Rome is the ‘eternal city’. For centuries, Rome ruled the world. It is full of historic ruins, fine art and delicious food. It is a city where you can walk out of your apartment, down the street and see modern buildings adjacent to buildings dating thousands of years. You can barely turn a corner without stumbling upon something special. So much has survived from Rome’s peak.
Rome is one of the most travelled cities in Europe – it has it all. Wander the cobblestone street with a gelato in hand, spend some time supping in a small trattoria or resting on the steps of a fountain in a piazza (with a few friends). Take in the stunning architecture and watch Rome go about its business. Rome is appealing, with Vespas zooming about the narrow streets or parked against a backdrop of medieval buildings in the quaintest corners.
What was our favourite thing about Rome? The Colosseum and Roman Forum, awesome for their history, the Trevi Fountain for its artistic functionality, the Pantheon for its engineering ingenuity and design. The many trattoria…the list goes on.
Rome is not short on famous attractions, the Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain…all places popular with tourists. The Piazza di Spagna is quite busy as people stop to view the steps, a somewhat underwhelming sight to be honest, made famous by a poet and a movie. But it’s the Fontana della Barcaccia, built in early 1600s by Bernini, that is the stand-out. And the streets surrounding Piazza di Spagna are full of designer shops and high end brands.
The Pantheon, originally a temple to the Gods in Ancient Rome, is now an attraction where you can marvel at its incredible architecture – the portico and the world’s largest unreinforced dome with the oculus, an opening to the heavens above. This is also the final resting place of two Kings, a Queen, the artist Raphael and several other artists and composers. It is still in use as a church, notably on holy days of obligation.
And, while in the neighbourhood, a stop by Trevi fountain for some photos with a few thousand of your closest friends is a must. This is one of the most famous fountains in the world. The original fountain supplied water to Ancient Rome. Later, Bernini was commissioned to sketch the restoration of the fountain, but never realised his ambition. Some of his touches were incorporated in subsequent designs. As a popular tourist attraction, the square is often packed with tourists and souvenir stalls. When we reached the fountain, we did not forget to throw coins over our left shoulder, for love.
These sights are spectacular and we loved them all. But for us, we loved the ‘colours’ of Rome. The ochre and orange of the worn walls. The hanging green ivy as you enter a piazza. The light in the evening and its shimmer off the cobblestones. Open air dining. Standing, having your morning coffee, with the locals – and a cannoli! These are the experiences of Rome’s neighbourhoods. To feel Rome is to enjoy her neighbourhoods, such as medieval Trastevere or urban Monti. To wander these neighbourhoods and be happy to occasionally get lost provides an insight into life in Rome.
The medieval neighbourhood of Trastevere is a district buzzing with nightlife. During the day, it is subdued, brightened up by hanging plants against the elegantly faded buildings. After dark, when Rome comes out to play, you dine in Trastevere’s many trattorias and wine bars, mingling with the locals. The streets and alleyways are alive. People engrossed in convivial banter, enthusiastically waving their arms as they punctuate their sentences.
‘Our’ neighbourhood was Monti, a charming residential area centrally located near the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. This district has an interesting blend of history and hipsters with quirky cafes, family run trattorias and beautiful old buildings. It is an urban village, a district where one can easily escape the crowds and seek refuge in small out of the way places and enjoy a coffee or bowl of pasta with locals. The Piazza dell Madonna dei Monti is a prime spot for resting tired muscles and enjoying some old fashioned people watching.
Like the most cosmopolitan cities of Europe, Rome is a city where you want to take your time, meander the streets and enjoy the sights and sounds, lingering in cafes and trattorias. You will stare at historic buildings, ruins and watch the world go by, experiencing ‘la dolce vita’. But as charming and alluring as her neighbourhoods are, you cannot visit Rome without seeing and understanding her historical features .