It was 12:03AM the morning of when I actually bought my ticket to Rome. Just an hour before I had been hyperlinking hotels on Expedia via text to Ladan while she was still connecting to the intermittent wifi in a cafe in Sicily. It’s amazing what planning can be accomplished in just several minutes when your partner in crime informs you of their remaining 4% iPhone battery. The clock was ticking because I was absolutely determined to go to Rome the next day, meaning that same morning.
Actually I had been determined for quite some weeks, but I hesitate to commit to such things because I was down to the wire with work deadlines and somehow think depriving myself of the pleasure of a few days in Rome with a friend means the universe will exponentially reward me with riches and success. But I’ve come to find things don’t really work that way, and a true holiday is something humans need because we are not machines and it is in fact pleasure and relaxation that recharges us with the energy needed to take on the world. At least that’s how I’m choosing to see things from now on.
Plus, Rome is just the kind of place that I refuse to go to without people that are locals of some kind. On my first trip I had the hook up of some very kind acquaintances based in Rome as designers for Brioni to show me around. Obviously, they knew what was up so it was only natural that I fell in love with the place one pasta at a time. Rome is the kind of city that is simultaneously renowned for being spectacular, and a huge tourist trap. I don’t really know about the latter though because I basically don’t do anything touristy anywhere anymore. Not because I think I’m better than that, but because I can’t be bothered. I figure the Vatican and the Trevi Fountain aren’t going anywhere. They’ve been there long enough so it’s a safe assumption. Plus, I prefer to imagine they are absolutely spectacular than ever be disappointed. I have been known to take people to Versailles and tell them to skip the palace because it’s boring, and stood at the gates of ancient Troy complaining how it’s infinitely smaller than legend made it seem. Travel for me has instead become a sociological experiment and an escape for my mind and soul to imagine the hundreds of lives I could be living in any given place. So that being said I want to mingle with the locals, which brings me back to Ladan.
Ladan is the kind of woman who, like me, might find herself at home anywhere in the world. In fact she has and one of those places was Rome after a stint in Cairo, another exotic place she was based as a correspondent reporting on organised crime for globally renowned political and economic publications. Naturally, Ladan ended up in Rome for a year or two. She has since moved onto to new assignments but returns often to work and visit her charming array of Roman friends she so kindly integrated me into on this trip. She is just the kind of girl that would take me to buy overpriced cocktails from a bar owned by Berlusconi instead of the Colosseum, because she gets me. Since we almost died in a riptide together in Hawaii the day after my sister’s wedding, we are bosom buddies in a quest to live a life with memories that read like chapters from a spy’s memoir.
This fact terrifies my sister who midway through our unannounced trip we decided to send pictures of us in front of an unplaceable palm tree to convince her that we were on a spur of the moment trip together to Beirut. She was not amused and called our bluff, but surely remained a bit uneasy for the remainder of our days together in Rome. This was of course after we discovered that in fact, booking hotels at 1AM in the morning on your iPhone when the battery is dying is not conducive to successful trip planning. We ended up in a totally random neighbourhood with long romantic cab rides to everywhere.
But in the end we didn’t get up to much trouble. Perhaps a few too many glasses of prosecco, a cheeky cigarette or ten, and splurging on vintage at every single stop. Oh, and me considering the possibility of eloping with the very handsome Ariens (pictured somewhere in this post) despite that I’m pretty sure he just proposed to me with the eventual goal of obtaining a US passport. Italians waste time on all the right things, like drinking and eating but not in love. They are real gentlemen though. Well dressed and wonderful hosts, which I found out after enjoying a homemade lunch with Ladan on Ariens’ terrace. Other than my potential elopement, our desire for constant adventure was perhaps subdued by the smell of jasmine floating all over the city this time of year.
I left just like I did the last time, knowing that Rome is a place I need to come back to. Not because I still didn’t see the Trevi Fountain or step foot in Vatican City, but because it is the Eternal City. Eternally beautiful, eternally seductive, eternally delightful. Isn’t it nice knowing such a place will always be there.
There are a few neighbourhoods in Rome I particularly enjoy. Trastevere is a great area. The name means across the river which is precisely where you will find it. Monti though is our favourite neighbourhood and where we spent most of our time as Ladan used to live here. It’s right in the centre of Rome but quaint and quiet because car traffic doesn’t easily pass through. Walking is the best way to get around Rome, weather permitting, and in this case some nice route is to start at the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola and then walk down into Trastevere. Another good stroll is from Villa Borghese down to the Hotel de Russie. Here are those addresses and any more worth knowing, but of course not at all a definitive guide to seeing Rome, but rather my personal favourites.
Where to eat…
Ristorante Baccano – A nice little spot for a traditional Italian lunch where waitresses wear cute little black outfits with white aprons for extra charm. Via delle Muratte, 23, 00187 Rome
Coromandel – For an Italian meal that is a bit less traditional with very kind staff and cut decor. Via di Monte Giordano, 60, 00186 Rome
Renato et Luisa – A quaint place to enjoy an authentic Italian meal with no tourists in sight. Via dei Barbieri, 25, 00186 Rome
Ivo a Travestere – A no fuss but extra delicious local pizza spot that is a favourite of Ladan’s. Via di S. Francesco a Ripa, 158, 00153 Rome
Pizzeria ai Marmi – A true Roman pizzeria, that is to say serving up pizzas of the thinner and lighter kind. Viale di Trastevere, 53, 00153 Rome
La Barrique – A casual and affordable food and wine bar in Monti to enjoy a great meal. Via del Boschetto, 41, 00184 Rome
Fatamorgana – Gelato stop for some unexpected seasonal flavors as well as the classics. Via degli Zingari, 5, 00184 Rome
Urbana 47 – A nice pit stop for a casual lunch on a charming pedestrian street in Monti. Via Urbana, 47, 00184 Rome
King Size Vintage – I went pretty crazy here finding vintage Gucci tee shirts, Valentino blazers, and perfectly worn denim. Definitely a must visit with fair prices in Monti. Cash only so come prepared. Via Leonina, 79, 00184 Rome
Pifebo Vintage Shop – A big retro and fun vintage shop that is quite well organized and worth spending some time in. They actually have three locations in Rome, all of which are good. Via Serpenti 135-41 (Monti), Via dei Valeri 10 (San Giovanni), Via dei Volsci 101b (San Lorenzo)
Twice Vintage – A great vintage store in the Trastevere neighbourhood where we spent some time. Via di San Francesco A Ripa, 7, 00153 Rome
La Soffitta – A sweet little shop we stumbled upon by chance run by a darling little old lady. Lots of romantic things like precious nightgowns from the 50’s and some beautiful dresses and Italian leather bags. Via G. Mameli, 14 Rome
Less common sightseeing…
Hotel del Russie – The courtyard of Hotel del Russie is a gorgeous place to watch stylish old Italian men take meetings and drink prosecco while eating olives. Very sophisticated indeed. Via del Babuino, 9, 00187 Rome
Villa Borghese – This stunning park is one of the most beautiful places in Rome in my opinion and a perfect place to spend a sunny morning exploring. Villa Borghese, 00197 Rome
Fontana Dell’Acque Paola – If you’ve ever seen the film The Great Beauty the opening shot begins here above Rome, where you’ll find this beautiful fountain and its gorgeous view. Via Garibaldi, 00153 Rome
Bars and nightlife…
Bar Del Fico – Hands down everyone I know in Rome knows this bar and thinks it’s a great place to hang out, meet new people and enjoy some prosecco or an aperol spritz. The system is a bit odd, so you pay for your drinks in advance and then order them at the bar. Via Della Pace, 34/36, 00186 Rome
Garbo – A very cool little late night spot with an old school Italian vibe. Perfect if you want to stay out late and enjoy drinks with friends over conversation versus a wild party, plus a friendly and funny staff. Their motto is “Garbo is for all!” so truly, come as you are. Vicolo di Santa Margherita, 1, Rome
Salotto 42 – This is kind of a swanky cocktail bar with a mixed crowd. The music is loud and the crowd makes for some interesting people watching, and it may or may not be owned by the controversial Berlusconi, but hey…who cares, it’s a good night out. Piazza di Pietra, 42, 00186 Rome
Black Market – Unanimously one of the most popular bars in Monti, this is a busy late night spot for cocktails and music which is often live here. Via Panisperna, 101, 00184 Roma