Disclaimer: DO NOT READ THIS POST WHEN HUNGRY.
Ah, Rome. Rome had me wrapped around its finger almost the second I stepped out of the cab and saw the blinking lights of about ten pizza places within two blocks. We were extremely lucky to be able to stay with a friend living there this semester, which was not only a free place to stay but an automatic tour guide to help us find the best restaurants and the most worthwhile activities (plus it was fabulous to see her…thanks Em!) Also, I’m not going to lie: a fairly massive part of this post will be involving food, as I feel like any good Italian vacation should.
After our late night arrival into Rome Ciampino airport (Warning: Rome Ciampino is only a little bit in Rome, so be prepared for a looong bus ride), we called it an early night to prepare our travel-weary bodies for sight-seeing the next day!
We stayed just a few blocks away from Trastevere, one of the tiny and more authentic neighborhoods in Rome. It was a maze of alleys covered in ivy, with sidewalk cafes dotting the sides and Italian women bringing out steaming plates of pasta with bright green basil leaves decorating the tops. There were plazas and fountains and cathedrals- in a word, utterly Italian! Natrally, we picked up some gelato for breakfast! We walked along the Tiber river as we ate our creamy hazelnut and lemon and pistachio gelato, and that was the first time I actually stopped and realized that I was in ITALY. Life was preeettty cool at that moment. Also it may have been because the sun was shining, which our little Irish bodies hadn’t experienced in a solid two months.
We then met up with a few friends for lunch just outside of Trastevere to experience our first Italian pizza! For my appetizer, I had caprese salad- which was PHENOMENAL. The mozzarella melted like butter in my mouth, and when mixed with crisp lettuce, crunchy tomatoes, and golden olive oil was probably the most delicious tomato salad I’ve ever had in my life. The standards have been set high, my friends! As for my first Italian pizza, I honestly wasn’t that impressed. I am a loyal devotee of Punch Pizza in Wayzata, and I thought that they were pretty equivalent. So if you’re looking for a slice of Italy in Minnesota, be comforted in that Punch is about as good as it gets!
We spent the rest of the day fighting the INSANE crowds filling the streets to attempt a glimpse of the Pope on his way to Mass for the Immaculate Conception. It was worth the overwhelming pressures of the crowds when we finally saw the Pope zoom by in his Popemobile! We sat on the Spanish steps as it was turning to dusk and listened to the choir sing from the mass a few blocks away before heading over to throw the obligatory coin in the Trevi fountain. On our way home, we saw a large group of people surrounding an unlit Christmas tree in front of the Emmanuel Vittorio. This happened to be the Christmas tree lighting that illuminated the red, green, and white lights on all of the streets nearby.
That night, I had the best meal of my life. OF MY LIFE. If you’re ever in Rome, a restaurant you absolutely MUST go to is Il DuCa, a cozy little spot in Trastevere! You also must order the zucchini blossoms, oozing with cheese and the ravioli with truffle oil, spinach, and ricotta. The sharp smell of truffle oil precedes the tender, cheesy buttery ravioli – it’s incredible.
Day two was sight-seeing at its finest: I think we probably walked about forty five thousand miles (somewhere around there…) We began with the Colosseum, which was totally epic. I’m a classical civilization dork, so being in a epicenter of ancient Roman culture was beyond exciting for me! Plus, we got the reduced price for being E.U. residents- one of the perks of being in Ireland for a year… If you buy a ticket to the Colosseum (which is a bit expensive, but totally worth it), it also gets you admission to the Roman Forum, essentially a massive collection of Roman ruins that used to be the city centre in ancient times. We also walked through the Christmas market, the Emmanuel Vittorio, and the Pantheon before ending up at the Vatican Museum.
Unfortunately, the line to St. Peter’s was also forty five thousand miles long, so we passed it up in favor of heading to the Vatican Museum! The centre of papal glory and splendour, the musty scent of massive tapestries follows you throughout the museum through ostentatious rooms on par with Versailles. After casually passing through some Raphael rooms and an unexpectedly amazing modern art gallery, we wound up at the Sistine Chapel for the grand finale.
Only two days in Rome is not NEARLY enough, mostly just because I didn’t get to try all of the foods I wanted. Just kidding! Kind of … This history is amazing, the laid-back culture is relaxing, and obviously the food is incredible- I am counting the days until my return journey.
Since we visited Rome pre-Christmas, I’m obviously a bit behind on my travels. Check back next Tuesday to learn a little more about BARCELONA!