Wow, what an adventure. I can’t believe it’s been over a month already. On August 30th I arrived in Rome for my nearly 5 week stay, and what an adventure it was.
Firstly, let me assure you that traveling in the age of Covid was not nearly as inconvenient as many believe. What you hear, and what happens on the ground are very different realities I have found. I had no issues entering the country, nor did I run into any major obstacles while in country.
The only slight annoyance was making sure to bring your mask and Covid card with you everywhere. Many places didn’t ask for the vaccination card, but enough did so you end up bringing it everywhere you go. Once this became routine it was a breeze.
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On the positive side, I’ve never seen Rome so open and devoid of huge crowds. This trip was special as normally you are fighting crowds in the major museums and historic center, but on this trip it was like having Rome to yourself. Exploring the halls of the Vaitcan, the underground of the Colosseum, and taking in the beauty of Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain without throngs of people was wonderful.
Living in Rome for a month really cemented for me the love of the Eternal City. You could truly spend a lifetime here and not see it all. The 2,773 year old city is a lasagne of history, architecture, culture, and beauty around every single corner.
I learned never to underestimate a tiny alleyway in Rome as it could just as easily lead to a grand piazza, an ancient underground museum, or a local speakeasy bar.
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My apartment was a stone’s throw away from Piazza Navona, the greatest of Rome’s meeting places, and each morning I would run through the great square. Every day I noticed something new. This is the beauty of Rome. There’s always a new perspective, a different time of day, and new light that brings forth some amazing new detail.
After a run through Piazza Navona I would usually head over to Castel San Angelo (my favorite of the ancient monuments), then wherever a neat street would lead me before ending in a local cafe for my morning espresso.
I was 7 hours ahead of central time back home so I would do my sightseeing in the morning and early afternoon. Then I would walk or hop on my motorcycle for the day’s adventure (yes I rented an authentic Roman scooter for the entire time which is the best way to get around.)
I didn’t come with a giant list of things to do as this was my 7th trip to Rome. I rather decided that day what I wanted to see and do. Some days I went church hunting (over 350 in the city center alone), other days I sought out the greatest palaces of Rome, or I would just spend the day exploring new streets and piazzas.
Palazzo Colonna is a fine example of you’ve not seen it all. After my many trips to Rome I was never able to see the great palace as they open only on Fridays, now Saturdays, for a limited time. But, if you plan this right you are able to witness one of the grandest urban palaces in Europe.
There were a couple days I spent outside the city discovering the villages and countryside around Rome. One such special area is called “Castelli Romani”, a series of small villages centered around two lakes.
One of the villages, Castel Gondolfo (pictured above), is where the Pope’s traditionally spend their summer months to escape the heat of the city. The quaint town sitting sleepily on the side of the lake creates a picture perfect setting.
Another village situated high up on a hillside, is that of Nemi (my personal favorite). I was invited to a wine festival here “festa dei vini” with a few local Roman friends and wow what an evening. The picturesque village, sunset, Italian wines, and local friends made it a memorable experience.
Beyond exploring the seemingly endless churches, palaces, museums, and stunning architecture, food and drink were a major part of the experience. Rome, as you would imagine, has some of the best food in Europe. Italy is known for its rich culinary tradition and Rome brings in the best from around the country.
Traditionally, locals do what’s known as an “apperitivo” or pre-dinner drink before having their biggest meal of the day. This consists of a drink and some light snacks, usually starting around 7pm, before heading to dinner between 9-10pm. The best place to have an apperitivo, in my opinion, is one of the many rooftop bars throughout the city.
Hotels often have a rooftop “terrazza” where you can have a drink and enjoy amazing views over the city. The greatest of these is perhaps Hotel Minerva, overlooking the Patheon and the centro storico of Rome.
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After your pre-dinner drink you’ll head to a local ristorante, trattoria, or hostaria for an amazing meal. It’s hard to find a bad meal in Rome, but there are certainly places that take it up a notch in quality of food, service, and ambiance.
One of the best meals I had was on the Ancient Appian Way (oldest road in Italy) surrounded by ancient Roman monuments, stone walls, and Italian pine trees.
Hostaria Antica Roma is located right on the Ancient Appian Way, across from the greatest of the remaining Roman tombs, Cecilia Metella. The setting is perfect, the food is world-class, and the service is top-notch. In fact, this is a place where many visiting dignitaries and famous celebrities come when they are in Rome.
Weather permitting you can sit outside in the garden and bask in the beauty of the ancient street as you enjoy some of the best food you’ll ever have.
One last thing worth sharing here that was unique was the local violin concert. I was able to experience a Vivaldi “Four Seasons” violin concerto in a gorgeous baroque church.
This was perhaps my favorite experience as everything amazing about Rome came together in one beautiful evening – art and architecture, history, classical music in a stunning setting, and a great meal afterward.
I could easily write a novel on the things I saw and did in the month I was in Rome. But, alas, the adventure has come to an end and now it’s time to plan the next one.
I’m planning on doing one or two guided tours next year in 2022, so if you have the travel bug be on the lookout for more information in the coming weeks!