So, remember when I went through all the trouble to try to do my WFH program from Italy? Well, I managed to squeeze a week in one of my favorite cities while I worked, Roma. I’ve only been to Rome once before. This was about 5 years ago, when I traveled to Europe for the first time, with Sophia. Although we spent a short period in Rome during that trip, we managed to squeeze a huge chunk of the touristic sites within those two days. Since I already did the big historic places, I figured I would spend this week in Rome exploring new food spots and immersing myself in some local Roman day to day things. Since I still had to work NY hours, I only had the mornings and a weekend to really do the sight seeing I wanted to do. This ended up being a little tougher compared to my WFH routine in Barcelona.
First off, I booked an Airbnb within a neighborhood not so close to the city center, Testaccio. The apartment was also on the fifth floor (6th) of a building with no elevator. To top it off, it was the middle of summer and the weather was at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). I arrived at the Fiumicino Airport and took the train into the city. Instead of taking the train to the Termini Station, like I did last time, I got off in a neighborhood near Testaccio. Thus, my sweaty journey began. I had to haul a checked bag, carry on bag, and a big weekender bag in the heat all the way to my airbnb. What could have been a 15 minute walk, took me about an hour to get to the apartment. Thankfully the host met me at the entrance of the apartment complex, and helped me with my bags to the top floor.
Since I arrived in the morning, I had some time to eat lunch and get some essentials before logging on to work. I googled some places and found myself at the Felice Testaccio Restaurant, eating a delicious Cacio e Pepe. I will go into the different kinds of pastas later. I strolled into a market after lunch and got a few things. I have to say, I was caught off guard with the Italian spoken here, because I had gotten used to speaking Spanish daily for a month in Spain. I started responding in Spanish, haha! Well after a little exploring around the neighborhood, I got back to my apartment and went back to work. By the time it was 10 PM, it was 4 PM back in NY. I was hungry and restaurants started closing at 11 PM. Thankfully, my boss understood and let me sign off early that week due to making sure I was able to make it to a place to eat. I ended up at this restaurant in my neighborhood (about a 5 minute walk) called Ristorante Angelina. I had a delicious Carbonara!
The next day I decided to figure out how to get to the meeting point for my tour that was scheduled the following Saturday. The time to meet was at 7:30 AM, so I had to make sure I knew what transportation to take, in order to make it there on time. I started off a little slow since I tried to walk a little bit through the market center across the street on my way to a nearby bus stop. The bus stop warned that I could not get a metro pass on the bus and that I had to buy it prior to me hopping on the bus. So I walked 15 minutes to the nearest metro station to get my week pass. I ended up at the meeting point about one hour later. Let me just forewarn that public transportation in Rome is not that reliable, which is why a lot of people recommend you walk everywhere you can while in Rome. Unfortunately, since I was staying in an outside neighborhood, I had to rely on some buses to get to the city center. If it was ever too late at night I opted for Ubers and Taxis to get back home. I was warned that taxi drivers were on strike due to the government at the time trying to legalize Uber benefits to workers. There were various reasons for this, but we can talk about this another time.
I ended up exploring the Leonardo Da Vinci museum, which interestingly was not filled with his artwork, but rather his inventions! You might think Art, right away when you think of Da Vinci, but people forget to mention that he was a genius inventor of his time, and some scientists were inspired by his way of thinking, which in turn led to some modern inventions we have today. I spent the rest of my Friday eating more pasta and working. Saturday came around, and I was off to my tour. I booked a tour to Pompeii, which is located south of Rome, and Naples. The tour had us hike Mount Vesuvius, in 100 degree weather, and gave us a tour of the old city of Pompeii. I was so excited about this tour because Pompeii’s tragedy always fascinated me. I can’t quite explain it, but it’s one of my favorite history time periods. I learned a lot about society back in those times, all I can say is, some things never change.
I ended up becoming friends with a fellow solo traveler from the Netherlands, Frank, while on the tour. He verified that I technically could not count my last trip to The Netherlands valid, due to the fact that I only visited Amsterdam. Looks like I need to take a trip to Holland again! We then ended up last minute joining a bar crawl I found through Airbnb experiences. I ended up meeting other fellow Americans and international travelers. It was a good immersive day for my third day in Italy.
Sunday was soon here, and I spontaneously booked a train ticket to Naples the same day. I figured, Why Not? I spent my good money on a fast trip, which only lasted about an hour. This cut down my travel time! If I would have bought a cheaper ticket, It would have taken me about 3-4 hours to get to Naples by train. I stepped off at Napoli Centrale and searched for L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele. This is the place where Julia Roberts ate her first Italian pizza in the movie, Eat, Pray, Love (aka one of my favorite movies). I was so excited to eat here, and the universe decided that it was not my time. The restaurant was closed unexpectedly at 2PM and was not going to re-open until 5PM. By that time I would be on my way back to Rome. So, I did what any traveler would do and look up the next best thing! That’s how I ended up at Starita. A small, yet bustling, pizzeria where I had my first real Italian pizza. My heart sunk as I took my first bite. This surpasses the popularity of the NY/NJ Pizza, hands down.
I got back home around 7 PM and then picked a place for dinner. I decided I wanted to start seeing a bit of the Trastevere neighborhood. I heard many good things. I ended up at this great restaurant where I tried the Amatriciana! What a delicious twist to your classic Pomodoro! I walked a bit around Trastevere after dinner and then caught a bus back home.
Monday I was determined to get my bit of exploring done and walked to see if I could check out The Pantheon, this was one of the places I did not make it to on my last trip. Unfortunately, there was a really long line and it was 85 degrees with humidity outside. I also overheard that you could not enter The Pantheon if you did not cover your shoulders and arms. So I diverted my trip to get lunch and then hit a Zara to get something that could cover my arms.
Summer Travel Tip: My cousin recommended me to buy a linen button down shirt. I noticed that some people wore these a lot this summer. The material is very light and breathable, which makes it not feel too heavy if you’re wearing this outside. It also helps with covering your shoulders and arms to avoid some bad tan lines from shirts you use. Personally, I prefer a beach bikini tan over a t-shirt tan.
I was even more determined the next day when I woke up at 6 am to arrive at The Trevi Fountain at 7 am. I had heard rumors that it was almost impossible to get pictures at The Trevi Fountain because so many tourists visited there during the day, and night! I had read about getting there early near sunrise to get less people in your picture, and it was starting to get busy at 7 am because EVERYONE had the same idea to go early. *Face palm*. Nonetheless, I got some good pictures with my handy dandy tripod!
I enjoyed a free cream filled croissant that the baker graciously gave me. I think she was pleased that I tried hard to make my order in Italian. A cappuccino later, and I was off to The Pantheon, round 2. This time I made it to the front of the line and talked a bit about Rome and Spain with a fellow Peruvian and her daughter. It was nice to speak some Spanish again. Once I entered The Pantheon, I understood what the hype was about. Although it is small, it used to be a sacred religious place. It also has a hole in the middle of the ceiling (it was built this way purposely). They say it’s a nice sight to be inside when it’s raining. I recommend taking a peak here. Afterwards, I made my way to the northern part of the city and explored the Gardens of the Villa Borghese.
Wednesday I had reserved a ticket to visit the Villa Borghese. What a neat place. You learn about who lived there and why. Also why this villa was even built at the very location that you find it in. Not to give anything away, but the Medici family had a lot to do with this place due to their empire and business throughout Italy, for various reasons. I then looked up one of the restaurants that Anthony Bourdain recommended to visit, Roma Sparita. Hands down, had the best Cacio e Pepe of my life here!
Later that night, I managed to sign off work a little early and took a bus to a random restaurant for a quick pasta. Not a favorite place, to be completely honest. It also was located in the city center, so it was a tourist trap. Sometimes you have to go through some downs on your travels, but that’s ok, there can be many ups! I then crossed the bridge and found myself at Pier21’s Salsa Night. I was very impressed by how well Italians danced Salsa and found myself dancing a few songs throughout the night. Although I’ve been taking classes for Salsa on 2, everyone here dances Salsa on 1. As a woman in partner dancing, it was not too hard since I have to just follow my partner and let him lead me. If you’re looking for something different to do while in Rome, I recommended checking this place out in the Summer.
And on my last day in Rome, I had to take a Pasta Cooking class. I HAD TO! We learned how to make pasta, from scratch! Riccardo is a brilliant chef that was very helpful when explaining the history of Roman pasta and how you can cook it many ways. Here, I learned that the pasta, bread and even cheese made in Italy is 100% safe to eat, not that you would think otherwise, but more for our gluten free friends. Since food is processed in America, people tend to get allergic reactions to the gluten in food. In Italy, you won’t have a problem eating because everything is organic and fresh! In class, we made Cacio e Pepe, Amatritciana and spinach stuffed raviolis. I was in heaven.
Pasta Fun Fact: The Cacio e Pepe is actually the base of the Roman pastas. It is made of: pasta, pecorino romano, and pepper. Add Guanciale (pork cheeks) into this recipe and you get the Gricia pasta. Add egg into this recipe and you get the Carbonara. If you replace the egg for a Pomodoro sauce, you get the Amatriciana.
I tried to fit all of my busy days within one blog post, which I know isn’t ideal, but it’s the way I like to remember it. Everything I did I always thought, “Why Not?” And then remembered Hilary Duff’s hit from The Lizzie McGuire movie. I got to do a lot with one week in Rome, but there was still so much I didn’t get to see or do. At least I was certain that one of my wishes from the Trevi Fountain was certain, I will come back to Rome. That’s what I wished for last time! I had to sneak in some of Italia on this trip, I craved the food, history, and architecture. There is so much history in Rome itself, which is why I fell in love with this city.
So what’s next? Can you guess?