Our last stop in Italy was Rome. We had both been to Rome before and had very different experiences: I went with my family when I was younger and fell in love. Taylor went during a school break while he was abroad and didn't have the greatest experience (let's just say his bunk bed was shaking all night long thanks to some very oblivious/intoxicated guests in the sketchy hostel he was staying in...awkward). I was determined to change his opinion about Rome.
Rome was quite the change of pace after being in Modena and Bologna -- there were so many tourists and so many things to do that at times it was overwhelming. We decided to only do a couple of the big sights and then explored other parts of the city where we could breathe and relax. We ended up seeing the Colosseum/Roman Forum and the Vatican/Sistine Chapel, and then dropped by Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona.
Each day we explored a different park. We found two different spots with beautiful views of the city - an endless landscape of buildings the colors of sand and sunsets, dotted with the occasional ruin. It's a pretty unique city to see from above. Both parks felt like a quiet oasis above the city where we could people watch and take in the city from a different perspective. One day we took sandwiches and beer up for lunch.
We also spent a day walking around the Jewish Ghetto. It was nice to explore some quiet, pretty streets. We didn't have any particular destination in the neighborhood, so we just let ourselves get lost! On our last day, Taylor decided to get his haircut at a barber near our Airbnb, which ended up being a fun adventure. The shop was run by the sweetest old man and his wife. Neither of them spoke any English so it was pretty funny trying to communicate with them!
TO DO & SEE: Beyond whatever tourist sights you want to see I would recommend taking walks up to see the parks I talked about above. The one near Travestere is up on Gianicolo Hill -- this one is a longer walk. There are a couple of monuments and a botanical garden to see on your way up the hill. Villa Bourghese is the park near the Spanish Steps. It is not so far removed from the city, but is a good place to go for a little break from everything. Definitely spend some time in Trastevere -- it is full of sweet little streets and piazzas (I'm a sucker for narrow, cobblestone European streets...have you figured this out yet?) and a couple pretty churches. Like I said before, the Jewish Ghetto is also a nice place to explore.
TO EAT & DRINK: For lunch on our second day we went into a little meat and cheese shop on a side street intending to buy materials to make our own sandwiches, but the guy inside offered to make them for us. We chose everything and he threw it together for us. We grabbed a big Perino beer and took everything up to the park. I would definitely recommend doing this for lunch over trying to find a good restaurant. When you're out seeing tourist sights it's hard to avoid crappy/overpriced food.
On our first night we went to a great little restaurant in Trastevere called Meridionale. The walls are covered in old magazine clippings and it is furnished with retro, mis-matched tables and chairs. Aside from the meal being amazing, it was also a nice place to eat because it was away from the busiest parts of the neighborhood. By far the best meal we had was at Il Duca, which is also in Trastevere. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Taylor got carbonara and I had the best lasagna of my life. We also got fried artichoke and prociutto e melone to start. I still dream about it. After dinner at Il Duca we popped into a tiny little convenience store to get beers and walked around the streets with the crowds of young people. We liked doing this at night rather than finding a place to get drinks, but we did go out for drinks one night in Trastevere at a place called Nylon. They had good drinks, a cool atmosphere and nice outdoor seating that was perfect for people watching.
Oh, and I can't write a post about Rome and not mention gelato. We had amazing gelato at Il Gelato di San Crispino. It's all homemade and doesn't have gross artificial colorings and flavorings. We read somewhere that it's a bad sign when gelato is super colorful.
Look back tomorrow for the video we made about our time in Italy!