I must admit – being completely in love with Rome is a normal state of mine, so I do my best to visit it at least once per year, especially when the leaves in Lithuania become yellow, meanwhile Italy still remains in a summer mood. The center of the ancient Europe where all roads lead to, surely stows everything, what you might need for a perfect weekend: from imprecise architectural monuments counting thousands and thousands of years to lavish and luxurious stores and highest quality gourmet food, that can please even the most fastidious and dainty eaters. When there is a place, which embodies so much within itself, how do you choose well the spots, that would astonish you the most, taste dishes, you would be willing to tell all your friends about after and at the same time, still manage to find time to relax on the green grass in on of thousands of roman parks, while enjoying real Italian “Gelato”?
If you are planning to escape for a holiday weekend having to be at work on Monday morning, my advice would be to arrive in Rome as early as you can on Friday afternoon. This way you can devote all your Saturday for excursions and at the same time get a chance to swing into one of the dozen of bars and restaurants of Rome, that Campo di Fiori and Piazza Navona squares are crowded with. When Friday sun hides beyond the horizon, a city of Rome, which almost never sleeps, becomes even more alive: local Italians and city guests occupy every single bar chair in the city. If you are keen on trying real Italian pasta and seeing how a real portion has to look like, don’t be lazy to walk up to Trastevere district. Just after you cross the bridge, which connects the old town of Rome and Trastevere, you will be surrounded by a real roman spirit: a fantastic smell spreading from the tiny local restaurants of the freshly baked pizza, stylish dwellers wandering through narroe streets with no rush and of course,- charming street music. Don’t get surprised while facing an opera performance in the middle of the street,- here it is more than ordinary stuff, that is always accompanied by loud ovations and applause. The greatest and most pleasant thing about these improvised concerts – pure professionally,- well, Italy is the motherland of opera.
There is one main rule of finding the best place to eat in Rome: look for locals! More Italians you see chattering around the tables in the place, or even better – the longer queue outside, waiting for the place to sit – the better the restaurant is. So if you are not extremely hungry yet, advice would be simple: after taking a look at a few places, that your eyes catch the most, pick up the one and put your name on the waiting list. It’s normal, that you might have to wait for around 30 minutes. Use this time to ramble through the streets of Rome a little bit more and have a glass of wine in one of the local bars or wineries. This is the best way to take the benefit from waiting and still capture a few images of the first night. And obviously get the dinner to die for! By the way, talking about the food, you just have to try Bruchettas (white bread, baked with cheese, ham, tomatoes and sea food), pasta with the sauce that sounds the most delicious (old school classics Carbonara and Bolognese or Pesto), pizza, sea food Risotto and of course a Tiramisu that melts in your mouth…. Italians usually finish their dinner with a shot of tasteful Espresso, or if you feel like getting something stronger – a sip of famous lemon liquor Lemoncello. After such a huge dinner there is only on place worth heading to – your bed, as the next day will definitely arrive with a bunch of great impressions!
When booking the hotel, take a B&B (bed and breakfast) option if possible. Most of the time such breakfast contain of freshly baked rolls and bagels from the local bakeries, juices, various type of cheese, jams and of course Italian coffee. How can you start your day in Rome without a cup of odorous Italian gold? When you start exploring the ancient capital of Europe after breakfast, a great thing is to be revealed: seems like the old own of Rome has been designed and projected especially for tourists: everything is within walking distance, while you can find something very unique almost on every corner. From local shops and cafes to little churches and beautiful fountains, which look like somebody has been trying to hide them while building the city. Speaking about the water: in Rome there are loads of places where you can find small taps and fountains. Have in mind: the water splashing from them is portable! So all you have to do is to carry a small plastic bottle, which can be filled up literally on every corner.
Let’s get back to excursions: according to which side of the old town your hotel is located, that’s exactly the place where you should start your trip from. A great spot to begin Saturday’s route – Piazza del Popollo. In the middle of an impressive square stands out a huge obelisk, while one side of it is girded by a caravan of precisely made sculptures. If you are fond of panoramic views, walk a little bit more to the left, heading the park, and rise a few steps,- you will have an amazing view of Piazza del Popolo, Roman old town and Vatican. It’s a great inspiration for further trips.
Depending on what you are willing to see, you might march on the main street Via Del Corso, sneak into a few thousands stores and shops, or simply roam around cozy streets of Rome, which will take you to the main monuments, only you will avoid jostling in the crowd and traffic. Another a “must see” monument – Pantheon,- the oldest christian church in the world, that has a huge hole in the roof. It has been destroyed loads of times and afterwards rebuilt again, today it’s always full of tourists and respectful noise. Talking about the respect: girls and women, who are willing to enter churches in Rome, must have their knees and shoulders covered. This rule is being strictly followed everywhere in the city. Especially in Vatican.
After leaving Pantheon, it’s extremely comfortable to visit Piazza Navona and Campo di Fiori – probably the best known squares in Rome, where artists, street musicians and tourists tend to gather at. You can hear opera being performed live here, enjoy some passionate tango melodies, observe circus acts or just have a seat on the sun warmed floor and soak your foot into the fountain.. It’s being said that there are around 280 fountains in Rome, whereas the most famous one is Trevi fountain (1762), where you have to throw a coin into, if you want to come back here again. By the way, this special ritual has to be done while turning your back to the fountain, and fling the coin over your shoulder. And of course make a wish before doing that. Believe it or not – these wishes do come true! By the way, visiting Trevi fountain straight after your walks around Campo di Fiori and Piazza Navona is extremely comfortable. Be ready to face the fact, that having a good picture next to this fountain on Saturday afternoon is almost impossible, cause the place is totally crowded by tourists, not even mentioning how many different nationalities and languages can be spotted around,- just be ready to listen!
Next to the Trevi fountain there are a few great Gelaterias (ice-houses), where a local Italian will scoop and place an enormous pile of ice cream on your cone without even a blink. The taste is simply fabulous! If you manage to stop after the 3rd portion, you a surely worth a medal. Personally I don’t know anybody who would have succeeded – they are just too good!
Another object, that surely deserves your attention and is loved by tourists – Piazza di Spagna and Scalinata (Spanish steps), which are tend to be biggest and widest stairs in Europe.
After you are done with throwing the coins and making wishes, comes the time to see the real celebrities of Rome: a monuments of Vittorio Emanuele II, Palatino Hill, Arco di Costantino and of course his majesty – Coliseum. If it’s your first time in Rome, I would strongly advice to use the audio guide while walking around the Palatino Hill or explore the Colliseum. One way or another, there is only one common ticket that allows you to enter both of these monuments. If you take an audio guide, you will get a clearer view of the ancient Rome and at the same time will discover many great historical facts: starting with vestalians service which tend to last 30 years and ending up with the real story of the Colliseum, which is very far from being beautiful and honorable. More than 500.000 people died in the Colliseum games, over a million of wild animals were killed. Colliseum and it’s surroundings is a perfect place to end up your first day excursions, plus the sunset here just takes your breath away. After such a day plateful of impressions, there is only one thing that could make it even better: Italian dinner accompanied by a glass of great wine and an additional memory card for your camera, cause everything in Rome is worth being pictured.
Sunday is a very special day in Rome: more than 74% of citizens believe in God, not even mentioning that Vatican – the smallest country in the world – is settled here. Vatican is the residence of the world leader of Catholic Church – Pope. Even though Vatican itself is really far from being big (around 800 citizens), you will need more than one day if you are willing to take a proper look at Vatican museum and it’s treasures, that have been accumulated throughout the existence of the catholic church and admire St. Peter’s Basilica. If you have time, I strongly recommend you to climb those 403 steps, that take you to the very top of the basilica. All I can say that the view is astonishing when you see all seven hills of Rome laying just in front of you, waiting to be adored. Plus, if you are lucky (which can be taken care of in advance, only you have to recheck it) you might get a chance to listen and see how Pope addresses the crowd on Sunday morning in 6 different languages. The spectacle and the feeling is hard to describe in words… People say, that in such moment even atheists change their mind.
If your plane leaves on Sunday afternoon, after visiting Vatican, all you got to do is get into the taxi or metro, reach Termini station and then head to the airport. About the local taxis,- feel free to use them with no fear, only always firmly demand the driver to put the taximeter on. Just wave aside all the stories about additional tariffs or fees or just pretend you don’t understand them. The transport between Rome and the airports is very well planned: more or less every 15 minutes there are shuttle busses that go all the way round, the tickets cost around 4 euros and the trip takes 30-40 minutes depending on the traffic.
What do you bring as a present for your family? I must say it really is a difficult question: high quality leather good, perfumes, souvenirs from Rome and Vatican, cheese, ham, wine… Everything works well, but huge piles of great pictures and sweet memories surely brings over the real joy. I hope you’ve thrown a coin into the Trevi fountain? Be sure, that there is a reason, why people say, that there is no question, if you fall in love with Rome. The question is, when?
The original article in Lithuanian: