Spring in Europe [Part 3] | Rome, Italy

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Rome. After this 2D1N trip, I finally felt an inkling of what Julius Caesar meant when he said “Veni, Vidi, Vici”. We came, we saw and boy did we conquer – all of Rome, on foot (in 2 days!). At least Julius Caesar had a horse…

 

We arrived with the night train early on a Tuesday morning, map in hand (Always, always have a map. Don’t just rely on your phone/GPS!), and set off to find our accommodation. On the way to our accommodation, we crammed in a little sightseeing and found ourselves passing Largo di Torre Argentina, ruins of the site where Julius Caesar met his death on March 15, 44BC. It also doubles up as a cat sanctuary, which is adorable because cats!

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The Accommodation

We walked for about an hour from the train station before reaching Azzurra Apartments & Rooms, which is located in the very convenient area of Navona. When I booked it online I expected that, for 54 a night, we would be getting a small room (for that price, in that area), but they gave us keys to a whole apartment! There was a bedroom, bathroom and living room with a kitchen. And complimentary yogurt in the fridge! After a quick shower, we dashed out of the door to explore Rome.

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Food [Day 1]

Obviously, the first thing on the agenda was food. We popped by Pasta Imperiale, as it was a short walk from our apartment. Pasta Imperiale is a popular little take-away shop tucked in on a cobbled street, offering different types of fresh home made pastas with a variety of basic sauces. It’s delicious, especially if you like it al dente. The portions were a little small though, so we ended up walking to Forno Campo de’ Fiori immediately after our pastas. This corner pizza shop offers authentic Italian pizza for take-away only, sold by the slice from a section of a meter-long rectangular shaped pizza. You can dictate how large you would like your slice, and it is priced by weight. Big/small/regular eaters rejoice! It is located on Campo de’ Fiori square, so eating awesome pizzas whilst walking through their daily market is a quaint experience and you can browse the fresh foodie goodies sold at the market.

 

Exploring [Day 1]

After thoroughly satisfying our Italian food cravings, we strolled to Ponte Fabricio, the oldest Roman bridge still standing in its original state. We crossed it so that I could later say “I crossed a Roman bridge. It was legit.” and then headed for the Capuchin Crypt, a crypt decorated with approximately 3,700 Friars’ worth of bones. I know, it’s an unusual schedule for people who have never been to Rome before, but I had pre-booked tickets for the Papal Audience held at the Vatican every Wednesday, and the Crypt was close to the ticket pick-up point, The Church of Santa Susanna. Email them if you would like to book tickets to see the Pope at the Vatican, the tickets are free!

 

When walking to any destination in Rome, one is bound to pass many notable sights and sites, so as we walked from place to place, we passed awe-inspiring sculptures, fountains, squares and historical buildings. Walking through the Triaiano park was a nice little plus after picking up the tickets, as we walked to the Colosseum – our last stop for the day, for aperitivo! When in Rome, am I right? Having aperitivo (a drink to stimulate appetite before dinner) is an Italian tradition, which has turned into a time for Italians to socialize after work hours. It is now often offered with a buffet of olives, breads, pasta salads and other assorted bites. We went to an all-you-can-eat one held at Oppio Caffe and ate so much that we ended up skipping dinner altogether! I wouldn’t recommend it for the food as much as for the view of the Colosseum though.

 

The Food [Day 2]

Okay, so before I write about what we got up to on Day 2, I just have to write about the restaurant we had lunch at after seeing the Pope at the Vatican. I’m going to gush about it because, well, it’s amazing! La Sagra del Vino Di Rovazzani Valentino; I feel like our meal here made the whole trip worth it and made me feel like I was having a genuine “Roman” experience. The walk from the Vatican to this restaurant is a little long (about half an hour), but well worth it. From the moment we walked through the swing doors, we loved it. The pastel yellow ceramic tiled walls had stickers from all over the world and from all sorts of bands and brands, which was a really unique touch to an otherwise “Italian” style setting. We were greeted by Valentino, the chef and co-owner of this charming establishment, in the most unusual manner. It went something along the lines of:

“Hello! You do know what kind of Italian restaurant we are, yes? We don’t serve pizza here.”
“Yes, we do, that’s why we came here!”
“So where are you from?”
“Malaysia”
“Can I just ask…what the hell are you dooooing here? I mean, how did you even fiiiiind this place!? I think you fell out of heaven straight into hell! So how did you find out about this place anyway?”
(A moment of giggling ensues) “TripAdvisor!”
(Valentino slowly brings his hand, with fingers in an L, to his forehead) “Next tiiiimee, find out for yourselves! Now, please, sit and you let me know what I can cook for you and if you have any questions, please ask.”

We had such a good laugh and let Valentino order for us, because everything sounded amazing and we couldn’t decide for ourselves. The food was absolutely delicious…so delicious that, as I write this, my mouth is salivating just thinking about it. Please, please, eat at this place if you’re ever in Rome. We left with lingering smiles from having felt so at home in an otherwise foreign city.

 

Exploring [Day 2]

Day 2 was a main-attractions filled day, starting with the papal audience in the morning, and subsequently all the “must-sees” according to every tourist guidebook in existence. Unfortunately, because the Wednesday papal audience draws thousands of people every week, this seemed to be the busiest day for Rome. All the attractions were packed with people, so any romanticized idea you have of Rome is dashed against the rocks of reality. The attractions were still impressive to admire though, once you’ve split the sea of shoulder to shoulder crowds to get a better look.

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The papal audience was a massive congregation of people, all there to be waved at and be blessed by the Pope. There was an incredible energy in the crowd, as they spotted the Pope-mobile and Pope Francis. You can imagine what the lines were like to get into St. Peter’s Basilica after the papal audience was over. If you can’t, here’s a picture.

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After the Vatican, we went for our awesome lunch, then walked to the Lungotevere Prati street stalls, Mausoleo Augusto, Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish Steps, Trevi fountain, Tempio Adriano, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Santa Maria Maggiore and other smaller attractions in-between. My favorites were the Pantheon and Tempio Adriano. The architecture was breathtaking! Even after all that activity though, we still ended up having a few hours to kill before our midnight train home (to Brixen/Bressanone), so we ended up reading our newly bought books at a pasta restaurant near the train station. A very relaxed way to end our short trip in Rome, and satisfied at having seen and done everything that we intended and more!

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