Rome: The First Impressions

Them: “Oh, you’re going to LOVE Rome. It’s fantastic. Really. It’s my favorite city.”

“I’ve been to Rome several times and it is, without question, the best place to spend time.”

“The food! The arts! The Italian! Oh!”

Me: The crowds! The traffic! The rain! The claustrophobia!

…is this what people think when they come to New York City? Are the quotes at the top applicable to New York and then the cold-water-to-the-face realities true for people who arrive in my city? Surely. Because this has been my reaction to Rome.

To be fair, we showed up on a Sunday. Rome was teeming with people jostling and moving like a packed heard of psychotic ants. Everyone had the day off, so they were all out. Unfortunately, so were we. We managed to find the best gelotteria in Rome: Gioletti which was SUPER CROWDED but the gelato was soooo good! Creamy, the perfect temperature and subtle.

We had pizza at a random spot we chose and the pizza was not great. Hugely disappointing. I did get to watch them make the pizza fresh which was fun. I went to bed that night wishing I was back in Barcelona.

Day two was much better. Monday means less crowds and more time to walk in quiet streets, enjoy the oranges, peaches, and yellows of Rome’s buildings and even get a chance to stop and rest for a bit at a local caffeteria. After meandering around the Villa Borghese and eating a small pastry filled with a rice pudding that was absolutely delicious, we walked to the Pantheon (the first night we stopped there briefly).

I greatly enjoyed the age of the building, how small we felt inside. Mom looked at the oculus in the ceiling and observed how humans have always wanted to invite the divine in to join them. Indeed, looking through the open roof to the sky did feel like an open invitation to the heavens. I liked being in a structure so ancient, it feels very spiritual, like there are ghosts walking around and everybody inside is only a blink in time. It’s comforting. I felt like that at Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, too. Tripping along the huge pillars on the outside is wild. I couldn’t stop reaching out and touching the stone; I imagined what the people who first built the structure might have felt when they touched the pillars all those thousands of years ago and wondered if they ever considered their ancestors snapping pictures on an iPhone. Probably not…

Cutting across the city in search of food, we crossed the River Tevere into Trastavere, a neighborhood that had a lot of highly recommended places. The city felt really relaxed over in that area, far less touristy. We stopped in a caffe and didn’t eat some really sub-par pastries as the rain rolled in and soaked everything. I was losing faith in Rome again. Where were the yummy baked goods? The good coffee? The sunny weather? The New York critic in me wagged her head from side to side and rolled her eyes. Keep an open mind. I thought, admonishing her.

In the pissing rain, we decided to eat at a pizzaria around the corner from our caffe. YAY! YUMMY PIZZA! Oh, the black olives were salty and accented my sausage, mushroom and onion pizza. The crust was thin, but not too thin, and the sauce was salted perfectly. The flavors were complex and subtle, opening like a book: just the way we imagined the food would taste in Rome! Our waiter even sang “Volare!” as he worked, adding to the ambiance and making our carafe of house wine taste even sweeter. The man even called us a taxi which took us home in just a matter of minutes. I felt much better, ready to explore more again the next day.

April 28, 2015 at 12:46 pm by Natalie Allen