Rome, Italy: Rome wasn't visited in one day - Day 1

Rome, Italy

Rome wasn't visited in one day. I valiantly attempted four. 

Tuesday, 24th June 2014

True to form I planned this short trip down to every last detail, itinerary and all - such a control freak I am. However...the first thing that was beyond my control was the air strike, apparently a thing in Europe. That and the seats on Ryanair do not recline. Nobody is more surprised than I am that I flew Ryanair but I thought I'd try to save some money and 'It's just a two hour flight, how bad can it be?' The answer is 'Maybe I should start flying with Virgin instead of hoping for (and being disappointed) Malaysia Airlines to fly everywhere in the world from London'. 

After a two hour delay I finally checked into my apartment, a charming little studio flat in Monti.

It was perfect for a short stay. I had a tiny little kitchen (really a counter with an electric hob) where I made breakfast everyday with ingredients from the rather grand grocery store across the street (more on that in the next post), it was right beside the Metro which I hardly used but was very handy for instructing our Uber drivers where to drop me off, it was on Via Cavour which was a little busy and noisy but great for people watching, and only a seven minute walk from the Colosseum. 

A Rome with a view.

Monti district has been described as Rome's cool quarter, hipster district, up and coming etc. Buzzing with a mix of traditional trattorias and restaurants with interesting concepts alike, vintage shops, and bars Monti is very much the Shoreditch of Rome and so I felt right at home. My first port of call was Santa Susanna church which was closed, but nevermind, I was only there to pick up our tickets for the papal audience with Pope Francis from the parish office next door.

I carefully tucked the tickets into my purse and looked forward to getting up close and personal with the Pope at Pope-chella the next day. With the most pressing matter of the day sorted, I strolled around Rome in new espadrilles that gave me such painful blisters that I had to Uber it back to the flat to change into flats. These blisters would relentless haunt me through the trip and I powered through the agony by thinking of myself as some sort of Christian martyr, you know the sort that the Romans fed to the lions in the Colosseum. 

What I love about Rome is all the historical relics and ruins scattered throughout the city. London may have beautiful Victorian and Georgian architecture but do we have ancient and medieval ruins casually dotted across the urban landscape? No. And the best thing is the locals' nonchalance, these Romans walking past the Colosseum like "Oh, we live alongside one of the new seven wonders of the world, no big deal." 

*stares out of window at Boxpark on Shoreditch High Street and curses*

I visited the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria to see in person the famously racy sculpture Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.

That Asian lady posing with her arms wide upon as if to receive the glory of God was told off by a devout Catholic, probably for what he perceived as her irreverence.

Bernini's sculpture of Saint Teresa experience of religious ecstasy in her encounter with an angel has been deemed by some as lustful, orgiastic, and sensual.

"I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying."

Saucy or spiritual? Incidentally this is the face I make the blissful moment I take my bra off after a long day. All women will understand what I'm talking about.

Dazzled by the gilded splendour of Santa Maria della Vittoria, I headed to a less ornate but no less famous church.

The Pantheon.

This Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome is supposedly the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome. I more or less paraphrased that sentence because I wasn't particular awed nor inspired by the Pantheon to come up with my own original description. Mostly from the lack of information and explanation offered there, but also it paled in comparison to the splendour of the church before. 

For dinner Iwandered less than two hundred meters away to a rarity, a restaurant in a touristy part of Rome that wasn't terrible. In fact Armanda Al Pantheon came highly recommended by food blogs as one of the best trattorias in Rome. I then had an after dinner coffee at nearby Sant' Eustachio, a marvellous little cafe that frequently pops up on local coffee lovers as one of their favourite places to go for an espresso.

Of course I had to have a very creamy, rich chocolate something or other. Fueled by caffeine I took a leisurely (I say leisurely but every step of mine was punctuated with pain, thank you new shoes) stroll through the Eternal City.

Fun fact, the 'fontanelle' (drinking fountains) throughout Rome are not only safe to drink but the water is cool (ice cold!) and sweet because they come from springs. Save yourself the €2 per bottle of drinking water that the vendors try to flog you and do what I did - bring your own bottle and refilled it yourself at the fountains. I even downloaded an app for finding water fountains 'I Nasoni di Roma' (nasoni or nose is the nickname for these fountains because of the shape of their spouts) but I never had to use it because the fountains were everywhere. Everybody nose that (haha).

I wanted to see the famously romantic Trevi Fountain but as luck would have it it was 'closed'!

How do you 'close a fountain'? You drain it (!!), put a huge barricade of plastic around it with an apologetic sign saying it's been 'closed for refurbishment' or something to that effect. I have this theory that the Trevi Fountain being closed is a balance of sorts. I was lucky enough to see the Pope and by the law of the universe you can't have it all. So to redress that balance of luck, the Trevi Fountain was 'closed' when I went. I think it's fair and am happy to pay that balance.

I nipped into the popular Il Gelato di San Crispino for an ice-cream night cap. It's just a few steps from the Trevi Fountain and very famous for their thick, sweet, exotic flavours. And like every gelataria in Rome it opens till half past midnight! I was more impressed that they have an outlet in Fiumicino airport. You buy all the gelato you want and it is packed in a box that keeps it cold for up to six hours, so if you're flying from Rome to anywhere in Europe it will last. So annoyed that we flew from Ciampiano airport and missed out on a chance to bring a slice of Rome back to London! Another reason not to fly budget airlines.

*takes out violin and starts playing an ode to melon and pear gelato*

My final stop on my first night in Rome was a random one. I ran into a Spar supermarket that looked deceptively minuscule from the outside. Inside was a different story, with a deli, expansive selection, at least 20 types of peach flavoured juice, and a whole section dedicated to ready made pasta.

I suspect no self-respecting Roman would actually admit to buying these but get over yourselves, how stupidly convenient is this? I bought the equivalent of a weekly shop so I could make breakfast at home...and then ate it all that night and the next morning.

Pastas, Yakult (I take it very seriously, like a religion, don't mess with the Ya-kult), prosecco, juices, yogurts, and meats.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, thank you for sticking around to read this first instalment of my Rome blog posts. More to come - after all Rome wasn't blogged about in a day.


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