Amazing. If I had to describe Italy in one word, Amazing would be pretty high on my list of adjectives. So would intense, beautiful, hunger-producing (see that great trick? one little hyphen lets me sneak an extra word in there!). All of this is a round-about way of getting to my point, which is… it’s not easy to figure out where to start sharing the experience. So how about the by the book version?Way too late in my minimal pre-trip planning, I came across the (make that THE) site for real info on Italy: Go Italy, where Jessica Spiegel does an ace job of laying it all on the line. I managed to scribble a few notes before I left, but basically we had to wing it. Upon returning, I checked her out again, and sure enough, she has a great article called Top 10 Things to do in Rome, which, by a combination of intent and accident, we pretty much managed to cover (except for the Cappuchin Crypt, which so sadly escaped us!)
So, inspired by Jessica, I’ll start this first (well, technically kind of second) article on Italy with the straight skinny on Rome (stay tuned for off the beaten path, weird, and fun to come, along with Florence and Venice).
Trastevere: The best way to discover Rome is on foot, and we set out early the first morning, strolling across the Tiber River and found ourselves in Trastevere, a hot spot for food & bars, night life, and fun. Worth a couple wander-throughs by day and night. Trivia: in Italy, the river is known as the Tevere, and Trastevere literally means “across the Tevere River.”
Vatican: Whatever your religious beliefs, when in Rome… you know the rest. Gotta do St Peter’s and the Vatican. So we did. And I got in trouble. This will give you a hint why:
Roman Forum: I found my way to anthropology via archaeology, my first love, so when we hit the ruins–and there are plenty–I fell in love. How many people had gone before me? How many stories had been told while walking down those same pathways? What was life like when all those buildings were intact? You can certainly expect more on ruins in upcoming posts!
Colosseum: You can save money by doing the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and Colosseum on the same day because one ticket will get you into all three places. We started at the Capitolio, walked through the Forum and Palatine Hill, and got to the Colosseum at 3:30 only to discover that it was about to close, so we put it off for another day. More to come on that too.
There’s a subway stop right across the street and there’s just something amazing about the modern life just speeding along beside this tremendous ancient structure.
Pantheon: Jessica Spiegel loves the park life (make that plaza life) that surrounds the Pantheon. While I agree that the Pantheon itself is amazing (why can’t I come up with another adjective??), and we did stop for a cappuccino, the street life around it was way too touristy (and expensive) for our taste.
Campo di Fiori: Markets are among my favorite places anywhere in the world, and although Campo di Fiori is supposed to be a flower market, there are far more food stalls. Full of color, smells, vendors shouting “la pasta! la pasta!” and all the others responding with a chant repeated every day. Make sure this is high on your list of places to visit, and if you’re not convinced yet, give me time… there’s an entire post coming on this sensory-stimulating place.
Food: Italy and food are pretty much synonymous, and it would be insane to stick to the basics. I tried (and failed) to taste everything possible, so we’ll just have to go back (again and again and again).
Jessica also includes the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Cappuchin Crypt on her list. We passed by the Trevi Fountain many times, but it is one of the most tourist-filled places in the city, so my camera stayed in my bag. The Spanish Steps were also a bit of a let-down. Go anyway, climb them, keep on going and head up to the Villa Borghese, an amazing (there I go again!) park overlooking the city.