I go to Europe frequently, but have never been to Rome. I know, it doesn’t make much sense and I need to correct it. That’s why, when I was planning my most recent award trip to Budapest, I specifically wanted to route via Rome on my way back to Miami (by the way my Alitalia trip from Rome to Miami was actually pretty good).
The way award space ending up working out was that I could fly non-stop from Budapest to Rome on Monday evening, arriving around 8:15pm and then fly on the non-stop from Rome to Miami the following morning at 9:20am. I briefly contemplated getting an airport hotel, but what fun would that be?! I couldn’t justify splurging on a paid night since I’d barely be using the hotel room, but I did see the Intercontinental Rome, which is perfectly situated for a quick trip into the city, was available on cash & points for 30,000 Priority Club points and $60 instead of the normal 40,000 points a night. It was a no brainer and since I’ve never redeemed my points as a Royal Ambassador, I wanted to see if they’d truly deny me all Royal Ambassador benefits since they are technically only applicable on paid stays.
My flight from Budapest to Rome was actually on the Alitalia subsidiary Air One and the most unique part was that I was the only person in business class, so service was expectedly attentive. The meal was nice as well – some ham, parmigiano and other assorted goodies.
We landed early at Rome Fiumicino, but I was slowed down by our parking at a remote gate and the requisite slow bussing to to the terminal. However, I ended up just hopping in a cab and 30 minutes and 40 Euros later, I was at the Intercontinental, which is situated just atop the Spanish steps on Via Sistina.
At check-in, I was greeted and told that since I was using points, most of my Royal Ambassador benefits, like the free mini bar, would not apply. Although he did say I could have a late check-out, which I didn’t need and that I got upgraded to an executive room on a high floor. Fair enough. The hotel was going for 250 euros a night ($335) so my 30,000 Priority Club points saved me roughly $300 – not amazing, but not bad.
The room was nice, if a little bit cramped. The main benefit was the shared huge outdoor patio with stunning views of the city. The views were even better at sunrise when I nearly tried changing my flight to spend at least one more day, though I didn’t want to wage a battle since Delta has the super annoying rule that you can no longer change award tickets within 72 hours of departure – even for Diamond medallions.
After getting settled in the room, I immediately went out for a walk around town. I turned right out of the hotel and just a couple hundred feet away was the top of the Spanish Steps. I walked down them, took in the view and the vibe – lots of lovers drinking wine and enjoying the warm evening.
I turned left at the bottom of the steps and walked to the Trevi fountain, which was packed, but pretty gorgeous at night. I ended up ambling around and getting a bit lost and then realized I had worked up a huge appetite. My plan all along was to just walk by somewhere that struck me and hope for a great meal.
Sure enough, I walked by a really quaint restaurant on the Piazza dei SS Apolostoli named Abruzzi. I got a good feeling and then I saw a table of priests inside eating, so I figured it must be good if the local clergy was supporting it! Plus, there was one empty table on the outdoor patio just calling my name.
I ended up ordering the bucatini with Italian ham (bacon) to start, veal scallopini with lemon sauce as my main and tiramisu for dessert. The whole meal was great, though I can’t honestly say it was earth-shattering. I’ve eaten a lot of really high quality Italian food in NYC and in my travels, so while it was way better than your typical pizza join Italian fare, it was roughly on par with many other meals I’ve had. For my return trip in November, I’m definitely going to reach out to TPG readership to direct me to really unique and memorable places to eat since you’ve never led me wrong!
After walking for a couple more miles, I ended up calling it a night since I had to be up at 6:45am for my 9:20am flight. Overall, it was a good first taste of Rome, but I know there’s much more to see and do and I look forward to many returns, though I think I’m going to spend a couple days of my next trip in Florence. Stay tuned!
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