Roma. Roma. Roma. How we love thee! Let me just start by telling a little story…
When I was about 10 years old, my parents so graciously took my brother and I to Rome so we could learn history, experience a different culture, spend time together…blah blah blah. Well, one day of walking (LOTS of walking) and not enough gelato, I made the bold decision that I did not like Rome. Not even a little bit. Can you believe that? I spent years saying…”Oh, Rome? Yeah I HATE Rome.” WHO SAYS THAT?!?! Well I’d like to be the first one to slap myself for ever making such a bold statement at the ripe age of 10 about a beautiful city. Flash forward many years later when I went back and fell in love with the city I apparently loathed. And then flash forward again to the last few days and we are speechless (well not really…because then this post would be super boring).
We decided that Rome would be a great first stop because it was a place we had both been before and could spend our time enjoying the city without feeling the pressure of seeing every single square inch. With that being said, we were still non-stop. I am not sure if it was the excitement of being on the first leg of our trip or the jet lag…or a combo of both! But, we were up early and in bed late. Our days were full of lots of walking, getting lost, stopping for a quick bite, bug bites…lots of bug bites, and taking it all in. Rome, you are one beautiful city.
I am not going to bore you with our play by play of the days but instead, I am going to share with you what we learned during our time spent there.
We learned that people in Rome are so incredibly friendly. Our AirBnb hosts were amazing and made us feel welcome the moment we stepped into their home. Kris, who is from Boston, helped us navigate around Cinecitta which is the part of Rome we stayed in…aka…the HOLLYWOOD of Rome. Fancy! We spent our mornings gathered around the table, chatting with her over espresso and breakfast and she helped us out so much with things to do, what to see and the best way to experience Rome. Stefano, who was born and raised in Rome, helped us with our Italian and also gave us advice of what see and do. He even helped us make a reservation for an agriturismo we went to in Cassino, Italy. We loved our time with them and the cherry on top was that the apartment was amazing! So comfortable, clean and really close to the subway that took us directly into the city center. Hats off to Kris and Stefano — if you’re ever looking to stay in Rome, check out their listing here!
Aside from our hosts, the people in Rome in general are extremely friendly and understanding of us stumbling with our Italian. The only time we didn’t want to get in their way is when they were driving down the street because we quickly learned that pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way! Cars, vespas, things that are a cross between a car and a vespa (carspa…or vescar — I just made those up) absolutely have the right of way! And if you cross them, they will throw their hands up at you in true Italian fashion and yell something that I am sure they wouldn’t dare say in front of their Nonna.
But in all seriousness, people there are great. We could ask anyone for directions and they would not skip a beat, even if they had trouble understanding our broken Italian. Or if we were trying to order something to eat and did not know the proper word, they would teach it to us. For example, we ordered a panino from a local deli and we were trying to ask for sun dried tomato. Well, I knew that tomato was pomodoro and sun was sole….so naturally I said, “pomodori di sole” in hopes he would understand what I was saying. He chuckled and taught me that sun dried tomato in Italian is “pomodori secchi” instead of just letting me get by with my own version of sun dried tomatoes in Italian.
Obviously, we have already established that Sean and I love food. Well, thankfully Italy and food go pretty much hand in hand. I am about to go all mythbusters on you and let you know that through experience, the myth is TRUE. Food here is SO MUCH BETTER than in America. Ingredients are fresh, has more flavor, more color and more life. And we could see that in a multitude of ways just through walking around a daily market in Campo Di Fiori which was bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables that smelled amazing as we walked by, to walking into a deli and seeing the locals and the shop owners interact over sliced proscuitto and fresh mozzerella. I know I told you I wasn’t going to give you play by plays but I just need to tell you about this sandwich we had….imagine: a local deli with cured proscuitto hanging all over the place, italian words being thrown around like confetti, a deli case full of cheese, vegetables, and meats and a whole wall full of fresh bread. Now, ask for a sandwich. What do they do? Oh, just pull a piece of bread off the wall, ask you what you would like on your panino and load it all up on there with olive oil and love. Next thing you do? Grab a beer from the fridge, pay a few euro and take your amazing panino and the cold beer and find a spot in a piazza where you see the rest of Rome going by. Pretty cool, huh?
Rome, as well as Romans (the modern kind…do they even call them that anymore?) are truly full of life. They wake up early and pop an espresso like candy and stay up late as if there was no tomorrow. Nuns peruse the street with gelato in hand while a uomo e donna (man and woman) make-out against a wall. They have no shame, no shame I tell you! It’s amazing…the way people live life here. We went to an appertivo which is basically equivelant to happy hour in America — but WAY better. Here, appertivo is from like 5:30-9:00pm and for about €7 you can get a drink (wine, beer, etc.) and food…usually a buffet of appetizers such as bruschetta, pickled vegetables, and a light pasta. The intention of appertivo is to gather with others after work and before dinner to prepare for an evening spent with friends or family before the real meal takes place around 10pm. What we noticed from our few appertivos that we went to is that people truly love people. When around others, they are not weighed down by their phone or by distractions. All they seem to care about is the ones they are with and then taking a few sips of their Apersol Spritzer and a bite of bruschetta. We just sat there taking it all in, imagining how back home, we constantly see people on their phone…not everywhere and not everyone, but more times than not, Americans are glued to their screens. I know I am to blame!
We also learned that you definitely CANNOT see Rome in a day. Sure, you can visit the monuments and take a quick glance in their direction, but to actually experience Rome would take several days. By visiting the Forum, the Trevi Fountain, and Pantheon, you are seeing some amazing things but you are just scratching the surface. We took the time to “get lost” and wonder down alleyways that had laundry hanging from the windows and little cafes that had the smell of espresso wafting through the doorway. In those alleyways, it was quiet. It was peaceful. And they allowed us to take it all in vs. guarding our bag and hiding from street vendors trying to sell us a selfie stick or a pair of knock-off Ray Bans. In those moments, we walked slow…so hence the not being able to see it in one day. Or maybe our feet just hurt. Who knows!
Rome, I won’t ever forget the moment we were walking across the bridge just as the sun was setting over the Vatican and I became teary-eyed at your beauty. I know it was a mix of jet-lag, exhaustion and pure bliss but regardless, it was a moment that is engrained in my mind and a moment where Sean looked at me and said, “Really? Are you seriously crying?” Yes, yes I was.