Have you been to Rome? No? Well I have, and I’m here to tell what you could do as a human roaming as a Roman for a few days. These things you “must” do are based on my own personal experiences, for you to use as inspiration from your time in the Italian capital. The sights worth seeing are often those less seen or an experience you would not expect. Other times the sights worth seeing are the most grandiose and in your face, but done with a twist.
1. Watch the rollerbladers at Villa Borghese
The city park is huge, and along its lanes and pathways are some curious sites. However, one sight you should definitely try and catch are the rollerbladers that line the main centre path at the park. The men and women put on a show, bobbing and weaving at high speeds through cones; backwards, holding hands, on one leg, you name it…all to the sound of pounding pop songs. Grab a beer from one of the vendors and rest your weary feet.
2. Have a night out in Trastevere
All of the best food and drink can be found in this thrifty district. the streets are lined with a variety of eateries and watering holes. Grab a traditional pizza at the legendary Ivo’s for a snip, or try one of the fine dining establishments where five or so courses is the norm. And when it comes to liquor, hip bars and classy wine bars are both on offer. This is where the action is, drinking from the bottle on plazas with local Italians and sampling a selection of cured meats and cheeses as the scent smokes out onto the cobbled streets.
3. Trevi fountain at night
The legendary sculpted fountain is in my opinion the most beautiful site in Rome. Three or four streets converge onto a compact, atmospheric courtyard which is even more spectacular at night, as the fountain is illuminated and the crowds are more relaxed; appreciating their surroundings a lot more than the daytime crowd pointing cameras. You’ll find some great street musicians nearby, and the shops are open until 10pm or later. Why not grab a hot chocolate and make your own magnum at the Magnum shop whilst you sit back and watch the water flow.
4. Grab a slice al fresco
Rome has only fortified my belief that the Italians do takeaway, the right way, even further. Explore the less-wandered backstreets and you’ll find numerous, authentic pizzerias that serve up by the slice. Look for the eateries that do not display English on the boards to get the perfect pizza; the pizza chef himself can talk you through your options anyway. If you pick a few flavours, the chef will serve you an assorted wooden sharing board of your choices, sliced to an even smaller degree. The toppings are fresh, varied and blended in inventive combinations. Grab a birra, and let you mouth water whilst you basque under the Roman sunshine on one of the city’s historic cobbled streets.
Love it or hate it, Apertivo is something you should definitely try whilst in Rome. Grab a drink in nearly any bar after 6 and you are in luck. With your drink, comes a right of access to a glorious, foody spread. Stand at the bar with a glass of red and help yourself to Italian snacks such as bruschetta, savoury pastries, olives, cured meats, cheesy treats and more. If you fancy a heftier portion,there are plenty of larger bars that allow you to pay a set fee for a drink and dishes such as pasta, roasted vegetables and rice dishes. However, for the freshest feast I would recommend on keeping it casual by simply rocking up to a bar, buying a drink and seeing what comes your way. I had Apertivo about four times on my trip and I would recommend the bar based on the tiny island on the River Tiber. A little known gem on one of the world’s littlest inhabited islands. The trattoria next door will do the trick if you are one with a bigger appetite.
6. Gelato at the Pantheon
One of the most stunning buildings you will ever see for free is the Pantheon. The symmetry about the building is something that is rarely replicated in modern architecture, with the width of the dome matching the highs of the building. Accompanying this is a skylight to the Gods at the building’s summit; a full eclipse in the roof that allows snow, rain and sun to shower visitors. The crypt-like entrance gives way to an immaculately kept foyer, where relaxed tourists mosey around, appreciating a piece of Rome’s history that unlike the Colosseum, lives on in near perfect form. Don’t miss out on appreciating the Panethon from outside either; the plaza outside is a venue for performers and the renowned Vinci ice cream shop is just across the way. The area is scattered with interesting places to grab snacks to go, so make the most of the open space to indulge in a delicacy whilst gazing at an architectural achievement.
7. St Paul’s Cathedral
Most get to the Vatican, to end up simply wandering around, put off by the queues for the famous Vatican Museum. However, one quite surreal experience is to visit the tombs of by-gone Popes in the Cathedral’s crypt. If you are seeking tranquility and spirituality, you will find it here. No phones or photographs. Just you. And a load of perished popes. Also, if you play your cards right, a guided tour led by a priest is also available.
8. Fresh pasta just off the Spanish Steps
There’s not much to do at the Spanish Steps, apart from sit there or be mobbed by shoppers. However one site worth visiting is the pasta shop just off the main square. Without destroying the aura of mystery and giving the name away, you can find the pasta you desire immediately down the straight opposite the misleadingly-named steps. The place is small, cramped and crammed and there are two pasta options on offer for a meager four euros a portion. The food is all made fresh on site and the food-serving is only a supplement to the store’s food-selling; so make sure you arrive in the early evening, if your timing is impeccable you may also get some wine on the house too.
9. Try a tiramissu, the right way
A wise tour guide once said, Rome is built layer upon layer, with its history at the bottom and its metropolis on top; just like a tiramissu…layers. Take your chance to taste history, literally, and gorge on layer of coffee-fied, chocolatey goodness. It truly is a beautiful thing to see a tiramissu rising with steam as it is plunged with a fresh, warming shot of esspresso; the simple things right?
10. Vintage shop
Head to the Cavour metro stop and you’ll find an array of vintage outlets within a short walk of each other. The area is cool and youthful, and if you enjoy wearing someone’s Mum’s old clothes then this the place for you. But seriously, there are some good finds to be had here, with some more than fair prices and some unique pieces; for men, Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, Adidas Originals, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger and Fred Perry are all on the agenda.