Tales of a City Girl

Rome – if you haven’t been yet, why not?

Take enough incredible pizza and pasta to sway Dr Atkins, a cavalcade of monumental history and architecture on every corner, and a busy excited buzz from breakfast to midnight, and you’ve got the recipe that makes up Rome. If food and culture are your bag, Rome is for you.

I chose Rome as somewhere to take the boy for his 30th birthday for a few days and wanted somewhere that was romantic without being cheesy.

Rome fit the bill perfectly.  Although the hotel did try their best to persuade me to try their romance package, where for a bargain 60 Euros there would be rose petals up to the bed, a message in lipstick on the mirror, and ‘our’ song playing on the iPad. I declined politely, only in part because I can’t think of what ‘our’ bloody song would be.

Apart from a rather intense idea of what romance is, the hotel was brilliant – a central boutique with a different personality assigned to each room.  We stayed in iFashion, complete with a clothing store scene on the walls and fashion magazine wallpaper.

The room also came with an iPad, mood lighting, and the comfiest memory foam bed I’ve ever come across.  Wonderful for a young couple with a tech-obsessed boyfriend obsessed with playing with the mood lighting when his overheated girlfriend wanted a nap – but maybe a touch too hostel-y if you’re going with a family.

Rome, at its soul, is a city of history and not the boring sort either. Architecture dominates Rome, from the enormous Colosseum and eerie Pantheon, to churches which hide incredible stories and ceiling frescos behind their non-descript doors (check out Chiesa di S Ignazio to see what I mean).

We took a freebie walking tour in Rome, which turned out to be one of the best things we did in the city, especially given the amount of time we had. We were the only two taking the tour and our guide, a half Dutch half Italian guy the colour of mahogany, took us around all the amazing sights for free.

Nothing injects you with the enthusiasm of a city more than someone who lives there and wants to shout about it – so I would thoroughly recommend going on one.

You also can’t go to Rome without checking out Vatican City, if only to check out the world’s smallest city. At once ethereal and majestic, it houses the stunning Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica, which should be on everyone’s tick list of world sights.

We did a tour of the Vatican City which helped skip the 3 hour queues in the 39 degree heat (yeah Rome is hot. Very. Bloody.Hot) but neither of us were convinced you need to fork out the money. You could probably be sneaky if you’re clever about it – go around the back where the tours go and sidle in with them. I think it would then just be the case of buying a ticket to the museum (a lot cheaper than partaking in a tour) and ambling along at your own pace.

That way you’d also skip spending as much time in the Vatican Museum as we did, playing sweaty sardines with 500 other people.

The food in Rome is the pinnacle of Italian fare, and thus I’d argue the pinnacle of food any-bloody-where. Trust me when I say an American Hot from Pizza Express is always going to be a letdown after you’ve sampled the pizza in Rome.

This is the real stuff, where two beautiful pizzas with the lightest, fluffiest dough and freshest, tastiest ingredients is going to give you change for 15 Euros in a trattoria (as long as you’re careful and don’t go for food anywhere near the main tourist sights).

I don’t know how the Italian women are all so beautiful and lithe – all the best food is mostly carbohydrate. We ate pretty simply but the food was incredible.

Try anywhere in Trastavere across the river, which is Rome’s bohemian centre and former working-class ghetto and home of the best trattorias around.

Or for somewhere very Italian, try Osteria Dell’Angelo on Via Giovanni Bettelo by Vatican City. Don’t expect you are necessarily going to get what you order though.  I’m not convinced the guy spoke English – which is fine with me.

We stayed in iRooms Rome
Our free walking tour was with Rome Free Walking Tour

Image attribution: Dan’s Flickr (he still insisted I give him the correct attribution)