My family’s trip to Rome. Photos, stories, and bucket list successes.
Upon arriving by plane into the humid, hot, summer air of Italy, one of my first impressions riding through Rome by taxi was that everything was close. You couldn’t drive for more than a minute without passing by one famous landmark or another. The city reminded me of a cheaply made postcard, photoshopped so that all the landmarks fit into one frame. It was also amusing that these ancient structures were right next to busy street intersections, casually blending in to the rest of the city. None of these monuments or great feats of ancient architecture ever failed to captivate me, though.
I stared with wide eyes at the immense icons. The Colosseum was one of the first figures that we drove past on our jet-lagged taxi commute to our first hotel.
Our hotel was located at the top of the famous Spanish steps, which were always flocked with people.
The ancient fountain at the bottom could be used to fill up our water bottles, and the steps gave a gorgeous view of the surrounding buildings. It was a beautiful place to stay.
We plopped our suitcases down on the floor of our tiny blue hotel room. All we wanted to do was sleep for three days straight, but because of the time change and the long flight, it was early in the morning and we had to force ourselves to stay up so as not to mess up our bodys’ sleep cycles for the rest of the week.
For those of you who have never experienced jet lag: feel lucky. It is not a sensation I would wish on even my worst enemy (not that I have enemies). The closest words in the English language to the phenomenon are “exhausted” and “nauseous.” But I have experienced these two feelings before, and they are very different from the way jet lag feels. It’s painful and unpleasant, to say the least.
Nevertheless, we carried on, forcing ourselves to stay up. We took a double-decker bus to see the city from high up.
Cars were tiny and traffic was brutal. Fast, but brutal.
This was my first time experiencing true humidity. Sweat broke out all over me, and I felt like I was breathing in hot water vapor from a shower.
Luckily, the sights kept me distracted.
The apartments and buildings were gorgeous, with flowers and clotheslines dangling high above the streets.
Many tourists had purchased cute parasols, which was probably a smart decision considering the heat.
I tried to take a lot of pictures, but the jet lag was consuming me, and my biggest concern was staying awake. At one point, my head began to drift downward, and the only thought that made me jerk awake was the reminder that a pickpocket might steal my camera. I wasn’t in California anymore.
After the bus tour, we went into a little side alley for a planned excursion: a 3D movie experience about Ancient Rome. My dad was the only one who didn’t catch the jet lag, so he was enthusiastic about it as we all crankily complained about our terrible pain.
It was nice to be in a dark cool theatre for a few moments, though. And the “ride” (the theatre chairs moved along with the movie) forced me to stay awake. Jet lag nausea was not like normal nausea, so the movement did not increase the nausea or induce motion sickness.
Eventually, after a few grueling hours later, we made it to dinner time. We had pasta in a restaurant downstairs from our hotel. Here we encountered another horror: allergic reaction. My brother is allergic to all nuts, and we forgot to check with our waiter to see if pine nuts were used in the pesto that he ordered. He and my mother were ushered inside and they didn’t come out until much later (praise science for epipens).
It was about 6pm when I plopped down into my hotel bed. I slept heavily through the night (one of the best sleeps I ever had) and when I woke up in the morning, my body was perfectly in sync with the time zone.
Rome was gorgeous. Golden brown buildings, white fountains, imposing monuments. One street would be lined with designer brand clothing stores, with thousand-dollar purses hanging in spotless windows. Another street would be filled with family owned restaurants that dated back centuries. Gelato shops were, of course, my favorite, but another one to mention is the wood carver’s shops.
These shops had lots of useless trinkets and clocks, wooden toys and figurines. Hand painted or left as brown. The shops smelled amazing. Like fresh-cut sun-warmed wood. Stepping inside one of these stores was a treat all in its own. We also bought a tiny Pinocchio figurine for our Christmas tree.
The best part of Italy, and I say this without question, is the food. I can barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I remember in detail almost every single meal I had while in Italy.
The best meal I ever had (period) was in Rome. We were seated outside of a little restaurant, with pedestrians walking by us. Italy has very few restrictions on smoking, so the two ladies seated close to us went through about five cigarettes each during our meal. This is especially problematic if you have asthma (like my little brother), but for me it just added to the overall experience of the culture. A bearded man came by the restaurant with his acoustic guitar, and set his case open for donations. He played in the background while we had our meal.
I ordered risotto, which was odd, since I normally hate risotto back home (too gooey). This was different. A fresh bed of rice was laced with fresh vegetables; zucchini, mushrooms, carrots. On top of the dish was a coating of mozzarella cheese, which was melted just exactly to my prefered meltiness. Everything was seasoned to perfection. I kept eating and eating long after I was full. My dad only had one bite of it, but he agrees with me that it was one of the best dishes we’d ever tried.
For the most part in Italy, the more out of the way/the less english speaking the restaurant, the better the food.
That being said, you really can’t go wrong with the more touristy joints. They are popular for a reason.
However, there was one “must see” place that really wasn’t worth the trip.
Giolittis is listed on every travel website’s “best places to get gelato in Rome.” But our experience at this infamous attraction was not to be desired. The crowds were huge and the lines were long. You had to know your choice before you even had time to get to the counter. We all joked at the parallels with Seinfeld’s famous “Soup Nazi” episode. It was better to just go into a smaller gelato shop for your daily/hourly fix.
PSA: If you are a big fan of mint chocolate chip ice cream and want to try the gelato version: DO NOT ORDER MINT GELATO. Mint gelato is closer to the flavor of toothpaste (not saying that’s a bad thing). My dad loves mint chocolate chip, so he decided to order one scoop of chocolate and one scoop mint. I tried it, and it was pretty shocking. Not bad, just not what you would expect. Toothpaste flavored ice cream. Instead, try stracciatella. It’s your closest bet.
Unfortunately my pictures from Rome are lacking, so it’s difficult to fit the stories and memories together.
There were so many street performers in the tourist-dense areas of the cities. Living statues and artists composed most of these. Once I accidentally stepped on a chalk masterpiece taking form on the ground in front of me, the artist was still in the middle of creating it. I was too preoccupied being wide-eyed at the beautiful buildings above me, and I feel bad that I didn’t notice in time.
Graffiti in Europe is so much more imaginative and artistic than that in America.
This is my favorite piece of Graffiti that I have ever seen. I only wish I could have gotten the Colosseum in the shot too, but a car was in the way.
We also got to visit the Trevi (twice).
This beautiful fountain was massive, and surrounded by giddy tourists. Venders forcefully tried to sell roses to ladies passing by, tricking them into making a purchase by handing them a flower. Other vendors sold light-up toys that could be launched high into the air, only to gracefully flutter down. The blue-purple lights added a magical note to the ambiance.
Some people say that throwing a coin into the fountain means that you get a wish. Others say that throwing a coin into the fountain means that you will one day return to Rome. Either way, you’ve got to throw in a coin. My brother and I happily obliged,
and I am so thankful that I got to cross of The Trevi from my bucket list.