Rome, the beautiful eternal city. Must admit, I felt slight travel stress when I thought that I should fit over 2000 years of the history of civilization in one long weekend. And soon I came to realize that I – obviously – couldn’t. And here is my first Rome tip: choose a few sights and places of interest, reserve time for wandering the side streets and discovering authentic trattorias and gateways with fountains and orange tree gardens and leave the rest until the next time.
Rome in late March was warm. It was around 23 degrees Celsius during the two sunny days. The last day of our visit was also the time of the Maratona di Roma: around one o’clock in the afternoon we saw a stream of tired runners wrapped in their silver space blankets heading home from the finishing area near the Colosseum. The end of March is an excellent time to visit the city. The flowers and vines are blooming, the warmth and the sunrays caress the visitor and the tourist season with its costlier prices is still not fully on (unless Easter is dated on that particular weekend). The chestnut vendors and street musicians are out by the piazzas and the queues to the most popular gelaterias stretch out to the streets. One thing that surprised me was the number of heavily armed soldiers and police officers all around the city, at metro stations, by the squares and in front of all the official buildings. It is both reassuring and slightly alarming at the same time.
The Colosseum. A stage of raw history and a spectacular must. On my first visit to Rome we spent the day there, marvelling at the arches of the exterior, the arena, the hypogeum and the thrilling size and scale of it all. This time we decided to focus on the other sights. No other monument has impressed me as much as the Colosseo. I read somewhere that the arena could also be flooded for water battles: can you imagine that? It must have taken ages to create a sea battle setting and where did they get enough water for that? So, my recommendation is that watch the Gladiator one more time and go (preferably book you tickets online in advance to avoid the lines).
Circo Massimo. Have you biked or ran along the runaway at the Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, the one that has ceased operating? In Circo Massimo you can get a similar experience by galloping around the grass field. This is where the epic chariot races (remember Ben Hur) took place in Ancient Rome.
Fresh-produce markets. I love markets and market life: they are great for picking something fresh and seasonal as a to-go lunch. We visited the Campo de’ Fiori on Saturday around one o’clock pm and it was still busy and lively at that time. The selection includes for example cheeses, fruits, vegetables, cut flowers and moka pots. Globe artichokes (the one resembling a big green pinecone) were one local ingredient which we spotted on the menu in the trattorias as well. March is the prime season for the carciofo alla giudia. Another well-known market, Mercato di Circo Massimo, is closed for now, just to let you know.
Roman Cuisine. I could write extensively and with passion about this. One primo piatto I really enjoyed was salad with bresaola, arugula and parmesan, insalata di bresaola con rucola e parmigiano. Just add a little olive oil. Pure deliciousness in the colours of Italy. Delicious were also the pasta cacio e pepe, carbonara and the tiramisu.
Explore and walk around the Centro Storico. The historic centre is thick on skilful sculptures and magnificent artworks. For example the church Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi houses three of Caravaggio’s stunning paintings. If all of a sudden the lights go out as you are admiring the canvases, you must insert a coin in the light box.
And then there of course is the Pantheon. The unique and striking Pantheon. The rays of light come inside the monument from the oculus in the centre of the dome. And as sunlight gets in so does the rain. The rain water drains away from the small holes in the marble floor.