Before coming to Europe, the only other foreign country I’ve ever visited was Vietnam. I actually haven’t gone back since the age of 11 but I definitely want to go again sometime in the near future because I still have family that lives there. So being it Rome felt really refreshing because I was surrounded by new culture, new people, and a new place, and I just didn’t know what to expect. I guess “this is what dreams are made of.” (Anyone who has ever watched “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” knows this context. lol)
The student I met in my program the other night, Christina, finally woke up and when she was ready, she and I walked around the city of Rome by using the map we got from the hostel we stayed in. The map was pretty easy to read because it mapped out Rome perfectly by making all the historical buildings stand out. We didn’t know how everything was laid out in Rome yet, so we weren’t really sure how to get to certain destinations and asked the thousands of Polizia (police) around for help but since we were studying there for 4 months, we had those months to get familiar with navigating ourselves in the city.
If I remember correctly, we ended up getting into the city somehow by either walking or taking the underground metro. I told you, I can’t remember everything because it was so long ago, but I just remember we walked all day to every historical monument in Rome and before we started our walk this was when I found out we had to pay 50 cent euro to use the public restroom. I was surprised, and I’m sure many other Americans were too. I don’t think it’s worth paying, but I guess they need the money to keep up with the cost of water, maintenance, and cleanliness in the public sphere. Sometimes the toilet is free, but just make sure to carry extra change.
And when you become a temporary resident, being “local” comes with a whole other meaning because you’ll definitely experience your share of foreign toilets, which makes travel that much more interesting.
Many things in Rome are all in proximity and walking distance so it’s not so bad, but be prepared to walk a lot, unless you want to take a taxi or Uber, that may overcharge you because your American, or you can wait for the public bus that can take hours to come, or the bus may skip your stop if it’s full, so the best is to walk, and you get to burn all the calories from eating all the tasty food in Rome. YAY! Just make sure to rest from time to time or you’re feet will hurt and you’ll get really tired.
We noticed there weren’t as many people in these touristy sites during the winter season. But that’s only because everyone likes to visit Europe in the summer, but I’d say the best time to go is in January to April if you don’t mind the cold, because, at the beginning of the year, it’s COLD (LOL) which means fewer crowds, no tourist, and it’s saldi season (which means “sale” season in Italian), so if you’re into shopping, this is the best time to visit Rome to get all the good deals from window shopping on Via del Corso.
Also, everyone in Rome, even the men, are all very fashionable people. I love the way they dress. And during saldi I actually managed to get a pair of Hunter boots for 80 euro while I was there and the boots were helpful on the days it rained. I actually still use them but not very much since it’s always sunny in California. And the only reason I knew about them was that it didn’t fit Christina and it fit me instead.
It was also super cool to see Rome in broad daylight since we came at night and it was very awe-inspiring to see the history, art, architecture and Roman ruins that existed so long ago. What was even more amazing is how they perfectly preserve these things for so long, like the Forum, the Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum, which is actually all located in one area.
Did you also know there is an underground chamber in The Vatican? Well, there is. So if you ever go, you can go and take a tour underneath the church of St. Peter’s Basilica and witness the resting place of St. Peter. And go to the very top so you can see a breathtaking view of the whole city.
I’ve also never seen a church so beautifully detailed, but all the churches in Rome are pretty fascinating, so if you get the opportunity to visit any, GO! And I heard the Sistine Chapel was pretty dope too but I never had the chance to visit. But that’s just another reason for me to come back again.
Sorry that I’m boring you with history. LOL. It’s just so cool! But if you were in need of a little fun I’d suggest checking out Piazza di Spagna and hanging out on the Spanish Steps eating a tiramisu and just people watching. If you wanted a good nightlife, go to Piazza Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona, that’s where I spent some of my time with my friends because they have lively bars and restaurants filled with young people and these places are mostly catered to Americans since it’s in a touristy spot, but later on, I was able to discover where other locals actually ended up going if you were over the “catered-to-American” nightlife vibe and wanted something a little different.
And since the Trevi Fountain was under construction when I was there, I never got to actually see them finish it. So that’s another reason for me to come back too.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention where I ate my first Italian gelato. Ice cream is one of my favorite things to eat in Rome and my favorite thing to eat in general, even though I’m a little bit lactose, but who cares, anything for gelato.
There are so many ice creameries in Rome, it’s hard to know where to go. The first day, we ended up hunting down a famous place called Giolitti which is a pretty famous touristy ice cream place because it’s close to all the touristy spots and not far from the Trevi Fountain. This place is always buzzing with lots of people and they have 52 different flavors. Since it’s so busy, it’s hard to sample them all, plus you don’t want to hold up the long line and sometimes if you’re lucky, there isn’t a line too, but you can never go wrong with any flavor here. I usually go for my go-to, coco and limone (coconut and lemon). And getting gelato isn’t really that expensive so I ended up getting two flavors instead of one. Maybe even three because I love gelato so much.
Geez, writing this is making me have a sweet tooth now. 🙂