Although I have been to Rome twice before, I can't say that I have actually seen it. The first time I went to Rome was in 2006. It was a day trip from Venice and the only place we went to was the Vatican City. We took some photos and that was it really. More than six hours round trip to and from Rome didn't give us enough time to properly see the city. The second time, I was on a cruise. People who have been on a cruise would know how it's like to get out of the boat and "explore" a city in one day. From my experience, it was trying to step out of the boat before everybody else so we could beat the other tourists and see as many attractions as possible. I remember running in my 3-inch wedges in the middle of St Peter's square and jumping the massive queue to enter the Vatican museum, much to the annoyance of the Spanish people behind us. Luckily, none of this happened in July, when I went back to Rome for the third time for my 39th birthday. It may not have been the ideal time to go to Rome as it was really hot but still, I had one of the best times of my life.
Let's start with early morning walks in Rome. Everyday for at least four days, we walked this route. We were lucky to find an apartment in Vitolo del Malpasso near Piazza Navona. The apartment is called Giulia Charme and we booked it via booking.com. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the apartment but I can guarantee you that it's one of the best places I have stayed in my travels. On our first night we stayed in Peter's nest near St Peter's Basilica, which was equally good. The hosts Silvia and Ilaria were great.
There was something in the morning sunshine and the silence in the streets of Rome that made me realise how blessed I was to be there at that time. All of a sudden, I felt contented with what I had although I knew that I wanted more in life. I don't know, perhaps I just felt happy that I was finally making new memories with special people in my life who are likely to stay and not leave me. Ah, how I wish I am more poetic than this. These are times when I wish I was a better writer. You know like those who can easily describe how the wind tastes like without even trying. But anyway.
One good thing about this trip is that we didn't have to rush. Also, the 25 minute walk to the Vatican City led us to some of the most beautiful parts of Rome. Our apartment was few minutes walk to Piazza Navona. The square was lively even in the mornings. We passed by open-air cafes and restaurants which added beauty to the square. If you have seen the film Angels and Demons, you will recognise Piazza Navona.
Campo de' Fiori is also located around the area. During the day, the square is a busy market and at night, it turns into a buzzing nightlife. We actually had a drink at the square on our last night in Rome and I really had fun. And our choice of drink? Aperol Spritz.
Campo de' Fiori Market
Statue of the Philosopher Giordano Bruno in Campo de' Fiori
(According to history, he was burnt alive in the square in 1600)
Our morning walks over Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II was one of my favourite things. I could see myself doing this everyday if I was living in Rome. The view from the bridge is pretty amazing. The bridge takes you directly to Via dela Conciliazione- the road that leads to St Peter's Square.
Ponte Principe Amedeo
Castel Sant'Angelo from Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II
Via dela Conciliazione
I felt so blessed that I was able to hear mass inside St Peter's Basilica this time. The last two trips were really touristy. I basically just went inside the church, took a photo of the Pieta and that was it.
It actually felt so good to be in this place early on a Sunday morning. So quiet and the air smelt quite fresh. And also, there was no queue to go inside the Basilica.
Piazza San Pietro
Basilica di San Pietro
San Pietro's Colonnade by Bernini
St Peter Square's view from the church
Pieta by Michelangelo
St. Peter's Baldachin
I loved the fact that I finally inhaled the Vatican City and Rome at night. It is one of the most amazing experiences I've had in my travels. How can I possibly forget those random walks at night and that one round of Aperol Spritz in Campo de Fiori with J and my adoptive siblings? Those late night cravings for gelato and that random (almost midnight) dinner at that little restaurant in front of our apartment. And yes, that night when we got lost and unexpectedly bumped into Altare della Patria (Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II). That was sort of romantic. We basically sat on a bench in a park across the monument for a few minutes talking about random things.
The Colonnade at night
The Basilica and the square
Castel Sant' Angelo
Of course I was in Rome so couldn't be there without seeing the rest of the tourists spots again- for the third time. Our trip was well planned so we were able to see all the places that we wanted to see and managed to enjoy them to our hearts' content.
The Pantheon oculus
Both J and I have been to Rome separately in the past but we both have not seen the Roman Forum. So we took the opportunity to see it while the rest of the family went to Scala Sancta (Holy Stairs). The weather was too hot for us though so we didn't really spend much time there.
The Roman Forum
Now, the Trevi Fountain was unfortunately under refurbishment at that time (as part of "Fendi for Fountains" project apparently). It reopened early this month.
We also went to the Spanish steps but I don't have a decent photo of it as it was quite busy at that time.
Of course we ate at a few good restaurants in Rome. I'm normally quite good at taking photos of almost all the foods that I eat, but because all I wanted was to really enjoy the food and the experience with my family (for a change), I didn't bother at all. Besides, I'm no food blogger, so please don't expect any reviews of the food or the restaurant on this blog.
Here are some of the places where we ate at:
1. Osteria delle Commari - via Santamaura, 23
- I actually couldn't remember having a proper meal in Rome the last time I went there so I didn't have any idea where to eat. As it was my birthday, I wanted to give my family a good food experience in Rome. Thanks to Trip Advisor, I found this beautiful restaurant only a few blocks away from the Vatican Museum. So we had dinner there on my birthday and had a fantastic time. Food was delicious and affordable and the service was great. The Saltimbocca "Roman Style" and beef steak are a must.
2. Il Mozzicone - Borgo Pio, 180
- We ate here on our first night in Rome. It was a bit late and we were quite tired and hungry, so we really didn't have much time and energy to look around. Luckily we bumped into this nice little restaurant near the Vatican. Our food was served quite quick considering how busy the restaurant was at that time. J had the "cacio e pepe" and I had the fish platter. Both were satisfying.
3. Osteria 140 - Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 140
- The first time we went to this restaurant we just had a drink outside which was really nice. Then one night, J and I were looking for something to do and thought of having dinner. I suppose we were both tired so we didn't want to go that far. We ended up at Osteria 140 once again at almost midnight. The restaurant was closing at that time so they were really not serving food anymore. But they were so accommodating they let us in anyway. The lady had to ask her boss if we could eat, and we could so she went through the list of food they had available. Unfortunately, I can't remember what we ate. Haha.
4. Borgo 36- Borgo Pio, 36
- We had breakfast here one morning. I remember they were just opening but we were quite desperate for breakfast. We were greeted by a Nonno who didn't speak English, but was very nice and friendly. He had this huge smile on his face as he handed out the menu. Nonno I think was lost in translation because our food got mixed up, but it was all worth the confusion in the end. The food was really good. I particularly enjoyed the omelette.
5. Old Bridge Gelateria - Viale dei Bastioni di Michelangelo, 5
- I have been to different cities in Italy before and have had gelati in gelaterias claiming to have the best ice creams in the world but believe me, I found my "best ice cream in the world" at Old Bridge. Too bad I was not able to take photos. But imagine freshly (home) made soft, creamy, nutty, tasty, perfectly sweet ice cream very generously scooped for you to enjoy. All I mean is, it's delicious, massive and most importantly, cheap. I have not actually seen sisters (nuns) queueing for ice cream before, but I saw it here. The queue has always been long since it opened 25 years ago apparently, but I tell you, it's worth the queue.
6. CamBio Vita - via del Governo Vecchio, 54-55 (near Piazza Navona)
- We had our first (breakfast) gelato here. The ice cream was good too and I would definitely go back there for some more.
7. Angry Pig - via Tunisi, 38
- I am gutted I missed the opportunity to eat at Angry Pig. We tried to go on a Sunday, but unfortunately they were closed. The rest of the family were able to go before they left Rome though. Phil and Trish actually described it as "the best sandwich ever". So this shouldn't be missed when you're in Rome.
8. Nova Caffe- Via Della Conciliazione
- AVOID AT ALL COST. No matter how hungry you are, DO NOT eat at this restaurant. One of the biggest mistakes I've ever done in my life. I absolutely ruined my birthday lunch. It was a simple choice between a cafe that only had three people in and a full-packed restaurant. I basically fell into the trap of believing that if a restaurant is full, it must be good. Not in this case at all. If anything, this restaurant is awful. It's a complete rip off. The service was very poor. They won't even give you a chance to think let alone talk. Everything was done in a rush. Like, they asked us if we wanted a small or a large drink. Thinking that a small is a small glass and a large is a normal large glass, the six of us ordered one large drink each without even looking at the drinks menu. When the drink finally came, it was a jug and it cost 12 euros each. J ordered a simple salad. The salad came as if it has been prepared the day before. The salad leaves were so dry. And worst of all, Trish spotted a small caterpillar crawling on one of the salad leaves. When we told the waiter about it, they just took the salad away without even apologising. By this time we were all quite fed up and not hungry anymore. Poor J, he almost even didn't want to even share with my food. Oh and I must not forget that their toilet is one of the most disgusting toilets I have ever used.
Apart from the bad experience at the above restaurant, the whole trip was wonderful. I won't have it any other way. This trip to Rome made me realize how blessed I (truly) am. While I have always thought that the more you have, the happier you become, I realised on this trip that this is all I need: people who can love me for who and what I am, those who can be loyal to me no matter how much I go through (alone or together), those ones who can shower me with so much love but never expect anything in return and those who can make me genuinely happy by simply being there. Reflecting on the people I was with in Rome, my friends in London (and all over the world) and my family, I can now confidently say that I have everything I need and that I am truly happy. I just wish that I am able to keep these people that I have travelled with this time around.