Rome Italy

When in Rome……

“All the beauty and art of the world is there, and a lifetime isn’t long enough to enjoy it”

Said of Rome, from the Little Women Trilogy, Louisa May Alcott

Rome – what a magnificent city!  It like being in a living museum and around every corner is a piece of history.  As they say, a lifetime isn’t long enough to see it.  One of the things I really loved is that you didn’t need to do much other than wander aimlessly to enjoy the beauty and soak up the atmosphere.  Around every corner was a new treasure to be discovered, and even in spite of the thousands of tourists, it wasn’t hard to find a quiet corner to sit and watch Roman life unfold.

This was my second visit to Rome, the first being in 1998, when during a road trip around Europe, my brother and I had our passports stolen in Sienna.  We left our friends in the van and took the train down to Rome to get them replaced, a rigmarole that took us around four days.  During that time we walked around the outside of the Colosseum, attempted to visit the Vatican before our skimpy summer clothing saw us turned away, spent hours trying to remember which of the myriad of cheap hotels in the maze of streets near the Termini was ours, and ate overpriced and underwhelming pizza.  While it was an unnecessary and unwanted interruption to our travel plans, I remember at the time loving the city and wanting to return.  Finally, nearly twenty years later, I was ready to right some wrongs.

Arriving straight from Sydney (although “straight” is hardly the word), my main job for the day was to stay awake.  It had been a dream run so far, all flights on time, no lengthy airport delays, even my luggage arrived on the same flight as I did.  To my surprise, my flight landed in Rome at midday, and by 1.00 pm I was in my room and checking out the neighbourhood views from my window.

I didn’t have very much planned other than to wander the streets, get lost, and soak up the atmosphere.  I meandered happily and discovered tiny laneways, gorgeous ivy covered buildings, cute little restaurants and wine bars, magnificent buildings and statues at every turn.  At one point I turned a corner and found myself in a stunning Piazza, which I soon realised was Piazza Navona, the centrepoint of the city. It was magnificent and literally took my breath away.

As described by Lonely Planet it was “built over the 1st-century Stadio di Domiziano, it was paved over in the 15th century and for almost 300 years hosted the city’s main market. Its grand centrepiece is Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, a flamboyant fountain featuring an Egyptian obelisk and muscular personifications of the rivers Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plate.”

Despite the crowds of people, I absolutely loved it, and could have whiled away an entire day here, admiring the space, the fountain, enjoying my favourite sport of people watching.  Maybe one day I will.

Rome Italy

Piazza Navona

Rome Italy

In the Piazza Navona

Vespa tour of Rome

The only thing that I had organised for my time in Rome was a tour of the city by Vespa with Bici & Baci.  Departing at 7.00pm, I couldn’t decide if it was complete lunacy to plan this on the day of my arrival to Rome after 26 or so hours of travel, or a brilliant way to beat the jet lag, forcing me to stay awake.  I had made a foolish error and closed my eyes “only for a few moments” at around 5.00 pm and when the alarm went off 30 minutes later (which thank goodness I had set!) I was so discombobulated and disoriented I wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to be doing.  As I groggily got dressed and organised I really thought it was the former, a terrible mistake.  However it turned out most definitely to be the latter, a highlight of my brief time in Rome.

Apart from being a fantastic way to see the city, it was a huge amount of fun, exciting and exhilarating.  Although I can drive a scooter, and even own one of my own, I had wisely realised that Rome traffic and jet lag may not be a good combination, so had booked to go on the tour as a passenger.  My driver was Alexander, who started by giving me some tips on how to be a passenger, although I assured him I knew how to sit on the back of a scooter.  He ignored this completely and told me that I needed to grip his legs with my knees, keep my feet on the foot pegs, and most importantly not to lean back too far.  I thought that this was quite strange, however he told me that a couple of weeks previously he had a passenger who leaned back on the top box too hard, and both the box and the passenger shot off the back.  This seemed very odd to me until Alexander and I took off and suddenly everything made sense.  The rapid acceleration saw me shoot backwards, so I gripped with my knees and clung on to the bars on the bike for dear life!

What a thrilling ride it was!  We stopped off at so many of the sights that Rome is famous for, including the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, Circo Massimo, Caracalla baths, Piazza Venezia, plus ancient viaducts and quiet spots where we were the only ones.

As well as being a scooter driver with rally car tendencies, Alexander was a great tour guide.  He explained that the Colosseum was not crumbled and ruined from the ravages of time, but pillaged for the marble and materials, which has built churches and basilicas all over Rome and beyond.  It was only when one of the Popes said ‘enough!’ that this stopped, and the Colosseum as we know it stands.

Alexander has asked if I wanted a coffee or an ice-cream and although I said I wasn’t really fussed, he was insistent that we stop for “Rome’s best ice cream”.  So we stopped and he bought us an ice cream.  I said to him that this was the first ice cream that I had eaten in about a year. Alexander looked at me, genuinely horrified, “But why?,” he asked, unable to imagine such a hardship.  He just shook his head sadly.  I am happy to tell you that this ice cream was sensational, worth waiting a year for.

A scooter was the perfect way to get round Rome.  The public transport is not bad, but on the back of a scooter you see so much and you definitely beat the traffic – with Alexander in charge anyway.  Alexander complained about the local subway line – there’s only two!, he exclaimed.  He told me that they are building a third but that every hundred metres or so they discover some old ruins, an old church, a mausoleum……. so it’s slow progress.  Perhaps that sums up Rome – it’s beautiful, it’s frustrating, it’s ancient, and things will happen as they happen.

Rome Italy

Beautiful Rome by night

 

Rome Italy

Beautiful Rome

 

Rome Italy

The Colosseum

 

Rome Italy

Rome’s best ice-cream!

 

Rome Italy

Rome by night

Italian men

Something that definitely hasn’t changed since my last visit is Italian men.  One of my lingering memories from my first visit, was seeing a local Roman man, tall, muscular, well-built and very good-looking.  He was walking confidently and languorously across the square, wearing a white linen shirt and white linen pants, leather sandals and absolutely nothing else.  He has stayed in my memory, and now back in Rome, I sort of had an eye out for him again.

While I didn’t see my white-clad Roman God, it seems that the men are still gorgeous and still wildly flirtatious!  At breakfast, I had found a quiet cafe in a beautiful little alleyway, just off Campo de’ Fiore, underneath an ivy clad apartment building.  I sat in the alleyway, ordered a croissant and espresso (full-strength, no decaf!  when in Rome…).  The manager, in his sixties, brought it over to me – perfecto!  I said.  “Just like you,” he responds with a charming smile.

Later that evening after dinner I was looking for somewhere to have a glass of wine and people watch.  As I was walking in the local square and pondering where to settle myself, one of the local restaurant touts asked me, Dinner?  No, I responded, I’ve eaten.  A drink?  I shrug, and say, just a glass of wine?  Yes, he responded, you’re a beautiful woman, he said.  Well, it’s hard to argue with this logic so that’s where I enjoyed a glass of wine.

A waiter where I was enjoying a glass of wine asked me if I liked Rome.  I love Rome!, I responded.  I love you!, he said. Well that seems a bit premature I thought. Want to go out with me and get a drink?, he asked.  His large brown puppy dog eyes looked so bewildered when I declined, he can’t understand it.

Accommodation

I stayed at the gorgeous DOM Hotel in Via Giulia, in the historic centre of Rome.  Set in what was once a 17th century aristocratic home, it is now a boutique hotel in a fantastic location only a few minutes’ walk from gorgeous Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiore.  The rooms are small but very luxurious and the hotel is beautifully appointed.  It also boasts a Michelin starred restaurant on the rooftop terrace, Achille, which I was lucky to dine at, and it was sensational.

So that was Rome, a brief stopover, but as beautiful, intoxicating, exciting and alluring as I remembered it.  Thank goodness my next visit is only a few weeks away.

Rome Italy

One of the cities oldest fountains – treasures around every corner

 

Rome Italy

The Pantheon

Rome Italy

 

Rome Italy

Along the banks of the River Tiber

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