I LOVE ROME.
No matter how many times I go back, it’s always breathtaking. The art. The history. The food. The weather. The shopping. The people. This amazing mash-up of colors and aromas—of sights and sounds —truly is a thing of beauty. No wonder they call it “The Eternal City.” Rome is cool like no place else. There’s a picture just waiting to be taken at every twist and turn, down every little alleyway. It’s an experience like no other. Can you tell how much I love it?
When my dear friend, Denise, asked me where she should go when she visits Rome next fall, it actually made me stop and think. Of course, there are the spots that you absolutely have to see: Vatican City, The Coliseum, Piazza Navona, The Trevi Fountain and the list goes on…but I think that the one of the best things you can do in Rome is to just get lost. Literally.
I don’t know about you, but getting lost for me comes quite naturally. I’m hopeless when it comes to directions. I didn’t even know that my iphone (and I’ve had iphones since they first came out ) came with Google Maps until about five years ago when I was in New York with my friend, Nikki, who got so exasperated with me she said “Just go to your Google Maps!” and I said that I didn’t think my phone came with that. Enough said.
So I get lost everywhere I go, and while that can sometimes be a major pita (pain in the a–) it’s an absolute joy to get lost in Rome. It’s how I found some of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, like stumbling upon ancient buildings and fountains that look like they’ve just been dropped at the end of a tiny street.
Walking from piazza to piazza, finding one little gem of a restaurant after another. Discovering cool clothes and jewelry that doesn’t require you to take out a second mortgage. Getting lost is also how I acquired one of my favorite oil paintings and how I found out just how cool Santa Maria Di Novella—the oldest pharmacy in the world—really is. (Technically, the oldest one is in Florence.)
Don’t get me wrong. Of course you’ve got to do all the things that make Rome Rome. For me, that means making the most of my time and hiring a private tour guide for at least half a day and for a full day if you’re doing Vatican City. Hiring a private guide means you’ll scoot around faster, bypass lines at museums and other attractions and get the skinny on what you wouldn’t otherwise, including some good intel on where the locals go and what they recommend doing.
Just make sure that after you take in all the requisite sights, you take some time to just wander around and soak it all in. Take a look around. You’ll see people (very well-dressed people, of course) just hanging out, having a drink, talking over coffee…you get the picture.
Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily easy for me. I am, after all, the person who is perpetually on a quest for the perfect “fill in the blank.” And that can be stressful. You know you have a limited amount of time in a place and you want to get absolutely everything you can out of it. We are programmed (or at least I am) to think this way; it’s part of our DNA. But trust me on this one. Put on some good walking shoes, grab a map (yes, you will need one just in case) and a gelato and go. As they say, when in Rome….
Here are my top 5 (I lied, 6)
- The Pantheon
- Drinks at the Hassler (and their little stools for your handbag….love!)
- Pasta and Caprese salad (or anything) at Dal Bolognese
- Walking down Villa del Corso (and the streets leading up to it…Via Condotti, Via Borgognona, Via Frattina)
- The Trevi Fountain at twilight
- Villa Borghese Gardens
ONE GOOD TIP:
While I usually go to Rome in the spring or fall, consider going for a winter vacation. Just recently, The Wall Street Journal ran an article about how traveling to Europe during the winter can be an optimal time to go. It’s most definitely cheaper when it comes to both flights and hotels and is far less crowded with tourists. The temperature in Rome during the winter is fairly temperate, especially toward the end of winter in late February, early March…far warmer than the Northeast or Midwest.