The shade is halfway down to block the sun, but it’s already burning inside the train. A group of teenage scouts in uniform of some troop brigade chats loudly nearby, in front of me is a young law student, and, to my right, two ragazzi speak in thick dialect. I can barely understand them when they ask if I can close the shade completely. The regionale train takes nearly three hours to reach Rome from Naples, where I had just visited, and I am without water, slowly sweating out what little precious liquid remains in my body. But, hey, at least I don’t have to pee.
After arriving, I promptly find one of Rome’s many street fountains and replenish myself with the city’s pristine spring water, tossing some on my face, and, at the risk of sounding over-dramatic, it’s as if I am being baptized by the city herself.
Rome is that great city of my dreams, a beautiful place of history and art, sunny days of energetic people leading to cool, romantic nights bathed with that classic Italian lantern glow. It’s my favorite city in the world, I’ve said ad nauseam, and being back here is like that dream remembered.
Three years ago, I stayed in Rome for a month. Every morning I would head out and walk until well into the night. By the end of my stay, many of the locals joked that I knew the city better than them. Returning to Rome after having already seen and tried many of the top attractions and food items, I just wanted to wander and soak in that atmosphere I loved so much. It’s a strange feeling to have so many memories of a place so far from where one would call “home.”
This time I stayed at The Beehive, a “ho(s)tel” located conveniently near Roma Termini, Rome’s central station. This was a huge relief for me after the long train ride, especially since I could relax in their lounge with homemade meals and strong Wi-Fi. And a glass of organic wine in their private garden at the end of a long day is an experience only great poets could best describe.
Walks of Italy – Rome as a Local: Hidden Gems & Ancient Wonders
There were a few things I missed the first time. The Appian Way was still on my list, I hadn’t seen the Roman Aqueducts and the “Keyhole” on Aventino eluded me (I had previously thought it was on Gianicolo and scoured the hill looking for a nonexistent hole to peek through). As if by some travel miracle, I was invited on a Walks of Italy tour that covered all these attractions and more. Our guide was a knowledgeable and funny Brit-turned-Roman named Julia Charity. The tour started in front of Il Vittoriano, that unmissable giant white building otherwise known as the “wedding cake” or the “typewriter,” from where we ventured into the Jewish Ghetto with its Portico di Ottavia, the Temple of Apollo Sosianus and Teatro di Marcello (the prototype for the Roman Coliseum), followed by the aforementioned attractions, concluding with the Firing of the Cannon on Gianicolo, which has occurred midday since 1904.
A highlight during this visit was riding a scooter for the first time. I toured Rome the classic Roman way with Annie from Scooteroma. Speeding past the Aurelian Walls in a Vespa, then through Monti and Piazza Venezia, is an iconic experience I’ll never forget. The tour also included a trip into Testaccio for a visit to Trapizzino, where they serve their signature bread corners stuffed with delicious Italian stews. Annie calls her Vespa tours a “concierge service on wheels,” meaning guests don’t just get a scooter tour with an experienced guide, they also get food and advice.
Another fun adventure was a meal I had with BonAppetour, a dining-with-locals service that pairs visitors with Romans for intimate explorations into cuisine. They invited me for lunch on the private boat of the Societa Romana Nuotatori for a meal of pasta and seafood. You can read all about it in my article for BrowsingRome…
As I leave Rome, I’m filled with excitement at the chance of getting to know Florence better, though saddened with the feeling that I’m leaving a good friend — nay, a lover — that I hold so deep within my metaphorical heart. And though the Fontana di Trevi is under construction now, that coin I tossed in years before still seems to be doing its job. All roads lead to Rome, they say, and I have many more roads to explore.
Hover over photos for descriptions… Note the photo of the accordion player. I photographed him three years ago. I mentioned it to him as I tipped him and he just smiled.