of pictures over looking Rome! I will say, the views are better than the museum (in my opinion).
We ended our tour in one of my favorite spots – Janiculum Hill! Janiculum Hill is home to the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola fountain, very similar to the Trevi Fountain but less crowded, and the most gorgeous views of Rome. Its just up the road from the Spanish Academy and the views from this general area are truly one of my favorite things about Rome! Try to make your way up here for a few pictures when in Rome.
The Fiat portion of our tour ended after Janiculum Hill. Our driver dropped us off for our wine tasting in Trastevere once we were done taking pictures. For our wine tasting, our driver did not stay, but he did ensure we were in good hands and the restaurant knew exactly what was going on. Before departing, our driver gave us a magnet (love magnets!) and a mug featuring a red Fiat 500.
Our four-course meal and wine tasting at a wine called Vin Allegro in Trastevere. Here, we enjoyed four small (but size-able) courses paired with wine. I enjoyed our tasting and would certainly return for a drink or meal on another trip! Our first tasting was baked bread topped with buffalo mozzarella and an anchovy. The bread and cheese were excellent, but I could have done without the anchovy. This first dish was paired with a white wine.
Our second dish was the best of the tasting – egg dumplings with buffalo mozzarella, porcini mushrooms, Parmesan and truffles! SO GOOD. This course and the next were paired with red wine. Our third course, also paired with red wine, was cod in a tomato sauce. I did not love this dish, but I was also not in the mod for cod…
The final portion of the tasting was a sweet red wine paired with red wine biscotti, or cookies in English! These cookies are all over Rome and were a good way to end our tasting, especially since we still had dinner plans later!
Cons? There were really no cons in my opinion! I loved every second of this trip. I guess the car is small, and larger folks may feel uncomfortable in the back seat, which also lacks a seatbelt. I would note that while the tour goes by a lot of sites, like the Keyhole of Piazza Cavalieri di Malta and the Mouth of Truth, if busy, you may not stop to actually see the site up close and personal. Be sure to express you desire to get up close and personal with any particular site at the beginning of the tour, and know that seeing these sites on the tour will cut down on your time.
STEAL OUR TOUR
Rome 500 Experience: We did the tour with a wine tasting and a driver at a cost of 185 euro for 2 people. The tour lasted about 4 hours. All food and drink were included.
Vin Allegro Wine Bar: Piazza Giuditta Tavani Arquati, 114, 00153 Roma RM, Italy. Open daily 12h – 2h. Reservt