So you went for the nth time to Rome, big deal!
All the roads lead to Rome (and possibly all the pieces of literature regarding it in the last twenty centuries contain this cliché), and it is an undisputable truth that in the lifetime of an ordinary 21st century person, and even more of an Italian, a passage in the Eternal City is mandatory. Even as a Sardinian coming from an island actually closer to Africa than to continental Italy, Rome has always had a strange kind of charming and beckoning attraction to me. Beyond the Mediterranean Sea, this seat of a millenary culture that is fading away, and for some unpredictable reason also my capital, is always a pleasant visit. And even if it has blown its MMDCCLXVIII candle out this year, it still rocks.
Yeah, and “when in Rome do as the Romans do”, now tell us something we don’t know!
I have been already many times before in the Urbe, and I surely will many more in the future. Now, there is not even a point in trying to describe in few lines the magic of its romantic ruins and the monumental buildings without being disrespectful. I do not have the skills nor the presumption to put in words the feeling one can experience while walking across the forum of Trajan, or passing under the Arch of Constantine. What I would like to do however is to mention those smaller, cuter and perhaps more personal aspects of Rome which render the marble and solemn city somehow still a typical, provincial Italian city. And which ultimately makes it even more beautiful and enjoyable if you ask me.
So what to see?
The Colosseum stands there since 80 – as 80 AD, not the Depeche Mode and Prince decade, and it probably will also in the next two millennia, so you can take all the time in your life to visit it. What you don’t want to miss though is walking some twenty minutes south-west of the giant arena, cross the Tiber river and spend a night in Trastevere, whose name unsurprisingly means “beyond the Tiber”, in case you got already lost. This thriving quarter welcomed me the night before I had an interview, and the whole tension I had steamed off after I joined the first internationals/Erasmus-students drinking gathering I found outdoor. This is a quite common happening that you may expect to catch every night in Piazza Trilussa, a sort of cosy parlour which happens to be also a square on the shores of the river. But the neighbourhood can show a delightful face also in the daylight, when strolling around its shady alleys will make you wonder if you are still in the heart of a million inhabitants capital city.
Got it, the lost soul of the real Rome is in Trastevere. And the cool pictures for the Facebook album?
My favourite spot in the whole Rome is actually not far from there, a quite ignored (at least by the touristic guides) hill just a bit northern, the Gianicolo. Overlooking the Vatican City from its south-west side, at its feet sits the huge fountain (Fontanone) starring in the opening of The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza), the 2013 Oscar-winner Italian movie. But it is in the hilltop that this place gives its best: there one may find some unexpected peace provided by the near absence of tourists, broken only at noon by the volley of a cannon signalling the exact time. There is nothing more relaxing in Rome than taking a panino in one of the stands atop, sitting on a bench and savouring the spectacular panorama (for the records, an Italian word, you don’t say?)
Panini, panini…uh food!
Campo dei Fiori (field of flowers) is a rectangular square, strangely enough quite orderly delimited, at least when it is not hosting its outdoor morning fruit market. It was also the venue of the main event of February 1600: the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, one of the greatest Italian philosopher. Now an imposing statue of the friar, looking still quite irritated for the treatment he received, will direct you with his gaze at a bakery just right in front of him. It is a typical Italian forno where you will taste, and I do not think I am overstating, the best focaccia ever. Like ever-ever. I mean, just the mere writing about it makes me drool.
Rome is about Romance ain’t it? So where the romance at?
To witness the most romantic sunset in the city, in the whole country, in the whole world, only two words are required: Spanish steps. There is quite nothing like sitting at dusk on the stairs of Trinità dei Monti, just in front of Piazza di Spagna (or Spain Square if you will). Forget the calm of the Gianicolo: one will be surrounded by an explosion of colours and perfumes, and couples of lovers kissing each other will welcome you – as long as you are not a Feyenoord supporter). In this melting pot you may even encounter long-time lost friends, or ex-girlfriends, or parents of ex-girlfriends (true story) and genuinely enjoy it. Where else but in Rome?!
By Claudio Agnesa