Bellissima! This is all I can say. There is no word in any language that can sum up the amazing long weekend I have just had in Rome. The closest word is 'bellissima' translating as 'very beautiful, indeed', which Rome was and more!
Where to start I ask myself? The suggestion here would be food, however (maybe for once in my life) food was not the main focus! Everybody knows the top sites of Rome - the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum and the Vatican. I am relieved to say that I managed to see them all! My favourite was the Pantheon. There are many reasons for this: the main one being that I love the hole in the Dome. Symbolically, it represents the linking of earth and the heaven, as it as open to the sky where the heavens are. Even though I am not a religious person, I take comfort in thinking that the universe is watching over us and is there to lead us in the right direction. But enough of spiritual things and back to the Pantheon. Another reason that I like it so much is because of the architectural feat, it is being the only unreinforced dome in the world. I find it crazy to think that this was built thousands of years ago with much less technology than we have now but since then no one has managed to build another. Also I loved the subitities to the building like the slopping marble floor so that when it rains the water drains away quickly and un-noticiably. Finally, I love how I approached the building and it looked drab and old, but all that changes when you enter inside.
But what else did I see? I could sit here and list everything that I saw and did, however I truthfully can't remember the names of everything as there was so much and it would be rather boring! Throughout the weekend the biggest thing that stood out to me was history. Everywhere I went there was something historical, be it an Palace, Church, building or what not; you were surrounded. I also found it amazing to think that you were standing where thousands of years before people stood and carried out there lives. Before I came to a Rome I only new a little bit of history which I had learnt in school. Now I know a lot more but not nearly enough!
Like I've said in previous posts to really discover a city you have to just wonder. Part of the fun is finding some little back street with a church, cafe, shop or something or even seeing a funny sight. For me I saw a couple of funny sights: one was a cat on top of a fait 500 ( I found it funny!) and another was seeing a (English) tourist just put on a onzie for a photo in front of a fountain in Piazza Navona. I have no idea why, I daren't ask. Another for me was stumbling on this cute market in a Campo di Fiori, the produce all looked amazing and made me want to buy some and cook so badly (oh god I'm back to food again, it could only last so long!). One more was that I read in the 'bible' (The Lonely Planet Guidebook to Italy), to go to Cafe Farnese and order a 'un cafe alla casa' (a house coffee). So at 10am in the morning I ordered this, having no idea what it was. It comes - what looks like an expresso with a piece of lemon inside. I taste it. It's more then just an expresso and lemon. It has a very strong shot of a liqueur of some sought inside. I felt very silly ordering this at 10am, when everybody else was having latte's and cappuccinos (Italians have milky coffees with breakfast and then stronger expressos after breakfast. It is thought very odd to have cappuccinos in the afternoon). But there I was, the alcoholic who couldn't just have an expresso but had to have alcohol in it first thing - if only I was in Ireland as it would have been more acceptable there! Although, even though the liqueur expresso was a bit strong for me so early on, I defiantly think I'll be ordering it again!
Whenever I go to a big city I always like to find the best view. I love to then look over the city and see the whole place together with the mix-match of architecture, history and sites all crammed into a small area. Rome was no exception. I walked up to Gianicolo Hill and had sweeping views over the whole of Rome. I was in ore, sitting on the wall staring at all the sites. I found it so odd seeing all the layers of history throughout the city, with the remains from the Romans right up to more modern and imposing buildings such as the Il Vittoriano. I also went to the top (well nearly the top) of the Il Vittoriano, which again gave beautiful views over the city. As this building was in the centre the monuments were easier to spot!
Okay so I talked about the less touristy things that stood out to me in Rome, but now it's time for the inventible. Food. Again I ask - where do I start?
Well I'm going to begin with Pizza. A friend of the family who I aupair for, took me to this amazing Pizzeria near to Piazza Navona. I had a delicious goats cheese and tomato pizza. When I ordered this pizza I exspected soft goats cheese like I had had in England but what came was grated hard goats cheese, different but still tasty! The crust of the pizza was doughy and cooked to the perfection mixed with the strong flavours of the tangy tomatoes and goats cheese. Even though I was about to burst, the pizza was so good that I had to finish it! Afterwards the friend took me up to the cafe in Dart to have an afterlunch expresso - in true Italian style. It was a beautiful square building with a courtyard in the middle and the cafe on the second floor. I would highly recommend visiting it!
As I was wondering through the Trastevere district, I stumbled across this bakery that was dedicated to biscuits. Of course I had to go inside and have a look. To the right as you entered were the kitchens where everything was made and then there was rows and rows of biscuits: from milk biscuits, to frollini, to chocolate chip - so many! I tried one of the millionaire shortbread ones which was two shortbread biscuits sainwiched with caramel and then drizzled with chocolate. Now, I know I am in Italy and probably should have had something more Italian but I have a big soft spot for millionaires shortbread - so it was a must for me. And it tasted as good as it looked! Here's the link for it: so if you are ever in rome you know where you have to go to get biscuits.
For a quick morning snack, I popped into this cute looking bakery and picked a random pastry. What luck for randomness as inside was chocolate (in case you hadn't already gathered I'm a chocoholic!). What struck me about the yummiest of this pastry was that it was made with a basic puff pastry and then had a sweet filling and was dusted in icing sugar, the basicness of the puff pastry meant that the homemade Nutella filling was very prominent and not lost with the pastry. As you can imagine I was in heaven, savouring every mouthful as well as getting myself covered in icing sugar: all part of the experience right?
For yet another snack (I would like to point out here that I was walking all day so covered quite a few miles and worked up an appetite and I'm not just an obese person who has to eat every 5 minutes) I had read about a shop called Pompei that produced many unique flavours of tiramisue such as: strawberry, banana and chocolate, pistachio and hazelnut. So one afternoon I popped in and opted (after much deliberation) for a hazelnut one. I then took it and sat on the Spanish Steps in the sun and ate it. It was good, but not amazing. Sadly, I think it was too mass produced with the tirimisue coming prepacked in perfect square boxes and personally I have tasted better ones.
I'm looking back over this post and thinking oh I should add that and oh there was that as well, but sadly I can't cram everything in! I spent a magnificent 54 hours in Rome - trying to see, learn, absorb and taste as much as possible and consequently there is too much to write about. I have included some of my most memorable moments, but by no means all. Over time I will refer back to this trip and I know for sure that I will be returning to Rome in the not to distant future!
Ci vediamo Roma !