Here’s what I know (have learned/experienced) so far:
- Trastevere – best place to stay, I’ve heard it just about 100 times (rand0-s included)
- Just downstairs from our adorable apartment (AirBnb for the win!), there are cobble stone roads, plenty of mom-pop restaurants where everyone speaks italian and welcomes you to their home (or at least, that’s what it sounds like.) We haven’t yet explored it in depth yet, but that’s happening.
- The Pantheon. So, here’s some background. I thought it was some silly building that had columns around the outside and had no real meaning. I pictured a structure similar to the Jefferson Memorial and really speaking, rolled my eyes at the thought of visiting it. Boy was I wrong! It was stunning. The inside especially. To know/understand/realize that this structure was built in 126AD and still stands nearly the same as it did all those years ago is amazing. And what about the genius it took to make that dome (completely non-reinforced) so magnificent. The engineers were ahead of their time with the engineering of that dome. WOW.
- Housed in the Pantheon (unbeknown to us) is the first and second King/Queen of Italy and Rafael (not the turtle, the painter) ! Great for us because we had no idea 😉
- Sant’Ignazio Church, Rome – hidden gem, seriously! We walked into a piazza and just sat down on the steps because we were taking it easy. We had no idea we were sitting on the steps of the most adorable church. It has the BEST old man at the entrance. I am not sure if he’s always there, but he makes people cover up (what we like to call the scarf of shame) and every few minutes, or whenever he feels like it, he’s shuuush-ing people via the Church PA system. AWESOME!
- In Piazza Navona, you can find Ganga. Ok, I’m not crazy, it’s true. There is a fountain by the name of Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi that literally means Fountain of the Four Rivers. Wikipedia says: Collectively, they represent four major rivers of the four continents through which papal authority had spread: the Nile representing Africa, the Danube representing Europe, the Ganges representing Asia, and the Río de la Plata representing the Americas. I found India in Rome 😉
- Piazza Navona is one of the places I enjoyed quite a bit. A bustling square with tourists and families, people eating, picture taking, giggling, watching ridiculous street performers, and these glistening white marble/stone fountains in the middle, it was a wow-moment for me. I finally felt like I was in Rome. I enjoyed leisurely walking around the 3 fountains, clicking some pictures/selfies, etc and just watching the surroundings. *I offered to take a picture of a husband/wife who were struggling with their selfie (mostly so they could take a picture of us) and they went all “no, no, bye!” thinking I was some swindler who was going to take their phone or belongings. Where is the trust in this world. Meh.
- The story of the Colosseum is still a bit hazy to me. The tour guide we hired went too fast and was too soft spoken. What I gathered was that this is where the Romans came together for sports and games. They had built it in a way where each set of people (senators/ important people/ working class/commoners and women) had their own section. There were giant marble steps on which everyone sat so everyone could see the center stage from their seat. In that day and age (70-80 AD) they built this stadium to seat 50-80k people. Holy cow! The engineers of the Colosseum are geniuses. Much before their time, they designed manual lifts (elevators) to enhance the spectacle of the games.
- The Colosseum is also a bit depressing: it seems that only 2% of the Gladiators who ‘performed’ or were there survived. This was also noted by us when we saw hair sticking out of the Colosseum wall just below us. GROSS. That’s probably some Gladiator’s hair from eons ago. Yuck. They sat around and watched people get killed. What does that say about the Romans? Is that why their empire eventually fizzled out?
- Trevi Fountain – we threw our coins in the fountain and made our 2 wishes (at least I know I did). Again, initially here I was rolling my eyes because I was thinking, “ok, so what, I saw this fountain in that silly movie a few years back, no big deal.” But, to be honest, turning the corner and looking past the hoards of people (bad move to go on a Sunday), it was actually spectacular. The fountain is white and grand and with the sun where it was, it was even brighter than I thought. The water was crystal clear (not murky and gross like some of the other fountains we saw around the city) and if you can hear past all the tourists (I’m not sure thats a thing), the water from the fountain rushing over the stone is a beautiful sound.
- Spanish steps- right, so, those are closed. They’ve got a barrier around them and so we didn’t actually get to sit on them. But, they look cool enough. Around the area there are many fancy shopping establishments (Chanel, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Prada, other things I can’t remember because I don’t actually shop in these places). I was making a joke with Veronique that we should go one street ahead and then turn left to wander around because I was hoping we would come upon a TJ Maxx (you know, that’s more my jam!) and she joked she saw a sign for Target (I would’ve died!). Not true, just more fancy schmancy shops. We’ll try to revisit when we’re back in September.
- Gelato – there’s gelato just about on every corner. They all end up being yum, but to find the OMG, we are still in search for it. Things to look for– an Italian selling it. And, not too vivid of colors in the Gelato (pistachio should look like crushed pistachios, not like a few drops of food coloring fell into it). As well, it seems that because of the cream factor in the gelato, it doesn’t stand up well (as in literally, it so melty that it wouldn’t stand if piled up on top of itself) so don’t go for the fancy places where you can see the gelato from the window. Instead, it should be in a metal container with a flat spoon and possibly a metal cover to protect the gelato from further melting. (This was taken from “How to spot good Gelato from 15 feet away“)
- Random Piazza’s are my favorite because they are completely unplanned and the beauty of them take my breath away. This happened with Piazza Del Campigdoglio.
- Wasn’t so impressed with The Forum (next to the Colosseum) nor the Campo e’Fiori.
- YUM Tiramisu at Pompi which is down the street from the Spanish Steps.
- Everything in Rome is walking distance (mostly), do it. It’s a good way to explore the little alleys and winding pathways.
- Hop on/Hop off tour that we got (Green Line Tours) not worth it. You can’t see anything from the bus and you get mediocre knowledge. It is helpful to get from place to place (on a bus that goes directly to tourist sites) but I feel like you may be able to do that on regular transportation, too. Waste of money.