A friend of mine is busy researching a trip to Rome… he mentioned to me that maybe some wise words on Rome is a good idea. So I started digging through the picture and journal archive to find some tidbits to share :)
Rome is one of my favorite places to visit – no matter how many times I’ve been, whether with a group of students, by myself, with a loved one, with a galpal… I always enjoy, I always discover.
Here are a few tips:
1. Capitoline Café
On the roof of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, the section of the Musei Capitaloni that houses things like the famous remnants of Constantine’s statue and the statue of Marcus Aurelius on Horseback, there is an incredible cafe! Never crowded, never disappointing, never seen such views! The museum itself is a nice way to end a morning of walking through the Forum and escaping from the sun. So the cafe is a great place to have a panini and a prosecco and enjoy the rooftops of ancient Rome. (Cafe is a bit hard to find once inside the museum – maybe which is why it’s never crowded! Just ask!)
2. Domus Aurea
If you are a history-head like me, then this is a must see! Located in the botanical gardens next to the Colosseum, this is the archeological dig site that has uncovered the majestic remains of Emperor Nero’s legendary Golden House (Domus Aurea.) Accidentally discovered in the 15th century when a local fell through one of the oculi in the roof of one of the rooms, this site has been the source of inspiration for countless artists and helped change trends in the Renaissance. (Michelangelo used to have himself lowered into the rooms by a rope so that he could explore the rooms and study the frescoes still visible on the walls and ceilings.) Walking through this space is like a blast through time and a chance to touch the past.
3. Piazza Navona
Made famous in our crazed world by Dan Brown’s hero epically battling in the waters of the Bernini Four River fountain that is the central point of the piazza, this is nevertheless a great spot to stop by and have a chocolate tartuffo at Tre Scalini that will make you want to cry or an espresso at Café de Columbia. Shaped like a large oval since it once was a space for chariot races, it is now a piazza filled with cafes, artists, gorgeous architecture, and lovers strolling hand in hand as the sun sets and street-merchants try to shove roses into their hands. A nice spot to end your Roman day… And looking for a place to have dinner in the neighborhood that is maybe a bit more reasonable than the prices you’ll encounter on the Piazza itself? Try Pasquino Ristorante & Pizzeria just a quick corner-turn away. Take the word from someone who has extraordinarily high standards when it comes to pizza… THIS IS FANTASTIC PIZZA. It will ruin pizza eating for the rest of your life :)
No visit to the city of Rome is complete for me without a stop in at the Pantheon. Unfortunately now always crowded, sometimes you get lucky and get tickets for a concert there. My dad was telling me the other day about the his first visit there in 1976, when this major tourist site was so empty that he could lie down on the marble-tiled floor and stare up at the giant oculus without anyone bothering him! How special that must have been! But still – seeing Raphael’s grave, seeing the tomb of Italy’s first president, marveling at the feat of Roman architecture and engineering that has survived all sorts of destruction around it… still worth it :)
This neighborhood of Rome is really adorable to explore – very medieval in its character and tone, it still has a feel of the ‘locals.’ The church Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of my favorite’s in Rome, with it’s 12th century Byzantine mosaics and paintings by Cavallini, it’s a beauty! Stop to eat lunch among the locals at Ristorante Casetta De Trastevere (Piazza De Rienzi 31-32). Take a buddy and order everything on the menu to try ;)
But most of all in Rome… put down the map and explore. In the central historic heart, every street, every corner, every trattoria is wonderful. Wondering through the city in
the evening is especially fun. When the temperatures cool and the sun starts lending an orange-glow to the ruins and the Churches, there is a magic to the city. A charm, as couple stroll hand in hand or chase each other around fountains. As cobble stones cool and the lights begin to shine.
A friend I I once traveled to Italy with said to me that he thinks Rome holds a certain energy, a power – that draws people to it and has made human existence flourish there. At night, with the lights and the water of the river flowing, I can see that clearly.
Now I can’t wait to go back and explore Rome all over again!