I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Rome, in all its glory. There were some aspects that were absolutely amazing, and of course, others less so.
But I’m treating the negative attributes as ‘lessons learned’ about my travel style and what I do and do not enjoy when going abroad.
First and foremost, when travelling, I basically hate being around tourists. Yes I know, I am a tourist. But I don’t want to be around the company of me, I’d rather be in the company of Romans.
Which is why I loved our food tour, Eating Italy Tours. We gallivanted around the neighbourhood of Trastervere. Our tour host was of Mexican decent, but had lived in Rome for 9 years, and was essentially an adopted Roman.
We experienced 8 separate tastings, some consisting of full-blown Italian dinners, others consisting of Italian street food and gelato. My favourite venue by far was Spirito De Vino.
Formerly a synagogue in the Trastevere region, Hebrew characters are still visible in the inscriptions of the archways of the building. Tucked away, you would never know this restaurant existed, let alone served some of the most highly sought after cuisine in the Roman capital.
Apoxiomenos was created by Lysippos of Sikyon, the court sculptor of Alexander the Great, in 330 BCE. It represents an athlete, caught in the act of scraping sweat from his body with the small curved instrument called a strigil.
For me, I find it baffling that one can just ‘find’ statue like this in a Roman ruin. But that is what lies beneath the city’s streets, apparently.
Our guide informed us that the said wine cellar was a historic site, and thus was restricted from further excavation for fear that the whole building would collapse. This despite what alleged works of art are indeed still down below.
One of my favourite dishes from the tour was the Jerusalem Artichoke, deep fried. It literally tasted just like crisps (aka potato chips).
And of course, I loved the pizza at Dar Poeta. We had Superbafal with extra bufala mozzarella, artichokes and olives…to die for.
But If I had to pinpoint my favourite Roman experience, hands down it consisted of the time I spent exploring my local neighbourhoods of Testaccio and Trastevere. No Trevi Fountain or Forum could compete with local cathedrals, cafes, fountains and terraces.
It’s amazing how grandiose even the local places of worship are in Rome. And all were open to the public on Easter Sunday, even late in the evening.
After seeing the Pope in the flesh, and experiencing all the highlights of Rome, I have come to learn about my particular travel style.
I don’t fancy the sought after sites, the tourist hotspots, or the ‘see once in a lifetime’ monuments. For me, I personally enjoy the local neighbourhoods, the small little cafes and restaurants and the local customs.
I couldn’t be asked to take pictures of the Vatican. I felt like it was sacrilegious to do anything but enjoy the view. With tourists constantly snapping photos like paparazzi, I felt like the exhibitions were under constant exposure, depriving the experience of meaning…
Same goes for the Trevi Fountain, and all tourist attractions that are saturated with vendors and crap tourist merchandise. The real beauty, for me, were the local neighbourhoods and landmarks.
I’ve learned my lesson. Never again will I plan to spend a short trip abroad discovering the major landmarks I can find on Google. From here on in, I will spend my time discovering the local neighbourhoods that make cities like Roman truly real.