I first fell in love with Rome at the young age of 8 years old. Our school organized a family field trip to go see a play in the heart of the city. I do not remember the play, the plot, nor even the theater, but I do remember staring out of the window as our bus glided through busy cobblestone roads, giant squares, churches on every corner, ruins, and boulevards adorned with ancient cypresses. Everything was so lovely.
Through the years, Rome and I had a complicated relationship. I spent years commuting to Rome to attend dance classes, summer intensive, and professional training; but no matter how hard I tried, Rome was not part of my destiny. Yet, I would never change those teenage years spent travelling alone and being a big girl in a big city.
Since I moved to Alabama I have met a myriad of people who would ask me the best things to do in Rome. Well, here it goes. Here is a list of things you ABSOLUTELY need to do when in Rome*.
*This list is for those who wish to experience the heart of hearts of Roma.
1. Do as the Romans do
Ditch the taxi or tour buses, and stick with the Metropolitana (subway), public buses, and walking. With €7.00 you can buy a 24h pass for all public transportation. With €24.00, you have a whole week access. No need to pay enormous fees for a double-decker bus tour when the Metro will literally take you to all the cool spots.
2. Stay hydrated
Have you ever heard of the Roman aqueduct? Romans were incredible engineers, and among all the beautiful temples and mausoleum they built, they created one of the best aqueduct in the world. If you are planning on walking around Rome why not take advantage of the deliciously cold water provided by the many fountains scattered around the city? Grab a water bottle, or your favorite nalgene, and just fill it up with water at any available fountain. My favorite fountain is actually across the street from the Colosseo, by the subway station’s gate.
3. Visit a museum free of charge
If you happen to be in Rome during the first week of the month, then you are in luck. Each first Sunday of the month you can visit any roman museum for free. You will luckily roam the halls of Le Scuderie del Quirinale with local families and many, many kids.
4. Get lost
I am dead serious. Get lost through the small streets of Rome. Pick a neighborhood and just start walking. You will be surprised of the hidden treasures and beauties of Rome.
5. Picnic at Villa Borghese
Go to an alimentari (deli) and buy a few panini, some snacks, and sodas and go for a picnic at Villa Borghese. This gorgeous park is filled with statues, fountains, flora, fauna, and one of the best gardens in Rome.
6. Bring a cardigan/shawl
This is mostly for the ladies. If you are going to visit the Vaticano, or any other religious place, please cover yourself. There is nothing more tacky and disrespectful than a lady who enters a catholic church wearing shorts and a tank top. Please be mindful of others’ culture and traditions. You really do not want to argue with an old Italian lady outside a church.
7. Pasta, Pasta, Pasta!
Forget about your carb-free diet and about being gluten-free (unless celiac); you are in the land of pasta. So get some! Best place in town for pasta…. Cencio” La Parolaccia. Tucked in the heart of Trastevere this place is your pasta heaven.
P.S. This place is not family friendly. The host and waiters will abundantly curse at you. After all, it is La Parolaccia (swear-word).
8. Eat a Grattachecca
If you are visiting Rome in the middle of the summer, then you MUST eat a grattachecca. This cold dessert is the Roman version of shaved ice. But please, do not mix flavors; stick to one. Not unless you want to receive some ugly stares from the host.
9. Campo De’ FIori
This little square is where all the locals go. In the morning, a busy and colorful fresh market. At night, this square is bustling with nightlife. Choose a bar, grab a beer, or glass of wine, and meet new people.
10. Dolce Far Niente
Fill your fridge, or mini bar with cheese, salame, prosciutto, and wine. Put your favorite pjs on and get a cozy blanket. Spend the day in your room doing absolutely nothing. Eat, nap, and be merry.