It's been my dream to visit Rome since I first saw the Lizzie McGuire Movie.
Rome seemed like a magical place where dreams come true. Gelato, Vespas, wish-making fountains… What's not to love?
But even on the smallish continent of Europe, Italy always felt a world away. Too far, too exciting, too beautiful for my boring, normal-person life.
I told Ken this one day, and he took a look online. It turns out that the flight from Amsterdam to Rome takes two and a half hours, and costs €150. That's not much money when you've spent all summer saving for travel. So when Ken and I decided to go on a short vacation before I leave for Oxford, guess which city we picked?
Alright friends, I warn you now that this post will be very picture-heavy and that words like “gorgeous” and “lovely” abound, because ROME. (Sorry, do I sound too excited? Rome!)
The city was incredible. Ken and I went for four and half days, renting a little apartment a few blocks from the Colosseum for less than we would have paid at a hotel. The apartment was amazing; it had a kitchen, a living room, a bedroom, and a spacious rooftop terrace where Ken and I ate dinner the first night. Originally, we had planned to cook often and be as healthy as possible, but I suppose that when you're in a culinary capital, plans can go (deliciously) awry.
Best of all, the apartment was only a ten-minute walk from the Colosseum – only a centimeter on the map that I constantly pored over. I had bought a guidebook to Rome that included a fold-out map and several walking routes through the city, which I marked up in red pens. I read through most of the book on the day of our flight, to be as prepared as possible for the greatest city on earth (well, I didn't know that for sure yet, but I was pretty excited). The first walk was the one I was most looking forward to, the “Heart of Rome tour.” The route looked pretty close to the Colosseum itself, so Ken and I decided to do both on our first full day – meaning many hours of walking.
The Colosseum was incredible to see. We managed to avoid most of the long lines by coming in late September, and we each bought a RomaPass instead of a ticket – a great investment. A RomaPass is €36 and gives you free entry to two museums, plus access to all public transportation in Rome for three days. The price for entry to the Colosseum is €19 on its own, and public transportation can really add up, so if you're planning on going to Rome, I highly recommend it.
I think my favorite thing about the Colosseum was how beautiful it was in all its disrepair. Its walls had crumbled, its pillars had broken, and the underground layer was inaccessible to tourists because it was still being excavated. Even so, the site was gorgeous in its grandeur and enormity. The beams and arches, and the instantly recognizable profile of the Colosseum, really took my breath away. It also felt really strange to be standing there on such a calm and peaceful September day, knowing the amount of violence that had taken place under my feet 2,000 years before. More than that, the idea that I was standing on something 2,000 years old was crazy, for someone raised in the US.
From the Colosseum, we walked to the Pantheon, a beautiful Ancient Roman building that is still used today by the Catholic Church. Sometimes for weddings. I mean, can you imagine getting married in the Pantheon?
After spending about a half hour at the Pantheon, we walked on to two beautiful piazzas that are populated by tourists and locals alike – Piazza Navona and Campo de' Fiori. This was a great area for both having lunch and people watching. We spent some time walking around, admiring the flower stands and cafés, and complaining over €4 espressos (basically the same price per ounce as printer ink).
There are two beautiful fountains in Piazza Navona. My favorite is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or Fountain of Four Rivers. It displays river gods from each of the four continents that were known at the time of its creation in 1651: the Nile for Africa, the Danube for Europe, the Ganges for Asia, and the Rio de la Plata for America. What I loved about this fountain was its attention to detail and allegory. The Nile, for example, is covering his head with a cloth because no one knew the river's source at the time the fountain was made, and the Danube is touching the Pope's robes, as he was the closest to Rome.
It was 3:30, and Ken and I had been on our feet since 10AM. We were exhausted and ready for a break, so we headed to the bank of the Tiber to rest before we had dinner at a restaurant I had heard about for years – the Tre Scalini.
The Tiber was shocking quiet and peaceful; in fact, it was so quiet for the first half hour that I almost wondered if we weren't allowed to sit there. For about twenty minutes, Ken and I were completely alone on our side of the river, with only one other person nearby. As the afternoon progressed, however, a few more people came out to bike along the path or look at the water. With the sun setting, the Tiber almost reminded me of the Seine in Paris – but greener, a little grimier, and much more peaceful.
After about an hour of rest, we got back on our sore feet (after much groaning on my part, because I'm a crotchety old cow) and walked back to Piazza Navona, to eat at the Tre Scalini.
The restaurant was beautiful, and the food was probably great, but I honestly don't remember what I ordered, thanks to our dessert. The Tre Scalini has a famous dessert named the Tartufo, an ice cream truffle made from a secret recipe with 13 different kinds of chocolate. It was incredible. Ice cream, cake, chocolate chunks, a tiny taste of rum (maybe? I don't know. It could have been fairy dust). In Ken's words, “it's amazing how many experiences there are in one dessert!”
Let me tell you, if you get one dessert in Rome, get the Tartufo. We devoured it in ten minutes.
By the end of our dinner, we were dead tired after five hours of walking through the busy streets of Rome. We made one last trek – to our little apartment, for a good night's rest.
Want to hear more about Rome? Check back for mistakes, food, and the Pope in Part II!