Rome is a beautiful old city, with plenty of scenery to keep you busy. And when in Rome, you must roam! Ah to summer in Europe is the ultimate bourgeois fantasy. But for those of us that have to work and can only afford a few days vacation that might not be the case. I’ll take my short time in Rome any way I can get it!
When living in Boston, we were lucky enough to spend a few nights here, and I’ll outline a few of my highlights. With a limited time in any city, it’s important to pick your priorities. My priorities usually revolve around food, history, architecture, and if there’s time, more food. 🙂
When looking for tickets to Italy, we saw that prices over the Labor Day week for a direct flight from Boston to Rome seemed pretty reasonable. This would give us the opportunity to use a holiday to pad our vacation time, and the weather was still agreeable in late August. However, we soon learned that August is the one month that most Italians take off on vacation. Therefore, a few of the restaurants that we had earmarked were closed for the month, and some of the sites had limited viewing availability. Lesson learned!
Nonetheless, we were going to make our time in Italy count. I’m a big fan of pounding the pavement to see a city. I think walking is the best way to see the sites and get in your daily steps. Sure, you’re going slower, but you can pivot on a dime if something catches your eye. If I’m in a car, and I can’t stop the car from moving, I make a mental note of something that catches my eye and try to remember to come back to it. But if I’m walking, I can easily change my pace, for those serendipitous moment of travel that I live for.
Additionally you get more of the feel of the city when you are on the sidewalk, walking with the people at the pace of their lives. My final argument for walking: it’s free! Taking the subway, a bus, taxi, or car share, all costs money. But by using our own two legs, we save money, save the environment, and we can spend on other things like souvenirs, food, and drinks.
I digress, let’s discuss the main focal points for our time in Rome:
As the cradle of western civilization, the generations of history in the city is unfathomable. It’s amazing how the ancient Romans built things to last. We thoroughly enjoyed the architecture of the city as we meandered the streets in awe. Think of walking through a city, turning a corner, and running into a wall built in 500 BC, or walking down a car-less ally, to come upon the Pantheon. It’s an architecture lover’s dream!
To maximize our time, we did book a few tours in advance in order to get a feel of the city with a micro history lesson. Yeah I could read a guide book, but sometimes I like to passively listen and then have my questions answered by someone more knowledgeable than me.
Along with the Roman monuments comes the Roman history. With only three days, it was hard to prioritize the sites as there was so much to see. I wanted to spend time learning about the history, not just passing through a site to take my pictures. There’s so much to see in Rome, its a history geek’s dream! A few of my favorite sites were the Vatican museum where you can see religious artwork completed by many of the greats, including the legendary Micheangelo. Other favorites were the Colosseum, (where we booked a thorough tour with A Friend in Rome), the Pantheon, the Catacombs, and the Basilica of San Clemente. The Basilica especially was particularly interesting. It’s a medieval church, built over a 1st century church, which is in turn, built over a pagan temple. Three eras of ancient history in one building over a thousand years! Mind blown!
This was my number one reason for traveling to Italy, food glorious food! A friend from Sicily recommended a few restaurants in Rome we must try. I can’t say we followed it precisely, but we did eat very, very, very well in Italy. I think I left every meal thoroughly stuffed, partaking in all of the antipasti, primi, and segundi’s my belly could handle. We especially enjoyed the platters of cured meats and cheeses that precluded every meal with a glass of excellent house wine.
One particular dish that stood out was the lasagne. After touring the colosseum, our guide recommended Cafe Cafe, a nondescript restaurant away from the tourist cafes on the main street. This place had the best lasagne! It wasn’t like the baked, cakey dishes we are use to in North America. And it doesn’t initially look like anything special. It was ribbons of pasta, slathered with a thick meat sauce, and layered with a cheesy bechamel that melted in your mouth. To this day, I aspire to make lasagne akin to the flavor and taste of this dish, it was divine!
Any where you walk in Italy, you’ll find monuments to ancient history, cafes to sip espresso, and restaurants to indulge in pasta.. It’s not a good place for your belly, but your mind, and your taste buds will thank you!