A few tidbits about me – of all the many, many foods I adore, Italian cuisine is definitely up there with the greats. Wine and coffee are my favourite beverages, and people watching is my cardio. People watching + wine/coffee (in the sun) = The Dream! And so, a recent jaunt to Rome was heaven.
We went to the Eternal City mid April, for my boyfriend Mark’s birthday. The weather was perfect (mid-twenties) – so high enough to embrace the sunshine but not too hot for walking-everywhere-all-day-eerrday.
When exploring new territories, I’m pretty much a no research beforehand kinda gal. I like to think of it as “getting the more authentic local experience”, but actually, it’s pretty much always down to sheer laziness on my behalf.
We arrived in Rome late on the Thursday evening. Had I read any travellers tips on Rome at all, I’d have known not to take a white taxi from the airport to our hotel (Tip No.1 for you!). Alarm bells probably should have been ringing at the over-eager taxi driver with eyes like dollar signs on a slot machine… But street wise I’m not and so our fare from airport to hotel cost over €100 (apparently three times the norm). This however, was the only downer of the trip, and I chose to forget about it straight away (’til now)! My selective amnesia is great for that kind of thing.
A friend of Mark’s lived in Rome for a year or two, and subsequently Mark was armed with one recommendation – Pizzeria Baffetto. And so, for meal number one of ten million, off we trotted to fill our bellies. Judging a book by it’s cover, I initially wasn’t overly ecstatic when we stumbled upon the place. It’s surrounded by far prettier trattorias, all choked with tourists. But Pizzeria Baffetto did not disappoint. We had pizzas, pastas and italian breads and I could have literally never left the place. Their tiramisu was amaze also.
Friday morning was spent browsing the city and breaking every half hour for coffees, wines, gelato and pastries. I won’t bore you with the obvious sites to see, but all the usual suspects (the Colosseum/Trevi Fountain/Sistine Chapel/Palatine Hill etc) are within walking distance to each other. Rome is drenched in history, and I wasn’t prepared for just how stunningly beautiful the city truly is. The architecture is incredible – Each building is more elaborate than the last, and every cobbled street leads to a cathedral or museum of sorts.
The city is laced with churches, (there’s almost one thousand), and I was hoping for some divine inspiration from the Gods. I lost track of the various cathedrals in the end as they’re all beautifully similar – all have stunning architecture, all have exquisite adornments and frescoes. However, one church which stayed with me is the ‘Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore’. I can’t say I’m that religious, but there’s definitely something magical about that place.
On the spiritual awakening side of things, the Vatican was actually on the other side of the scale. The Sistine Chapel is incredible and the entire Vatican vicinity is spectacular, but I couldn’t help feeling it’s purpose is far more tourism than religion. Guards with guns lace the entire Vatican protecting ‘Papi’, and the thousands of Papi-razzi (see what I did there!) can’t get anywhere close. The Vatican is incredible from a historical perspective, and the architecture is so elaborately beautiful, but personally, there’s just isn’t room for an inkling of spirituality! I do however LOVE the current Pope and there’s no escaping him in Rome – every hoodie, souvenir tea-towel and magnet is plastered with his cute little face. (Think Knock in Co. Mayo times ten billion and you’ll get the gist!)
Mark is a landscaper by trade, and so every trip away always requires a trip to the local national gardens. This is usually a big yawnfest for me, but the Botanic Gardens in Rome was probably the highlight of my trip. The view from the top of the gardens overlooks the entire city, and is pretty magical. Drinking outdoors is legal in Italy (Tip No.2 for you!), and so we bought prosecco and beers into the Botanic Gardens and sat drinking in the sunshine for a few hours loving life.
The few days spent in Rome merged into one large binging foodfest. Delicious lunches rolled into aperitifs, turning into dinners. I devoured a whole lot of seafood that weekend, along with pizzas, pastas, Italian pastries…. All of which were amazing.
Mark’s birthday night was spent in ‘Gregory’s Jazz Bar’. Amazing! So much fun! Think gorgeous cocktails, a live jazz band, and stunning Italian couples jiving away to their heart’s content. My people watching skills were on fleek!
We also slotted in an Italian league football match (much to my dismay but it was Mark’s birthday after all)… I’ve unfortunately been dragged around football stadiums before, once recently in Monacco (boring), and once in London (beyond freezing and boring). The Rome match I actually quite enjoyed. The latin blood around us made for a great atmosphere and it was actually good craic!
Accommodation wise, we stayed in the Trilussa Spa Hotel. This is a boutique-style hotel with all the things I like, a rooftop bar, pool etc. I’d recommend it – The staff were great, and it’s walking distance to the old part of town with all the cool cafes and restaurants.
All in all, I LOVED Rome. Italy is always a good idea!