Rome, with her ancient ruins and architecture, cobblestones and sunlit piazzas, drinking fountains on street corners and gelato shops on every block, is one of my favourite cities in the world. My first solo travel trip was also my inaugural trip to the Eternal City. It was autumn, the skies were clear and the day still warm enough to enjoy iced coffee at one of the outdoor cafes Rome does so well. My favourite memory from Rome is from that first trip – it was dusk and I had just finished exploring the Colosseum. I found a restaurant with tables spilling out onto the sidewalk, set with flickering candle stubs setting out halos of light. I perched myself onto one and had a full three course Italian meal, dining in the shadow of the Colosseum. Here’s some of my other favourite things in Rome.
Favourite things in Rome #1: Drinking coffee by the bar
I love the ritual of ordering by the bar, any bar – a caffe latte or a caffe macchiato in the mornings, a caffe freddo for a pick-me-up in the lazy, languorous summer afternoons), the barista’s practised movements, the nonchalant (but never too long) wait for your order, the swift, smooth gulp of perfectly brewed, perfectly roasted arabica beans, and the clink of coins for payment. All this, in under ten minutes. Who says the Italians aren’t efficient?
Prendiamo un caffe?
Favourite things in Rome #2: Cherry blossoms in spring
Yes, Rome is dusty, noisy, dirty and filled with people. That’s what you get when a city is more than 2,500 years old. What you also get, though, is the Villa Borghese, where an art museum filled with incredibly important sculptures, a lake, a theatre and a green space awaits. In the spring, the cherry trees bloom, and the gardens fill with frolicking Italians out for a bit of sun, and the delicate waft of cherry blossoms.
Favourite things in Rome #3: Campo del Fiori
Not half as grand as Piazza Navona, but infinitely more interesting, Campo del Fiori (or Field of Flowers), is true to its name. In the daytime, the square fills with flower vendors; at night, I would find my way there for harissa kebabs, and gesticulate wildly in the affirmative to the vendor’s “molto picante, tu piace?”
I loved wandering around here, learning the lyrical names of the streets abutting this square; Via dei Cappellari (Street of the Hatmakers), Via dei Chiavari (Street of the Key-makers), and my favourite, Via dei Balestrari (Street of the Crossbow-makers).
Favourite things in Rome #4: The Aventine Keyhole
Up on the Aventine Hill is the Piazza Cavalieri di Malta, and the Priory of the Knights of Malta, through whose gates, if you look through the keyhole, is the famed Aventine Keyhole view of Rome. I felt like Alice in Wonderland as I tiptoed up to the keyhole and bent forwards to peep through it. The walk up the Aventine, on a summer’s eve, is also lovely, scented with lemon flowers and oranges in fruit, with ochre-coloured mansions standing like sentinels along the way. Bellissimo!
Favourite things in Rome #5: Piazza di Santa Maria di Trastevere
A prime people watching spot and the location of one of Rome’s oldest churches, the Piazza of Santa Maria in the working class neighbourhood of Trastevere has a special significance for me – I met my now-husband on the steps of the Roman fountain in the centre of the square. Trastevere itself is wonderfully low-key and off the tourist radar, with chatty locals, welcoming shopkeepers and picturesque streets.