Why have I never visited the ‘Eternal City’? I had a few close encounters in Italy, when I was travelling with some college friends during my year abroad in London. It is mostly in the North as we made our way down from Venice to Milan, Florence and Pisa. However, we never made it to Rome as we ran out of time and money before the Christmas holidays.
As our plane descended onto the runway, I can see why people called this place the eternal city. It was a beautiful time to visit this hauntingly old city surrounded by ruins from the more glorious times. While at the same time, winter was at low end of the tourist season, which meant….less queuing more sightseeing! I loved the warmer climate, which made it seem like a bit of winter escape from London.
As I walked down the cobbled streets lined with gelaterias and family restaurants, I couldn’t wait to be seated inside the warmth and sip on Italian regional wines while feasting on traditional Roman cooking. Being in Italy, there were many different types of eateries to choose from. Mr. New Yorker and I both loved the trattorias scattered across the many neighbourhoods across the city. Trattorias are family owned small restaurants that offer simple honestly cooked meals featuring the traditional Roman menu.
Here are some of my favourite trattorias found around the Spanish steps (a popular Roman shopping area with many lovely restaurants) and also near the Vatican:
Otello alla Concordia, Via della Croce, 81, 00187 (hidden away restaurant offering the staples of pasta and secondi courses, make sure to try their fritti “little fried things” of artichoke and zucchini flowers).
Osteria Sostegno, Via delle Colonnelle, 5, 00186 (close walk to the Pantheon, with only a few tables, so make sure to book early and order their black truffle pasta!)
Giolitti, Via degli Uffici del Vicario 40 (Rome’s most famous gelateria started as a diary in 1900, now have served celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Pope John Paul II and the Obama family). I found about 10 flavours that I couldn’t find elsewhere here, but sadly could only choose 4 flavours!
Pizzarrium, Via della Meloria 43, (Don’t take this little takeaway pizza hole in the wall as any other pizzeria in Rome, this is the place that served some of Rome’s best sliced pizza, served on a wooden chopping board, each slice featured a fluffy dough and crunchy crust that were just perfection)
For an authentic local experience, I decided to find a local holiday rental in the centre of Rome, just a short walk from the Vatican. The lovely host Georgia welcomed us into her apartment building and showed us around her modern and sleek apartment.
We walked most parts of the city as Rome is very walking friendly. Also, because the metro system was not as developed as that of London, due to local construction and funding issues during the crisis, there were only two lines running through the central areas of the city. Use this as an excuse to burn off those delicious pizzas and pasta dishes 🙂
The Pantheon was one of the highlights of my trip. I was blown away by the sheer skill behind this architecture masterpiece from several thousand years ago and yet still standing today as a special function hall during festive seasons. On a beautiful sunny day, when you step into this space, the light fills the entire hall as the sunshine beams through the skylight at the top, time stood still during a moment like this.
When I walked through the Palantino (the site of old Roman ruins, which served as the town centre back in the day), I saw some statues and buildings carved with “Memento Mori”. This was the Roman’s famous way of embracing death. In the modern world, we see death as something to be avoided and shoved away, but yet the Roman’s way of remembering death enabled them to live each day with an ultimate purpose and to make each day count. Something very humbling for me to take away on this trip.
Rome is a beautiful city to spend a short weekend away, especially if you are a food lover like me with an appreciation of the Italian fine art of cooking. I made sure to stock up on porcini mushrooms and truffle oil at the artisan food shop around the Spanish steps to take some of these lovely flavours home. I wanted to extend this memory just that little bit longer until the next time I return.