Throwing it back to elementary school me, the second I saw Lizzie McGuire explore the streets of Rome on the back of an Italian pop star’s moped I was determined to make my way to the eternal city. Flash forward to now, a junior in college and believe it or not the Lizzie McGuire phase still hasn’t completely worn off. I am lucky that I picked a city like Rome to swoon over for 11 years, because it still did not disappoint.
We reached the center of the city pretty late at night, after our delayed flight from Munich finally landed and we were able to catch the train within seconds of it leaving. Luckily the lady we rented the Air B&B from was still waiting for us at the other end and we walked over to the apartment together.
We fell asleep pretty fast from the long day we had had, and good thing we did because we conquered a lot of the city on Monday. Our apartment was right next to the Spanish Steps, so we were in an ideal location to most monumental spots. We strolled around for a while, looked at the Spanish Steps, stopped by Pizza Navona, saw the Trevi Fountain (under construction) and got a really nice taste of the insane traffic! There is no such a thing as crosswalks in Rome, and I highly doubt people would even use them if they were there. Everyone would just start walking into the street and expect the cars to stop. I have had to do this in India before, but I still hold my parents hands for it. Talk about having to grow up while being abroad!
Every time we would walk by a café or a little restaurant, you could hear Italian men laughing, chatting, and drinking their espresso. They drank it standing up and it seemed like it was almost on the go, so very different than the sit down culture of Copenhagen. As we continued walking, we saw buses, we saw cars, and bam there is the Colosseum! It actually seemed like it came out of no where, and it was weird to see cars being driven around it and people just walking right by it as if it was just another building.
We had reserved a tour of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel a few weeks earlier, so we headed to Vatican City after lunch. Due to the heat as well as the herds of visitors and tours going through the chapels and the museum at the same time, it was difficult to take in everything it offered. We eventually did make our way through the maze and stampede, and arrived at the Sistine Chapel. They only let a few people in at a time and they didn’t allow anyone to talk. I am glad they did this, because it was crazy to think that I was finally seeing the frescoes I have heard about in every history, art, and religion class I have ever taken. Any picture does no justice to the actual thing. Michelangelo sure did know a thing or two about good art.
That night we ate dinner in Trastevere, and little did we know that we would end up eating dinner in this area every single night we spent in Rome. The first night we went to a restaurant called Cacio e Pepe, and even with my high expectations of the food here, I was still blown away. First of all, we were trying to decide where to eat but when we were looking at the menu, the waiter was really insisting on feeding us. As a group of timid Americans we were trying to take our time and make a somewhat rational decision, but all of the sudden he was offering us prosecco, bread, and a full table. So we accepted without really knowing what we were getting ourselves into, and boy am I glad we did. We sat down, ordered the house wine, pasta and pizza dishes, and ate to our hearts’ content. There were people walking around, there were wine corks stuck in between the cobblestone, and I was surrounded with good company. I do not think that my first dinner in Italy could have been more wonderful.
The following day, we took things a little slower. We woke up and headed out to Campo de Fiori and when I say that the Italians like to feed you, I am not kidding. We got there, and all of the sudden everyone was handing us little samples of cheese, fruit, and absolutely everything and anything dipped in truffle sauce. I obviously didn’t reject any of it, and I definitely have no ragrets. We wandered around the market for so long, just looking at all of the different fruits, eating some snacks, and listening to people laugh and bargain with the vendors. We strolled around the smaller streets for a while longer and stopped into some shops. Around lunchtime we went to Pastificio. It is a small pasta shop that sells heaps of pasta just from 1 pm-2 pm. We got there around 1:20 pm and the line was so far out the door that we knew it was going to be good. We ate it sitting on the Spanish Step with the sun beating down on us, which made it even better. Then, since no Italian meal is complete without gelato, we made our way to a gelateria that was a recommendation. There I ate the best pistachio gelato there ever will be. I probably won’t eat that flavor again, just because that one, the one that I got on the corner of Piazza de Popolo will never meet its match.
On Wednesday, we headed to the Colloseum for a tour and also got to walk through the Roman Forum. I did not meet a Pablo, but I also didn’t have Mrs. Ungermeyer yell at me so no complaints here.
Around lunchtime we found a restaurant where I ate the best pizza I have had in my entire life. Growing up in Chicago, I am forever loyal to the deep dish pizza, however this brick-oven, thin crust sheet covered in cheese, sauce, and everything else that was sent from the heavens will hold a special place in my heart. As previously mentioned, no meal in Italy is complete without gelato, so we headed to a place deemed as the best gelato in Rome. Since it was the best, I decided to really test out as much of it as I could, and got a scoop of raspberry with a scoop of nougat on top of it and of course some cream. I obviously have not forgotten about the pistachio I had the day before, but boy oh boy was this incredible.
For dinner, we went to….Trastevere!! Luckily we got to meet up with a friend from high school who took us to Tony’s. It was right next to the restaurant we had gone on the first day and I had the best potato gnocchi in the world. Each little dumpling felt like eating a little cloud and then the sauce added the perfect amount of flavor. We all caught up and chatted over some of the house wine and good food, and then we got free tiramisu! I told you, everyone there wanted to feed us. Even though we did have to put a close to our adventures in Rome, Florence did anything but disappoint.
“If you don’t eat copious amounts of ice-cream while you’re abroad, you did it wrong.” –Allison Shaner