Just when I thought that the idea of everlasting history prowling at our doorstep, and timeless outdoors art museums serving as venue for our morning strolls couldn’t astound me anymore, we came to this big city meet the cradle of once the most powerful ancient civilizations in history, to discover that there was in fact more!
Rome has many faces, characters, moods, tones, and styles. It is at times what you need it to be, and at other times what it needs you to see.
Without getting too poetic, Rome is one of those cities that has a well-defined character, which is far from predictable although conventional. It makes it easier to set the expectations and make plans before going there, yet it has a way of sending you away with plenty of memorable experiences, without you even trying too hard.
I was sorting through our photos from Italy last week (still haven’t gone through all!), when I came across a few that brought back these memories.
The Roman Colosseum
There is no visiting Rome without seeing the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Our tour included a visit to the underground chambers and the three tiers. It entailed a detailed description of the bloody battles that went down there years ago, as a form of entertainment. Somehow it was both easy and very hard to imagine at the same time.
Largo di Torre Argentina
There it was, in the middle of the city, daily life rushing by it unimpressed with the historical moments that took place here and changed the course of the Roman Empire forever. Largo di Torre Argentina, the site where Julius Caesar met his assassins, just sits there, housing the biggest shelter of stray cats in Rome.
It was first pointed out to us by the taxi driver who took us to the hotel from the train station; I was keen on returning to it when I noticed that it was hardly mentioned during our tour of the ancient sites. It boggled my mind that it receives so little attention, despite its historical significance.
I am sure that we typically appeared like tourists, walking around the place reading the information boards and referring to my guidebook for further explanation, while no one else did the same!
We found one in almost every other street. They come in different cute colours, and most of the time they are tightly squeezed between two new cars or tucked away in a back road or behind a building. People still drive them, and you can rent one for yourself as we found out in Florence, however most people keep them more because they are valuable antiques than a mean of transportation.
Spotting them and pausing to take photos next to them became a fun treasure hunting game for us, and I really love my photo collection of them.
I didn’t manage to throw my coin in the Trevi Fountain this time 😦 The place was so completely full of people that it was impossible to go anywhere near the water. Somehow I feel capable of dodging the curse; I am sure that when the time is right I will make my way back to Rome.
Could someone please explain to me why hundreds of (mostly young) people sit on the Spanish Steps all day long? There is more city to see out there to see, do they know that?
Sure, it’s a popular attraction, but at what point did all those people obtain a permission to just lounge there purposelessly throughout the day, forbidding the rest of us from equally enjoying the location?
We couldn’t even see the steps! and I do feel like I wasn’t given the chance to appreciate the structure appropriately. I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, and Angel kept pushing away the flower vendors who were determined to shove a romantic gesture down our throat, all the way to the top…. not cool.
Rome gets fairly busy in festive seasons, like around the Easter holidays when we visited. Once we’d seen the sites and covered most bases, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find a quiet spot where we could just relax away from the crowds. After visiting the Spanish Steps, we climbed to the top and took a left turn; we noticed that not many people headed in that direction, which sounded incredibly refreshing. We came to this panoramic view of the city’s skyline and it was the most romantic thing that I have seen in a while. Just what we were looking for, a calmer area where you can hear yourself think, and the kind of a view that you want to stare at forever.
I don’t get to see many signs of the coming of spring where I live; neither do I notice much the changing of seasons over here since the UAE primarily has two main seasons, hot and hotter. Although spring arrived a bit late in Europe this year, and it was still raining heavily during our stay in Venice and in Florence, by the time we made it to Rome the sun came out, and spring was at full swing.
More than eating delicious Italian food, all I wanted to do, most of the time, was visit open green spaces. My favorite was the Borghese Gardens, where the tress gave birth to new blossoms every day, the air smelled like fresh grass and ducks quacked.
We tried our hands on a Segway for the first time at the Borghese Gardens, and it was such a thrill. I’ve been wanting to ride one of these for a while but never had the chance. I’ve even seen the security guys in JBR cruise across The Walk on them recently, and I always kept a mental note to try it out whenever possible. And what is travel for if not for trying out new things?
Angel took his excitement to another level when he decided to go off-roading with his Segway. I warned him against it, but to him I wasn’t any louder than the wind! And of course he took a serious fall and scratched his knees. I was so scared when that happened, so much that I couldn’t touch him until he stood up. He looked sad and pretty remorseful, so I kept the yelling for later.
After getting the Segway situation sorted out, we sat down nearby on a bench to catch our breath, I was about to commence a small (I told you not to do that) lecture when he countered me with a response that kept us laughing for minutes. “Leave me alone, I just broke my favourite trousers” he said to me. Well if that is your only complain, then thank god…
Campo di Fiori became our favourite afternoon retreat; we always found a way to come here for a drink break or late lunch. It was constantly alive, although a bit too crowded with tourists sometimes. The market that makes its centre makes it even bubblier. Its great for eating, shopping, relaxing, often there was music, and of course I loved the beautiful flowers this piazza is named after.
I would go back just to have a one more walking date in the evening, by the Tiber…
While scouting for a dinner place one night, we stumbled upon this little gem of a restaurant called “Vino y Camino”, near our hotel in Villa Guilia. We liked its tranquil atmosphere and rustic chic décor. It was a calm week night, which resulted on us receiving lots of personalized service.
I engaged the restaurant manager in an interested conversation about Italian food and lifestyle, somehow that turned into a discussion about the lifestyle in Dubai, which thought was totally fake! I immediately forgave her for it because she was very charming….
Then she talked us through the menu which was in Italian, and she helped us make choices as everything sounded so yummy. When Angel asked her how his main dish was going to be prepared, she invited us to the kitchen to watch the chef make it. “She is my sister in law, and she has no secrets” She said.
On our first visit Rome has defiantly showed us its good nature. I will always remember it for being a place where many special moments took place.