There is something about this time of year that makes me long for Rome. For the warmth of her sun, the organized chaos of her roads, the vibrancy, ancient history and Roman architecture, the beautiful people, art, music and modestly guarded opulence that is the Vatican. Not to mention the food, espresso‘s, pastries, gelato and yummy pizza.
My time there in both 2010 and 2011 left me with a sense of belonging. As though I’d found my second home, or for a while even my first. Isn’t it interesting how a new place can creep into our hearts in that welcome way …
For those who haven’t had the pleasure and are considering a visit to Italy, I’d like to offer a few suggestions, tell you what worked best for me and offer some must-see ideas from my visits. If Italy isn’t on your wish list, it probably should be.
The must sees that everybody sees:
Take a tour of Vatican City and the Coliseum, visit the Pantheon and learn about the ghost of the Trevi Fountain. Sit on the Spanish Steps with lovers from around the world, admire the Victor Emmanuel Monument even if the locals don’t and introduce yourself to the she-wolf that raised Romulus and Remus. Honour the angels of Castel Sant Angelo and say a prayer at the Papal Alter.
The extra bits that make it special:
Eat loads of gelato. Don’t think about it, just do it, a different flavor every day until you know which your favourite is. After much experimenting and research, I can confirm that mine is pistachio.
Take in the detail; it’s where the beauty lies.
Take note of the street art, the signs, stencils and small marks of Rome that make it special. Like these I saw in Trastavere.
Eat on the go, fruit and sweets, smoothies and deliciousness.
Find Bernini’s Elephant! Especially if you are from Africa.
On my next visit I hope to:
Walk my dog and park him just like this whilst I pop in for a quick shop.
Hire a bicycle to take to the local store.
Leave a love-lock on one of the bridges as a promise of my eternal love.
A best kept secret I must share with you is the Capuchin Crypt below the Capuchin Church, which contains the remains of about 4000 people. You can’t take photos here, but actually, you won’t want to. The experience itself is extraordinary, eerie and worthy of respect.
A note to myself for the next time:
Take more time to feel and see and breath-in, rather than rush around between attractions. Live Rome. Feel Italy.
How I got there:
Getting there from Cape Town was easy, both times I used the same routing flying with Emirates via Dubai to Rome. It’s my preferred airline, if I’m allowed such a thing, and seemed the natural choice.
I was even lucky enough to be given an upgrade to Business Class on the way home, simply for agreeing to take a later flight, overly generous for sure, yet it has left me even more in love and loyalty with their service. One day I dream of flying First Class, but anywhere on that plane heading to Rome – will make me happy.
Where I stayed:
On both visits I did quite a bit of travelling around the country with stays in lovely spots in Rome, Umbria, Tuscany, Florence, Carpi and the Island Monte Argentario. Of my best finds were Hotel Forte Braccio in Montane, Hotel Leon Bianco in San Gimignano and the Alimani Hotel group in Rome. All highly recommended and I look forward to a return to all.
It is my great hope to return to Italy for a few months later this year, to revisit the areas I’ve left a part of my heart in, learn to speak Italian and possibly take a cooking class. I hope that this summary of favorites will encourage you to do the same.
As I dream and plan I leave you with the following quote:
What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.” — Erica Jong”
In the interim I head to Vietnam in June, and have opted for the same airline. Isn’t it wonderful that Emirates can take me just about anywhere. In the end it really is all about relationships, isn’t it.
See you in the air, see you in Roma.