Honeymoon (Part 4)

Still with me? This is the end. I swear.

So if it seems like the first half of our honeymoon was a little tour heavy, that’s correct. I really wanted to see all of Rome, and I love a good tour, but I didn’t want to feel like we were obliged to do something every day of our vacation. So, I front-loaded our honeymoon with all the must-dos so we could get a feel for the city and learn where things were then take the rest of the trip to just wander.

The Colosseum was our last scheduled tour, so for the rest of the week, we just roamed (haha). It was perfect. We replaced my stolen sunglasses with some new aviators and stopped at every café that looked interesting for a drink or a coffee.

We visited the Pantheon and learned how all it’s bronze statutes were melted down by the church to build the giant altar in St. Peter’s.



We stumbled upon the Circus Maximus on our way to San Clemente.

Oh San Clemente. I mentioned that this tour was our pick to replace the Vatican catacombs tour we skipped. I’m so glad we decided to visit. The Basilica of San Clemente is a 12th century church that was built on top of a 4th century basilica built on top of a 1st century Roman home! Our Colosseum tour guide put it best when he said, “Rome is like a lasagna.” So many layers.

There was no photography allowed in the church or the lower layers, but it was such a unique experience. For 5 euros a person, you can walk through all the layers and read about the history of the site and the excavations that uncovered all this history. Chris commented that that was his favorite stop of the trip. It was very cool.

We also ate. A lot. We loved the aperitivo so much the first time we did it again.

I had the freshest melon I’ve ever had.

And we tried these neon orange spritzers that seemed very popular. Neither of us loved ours.

On our last day, we found a giant, beautiful park and rented bikes to tour around and take in the views.



We ate our last Italian meal at the Sicilian place we loved so much. We found the pasta bolognese we had been searching for the whole trip. I had several more gelatos. We reminisced about the wedding. We had a long talk about our future. We spent so much time being totally with each other. With no cell phones and unable to even eavesdrop on fellow diners, we really just focused on each other and caught up on everything we’d missed in the last wedding-frenzied month. We called each other husband and wife a lot and gawked at our rings. We kissed and held hands and took a bunch of pictures. Basically, it was the dream honeymoon I’d hoped for.

We ended the trip sad to leave but ready to head home and resume our lives. We missed our pets and were excited to catch up with our friends and family.

We gave ourselves a buffer day before heading back to work and spent the day at my in-laws pool with our dog. It was hard going back, but all good things must come to an end, and this was a very good thing.


Honeymoon (Part 3)

Our last scheduled tour of the trip was the Colosseum. We met up with our group and once again breezed past the long lines. It was totally worth the expense not to have to wait in the sun. Our guide was a Roman native who was passionate about his city and its history which made for an excellent and informative tour.

The Colosseum was fantastic and better than I’d expected.




From the Colosseum we visited the Forum and Palantine hill which were also very cool. Being in the Forum, you almost couldn’t hear the city, and it was easy to feel like you’d stepped back in time.










It was such a fun day! Afterwards, we had a little lunch snafu and ended up with the worst pizza I’ve seen in my life. It was totally raw in the middle. Yuck. From them, we decided to stick with what we knew and returned to the first pizza place we visited and were not disappointed. After our second pizzas, we had more coffee. Having learned I’m not a fan of espresso, I switched to cappuccino and was not disappointed.


That’s Nutella on top.

That night, we decided to try a Roman aperitivo which is basically wine, beer or cocktails and apps eaten early in the evening since dinners are eaten pretty plan. Upon another Yelp recommendation, we headed over to Trastavere which was kind of a hike from our hotel but ended up being such a neat place. It was definitely the cool part of the city with much fewer tourists and tons of young people. The restaurants and bars all looked great and fun, so we just picked one, and it was great. We had wine and a ton of apps while people watching on the cute street.


The original plan was to eat dinner later but we were kind of full and kind of drunk, so we decided to just start back towards our hotel and see what we saw. This ended up being probably the most fun night of the trip. We stopped into a little bakery (still open after 9pm!) and bought a couple mini pizzas and two giant chocolate croissants. I got to practice my meager Italian as we were out of the main areas of the city where mostly everyone speaks English. It was kind of fun to be semi-understood! We bought a giant beer from a corner store and plopped down on some steps to enjoy our bounty!




We walked on and found an outdoor movie screening! We couldn’t understand a word, but we sat and watched a while.


Before we finally got to our hotel (after stopping for more gelato obviously) we found some ruins closed to the public and totally full of cats! It was kind of the best thing ever.


So yeah, that was probably the best Italian day we had. Everything was just fun and perfect. It was a great miss of touristy excitement and unplanned fun. I just loved it. The rest of the trip was pretty great too…

Honeymoon (Part 2)

On our third day in Italy, we visited Vatican City. This is the part of the trip I had been most excited for, and I think I may have overhyped it in my mind because it ended up being a bit of a disappointing morning. First, we underestimated how far VC was from our hotel. We decided to walk since it was still early and not too hot, but it took us almost an hour, and we ended up on the complete opposite side of the city from where our tour started. That meant a straight up run to the tour starting point. We got there in time for the tour, but the heat had started to come in full force at that point. Between the heat, the running and being dressed for the Vatican (long skirt, long sleeves), I was super hot by the time the tour started, and I never really cooled off. I never realized how cranky being hot makes me. I hate the cold too, so I guess I’m just a pain about temperature.

Booking a tour was absolutely the right call as the lines were already 3 hours long by 10 am. With our group, we breezed right in and toured the extensive grounds and museum.




It really was beautiful, but it was also incredibly crowded. We sorta felt like cattle being pushed through a chute. The problem is that visitors have to pass through the museum to get to the Sistine Chapel which is, understandably, the big draw. As a result, the museum tour feels like a mad dash. An un-air conditioned mad dash. Anyway, enough complaining!

We did make it to the Sistine Chapel, and it was beautiful and not at all what I expected. I got dizzy from staring at that famous ceiling so long. It was fantastic. From there, we moved on to St. Peter’s Basilica. I didn’t expect to be quite so moved by that experience, but it ended up being my favorite moment of the tour. It was wonderful. So beautiful and full of history. Besides, being in a room with the remains of several Popes is pretty crazy.





After the tour ended, we headed outside to figure out what to do for lunch as we had a tour of the catacombs later that afternoon. I sat down on some steps to get something out of my purse, and the Swiss Guards came running over yelling in Italian. I couldn’t tell what they were yelling at me for, but eventually I figured out I was not supposed to be sitting on those steps. I got up quickly and started walking through the square. I felt something on my back where my cross-body purse was slung and quickly whipped it around. Only then did I notice that in my haste to follow the rules, I had forgotten to zip my bag, and in under a minute a pick-pocketer had snatched my sunglasses. It ended up being a blessing since my sunglasses were covering my much harder to replace wallet and phone.

Still, that kind of put me over the edge. I had expected this austere, reverent mood at the Vatican, and it had turned out to be mostly hot and loud and sort of like Disney World. Then, I got robbed right outside of the world’s biggest church. So, I did something I am not super proud of and just started crying. I just felt so naive at that point. Of course it was a tourist trap! It’s a major attraction for so many people. I just felt like a dummy. Chris was sweet and very angry about our little thief, so he suggested we get out of there for lunch. I happily obliged.

Lucky for us, Chris’ brother had visited Rome before our wedding and had given us a list of recommendations, so we headed over to one. It was blessedly air conditioned, so I ordered a pizza and a huge beer and felt immediately better.


Hot cheese cures all ills.

We hung around a bit before it was time to head back to the Vatican. I wasn’t super eager to return, but we had booked the tour. We found the Swiss Guard station where we were to check in, and they told us we couldn’t come in because Chris wasn’t wearing pants. Long shorts were acceptable for the Sistine Chapel, so we just assumed they’d be fine for the catacombs as well. We were wrong. They told us we could go buy him pants at one of the local souvenir shops, but after popping into a few and finding only vestments for the ordained, we decided it wasn’t worth the stress. We decided to just go reset at the hotel for a bit. We were both a little disappointed, but the day had been sort of frustrating, and we didn’t want to muscle through just because. It is a vacation after all.

The walk back to the hotel felt extra long and grueling, but we made it, and I indulged in a long, cool bath (I was still SO HOT!) which made the whole day so much better. We looked up tours similar to the Catacombs an decided to visit San Clemente before leaving to get a similar experience.

The rest of the night was wonderful. We walked back to the city for dinner and found a Sicilian restaurant so good that we ended up going back before the trip was over. I had a tuna pasta dish that was stellar. Their tuna is so flavorful! We walked over to the Spanish steps and hung out by some high schoolers getting legally drink outdoors. It was a bit of a culture shock. We also watched some German high schoolers chant a million soccer cheers much to the chagrin of the Italians.



Obviously, we ended the night with more gelato. We had to fuel up for another big tour the next day.

The Honeymoon! (Part 1)

Finally something I have some pictures of! Originally, we weren’t going to take a honeymoon right away, but the more involved in planning we got, the more we felt the need to get away from everything. My big internal debate was whether I wanted a super adventurous or a super relaxing getaway. Then, we started tossing around the idea of Italy, and I couldn’t say no. This was the trip of a lifetime, and I still can’t believe it was real.

Leaving for a honeymoon right after the wedding was a good call. We departed Monday evening, which left just enough time to get over our hangovers and get our house and creatures set up but not so much time that we got restless. I felt those notorious post wedding blues starting to creep up on Sunday despite a year of swearing I’d never miss wedding planning. I totally get it now. It’s near impossible to come down after the best party of your life! The honeymoon was the perfect way to cap off the wedding and usher us into the next phase.

Our flight was scheduled for 6, but due to severe storms all over the east coast, we sat on the runway for four hours before finally taking off at 10. That was before we embarked on an 8 hour flight, so yeah, that was a long day. It actually worked out well because we arrived at the hotel in Rome to find our room ready and waiting.

I thought I’d be feeling the jet lag hard, but I think being in the number one country on my travel bucket list helped my excitement override my exhaustion and after a quick shower, I was ready to explore!

Our first stop was obviously food, and the only thing on my mind was pizza! Turns out there was a great pizza place right by our hotel. We actually ended up going back during our stay it was so good. We capped the meal with espresso which was a little less appealing to me. Still, if you like espresso, this is the good stuff. There aren’t even any Starbucks in Rome. The Italian coffee is just too good.

We walked into the city center and explored a little on our own before meeting up with our first tour of the trip, a twilight walking tour of the city. To our surprise, we were the only ones registered, so we had the wonderful tour guide all to ourselves! She was so incredibly knowledgable about Roman history, and we walked and learned all the fun details for three hours!






By the end of the tour I was starving and exhausted. It was nearly 3am in NJ! We grabbed a quick dinner at a nearby restaurant. The homemade pasta and house wine were the perfect end to our first Italian day.

The next day we set out to explore the city on our own and visited the Castel Sant Angelo which has amazing views of the city and the Vatican. Chris was pretty adamant about visiting this spot, and I wasn’t sure why until we got to the top. He stood in this one spot and asked me if it looked familiar. It kind of did, but I couldn’t place it. It turns out that’s where he took his Match.com picture when he visited Rome in 2009! It was so cute of him to find that same spot, so we had to recreate the shot.


The views really were incredible, and the audio tour was pretty informative too. We learned about the castle original start as a mausoleum and the several popes who lived in there while Rome was under siege.







Following our adventures, we had a fun “tour” planned for the evening. I wanted to do something a little different in addition to all the big attraction walking tours, so I booked us a wine tasting! We met our guide who led us to the wine cellar of a local restaurant sommelier. It was a small space, and we were only joined by two other couples, so it was a nice, intimate event. The som was super friendly and funny, and he knew so much about food and wine. He paired each wine with food and talked about why the pairings were significant and what regions the food and wine came from. I was totally fascinated!


We started the meal with samples of local burrata and mozzarella. They were, hands down, the best cheese I’ve ever had in my life. We learned that the mozzarella has to be served within 3 minutes of being cut or it starts to lose it’s flavor. This was not your local pizza place’s cheese. Unless your pizza place is amazing.

We had pesto as a palate cleanser and a ton of different cured hams. The salami we tried comes from an 84 year old man who the som says is the only one he trusts to treat the pigs humanely and cure the pork correctly. I typically don’t eat pork, but this was a once in a lifetime experience, and I really got the vibe that these pigs had a pretty good life. When in Rome… Harhar. We said that a lot.



We also had parmesan from Parma and the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted in my life. The wine wasn’t bad either 🙂 it was obviously also wonderful like everything we tried. I had never heard of any of the grape varieties we tried, and the som told us that Italy produces over 1000 types of grapes. I had no idea! He also talked about how it takes generations for a wine region to mature as the grapes change the soil and the soil changes the grapes and how today’s consumer culture is negatively effecting that symbiosis by causing producers to plant whatever grape happens to be most popular at the moment. I’m definitely guilty of this as he cited my favorite wine (Malbec) as a major culprit. Oops!

The tasting definitely made me feel more informed (and totally full and a little drunk) and inspired me to branch out and try some more established grapes and regions. I’m still finishing off some $3 chuck first.

We were pretty exhausted from a long day of walking, so we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and ended up too tired to walk back to the city for dinner. The hills were no joke.

We found a yelp recommended restaurant about a block from our hotel and decided to try it out. It ended up being the fanciest meal of the trip and one of our favorites. We each had homemade pasta. Mine was a pesto with shrimp and Chris’ was pancetta and asparagus with fresh tomatoes.

And since we were wine experts at that point, we actually picked a variety from our tasting off the wine list!

We topped the night off with gelato before collapsing into bed.

The After Party!

After the party, it’s the after party. So, that’s what we did. Most guests not staying at the hotel headed out, but we made sure to grab whoever was left and head to the hotel bar. We drank a few more drinks and played a sloppy round of drinking card games before deciding that maybe that bar was a bit too upscale for our current state.

It may have been my idea. We’ll never know for sure, but someone suggested we head down the street to World of Beer. In our wedding clothes. In my wedding dress. Honestly, you only get one chance to head to a beer bar in a wedding dress, so we made our way. Once we got to the bar, Steph kindly notified the bartender that there was a bride in a wedding dress in the bar. Following that announcement, a literal flood of free shots made their way over to our table. People’s reactions ranged from confused to hysterical over our wedding party randomly popping in. There was a live band playing, so we made our way up to the front. Once the singer saw us, she came down off the stage and gave us the mike to badly sing a few choruses of everything from Weezer to Journey. It was so ridiculously fun and silly.

Unfortunately, too many free shots were my downfall, and after about a half an hour, I announced that I needed to go back to the hotel. Once again, our wonderful friends came to the rescue and escorted me and my new husband back up to our room and tucked us into bed before heading back out for more partying.

I slept like the dead which was definitely a good thing. I woke up next to my husband. Both of us were a little worse for the wear, but a couple long showers had us feeling more human and allowed us to head downstairs and meet up with some family for breakfast. We originally had grand plans of heading to a local diner, but our family was already eating in the hotel restaurant, and none of our friends had made it out of bed yet. We ate a little with our families then headed upstairs to pack up.

We eventually found our friends as we were loading the car, and everyone confirmed what a great night it was. It was sad to pack up and leave, but we both needed some rest, so we said our goodbyes and heading home to prepare for our next adventure…

The Reception

Back at the hotel, the photographer got a few quick shots of us in the lobby before we headed upstairs with my mom and sisters to bustle my dress. There was an assortment of cocktail hour appetizers and a ton of wine waiting for us upstairs (the hotel was amazing!), so I happily partook as my family got to work on that bustle. I didn’t anticipate making any of cocktail hour, but everyone was so speedy and efficient, we were heading back downstairs at 5:15, and I was able to attend almost the whole thing!

Chris has proudly boasted of trying all the cocktail hour food, and I’m glad because I ate precisely none of it after I got downstairs. It was my own darn fault. I just loved my bouquet too much to put down. I’ve never been in a wedding before, so it was my first time holding any bouquet, and ours were especially beautiful. They were just full of color and smelled so good. Water was a priority too, so between the two, I didn’t have a free hand to sample anything. It ended up being a good thing because I was able to chat with everyone which meant the reception was free for non-stop dancing.

Chris’ dad organized a giant Rappa family round of shots and pulled me into that. At that point, the bartender became my second favorite (after my husband of course) person of the night. Every time someone would rope me into some disgusting shot (tequila, whisky, I’m a baby) she would replace mine with a very mild appletini. It was the nicest thing, and it saved me from blacking out an hour into my wedding.

Soon, they were ushering guests into the ballroom and lining the bridal party up for our entrances. The DJ was another amazing vendor and did a great job announcing everyone. My little gift to Chris had been selecting Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit as our entrance song, and I have to admit, I was a little nervous about it. Let me tell you, it was AWESOME! When the beginning of that song came on and our friends realized what it was, everyone went nuts. Chris and I were so pumped and excited that we straight up ran into the room fist pumping and going crazy. It was amazing.

Our DJ moved everyone right into the first dance. Oh the first dance. It was probably my favorite part of the whole night. The entire day had felt like just Chris and me, but this is when everything really melted away. I was afraid I’d be shy during the whole dance, but I barely even realized other people were in the room. Once Etta James’ At Last came on we just held each other and swayed and chatted about the day’s craziness, and it was just 100% perfect.


The DJ knew we wanted to get everyone out on the dance floor ASAP, so he moved us quickly into the grandfather granddaughter dance, which was a total trip! I pictured my grandpa and me swaying to Frank Sinatra’s The Way You Look Tonight, but he had other plans and swirled and twirled me all over the dance floor. He’s a really good dancer, and I honestly couldn’t keep up! I faked it to the best of my ability, but I was a sweaty mess by the end of the dance!


Next up was Chris’ dance with his mom to God Only Knows by the Beach Boys. It was so beautiful. They both looked so happy and relaxed. I loved that moment.

After that, the DJ had everyone take their seats for appetizers (chicken and veggie phyllo) and toasts. Travis was up first and gave a very sweet and very funny toast which even included Miles! He kept talking even though a certain table of Italians decided to talk loudly over his toast. I mean, really? They were finally sushed by Chris’ aunt Maddie, but it made for a funny moment.

The next toast was from Anastasia who spoke from memory (she’s an EXCELLENT speaker) about our meeting in college and our friendship over the years. I, of course, started crying.

Rob’s toast was next, and he was very funny and charming. It’s always sweet to hear a little brother toast his big brother. Annie wrapped up the toasts which meant more water works for me. I was so proud of her for getting up and speaking in front of everyone! She did an amazing job.

After the toasts, everyone returned to the dance floor. I don’t even think the DJs were expecting it since they were playing the quieter dinner music and had to switch to more jams! We seriously could not keep people off the dance floor. That was totally fine by me because there’s nothing I love more than a good dance party. Our friends and family took advantage of the open bar and took many rounds of shots!

The DJ finally begged everyone to sit down to dinner. I ate everything but my main course was chicken breast stuffed with apple stuffing. Chris had the filet tips. Seriously, it was all so good! Sitting with our family rather than at a sweetheart table was a great call since it allowed us to feel like we were socializing while eating, drinking and resting our feet. We made the rounds after we ate our dinner, but we really had done a great job of greeting everyone during the rehearsal dinner, receiving line and cocktail hour, so we never felt rushed or frantic.

Soon, it was cake cutting time. We had no idea what we were doing, so one of the servers came out to help us. I honestly don’t remember this part too much, but we fed each other a little cake before the wheeled it away to be cut and served. Everyone raved about our yellow cake with Nutella filling and buttercream frosting. A few people told us it was the best wedding cake they’d ever had! I must say, it was a delicious cake. Then again, I might be partial.

Once the cake was served, the dance floor remained packed until the very last song. I can only think of maybe 5 people who didn’t make their way to the dance floor. It was such a fun way to spend time with everyone. Dancing and chatting beats table side talk any time!

We had planned a little last song fake out with the DJ, so they announced to everyone that it was the last dance and started playing Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer. Everyone, of course, went nuts. It is New Jersey after all. Little did they know, the party wasn’t over yet! The DJs asked everyone to scream and yell if they wanted an encore, and as some of our guests had been banned from the bar at this point (we really like a good party!) there was much screaming and yelling! The DJs blasted Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ and everyone screamed along to the whole song! The venue had to turn on the lights and politely ask everyone to leave because no one wanted the party to end! Even our grandparents stayed well past the last song! Luckily, the party wasn’t over yet…

The Ceremony

Filed under the only anxiety of the day, the bus situation was not good. Twenty, then thirty minutes passed with no sighting of Chris’ grandparents. I was getting hot and very anxious, and I felt for all our guests sitting in the hot church and waiting for us. Finally, Chris’ dad got a call letting him know that Chris’ grandparents were waiting in the wrong church thanks to our bus driver’s lack of direction. I panicked at that point knowing it would take them at least 15 minutes to get to the right church, and everyone saw me panic and quickly suggested we start without them.

That was a hard moment for me. I knew Chris would have wanted them to process up the aisle, but I also knew we couldn’t make our guests or the church wait any longer as there was a 5pm mass scheduled. I spent the first half of the walk up the aisle panicking (thankfully my Grandpa was very calming) about whether or not I had done the right thing, but then I realized “Oh my God! I’m walking down the aisle for the first and last time! Get it together!” So, I grabbed my Grandpa’s arm, looked up and saw my love standing up there and everything else just faded away. I locked eyes with him and teared up a bit and he did too, and it was perfect. I set my sights on him and just enjoyed the rest of the walk.


The ceremony was perfect. It was cool on the altar and we were all able to sit and avoid some of the heat. Chris looked so handsome and happy, and it was just so wonderful being in that church I have already spent so many Sundays in on the most important Saturday of my life. The moms did a great job on their readings and the Deacon’s homily was relatively short and sweet. There was a lot of confusion as to where Chris and I were supposed to stand and what we were supposed to do throughout the ceremony, but no one noticed or cared, and we ended up man and wife which was all I really wanted anyway.

The only downside of the ceremony is that we had our backs to our guests the entire time. I kept wanting to turn around and sneak a peek, but to no avail. We did decided to head down into the pews to greet our immediate families during the sign of the peace, and that was a really special moment. Chris’ grandparents arrived shortly after the first reading, and I’m so thankful they were able to witness our vows!

We exchanged our vows and had our kiss. Chris put the ring on my finger. He was so cute and afraid of hurting me, so he only pushed it about half way. I made sure to get his on there good and tight! Haha! Time sped up and next thing I knew, we were recessing down the aisle. Everyone was clapping and cheering, and I was so happy I nearly exploded. Chris and I made it to the back and kissed and all our wonderful friends met us with hugs and cheers. It was perfect!

We took a few quick pictures and signed the marriage certificate in the stifling church before sending our guests back via bus (I THOUGHT) and doing the rest of our pictures on the beautiful campus lawns. Midway through our pictures we found out that the bus had never returned for anyone. Luckily, our wonderful friends ran back to the hotel and grabbed some cars to start bringing people back. The hotel offered up their shuttle, but some people still had to walk back in heels in the July heat. No one said anything about it, but I felt just awful. And mad. We were both steaming mad at that bus. Our photographer calmed us down and got some great shots of us before we headed back to the meeting point of the bus to figure out what to do next. To our surprise, he was there. I was so mad I got on without saying anything. He deposited us at the hotel and left without a word. Weirdest vendor ever…