In Rome, one visits the de rigeur Vatican, Trevi Fountain, and Coliseum. The Spanish Steps and the Pantheon. Bernini’s sculpture at Piazza Navona and the Borghese Gallery. A little deeper dive finds the Campo de Fiori market, the bridge of angels at Castel Sant’Angelo, the old Trastevere neighborhood and the Jewish Ghetto.
You start spending time in those neighborhoods and find little gems like Beppe and His Cheeses, the Roscioli bakery (although Michelin agrees, the lunchtime line down the street for take-out sandwiches is your clue to their excellence). Tiny cafes with no English, a fixed menu, and an unhurried Roman experience. Stepping into an open church door has found me standing in front of works by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Michelangelo. Not in a museum, but in the place for which they were intended. The customs confiscation museum is a mind boggling parade of things people try to get away with. And every stop for a minuscule cup of espresso, standing at the counter, is another moment for soaking in the lilting song of the Italian language.
Just walking along, look into shop windows. Stop and speak with people. The baker with the oven that is ‘part of the family’. The man in his narrow storefront, carefully re-caning a chair. The painter, restoring two hundred year old artwork. Look into the leather store, brimming with purses and jackets and wallets, and you’ll likely see the owner at a workbench, crafting the goods he is selling. I stood across the street, once, under a shade tree, watching a man make hats. It’s a different sort of world. The pride of craftsmanship is the norm. Skills are passed through generations. What we call ‘old world’ is so apt, here.
The key to a remarkable trip to Rome is to have some idea of your focus. What fascinates you? Clearly, for me, it’s the deep dive and the daily life. For you, it might be the lure of Ancient Rome (not just the Coliseum, but the Roman Forum, the Circus Maximus, Hadrian’s Tomb, Teatro Marcello, the ruins of the Roman baths and the Appian Way). Perhaps it’s the role of religion, from the Vatican to the dozens of churches with their opulent side chapels, ancient relics and impressive artwork – the Jesuits got their start here, and the Jewish Ghetto is one of the oldest in the world, second only to the one in Venice. It could be the architecture of all these places is what moves you, and we can set our goal to visit the rooftop views of the seventy-plus fantastic domes. Is it art? Rome boasts some remarkable galleries, and you’ll find every piazza has something wonderful to offer, a sculpture or a fountain, all with stories and histories. If it’s food, well. Do you want bistros or elegance or cooking classes or a meal in someone’s home? Or all of the above? There is of course wine in abundance, but also tastings and classes and tours into the wine regions of Tuscany and Lazio and Umbria. Perhaps your passion is photography. You’re in luck! Rome is phenomenally photogenic. I once traveled with a woman whose goal was to taste all the tiramisu in Italy. (Ok, maybe not all – but a minimum of one per day.) Another woman just told me that she wants to paint, there. How fabulous– So many choices for an ideal spot for an easel! I once made the focus of a trip finding earrings for each day. Many of my treasures came from the jewelry maker, himself. I had such a joyous vacation! So if you know draws you to Rome, I can help bring the focus to that, so you can return home with treasures and treasured moments.
I actually thought this was going to be a short little “what do you want to do in Rome?” post. Silly me. I don’t do short little posts, with ease. But you’re still reading, so there’s that.