Going to Rome for me is like going home. It’s a place I have spent years studying its history, getting under the skin of its ruins and ancient citizens and of course it has amazing food. Its been ten years since my last trip to Rome, how it has been so long I have no idea. The last time I was there was while I was at University, we had a three-week study tour and we spent most of it in Rome with a mid way session around the Bay of Naples. In that time we wandered around taking in as much as we could, visiting all the museums and galleries and making random jokes about Cicero that no one else would get – yes I am that much of a Classics Geek!
I think what does it for me with Rome is that everywhere you go there is history. This is a city that grows within itself. So much was buried over the centuries but then other bits were incorporated, buildings built into the side of ancient theatres, all that remains to remind you are the columns protruding out of the back. There are so many layers to this city. Around every corner there is something new… and some new food to try!
Having been to Rome a few times, I have got to the point where I no longer have to follow the tourist routes, but can go out and explore the periphery of the ancient city. For instance in our flat that we rented (good old Airbnb) we were just around the corner from a vast expanse of Roman wall that I didn’t know existed. Towering above us it just reminded you of the might of this city and the power of those that invaded it eventually. Heading further away from the tourist centre you come across forgotten triumphal arches, tombs of bakers and tiny little excavation sites that have been forgotten now they have been dug up.
Of course there is so much to explore outside of Rome. One of my favourite places is Ostia. Once the port of Rome it is now a ghost town. Lived in long after Pompeii was destroyed this is a perfect example of how a Roman town developed, its architecture and its life. There are examples of two story buildings, fabulous mosaics and rather splendid Baths. It fell into decline as the Roman Empire split and invaders moved south as it was no longer the main port and the people moved away. This ancient town, left to ruin is a remarkable and tranquil place. Wander through its streets, sit in its theatre, explore the forum and the baths and all the time it is peaceful, and surrounded by nature. There are never hoards of tourists, it’s not crowded, sometimes you can wander down two or three streets without seeing anyone – perfect!
Of course there is more to Rome than ruins. I have spent many a happy day exploring its museums and art galleries but the thing we end up planning the most is…… the next meal. There is an abundance of choice when it comes to food. Fabulous little hole in the wall pizza place, delicious fresh pasta and fish, and of course the gelato. Being out of the main tourist hub this visit we found ourselves in the student quarter and surrounded by amazing little trattoria serving up fresh home-made food. There is also a problem when it comes to food in Rome (like many big tourist cities) that there are so many tourist traps! Wandering around the Piazza Navona at night ( we thought we would stroll down there to see our old friend the Pantheon) and carried on walking in the search for food. We got to the Piazza and decided to stop, but on looking at the menu we decided it was a no. The prices they were charging for food we had on the other side of Rome were almost double. No thank you! So we walked on a bit and discovered a little place, the waiter was friendly so we thought why not give it a go. The menu was covered in asterisk saying ‘from frozen’ …. how can pasta be from frozen unless it’s a horrid microwave meal! scandalous! You are in Italy how dare you serve something that resembles a microwave meal when fresh pasta takes 2 minutes to cook! We decided very quickly at that point we were staying away from food in the tourist centre and stick to our fabulous local finds! It does make you wonder how many people come to Rome and end up in places like this, over charged for food or with a microwaved dish!
Despite being scared by tourist restaurants this was a fab trip to Rome…. well other than the being thrown from a horse – yes that happened while we decided to go horse riding along the Appian Way. It started so peacefully trotting along looking at funerary monuments until I very quickly hit the ground. EEK!
Anyway as always Rome was magical. Full of life, history and amazing food. It’s somewhere I will never get tired of visiting, strolling past the Colosseum, sitting on a marble column or eating way too much ice cream for one day. Until next time my darling eternal city!