I am attempting a Preaching to the Choir exercise, as I try to round up my most memorable and must do things in Rome. I think you will find no dearth of information on what to do in Rome if you were to look, but here’s my list of unmissables in Rome, if you are there for a holiday or any other reason!
Those “Roman Holiday” Essentials!
If you have OD’d on Roman Holiday as I have and probably know the dialogues of that scene between Peck and Hepburn my advice would be to stay away from the spanish steps in the evening, because its crowded and very different from how you would imagine it. Quite underwhelming and people eating and waiting, no hint of old world charm that you would expect. But… there is redemption. On an unrelated note, if you try you can log on to Dior’s free open wi-fi, which I did religiously everytime I was there 😉
I simply had to have better memories, and I did. I Went for a morning run and it was pretty much EMPTY. Yes. Except a couple, some other runners and two girls who were attempting to recreate the scene where Audrey Hepburn is eating gelato and leaning on the steps. It surely is cute to people watch. And I witnessed it on two consecutive mornings, so I am sure it must be a thing people do. There is also a Gelato guy, because you need the gelato for the shot. I made up a story in my head on how it is a great business idea for him to be up and running at 7 am because of the ladies!
Apart from the Fantastic shopping around the steps, which is pretty unaffordable. However, where you must have coffee and tiramisu without fail is the 18th Century Cafe Grecco. Keats and Byron spent hours here, I presume having intellectual discussions and writing poetry.
Another tip is when you Visit the La Bocca della Verità – It will be nothing as intimate as the movie. In fact there is a long winding line thats outside the church, and there is a bored guard who lets you walk to it and take a picture. If I wasn’t having my moment, I was not going to stand in line I did not get in line as it would be a waste of time. I did manage a picture though, through iron bars. ! I would recommend the same to you, except get the moment right, otherwise you will be stuck with a picture of some random tourist.
I also found the facade of the house where Roman Holiday was shot. Today it is private property and you cant go in, but who said a picture is not allowed for Old time’s sake. Via Margutta 51 is the address you need to find. Via Margutta is quite the artists quarter so it will still be an interesting walk for you if you do attempt it and it is a 20 – 25 minute walk from the pantheon.
The Keyhole of Malta
This was one of my most favorite parts of Rome. You climb up the Aventine Hill, it is steep but on a pleasant day, it is an enjoyable walk and I believe there is no better way to explore a city. As you walk up to the very end of hill at the Knights of Malta piazza you will see this gigantic, fairytale like green door and you can stand in line to peep through what is called the “Hole of Rome”.
You can see three nations and three capitals through the Key Hole – Italy, Vatican City and Malta. On a clear day, the garden path spreads before you and ends framing the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica We were lucky there was no line and we ended up being even more lucky than just that, because some dignitaries were having a party and the doors were open and that’s not something that happens often we were told. The good door man let us hang out and take pictures and stare a little bit.It is a surreal experience and I found myself doing quite a bit of reading post the visit. Fascinating to put it mildly.
Bird’s Eye View from Aventine.
Getting to Aventine Hill is only half the journey. Getting to the point with the view is another. Aventine is pretty much a residential area, and unless you are seeing tourist groups or the odd stall, there aren’t too many people who can give you instructions. Take your offline map. Also remember that the view is the best from the garden right next to Basilica of Santa Sabina. Like in most of Rome, you will see a fountain, walk in to the garden next to it and down the walkway, a sprawling view of the Vatican and Capitol Hill lies before you. There are many benches there, and we simply hung around there, till we got bored.
The Aventine Hill, is really close to Colloseum,Bocca Della Verite , the Roman Forum and the majestic circus maximus, so would make sense to plan to go there with some of these destinations as well.
Vatican and the Bramante Staircase
Visiting the Vatican is an overwhelming experience, and I would say that the few hours that you will spend there you will Oscillate from Wide Eyed Wonder, to I wish I had read more before I got here, for all the rich history to make sense. Frankly I will leave you to decide history wise what works best for you and where you would like to spend more time.
After the Sistine Chapel which is an intense experience, simply because people get really emotional inside, I had to find the Snail staircase or the Vatican spiral staircase. I was so afraid I would miss it, and I kept showing it on my phone to the guards to check if I was in the right path. There are two wrought iron staircases one going up and the other going down. Earlier everyone entering the Vatican would climb up this staircase, not anymore. Keep an eye out near the entrance to the museums.
While I can keep writing, about the other places to hang out at, I will end this blog with a few tips, thoughts with you.
- You Can drink Coffee pretty much anywhere and it will be good. So indulge I did and so should you, if you are a coffee person. It’s fresh, strong, and perfectly brewed.
- Busses get crowded, we got into one to go to the Vatican, and if I were not in Rome and I did not have to reach the Vatican at 9am I would not have entered it. So plan your trips keeping that in mind or take the metro
- Rome does the best Apertivos. So ensure that you plan your evening drink around it. I ate the best, juicy, plump olives at Trastavere, in this bar named Ombre Rosse. They served Bruschetta and these Olives. Some places you may get lucky with a more generous spread.
- Gelato at FataMorgana must be on the agenda. It is a bit difficult to find but worth the search. They serve organic gelato and have some rare flavours like Black Olives, Basil, Walnuts and Honey too if you like to experiment. I quite liked the basil walnut & Olive, though I paired it with my “I will test you gelato” – Pistachio
- Must Visit Cavour 313 for the wine as well as the ambience. I saw a lot of locals there, which is always a reason to give a place a tick mark. They are a very famous winery and the food and buzz is perfect for unwinding
I would love to hear about your holiday in Rome, and do let me know if you take my advice, and how it works for you.