Cheese, pasta and wine- that’s life for a tourist in the eternal city of Rome. But if I had to describe Rome in one word, I would say she’s dramatic. Rome is Anita Ekberg falling in love at the Trevi Fountain, Audrey Hepburn discovering the city on a Vespa, Julia Roberts relishing gelato- there’s drama embedded deep into the soul of this beautiful city. After 2 visits to Rome, a capital city that is wonderfully cosmopolitan yet quintessentially Italian, I can confirm that drama surrounds you everywhere in Rome. It’s in the ruins, the palaces, the churches, in the people who slowly and purposefully relish their food, or speak in exaggerated tones with hand gestures- drama’s everywhere, and you’re going to love it! I know I did.
As a typical tourist, you will end up wandering around the fashionable areas around the Spanish Steps, the cobblestoned streets around the Jewish Ghetto, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. While you’re at it, enjoy a beautiful sunset walk to Villa Borghese, from where you can get a breath-taking view of the city, Piazza del Popolo down below, and the Vatican in the distance. When you’re hungry, head over to Trastevere, a neighborhood filled with charming cafes that serve some of the best pizzas and pastas in the city. Stay central, it’s easier to see the sights.
Every building, every square, and every stone here has a story to tell. But my everlasting memory is of the happy evening we spent there in the early winter of 2019.
It is late afternoon when we’ve finally reached our street after having pulled 30kgs in the winter sun. We push through a heavy wooden door and take the flight of stairs up till the 2nd floor (it’s charming how “this building is really old, which is why we have no elevators” seems to be such a regular phrase in all our introductions) We check in to a cozy Airbnb, a clean space right behind Rome Termini that I immediately award brownie points to thanks to the jet spray that I find in the bathroom. As we head out after an hour we’re surprised to find a little humidity in the air. Our jackets lie forgotten, our sunglasses are out, and gelatos become a favorite accessory during day time.
Tourists are out and about, the air is thick and humid, and the stifling closeness envelopes us and surprisingly draws us into the city. We tick off most of the “must-visit” sites quickly and duck inside a road-side café for a pint. One pint turns into 2,3… and a gorgeous pizza makes an appearance. We wipe it off with a glass of red and head back. But Rome is a city that will make you feel alive, and you will throw all caution to the winds and head into another road-side bar, this time for a pint, tiramisu and a few laughs. We stagger back to the AirBnb by midnight, and thanks to the time difference are up at the break of dawn.
We push open the heavy wooden door as we head out for an early breakfast, and are stunned by the blast of cold air that greets us. We hug ourselves a little tighter, the shawls come out of our bags, and we make our way along the cobblestone pathway to the cafeteria down the road. We tuck into a refreshing and indulgent breakfast of coffee, croissants, and sandwich. Kids dressed in school uniforms weave their way around workers sweeping the alleyways. Attractive young men in well-tailored suits stop by for their daily coffee, and we’re a little distracted as we soak in the sights and smells of an early morning in Rome.
Drawn in by the sheer magnanimity of the church and no queue at the gates we find ourselves at Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. The guards allow us in, and we walk into what could easily be the best church we’ve ever visited. Everything is golden- from the paintings on the ceiling to the gold-gilded confession booths, there’s a vibrant energy that pulls us closer. We spend 45 minutes at this establishment, examining everything up close. When we walk out, a queue has started to form. We thank our stars for getting lucky with this visit and make our way back to our rooms while trying our best to avoid street hawkers trying to lure us with discounts and deals.
Later that day we leave the streets of Rome and head to the rest of our European trip, satisfied knowing that Rome was a starter we truly relished.
Rome is a city whose best story is of its people, food, and history, with consumerism making a show every now and then. If you’re a romantic traveler in love with food, history and people, nowhere compares to the eternal city of Rome.