Here’s the thing I’ve discovered after two weeks in Italy: in order to truly discover a place, you must be willing to roam. (& in a city like Rome, literally.) I mean that in every sense of the word: walking, following a map or smartphone GPS, getting on a segway or bike tour, whatever tickles your fancy. But it HAS to be on foot. Sure, you can take all the tour buses and taxi rides offered to you, and by all means if you get tired or have places to go! You can hit all the big tourist-y spots of the city a lot quicker on a bus, but there’s something about actually walking through and seeing, experiencing, rather than just passing (or driving) by. There is something about being on foot in an unknown space that makes the exploration all the more exciting. The sense of following a map, your footsteps, and your curiosity, and seeing where it takes you. A lot of my experience in Rome on our last few days of the trip was spent literally roaming, discovering, and following a map. I was able to hit a majority of the big tourist spots of the city–some with my family, some by myself–all on foot. It was exhausting by the end of each new day, but SO worth it. Personally, I like the convenience of being on foot and on your own because you’re not rushing, trying to hear some tour guide shout in your ear, or get back to your double-decker bus before it leaves you. (But if you can handle the heaps of matching tourists on their giant gas-guzzling busses, more power to you!) Being on foot means you get to take your time, have rest-stops, and see where the map takes you.
Rome If You Want To
Friday, I joined the heavy crowds to explore the beautiful archways of the Colosseum, which has been standing and under multiple restorations since 70 AD. I saw the seat of the Roman Emperor, as well as the underground chambers where animals and prisoners were kept beneath the main arena. My cousins and I hiked up Palatine Hill, walking along the ruins of the Roman Forum and the Arch of Titus, a place where thousands of centuries ago was the central hub of the ancient Romans. At night, I trekked through the ancient winding streets of Roma. I witnessed the blossoming nightlife along the Spanish Steps, talked my way out of getting more roses from the pesky street vendors, made my wish at the over-packed Trevi Fountain, and had gelato under a full moon as we navigated our way back to the hostel. We went through shortcuts and alleyways passing old fountains, ruins and churches. The breeze was perfect and the sky was a deep, royal blue.
Saturday, I ate a hearty breakfast at the hostel, took a map and went off on my own to explore. I saw the Monument of Victor Emmanuel, a king and war hero of Italy, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Italian memorial & war museum built after World War I. I witnessed several beautiful Roman weddings inside the little basilicas I came across. I climbed up Capitoline Hill and saw a gorgeous view of the Forum and old Roman Ruins. I walked along the Tiber River, taking notice of its lush green trees and small boathouses along its banks. I explored the ruins of the Teatro Marcello, an old and important open-house theatre during the Roman Republic. I wandered into the Roma Museo, where an interesting Andy Warhol exhibit was on display. I went shopping down Via del Corso, the shopping central and home of several main cultural piazzas (plazas) and many interesting neighborhoods of the city. I prayed inside the baroque 17th-century Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, one of my favorite churches in the whole city. I ordered a small gelato from the oldest ice cream shop in Rome, Giolitti, run by the same family since the late-1800’s and so world-famous that even the Obamas go there during visits. I went shopping for gifts for my friends and family at small stores along the Palazzo Montecitorio. And I felt wonderful drops of rain–real Roman rain!–by the time I was back at the hostel, worn out but glowing from my solo adventure.
(Click on the individual photos for full sizes/descriptions!)
Yup, after an eventful past few days wandering and exploring and falling in love, I’ve come to realize: there’s no place like Rome.