There was a time in my life, I think I was around 13 or 14 years old, when all I was interested in learning about was Italy, the attractions, the history, and the many ways I could get myself there one day. I had convinced myself that I would attend La Universita di Roma as a young adult (I didn’t, but I did buy myself a university tee on my first trip to Rome back in 2008).
This trip is, now looking back on it, was my first experience with manifestation. I went a few years dreaming about Italy, the food, even attempting to learn the language. And then one day, out of the blue, I was picked to participate as a student ambassador on a trip to Greece and Italy, along with about 30 other students in the tri-county area.
I was able to visit the Trevi Fountain where Lizzie McGuire met Paolo, the Roman Forum where Julius Caesar ruled, the Colosseum where Chanel held one of their beautiful runway shows. It was life changing, truly.
Visiting the Eternal City once again ten years later, was even more magical (not exaggerating the word here) than the first time, and more than I could have expected!
We arrived pretty early on train from Florence, and then hopped on a bus to a beautiful area of Rome that I doubt tourists are familiar with, Quartiere Trieste. Nonetheless, it was beautiful. Our Airbnb was very nice, a bit old fashioned, but made me feel like I was living like Audrey Hepburn in 1960’s Rome. From our balcony, we could feel the scorching sun, hear the kids playing, and smell the fresh Roman air.
As soon as our host showed us around, Diana and I freshened up and made our way to the Vatican.
To get to the Vatican, a country of its own (literally), we took the metro train. The metro was the best way to get around the city. And it conveniently has stops at all of the major tourist spots that you’re bound to visit.
As soon as you are near the Vatican, you’ll see a rush of tourists, catholic priests and nuns walking around (most are also tourists), and buses with hordes of people anxious to visit this wonder.
You’ll also notice people standing with clipboards in their hands, waiting to sell you museum passes and what not. We tried to get away from them as much as possible, but they are persistent.
We decided we wanted to go inside the basilica, but we would probably skip the Vatican Museums this time. If you’re planning to visit, take note that the Vatican is huge. There is a lot of ground to cover so you’ll probably need at least one whole day to see everything. Also know that there is a security checkpoint before entering any of the Vatican buildings, similar to an airport.
I grew up going to a Roman Catholic Church, I was baptized, had my first communion, and my confirmation. If and when I get married, I will be getting married in the church. There is a lot going on surrounding the church that I will not get into, but I will acknowledge that it is horrifying. But that doesn’t take anything away from my faith. Anyway, I’m telling you all of this so you understand my perspective a bit more.
Walking into Saint Peter’s Basilica, there is a beautiful feeling of calmness. As we walk past the elaborate altars, one dedicated to the late Pope John Paul II, I became overwhelmed with gratitude. How amazing to have been blessed with the opportunity to visit not once, but twice in my life.
In this basilica alone there is so much to see! And if you’re not of the Roman Catholic faith, it’s more than okay to still explore. There were people from all over the world admiring the artwork and the structure of the building.
Once we walked out of the basilica, we noticed all of the guards watching over the Vatican. There are the Swiss Army Guards, dressed in flamboyant bright costumes (they remind me of the guards outside of Buckingham Palace because they are also pretty immobile) holding their weapons, as well as the Vatican Police, which look completely the opposite and are dressed in designer suits, wear an ear-piece, and have their weapons concealed (watch Angels and Demons starring Tom Hanks for a better idea of what I’m talking about).
I headed to one of the Vatican’s official gift shops to buy several rose petal rosaries for my mom, and then we did the most American thing and bought a hot dog to sit and look out onto Saint Peter’s Square. It was a warm day, so this was pretty relaxing.
After that brief break, we walked to other major spots like the Pantheon (the oldest church in Rome), Piazza Navona (a very art-centric area of Rome), and then hitched a ride on a bike cart to Trastevere. Trastevere has a boho vibe and is a lesser known area to tourists, but a pretty popular spot to go for dinner and late night drinks.
There is a lot to see here as well including some of the most interesting graffiti art, mosaic churches, and people.
It wasn’t very busy when we got to Trastevere, so we browsed a bit, looking for a spot to have dinner. Most of the restaurants here mainly outdoor seating. Thankfully it was a gorgeous day out, so we chose Tonnarello’s. At Tonnarello’s we immediately ordered water (it was a warm day) and a glass of wine. As for our entrees, it was such a difficult decision! There were so many foods I wanted to try! But I went with the classic lasagna.
Our waiters, Paolo and Robinson both handsome and kind were helpful and knowledgeable about the wine selection, and even helped us figure out some cool spots to check out while in Trastevere.
After dinner, a little tipsy from the delicious wine, we wandered around the neighborhood (I was set on getting my haircut…don’t ask me why) to find a place to just hang. We heard music just around the corner from Tonnarello’s and saw that there was a street musician, as well as a few fortune tellers. If it weren’t for the few glasses of wine I had, I wouldn’t have done it, but I did, I had my fortune read. All I will say is that it was interesting and pretty spot on.
To recover from all of this new knowledge about our futures, Diana and I went to a couple of bars and talked about how we wished we could stay here longer.
We decided to call it a night around midnight, which is actually the time that Trastevere gets crazy busy! Like, not kidding, the streets become jam-packed with locals, mainly young people. So if you’re into that, that’s the place to be.
As we walked away from Trastevere, we realized we had no clue how to get to the Metro. We started asking people and a couple of German gentlemen who spoke pretty good English said they were actually headed toward the Coliseum where the nearest Metro station was. This probably sounds sketchy, but there were lots of people around and they were very respectful towards us. Anyway, as they guided us toward the Metro, we passed the Roman Forum and of course, the Coliseum. And although it was so beautiful, we were planning on coming back the next day. So bid adieu to our German friends and went into the metro only to realize that the route that went towards our Airbnb was not in service. So we took an Uber and made our way up the steps to our temporary home.
The next morning, I had a chance to meet a fellow Airbnb tenant (we were in a large apartment and each room was occupied with guests, including the host) from the Ukraine. She was really nice and probably younger than me. She spoke English almost perfectly, and told me about how she was waiting for her Tinder date to pick her up and show her around Rome. Sounded pretty romantic, but also risky.
Anyway, once Diana and I were ready, we made our way to a nearby pastry shop to buy a few treats for the day. I bought a couple of cookies and small cannolis. We then hopped onto the Metro to visit the spot I was most excited about, the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain, or Fontana di Trevi, was more spectacular than I had remembered it being! The fountain, which is actually the meeting point of 3 streets, is also one of the oldest water sources in Rome. It also is quite popular because it was hard to even get to the fountain for a picture! But don’t let the crowds scare you away. You have to spend some time there.
I can honestly say that this moment was one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced in my life. I was wearing an outfit I loved, inspired by Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, eating some delicious cannolis and admiring one of the most famous wonders of the world.
After this once in a lifetime moment, we were in search of more sweets, specifically gelato! We found a gelateria that had a line all the way outside the place, so we knew that was a good sign. I got a scoop of cappuccino and chocolate. Easily the best gelato I’ve had in my life.
Walking with gelato in hand, we were headed to our next stop, the Spanish Steps. And the craziest thing, we bumped into our German friends! They were headed the opposite direction, but it was such a funny coincidence.
We went in a few circles trying to find the Spanish Steps, stopped for some souvenirs, but eventually we found the top of the stairs. This spot was also completely full of people. Many were sitting and just people watching really. Others were taking pictures. A few were attempting to eat gelato while sitting or climbing the steps, which is totally not allowed (One of the area security guard tried to stop a woman from continuing on climbing because she had gelato. She pretended like she was going to follow him down to finish her snack elsewhere, but then she turned around and ran up the stairs. Don’t be that lady guys).
Our final thing to check off on our Rome to-do list was the Roman Forum and Coliseum which we had gotten a peek of the night before. At this point, I will mention that when in Rome, you’ll probably be walking around a lot. Which is nice because you get to see so much, but it can be a real struggle when you don’t have comfortable shoes.
Anyway, we walked to the Roman Forum where there was actually some sort of protest going on. To this day I’m still not sure what it was, but it wasn’t out of hand or anything.
The Roman Forum, also known as Forum Romanum (in Ancient Rome it was just called Magnum) in Latin, was the city center during Ancient Roman times. Some of the earliest structures to be built here date back to the 8th century B.C.! Now that is incredible!
Walking through, it was quite eerie and quiet. Knowing all of what may have occurred on that land was pretty unbelievable, and to walk somewhere where Julius Caesar ruled was surreal.
Directly next to the Roman Forum is the Coliseum (Colosseo), also known as the Flavian Amphitheater, named after the Flavian Dynasty that ruled Rome from 69 AD to 96 AD. We didn’t tour inside of the structure, but I did see it from the inside the first time I visited. I remember it almost looking like a maze with a huge center stage. From the outside, it’s just a large beautifully designed building that everyone can’t stop photographing. And yes, gladiators battled here during ancient times. You can still pose in photos with them just outside (obviously not real gladiators. Also, not Russell Crowe).
By this time, we had walked for hours and were feeling famished. Perfectly situated across from the Coliseum was La Biga Restaurant. The sun had pretty much set by now, but people were still eating and conversing outside. We were seated right in front with the most perfect view of the Coliseum. We ordered some delicious pasta, and then headed into the nearby Metro station.
We had some packing to do once again. This time, we knew we had a long travel day ahead of us, but also, a spectacular 4 day stay by the beach.
Have you been to Rome? Did you love it? Also, what’s your favorite movie that takes place in the Eternal City (BTW, that nickname for the city started back in the first century BC when Tibullus was quoted saying “if Rome fell so would the rest of the world”)?
-The B of V