For six wondrous hours, I was in Rome. These six hours are strong contenders for the best six hours of my life, all in thanks to two amazing donne.
After two and a half days of whirl-wind travel to the Amalfi Coast, I arrived in Rome with the pleasure of visiting with my girlfriends and colleagues, Gaia and Christina. Their role in Rome was to facilitate Northeastern’s N.U.in Italy program. Unlike the rest of us who were American and working abroad away from our homes, these coordinators were Italian and supporting students in their country.
The best six hours of my life included truly the best pasta I have ever eaten, clinking limoncellos with girlfriends that I wasn’t sure I’d see again, and tossing a coin (incorrectly, as I later discovered!!) into the Trevi fountain.
These are the things miei amici (my friends) want you to know before visiting their city.
Firstly, Gaia is 22 years old and humbly admitted to not having seen Rome in its entirety. She says that rather than going inside the Vatican Museum or the Altare della Patria, a Roman would rather explore the hidden streets, churches, and gardens of the city. She hasn’t been to the Vatican museums, but she is very familiar with a part of Rome that nearly all the tourists miss.
Cristina pointed out that every time the city digs in an attempt to build new metro lines, they discover new ruins – a confirmation of the grandeur of the city. With that, she emphasizes that visitors must be prepared for the chaos that comes with moving about the city – patience is needed!
Although dirty, disorganized, and chaotic at times, Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world. It receives 50 million tourists every year. There are more than 155 museums and the city’s neighborhoods are countless.
Where to Eat and Drink
Rome is full of terraces where you can eat or have apertivo and you usually get to these terraces by entering the most ancient buildings and hotels. Rather than having a spritz at one of the touritsty bars where pigeons fly around your food and people take photos of you while you’re eating, a Roman would have apertivo on one of those serene terraces. There are plenty to explore, and the views won’t disappoint.
Stay away from the restaurants that display dishes at the entrance, and stay away from eateries that offer an endless menu. Restaurants in Rome have hundreds of customers during every meal, and it’s truly impossible to prepare 100 different first courses for everyone. If a restaurant has too many options on their menu, it’s likely that the food is not fresh – and you won’t be getting anything close to what Italian food should taste like.
My friend Gaia takes a lot of pride in her country’s food. She suggests that you go and seek out the following, and when it’s authentic and done right, it’ll taste like this.
It’s tough, not soft. And salty, but at the same time milky and buttery.. not cheesy.
Dense, aromatic, and frothy on top with a little sprinkle of cocoa.. You shouldn’t need sugar because when an espresso is made with the right amount of water pressure, it’s not bitter.
Creamy, not too sweet, and with fresh crumbles or pieces of fresh fruit in it. Gelato should never be icy.
“This is the real essence of what is important to Italians. Food.” ~Gaia
For more food inspiration, check out these 16 best foods to eat while you’re in Rome!
The Two Romes
Gaia shared with me that there are two different “Romes.” One is the city on the ground floor – the city that everyone knows about and lives every day. The other city, though, is on the roofs and terraces of the buildings in Rome. This aspect of Rome is largely only known by Romans and Italians. For more insight on this hidden Rome, check out an Oscar winning movie called “The Great Beauty.”
Cheers to you two! Until we meet again, Gaia and Cristina!