Our first visit to Rome left us in awe. It exceeded our expectations and ended up being Mr Foodie’s favourite stop on this trip. The history and architecture behind it along with the grandeur of things made it magnificent. I wish I had stayed an extra day at least but this was a preview touch and go trip so let’s see what we managed in two full days.
We arrived at the airport around 10.30am before catching a bus to Roma Termini train station. Tickets range from €5-7 per person. Trouble was, the line was so long and I’m pretty sure they missed a couple of times altogether. So there it was, this nice bus with seats stopped there with no driver. The ugly nature of humans reared its head as people started cutting lines to try and get on the next bus. Yes I counted the seats. Lucky our band of four held the line strong. To our delight, Roma Termini has a food court!! Okay, Mercato Centrale sounds better. Nothing like surprise food to keep tired travelers happy. Choose from pasta, pizza, breads, desserts, cheese, pastries, burgers, panini or even steak.
After we had our fill we walked to our AirBnB apartment on Via Clemetine. It was a convenient location and walkable to a lot of places. Naturally the first point of interest was the famous Colosseum. I pre-bought tickets online €14 per person which was definitely worthwhile because there was a BIG queue to buy tickets AND a BIG queue to get in. We just braved the one to get in.
The Colosseum is indeed huge. What remains of it requires careful restoration. The arena level is long gone revealing the passages and rooms underground where the slaves, animals and gladiators were. It was really very grand and I could imagine what the atmosphere would’ve been like.
The gates shut at 6.30pm in summer so we moved along to the Roman Forums and Palatine Hill. This was a sight to behold. I can only imagine what it was like when all the buildings were intact. When it was alive and in use. None of our cameras could capture the sheer size and scale of things as the eye sees it. A sign of riches, wealth, power and status of the empire.
We spent the evening wandering the streets past Piazza Venezia spotting unsuspecting architectural gems along the way. All the buildings just seem so large. Even a regular church was grand with detailed carvings and paintings. When it came dinner time I had a location planned across River Tiber in Trastevere. I had a check list of food items I wanted to try and so it begins. First stop Pizzeria Ai Marmi for none other than traditional wood oven pizza!
Suppli was the first item checked off the list. It is not arancini. Suppli is a classic Roman snack also in the form of a rice ball. Often rolled in a croquette shape, crumbed and fried. The difference is, inside it has a tomato and mozzarella centre. Delizioso! Wood oven pizzas as expected, were thin based with simplistic toppings but I wouldn’t say it was minimal (as some have complained). To me, flavour balance is perfecto. Let’s start with the dough, thin and crispy with a nice wood char. Although, the calzone was more than a little charred. Moving on, the pizzas are served with knife and fork and come uncut. The sauce base is minimal but enough to get a taste and their cheese seems to taste better.
Mr Foodie ticked off Quattro Formagi from his list and really enjoyed it. I on the other hand tried something I never order. The Capricciosa was a mix of olives, mushrooms, artichokes, prosciutto and two quarters of boiled egg. I loved it. While the ingredients may not be spread out evenly to make perfect slices it didn’t really matter because we were each eating a pizza to ourselves so we could cut and arrange each mouthful. It really isn’t as filling as it looks because the dough is thin and good. No bloating after at all. I’d recommend this place to anyone going to Rome.
Vatican City is on the cards for us today and I recommend starting early as the crowd will be a little less. It’s still busy but it gets worse later when the tour buses arrive. We took a public bus from central Rome for 1.50 Euro a ticket. We managed to buy tickets in broken Italian from a kiosk because guess what! You’re supposed to buy them from Tobacco shops which are incidentally closed in the morning. Italy wakes up late. But they stay up late which is fine by me. So hugging our bags tight and spotting potential pick-pocketers off we went in the crowded bus.
I also learnt today that for the rest of my trip our only breakfast option is – Pastry and Espresso, eaten standing. It costs 2.50 Euro for both (very cheap to us actually). These are two things I don’t really take….so I skipped breakfast most days. I bought apples at the supermarket.
Vatican City was once again very grand and impressive. All I see is a sign of power and riches. Nevertheless, the architecture and art were well worth high admiration. Once again I pre-bought tickets online for 14 Euros each (highly recommend pre-buying tickets everywhere). On our way to the Vatican Museum entrance we were approached by many people trying to sell us “extra ticket/tour” into St Peter’s Basilica because it will be closing, and you need a ticket for private entry blablablablabla. It’s all BS. Walk on.
I soon lost track of which room or wing I was in but it was just endless detailed works of art. Incredible. From sculptures to tablets, marble tablets, scriptures, paintings, tapestry and statues. Many were commissioned to famous artists and the attention to detail is flawless. All the painting and framing on the ceilings seemed so well designed and symmetrical. It’s very pleasing to the eye.
Alas we came to The School of Athens mural by Raphael (not the ninja turtle). Spot the philosophers! Apart from Plato and Aristotle right in the middle the other figures are hypothetical but it is believed to include Pythagoras, Alexander the Great, Socrates, Protogenes, Archimedes, and about 15 other figures from the history books. That’s all I remember. I really liked this mural, it’s a full wall and this is only a small part of it, it’s really hard to take photos of anything in its entirety because of the sheer size. Plus it’s like Mecca in here, you just shuffle along with the crowd.
The end of the visit took us to the Sistine Chapel where the famous paintings on the ceiling were done by Michelangelo (also not the ninja turtle). He proposed to paint the Old Testament stories, it really does tell the story. Unfortunately no photos were allowed and it was really a “MOVE ALONG MOVE ALONG KEEP MOVING” situation. We finished up in St Peter’s Basilica before exiting. The Vatican City visit took about 3 hours so arriving at 8.30am to get in for 9am will give you enough time to head back to Rome for more sights.
Back in Rome (also by public bus) we headed to the Pantheon. Just outside, I came across this hole in the wall. This is one of the 10% random eats that went well, which actually followed a 10% random lunch that was BAD. I mean undercooked pasta, cheap packet sauce bad. Anyway this Antica Salumeria is Italian heaven. That Porchetta is what I was interested in. Carl had a salumi sandwich which he said was great. The big pig out that the old man’s slicing up, that’s what I want. A bit salty, they like their salt but the pork was so so so good. Inside you can purchase small goods, have a coffee and all sorts of biscuits and meringues.
Trevi Fountain was up next, also walkable from Pantheon. Another gorgeous structure with a beautiful Roman building as the backdrop. It was commissioned initially when one of the popes found it wasn’t dramatic enough so wanted a better fountain. We made a wish and threw a coin in but you’re not allowed to anymore. You’re not allowed to sit on it either now.
We finished up at Altare della Patria. It was actually one of my favourite places in the end. This time we went in and up to the roof for the view of the city. It was stunning. There’s something very charming about Roman buildings and the city as old as it may be, looked stunning.
That evening we went back to the apartment to pack and wash up before walking out to dinner at this little place called Sapori e Delizie. It was raining but we made it there. It costs about 8-10 Euros for a pizza and 8 Euros for pasta. Some would say they can get it cheaper elsewhere I suppose but this was good and I was happy to pay that for this quality. It’s more of a takeaway place, it only had three tables and we squashed in with Mr Foodie hanging his arm out the window. European size.
They ran out of Zucchini Flowers so offered to swap half of it for Stuffed Olives. It was pretty good. I ordered a Tuna Pasta that was absolutely delicious. I swear it’s the different tomatoes. Their sauce tastes better. I cannot recreate it here, and cannot get the same flavour anywhere here for the tuna pasta.
Mr Foodie went for the richest pizza you could order though I must admit it sounded pretty gourmet. I present Pizza Tourre Eiffel. The toppings include gorgonzola, prosciutto, walnut, rocket and mozzarella with honey. Total winner right? It really was a 5 star pizza.
We found Rome charming. I found it easy to get around and we had no trouble with communication. Not everyone speaks English, especially at the little local shops but they’re switched on and broken Italian with body language is a powerful thing. Obviously good to be careful and have your wits about you but I didn’t find the petty crime/pick pocket situation that severe. Perhaps we weren’t going at the worst time possible. It’s a place we definitely want to come back to. In fact by the end of our trip, Italy as a whole country really captured our interest.
For now, Ciao Roma!