Visiting Rome is a chance to experience ancient history, see iconic art, taste world class cuisine and visit architecture from from thousands of years ago. The sites in Rome are amazing. There’s the Colosseum, the Imperial Forum, the Spanish Steps, and the world famous Trevi Fountain just to name a few. There are really so many places. Even after a week of staying in the Eternal City, I was listing more places I wanted to see.
Arriving at Rome’s Fiumicino airport is like any modern International airport. European airports have a reputation for long lines in Customs and Immigration. The International flights with their wide body airplanes and tons of travelers tend to all land at the same time. I got in line as soon as I could at Customs and only had to wait twenty minutes. Once I was officially in Rome, I bought the first ticket on the Leonardo Express train. This train costs $20.00 and takes thirty minutes to travel the 16 miles from Fiumicino to Rome’s Termini station. Roma Termini station is the central train and bus station for Rome. The Rome Metro Subway station also uses Termini as a hub. There’s a ton of people here. This place has a terrible reputation for pick pockets and thieves. A staff member at the United States Embassy told me that they get at least 50 people a month requesting a replacement Passport from Roma Termini station alone. It’s best to keep your valuables in your front pockets (if you have them) and keep your hands over your iPhone and valuables. I was able to go through Termini station many times during my stay, and I didn’t have any problems. But getting your valuables stolen in Termini is something that happens a lot.
The first thing I wanted to do when I got to Rome was try the food. I ordered a Pasta Penne with peas. This was at a local eatery in the Ungheria area of Rome where I was staying. European custom in Italy and France is to have a sort of buffet that someone from the restaurant serves you from. You can point at this or that to order it which is helpful if you don’t speak Italian. So, i tried the Vegetarian Penne and it was delicious. The pasta in Italy is prepared differently than in the States. Italian pasta has subtle and simple tastes. Each pasta dish I tried had a small difference in flavor and texture. My side dish was a cup of fresh strawberries. I was happy to try something different and the flavors were distinctly Italian. I felt like I had made a great choice to start my culinary tour.
In Italy, dinner is eaten very late by Western standards. Dinner is usually around 9:00PM. The nicer restaurants aren’t even open at 6:00pm. They’re just sweeping up and preparing for dinner service. This takes a bit of getting used to. However, after you adjust, it makes good sense. I found that just a bit of cappuccino with some brioche in the morning could keep me going until a late lunch around 2:00PM. Lunch could be a sandwich or small plate of pasta. Dinner, however, is a full blown affair. You aren’t expected to rush a good Italian meal. Usually the wine is selected first. Ideally there are at least two people so an Antipasto plate can be shared. Antipasto is translated as “before the meal”. This includes cheese, crostini, olives and roasted bell peppers. The antipasto plate is meant to pair well with the wine. After the antipasto and wine, a Primo or first course is served. This is usually a pasta dish or a soup. I decided to keep sampling the Spaghetti Vegetariani at each meal. This turned out to be a great idea. I was able to taste subtle differences in the pasta and ingredients. The serving is rather small for American standards. The Primo isn’t a giant plate of pasta but a small serving that goes with the wine you’re drinking. The Secondi or second course is also a smaller serving than we are used to in the West but it was always worth it to at least try a Secondi.
I sampled a few of the vegetarian Secondi and was never disappointed. My favorite Secondi in Rome was was a risotto with porcini mushrooms. I also tried a baked Salmon Secondi that was seasoned and prepared perfectly. The Contorno is a platter of vegetables that accompanies the main course. The spinach in Rome was amazing. Finally the Dolce, meaning “sweet” completes the meal. I tried the terimisu any chance I could get. I had some delicious terimisu that was just thrown in at the end by our server that was incredible, and I had some so-so terimisu that cost $7.00 and was topped with Cool Whip and chocolate syrup. You really never know what the terimisu is going to be like until you try at at a particular location.
Visiting the Colosseum and the Roman Forum
I have to say that visiting the Colosseum in Rome is an amazing experience. It took me a couple of visits to figure out what was going on. The area around the colosseum is open twenty four hours a day and there are many dangers here. Tour groups from all over the world come here to visit the ruins and if they can only stop by at 11:00PM at night, that’s when they’ll stop by. The Italian police and the military do a good job of keeping the peace, but there are so many touts and selfie stick salesmen here that it’s easy to see how pick pockets operate. The Coliseum is amazing. Roman emperors watched huge spectacles in this giant arena. I didn’t take the tour as I arrived a bit late in the day, but I think the Roman Forum that is just up the road a bit is the real treat. There’s the Imperial Forum, temples built by and frequented by Julius Caesar and many other Roman ruins laying about. This central part of Rome is an important place for tourists and locals as the cities ancient history is all right here. There are placards all around the Roman Forum that explaining the history of each column and wall.
The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps are a set of steps in front of the Trinita dei Monti church. These steps seemed to be created for selfies, Snapchat and Instagram. At any given moment, there are hundreds of people snapping pictures of themselves. Not just tourist. I saw plenty of successful Italians meeting on the Spanish Steps and taking group selfies. The view of Rome is stunning from here. The Piazza di Spagna, or Spanish Plaza is at the bottom of the steps. The Spanish Steps are a great meeting place in Rome. Depending on where you’re going, this is an iconic landmark thats easy to find.
The Trevi Fountain
I was walking to the Vatican from Termini station when I discovered the Trevi Fountain. It was hard to miss. There were literally hundreds of people posing for pictures and taking selfies when I got here. It’s a beautiful fountain. Designed by Architect Nicola Salvi, Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in the the city. I joined the masses and snapped some photos, but to be honest, all I wanted to do was get out of this area. There are just too many people.
I went walking around the Tiber river and discovered the super hip neighborhood of Trastevere. Trastevere roughly translates as “Beyond the Tiber”. There are pubs frequented by Westerners and hip Italian people in this part of Rome. The Piazza di Santa Maria is a famous meeting place in Trastevere. There’s also a park at the top of the hill from Trastevere that has views of Rome and many palazzo or palaces can be seen. The Giancolo has an incredible panoramic view of Rome. The Giancolo also features sculptures of Giuseppe Garibaldi and busts of many of Rome’s prominent citizen. It’s worth it to visit Giancolo as many tourists don’t go here and its off the beaten path.
I stayed in an Air BnB in the the Leigi part of Rome which is similar to Beverly Hills in California. I got a deal on a penthouse apartment and had a very local experience. For $90.00 a night I stayed about a half hour north of the historic part of Rome. I didn’t mind walking, and I also got to ride the Rome Metro subway and the tram that Rome is famous for. My Air BnB was great. I would describe the apartment as luxury level with plenty of fresh towels and a large and comfortable bed. I learned a lot about the area and how to ride on public transportation. The tickets for the tram are purchased at the news stand. Once you have your $1.50 ticket, it has to be validated each time you get on the tram,metro or train. There are no ticket checkers on the public transportation in Rome, just policeman who write $50 tickets to (mostly) tourists who forget to validate their ticket.
Rome is a travel experience that you should have at least once in your life. The Roman ruins, the fountains, the food, the people. I felt so lucky to visit Rome and have such a great visit.
Check out the official government website to visit Rome here;