They say that all roads lead to Rome. While that might have been true centuries ago, for us, all the roads in Rome led to the Trevi Fountain. It seemed no matter where we were going in the city we always ended up by the fountain. Not a bad spot, if you think about it. 😁
It occurred to me that I feel different about Rome every time we go.
First time in Rome
The first time, I have just finished school for the year, and arrived wide-eyed and ready to explore everything I have learned about Rome in university. I was riding on a wave of tales of intrigue, betrayal, war, survival and perseverance.
I think we saw all the touristy things you must see when in Rome at that time. We walked the Roman Forum, visited the Colosseum, the Vatican, Trajan’s market and every ruin we could access. It was marvelous, but it wasn’t a place that I loved above others as I had imagined I would. It turned out that I actually liked Florence a whole lot more.
The second visit was only for few days. Alex’s mom was with us so once again, we visited the Colosseum and the Forum with a stop by St. Peter’s square. The city was overrun with newly displaced immigrants, who didn’t seem to have anywhere to go and haven’t yet found their place in their new home. This Rome was dirty, crowded and somewhat unfriendly. That was 13 years ago and it was my last time there. I haven’t really wanted to go back.
Third time the charm
This trip was different. We opted to stay in a hotel closer to the main attractions that was also a bit nicer than the earlier ones. Our home was the Damaso Hotel and it was simply charming. I loved the decor, the location, the staff and most of all, the roof top patio that wasn’t overrun with other guests. Our breakfast was included, which was convenient, as we didn’t have to roam around looking for some place to eat. This worked out well as the food was delicious.
As the cradle of the Roman Empire and the heart of the Catholic Church, Rome is full of history, culture, art and of course amazing food. We sampled many of the local dishes which we found outstanding. I think we could have eaten our way through the city if we could. I don’t understand why people come to places like this and choose to eat at McDonald’s instead. Go figure.
What was different for me this time around was that we didn’t feel like total tourists. The streets were familiar and so were the places around us. We weren’t rushing from place to place and trying to beat the lines to see the various attractions. Good thing too, as it was very hot and I don’t think I would have been able to stand in line to get into anything in the sun and heat.
Different kinda feeling
We always seem to end up in Rome in August. Not only is it hot, it’s overrun with tourists and as many locals take off on holidays, many of the shops and restaurants are closed. I would really recommend visiting off high peak times as you’ll spend a lot of time waiting in line.
So while we strolled by the Colosseum and the Forum, we opted not to go inside as we’ve already seen both (not like they would’ve changed since the last time ha ha) and wandered off the beaten track, discovering places we haven’t seen before. There is so much more to Rome than the touristy spots and you can have a great time just veering off the major tourist paths. There are restaurants and patios everywhere. I loved just sitting there, people watching as they stumbled by, some with their noses in their maps, others taking photos just like I have done on my previous trips. It was nice to just simply be there and savour that moment in time.
We did decide to visit the Mausoleum of Hadrian, also known as the Castel Sant’Angelo (of the Da Vinci Code fame) as we haven’t been inside on previous visits. We chose to go at night as a) it’s not as hot, b) there are less tourists and c) the views of Rome at night are incredible. That ended up being a great decision as some of the chambers in the castle don’t have air conditioning and would have been unbearable during the day with all the heat and sun.
The admission is 14 Euros a person, which isn’t the cheapest. They do offer guided tours, but as they were not offered when we showed up we did it on our own. In my opinion, a good guidebook can give you enough info that you can do a self guided tour at any time. Definitely worth checking out for incredible views of the Vatican.
We also went to St. Peter’s Square at night for same reasons as above. The Vatican is an impressive piece of architecture and worth a visit at least once in your life. I remember learning that they stripped the marble off the statues and buildings in the Roman Forum to build St. Peter’s church. Part of me marveled at what was accomplished with it, while another part of me was so sad that the glory build by Romans was simply stripped away. How astoundingly beautiful would the Forum have looked back in those days. Someone told me once that there was a 3D version of in some museum in L.A., but I’ve never been able to confirm that.
Beer is always a good idea
During our walking about, we stumbled into L’Antica Birreria Peroni, home of the Peroni beer although it’s no longer made there. The beer was cold and hit the spot on a hot and humid day. Definitely a stop I would recommend.
The charm of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
We also visited the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, home of one of the most illustrious families in Rome, most notable member of the family being Pope Innocent X. The family, avid art collectors throughout generations, have amassed an impressive collection of works by famous painters. The family still lives here although you’re not permitted to get access to those quarters. I enjoyed our visit there and if you’re looking for something less touristy, have a look. Admission is 12 Euros a person.
Rome, I adore you
I liked this Rome a lot. It was a lot better than I remembered and a place I could imagine myself living in. There is a good transportation network in place, but as we were very centrally located, we opted to walk everywhere. Rome is a very safe city and the streets always seem packed with people.
The biggest annoyance for me were the endless street vendors trying to sell you something. It usually was a) bottled water, b) hats and c) selfie sticks. They follow you around and really get in your face, but are generally harmless and move on once you say “no thanks.” Another quite common approach was vendors who will try to “give” you something for free. Be that a few roses or some trinket, they try to get you to take the item and once you do, they will want you to pay them. It’s always easier to walk away unless you totally want whatever they are selling. This could also be different off-season, but I don’t think it totally goes away.
Getting there and travel tips:
There is a train that takes you from the airport to the city centre, which allows you to then take the subway, cab or walk to your destination, depending on where you are in the city. We opted to take a shuttle-type service which cost 35 Euros as it seemed like a better deal and got us to our destination quickly and more comfortably. The train was 15 Euros a person then there would have been additional cost for the subway. You can find them located near the exits where a number of drivers walk around asking if you want the shuttle.
Most of the restaurants already include the tip and taxes in your bill so additional tipping is not required. There is usually a “cover charge” that is automatically added and that would cover things like bread that is served at the beginning of your meal. Most of the breads are really tasty too.
You can safely drink water from any fountain in Rome. That is thanks to the Romans who built extensive network of aqueducts that to this day supply fresh water to the city. This is particularly handy when you’re walking around in heat. We would bring a small water bottle with us and would fill it up from multiple fountains are all over Rome. There are some where the water is carbonated, but most of them are flat.
We didn’t stay in Rome for long, but the time we had there was very enjoyable. As such, I have a feeling we will return. Can’t wait!
Have you been to Rome? What are some of your fave attractions? I think for me, it was both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.