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Rome

October 16, 2011

We visited Rome in the summer of 2010, and it was amazing.

At first I was overwhelmed by the city, underwhelmed by the food, and eager to depart for the quieter destinations on our itinerary. But after a couple of days my husband and I were completely won over. Now Rome is a place we hope to return to again and again.

     

The city’s most endearing characteristic for me was that you’d be walking along surrounded by modern buildings and hustle and bustle, and then, bam! All of the sudden, mixed right in with the present-day city would be ruins, huge fountains, or famous monuments from centuries ago.

The interplay between ancient and contemporary was incredible.

There is literally history around every corner.

The buildings themselves had so much character. You often saw displays like this one on outside walls as you walked along. They looked like they might be prayers or Biblical verses meant to honor saints or religious figures.

We stayed at the Hotel Diplomatic, which was fine for a big city hotel, but not fantastic. It was walking distance to the Colesseum, the Vatican, and numerous restaurants though, so that was convenient.

     

We strolled down the picturesque via Margutta, the street Gregory Peck lived on in Roman Holiday. There is a lovely, sophisticated vegetarian restaurant toward the end at number 118, il Margutta RistorArte.

We relied on Rick Steves’ Italy and Italy for the Gourmet Traveler as our guidebooks.

Of course we didn’t see all the sights in the few days we had, but the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, Trevi Fountain, via Margutta, and Arch of Constantine were our favorites.

The Sistine Chapel was not at all what I expected. Much like the Louvre in Paris, t was crowded, loud, and full of hustle and bustle. Every few minutes, the sound “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” would come from a loudspeaker to try to enforce the rule of silence, but to no avail. It was full of tour groups and rather difficult to enjoy, though of course unbelievable to see in person.

Much of the food was wonderful, though it took effort to avoid the mediocre tourist traps. The focaccia, bruschetta, and gelato were outstanding, memorable, and some of the main reasons I want to go back.

      

I ate refined sugar and flour, and I was not sorry. Not one bit.

We ate dinner one night at L’Isola della Pizza near the Vatican in a pleasant, crowded, lively outdoor seating area on what I remember being a relatively quiet street. The waitstaff was young and friendly, and asked if we wanted a selection of antipasti. We said yes, figuring why not. Out came plate after plate of all kinds of appetizers until the tabletop was filled. All I remember what that I was stuffed well before my entree arrived. It was definitely an experience, though you may want to clarify how much it will cost before you say yes to the spread!

We also found friendly service and a pleasant, quiet outdoor courtyard atmosphere at Ristorante Roma Pizzeria, which I remember being an easy walk around the corner from our hotel. Our waiter was an older Italian man who spoke little English, and the staff carried every dish down an iron staircase from the kitchen upstairs above the courtyard. I remember the bruschetta being tasty… but then again, I don’t think we had any un-tasty bruschetta the entire trip. :)

We traveled in late May and early June, and it was hot. I’d advise packing sunscreen, sunglasses, shorts, skirts, dresses, and lightweight tops. Aside from one rainy day in Florence, I personally never thought it was cool enough for leggings, pants, sweaters, scarves, or jackets.

We took a train to Florence next, then went on to the Cinque Terre.

Bon voyage! Ciao Roma!

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