One of the most substantial benefits about studying abroad, or in my case, working abroad in London, is how convenient it is to get to mainland Europe and even northern Africa if you’re super adventurous! Of course, working abroad is much different than studying abroad and I haven’t travelled nearly as much as I did while doing my semester abroad at King’s College London, but I recently managed a little trip to Rome, which was a delightful little getaway. I’ve been in London for almost a full year now, and sometimes I forget that all of Europe is so close! I think one of the most special things about being living and working in Europe is how much incredible history surrounds us at all times. It’s one of my favourite things about London, and of course there’s even more rich history in beautiful Roma! Here’s some of the highlights of my trip and a few recommendations for the ‘Eternal City’…
For starters, the Colosseum is a must see on any trip to Rome. It is absolutely stunning from the outside, but I would definitely recommend booking a tour to go inside and see the interior, because it’s just as exciting! Book tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait in super long queues, and opt for an audio guide too. In such a grandiose place, it’s great to have someone telling you all the stories of Roman gladiator battles, emperors, and wild animals. After you finish at the Colosseum, head over to the Roman Forum just behind it, which was the centre of Roman public life in ancient times. You’ll have no shortage of ruins to explore – there are endless temples, basilicas and arches to see!
If you’re a fan of the Lizzie McGuire movie, then you already know the Trevi Fountain is at the top of any sensible sightseeing list of Rome. When I studied abroad, the Trevi was under heavy construction, so I was incredibly glad to have the chance to actually see this stunning masterpiece! Although it was mobbed by tourists all trying to get the perfect selfie, the fountain is larger than life and so intricately detailed, I was pushing right in there with the rest of them trying to get a photo! However, if crowds are too much for you in the heat of summer, visit the Trevi at night – there’s no one around to disturb you, and the fountain is beautifully illuminated!
Next, you’ve got to get up to the Vatican City. Going to the Vatican is a full day’s excursion, and it’s better if you buy tickets in advance, so you’re not waiting all day in the hot sun. Plus, there’s so much to get through, you’re going to want as much time as you can get while inside! The museums are filled to the brim with sculptures and the most exquisite painted ceilings I’ve ever seen. Of course, the Sistine Chapel is a masterpiece and I wish I had photos, but you’re not allowed to take any from within. From the top of some of the museums, you have an unfettered view of Rome, which is breath-taking. Once you’re done at the Vatican and have explored the gardens, head out and back into line for St. Peter’s Basilica, which is the largest basilica of Christianity. Also, no matter how hot it is, don’t forget that the Vatican is a holy place and you must wear respectable, modest clothing at all times.
On the other side of the River Tiber from the Vatican are the the infamous Spanish Steps, one of my favourite places in Rome. For one, because they’ve got an incredible view of the city and you can people watch for hours, which is fantastic. And besides, what other sight in Rome is literally designed for simply sitting and chilling out? Once you’ve started to get a little sunburn or want to keep walking, head up behind the Spanish Steps to Villa Borghese, a lavish villa surrounded by a lush park and a lake! It’s perfect if you want to rent a cycle and pedal around, or if you just want to sit in the shade and enjoy a gelato (I chose the latter).
Speaking of gelato, if you’re not indulging in a cone of the good stuff at least once every three or four hours, then you’re not really doing Rome right, in my opinion. I’m sure I visited at least 5 or 6 different gelato spots, but my favourite is called La Romana, located in the Ostiense neighbourhood. It was so busy it felt like I was in line with everyone else in Rome, but boy, was it worth the wait. The gelato is creamy, rich, and served in copious amounts. At La Romana, they up the ante by pouring liquid chocolate into the bottom of your cone, and finish off the top with a heap of freshly whipped cream. And the kicker? It’s super cheap! Go there and thank me later.
Another place you must eat at while in Rome is a restaurant called La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, located in Rome’s hip Monti neighbourhood, just a short distance away from the Colosseum. La Taverna had the freshest, most delicious pasta I’ve ever eaten in my life! I had the cacio e pepe with black truffle, and I had to force myself to eat a single pasta noodle at a time so I could savour the exquisite flavours and not devour the whole plate in seconds. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! I’m not alone in my love for the restaurant either – once I sat down, I noticed that the walls were peppered with photos of Alessio, the revered head chef, smiling with a plethora of different celebrities, from Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino to Dustin Hoffman and singer Bruce Springsteen, who’ve all visited at one point.
Of course, amazing pasta and pizza is in abundance in Rome, and luckily, if you’re out and about late at night, most restaurants are open til the wee hours of the morning. I found that eating out was quite affordable during my time in Rome, which was a pleasant surprise, as I wanted to eat everything in sight! I would recommend ordering a side of the fiori de zucca at any restaurant in Rome; they’re courgette (zucchini) deep fried with anchovies and mozzarella, and it’s mouth-wateringly good. Another dish you must order is spaghetti alla carbonara, a Roman specialty first cooked up by the carbonari (charcoal makers) of 19th century Rome. Carbonara contains, bacon, eggs, and cheese, whipped up into a creamy delicious masterpiece!
I had the best time enjoying the sights and food of Rome, and even strolling around the quieter neighbourhoods was awesome. I couldn’t get enough of the charming little alleyways and ivy covered terracotta buildings. The architecture is so beautiful and since I went in mid-May, there were flowers everywhere, adding to the lovely atmosphere. A truly stunning city top to bottom – I hope you get to visit one day!
Next up, read my post on tips for travelling around Europe!