Well, Rami and I spent a few days in Rome, during which time we were routinely enamored of the architecture, enjoyed some of the best food we’ve ever had in our lives, and tried to take in as much of the city as was possible in such hot weather.
From a tourist’s perspective, Rome is a bustling city that unmercifully assaults your senses. Visually, it’s colorful and ornate, and the juxtaposition of ancient and modern is an impressive thing to see. The city smells alternately of mouthwatering eats and of piss. The summer sun beats down on your shoulders, and you’re left pouring sweat while the Italians that surround you look perfectly comfortable and hygienic in their Armani suits. The main streets of Rome are loud, buzzing places, while the smaller streets and alleys that lie just around the corner are typically quiet other than the sound of the occasional scooter zooming past. And the food, the food is divine.
Pizza with prosciutto
We Americans, particularly we Italian Americans, particularly we Italian Americans who live on the east coast, are accustomed to the pleasures of good pasta, pizza, and the like. I never, however, could have possibly anticipated the superiority of Italian pizza. It is simple, plentiful, and cheap. The crust crunches with perfection. The flavors are fresh and pure and strong. If I ever get back to Italy, getting a slice of pizza will be among the first things I do.
We were lucky enough to have two affordable restaurants across the street from us, so we were easily able to avoid the expensive and mediocre restaurants aimed at tourists. One of the nicest things about these restaurants is the fact that you can get a very decent half litre of red wine for five euros.
Mmmm, wine and mineral water
As for activities that did not revolve around food, we really enjoyed just walking around with only a vague destination in mind. For the most part, we did not plan the sites we wished to see in advance, and we simply stumbled on various attractions through the process of exploring. Rome is surprisingly compact, and there is something to see almost everywhere.
My favorite tourist attraction may have been Fontana di Trevi, which was just as I described – right behind a corner.
My favorite street, however, was Via Borgo Pio, located near the Vatican. It was a bit touristy, but the buildings were so typically Italian, and the smells were so tantalizing. While walking down this street, snapping photos, I realized how lucky I was to be there, and that I would never see anything like it at home or elsewhere.
A lot of people have asked me if I saw the Colosseum. The answer is yes, but we didn’t go inside. The line was very long and we were harassed by plenty of vendors and would-be tour guides. I did get a pretty good snap of the exterior, though.
We also spent one day at the beach in order to escape the city heat. Swimming in the Mediterranean was bliss. The water was refreshing and noticeably cooler than the air, but still extremely warm, especially in comparison to the icy Atlantic or to Lake Saimaa. The water had a high salt content, and floating along the surface of the waves was more than pleasant.
If you have’t already ascertained this, the trip was unforgettable. I wish my grandfather were alive, as I know he’d be thrilled by my travels, and I have so many things I’d like to ask him.