Every traveller has that special country they have always wanted to visit. For me that place was Italy, mainly for the reason that I am a big pasta eater and never say no to an Italian restaurant choice for dinner.
So when I found out I would be doing a year abroad in Paris, knowing that France is not too far from Italy I knew this had to be the year I finally made the trip. Fast forward nine months after my arrival to Paris and the trip was actually happening.
Early on Sunday morning I set off for Rome, Italy to join seven my friends in Campo de’ Fiori, just south of Plaza Novana. I was immediately impressed and enchanted with Rome. I had expected crowds of tourists on every street and a bustling city for the capital of Italy. Instead Rome was a smaller and more village-like than I expected with endless beautiful narrow streets and a quaint, calm atmosphere. Except for the bus we took from station Termini to Campo de’ Fiori we were able to easily walk to all of our destinations.
At the Vatican and Colosseum, we were of course faced with the crowds of tourists, it being June. However, we had come prepared by booking our tickets online which meant we were able to skip the long queue. For the Vatican I would recommend booking tickets with their official website as they are cheaper than the Rome-Museum site, which I would advise to use for the Colosseum.
The Vatican and Sistine Chapel were stunning. The real treat was being able to go almost straight into St. Peter’s Basilica next door which has to be one of the most impressive, grand religious buildings I have ever been in. The photos cannot do justice to the actual experience of entering the church.
The Colosseum was just as amazing. Instead of grandeur it was the history behind the monument that intrigued us. As the guided tours were quite expensive, averaging at 18 euros per person we brought a 5-euro guide book from a bookshop inside the Colosseum and this provided us with plenty of the gruesome facts of the many fights and killings that had taken place there.
The food was of course delicious. My mother warned me not to get my hopes up as I rattled on about finally trying an authentic Italian pasta. Nevertheless, I was not disappointed with my first meal; Pasta allo Scoglio (Pasta with shellfish). The bruschetta was a lovely starter and for the main, the tomatoes tasted fresher and so did the spaghetti. It may have been due to my naiveté and sheer excitement but it felt like I could taste the fact that the spaghetti was homemade.
The restaurant was in a lovely square near our Air BnB apartment and we could hear beautiful music being played in the background. Instead of cringing as I usually did when another singer or accordion player stepped on the metros in Paris, the street music we continually came across in Rome was more pleasing and subtle.
As quite a large group of English speaking girls we were often victims to the Italian waiters who are eager to fill their restaurants. However, their attention was mostly charming and we were often offered free prosecco. Everyone we spoke too was nice and helpful. Eventually I stopped being thrown into temporary panic every time an Italian person said the word prego – a word that seems to mean everything from ‘your welcome’ to ‘there you go’ and just learned to simply smile and say it back.
A mid-day gelato break quickly became a routine, as way to take a break from the 30 degree heat and relax before continuing with exploring. The best gelato I had was on the last day when we stumbled on the sight of a massive slab of chocolate in a shop window. On the corner of Via S. Simone, Gelateria del Teatro prepare their ice cream behind a massive window that allows us to see how they make it. Once hooked we walked inside to discover a wealth of delicious favours. My lemon cheesecake, garden sage and raspberry and passion fruit gelato was by far the best of the trip.
On Wednesday I was very sad to be leaving Rome. I had enjoyed seeing the major sites such as the Pantheon and Fountain de Trevi as much as the long walks we took through the Trastevere area and in Villa Borghese. I can’t wait to return to Italy, maybe to Florence or Venice next…
What is your ideal travel destination?