Tourist Tuesday: Rome

DSCN2678I don’t know how to start this post other than to gush. I love Rome. Being there makes me so happy. Yesterday was Ryan and my two-year wedding anniversary and we celebrated with a long weekend in Rome. It was wonderful. Yes, the traditional gift for this anniversary is cotton (in Rome he got a sweatshirt and I got a tea towel), but I think maybe the second year anniversary gift should be pizza and gelato instead.

Part of the reason I love Rome is that I studied abroad there seven years ago during my junior year. Living in Rome was the first time I was away from home for so long and the first time I lived in a city. I ate so much pizza, pasta, and gelato. My roommates and I also cooked dinner together almost every night and befriended the local shop owners. We’d buy the fresh pesto and the guys in the store would give us free chocolate. My roommate Inga became one of my best friends, and with our upstairs neighbors Charlie and Michelle, we tore up the city.

We toured all over and took lots of day trips to nearby gardens and beaches. We went dancing at Coyote Bar in Testaccio, which depending on your point of view is a bar that is super authentic/divey/sketchy. We befriended the DJ and he’d let us dance on the stage and he’d play any song we liked. My classes were also awesome. I took Italian, Classics, and two art history classes. My art classes were mostly outside touring churches, museums, and ruins. It was all the best parts of college amplified. I remember going out dancing, coming home at 6am to the fruit vendors opening their stands. My friends and I went to bed for about three hours and then went to meet an Italian friend of a friend who was going to show us a church. Hope you enjoy the throwback pictures – try not to judge the duck face.

I also love Rome because it is where I fell in love with Ryan. He and I had been dating for less than two months when I left for Rome. I was sad to leave him and worried about what was going to happen. But it all worked out. Ryan had studied in Rome the year before me and set me up right. He lent me guidebooks to the city. He lent me The First Man in Rome, a historical fiction book about the Roman Republic, which sparked my interest in the city’s history. He also made me a map and marked off his favorite places to eat and tour. We also talked over Skype every day (and I had a headset like a telemarketer). We even met up in Spain for spring break. When I left Rome, I couldn’t wait to one day come back together.

Anyway without further ado here are pictures from this weekend’s trip. We took the bus from Ciampino to Termini and then walked to our rental flat in Campo dei Fiori.

We dropped our bags and then stopped for pizza. It was glorious! So crunchy, the ingredients so fresh, and also so tasty!

After that we decided to hike over toward the Vatican. We passed Castel Sant’Angelo. And we admired St. Peter’s Basilica and the beautiful piazza designed by Bernini.

But our real reason for heading that way was to eat at Old Bridge Gelato. It is the best gelato we have ever had. The places is a small hole in the wall on the way to the Vatican Museum’s entrance. It doesn’t look like much, but for €2 you can have heaven.

We then walked over toward Ryan’s old place. We sat one some nearby steps and people watched. We also went to the grocery store and loaded up on Kinder chocolates, lemon Fanta, and buffalo mozzarella. Ryan made me laugh so hard that I spit out soda (and then people stared at us).

After that we went back to Campo dei Fiori and got dressed for dinner. We went to Alfredo e Ada, a place I went to seven years ago with my art history TA and his friend who were visiting Rome. The restaurant  is down a windy road, it is cozy, and the interior is wood paneled. They have a small menu, written on the paper table cloth, that lists just a few options for first, second, and side courses. It’s simple and with some of the best cooked pasta I’ve had. 

The next day we walked our butts off. I did a rough Google mapping of what we did, and we walked somewhere around 13 miles. We walked around the grounds of Villa Borghese, we looked down on the Piazza del Popolo, we ate pizza at Ryan’s favorite shop Pizza Rustica. And we walked to the Spanish steps and down Via del Corso and looked in the shops.

Then we went to the Forum. As students Ryan and I used to visit the Forum all the time. Visiting used to be free, but now it costs €12 for the Forum, Colosseum, and Palatine. We were sad that it wasn’t free anymore, but we were happy to pay the price. We also saw some new ruins we hadn’t seen before. 

After that we headed to the Colosseum, which was so much better than I remembered. I didn’t remember being able to go up as high as we did. The stairs were really steep but worth the climb. They had a small museum exhibit about the inner working of the Colosseum and they showed how animals were lifted into the arena. They also had skeletons of bears, wolves, and boars! It was crazy.

For dinner we crossed the Tiber and went into Trastevere. We ate at Carlo Menta, which was where my friends and I used to go. The food is pretty good and the price is amazing. Instead of both ordering a first and second course, Ryan and I decided to share three pastas. We had pesto gnocchi, carbonara, and cacio e pepe. The pesto was so good and I realized I haven’t had good pesto since the last time I was in Italy.

After dinner we walked around Trastevere and it brought back so many memories! Ryan and I walked from dinner to my old apartment building. It reminded me of walking home from school, of going out for breakfast at a nearby cafe, and the time Inga and I tried to play Italian Bingo but couldn’t figure out how to do it. To get to my apartment you used to have to walk through a dirt lot and alley way. Today, it is under construction and being paved. It looks much nicer, but I sort of missed the grit and scary charm (below is a before and after). The apartment building itself looks like the same and still has the same graffiti. It was great fun checking it out and reminiscing about what it was like the first day we arrived.

On Sunday we decided to be more low key. We spent a lot of time at the Pantheon, which is my favorite building in Rome. It is an architectural marvel. I just love it. Inside is a perfect sphere! You could fit a giant basketball inside. Also creating the dome with an oculus – just freaking genius.

We also spent some time at Piazza Navona eating mozzarella and people watching.Before dinner we went to Lungo Il Tevere, a summer festival along the Tiber. Then we went back to Trastevere for dinner. I like Trastevere a lot because there are so many vendors selling jewelry, art, and nonsense things. There are also lots of outdoor restaurants where you can just look around and absorb the wonderful city. It’s a busy and vibrant area. Monday was our last day. We visited Santa Maria Maggiore and a few other sites. We made sure to eat more pizza and gelato. Also, we found shady spots and relaxed. I loved just being in the city, looking at the beautiful buildings, and feeling like a part of the Rome. I made Ryan promise me that would come back every 7-10 years forever. I continue to love Rome. 

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