The splendor of Rome was on full display as I forged my way through traffic from the airport to my Airbnb. The motorways led to windy roads and cobblestone streets until I was dropped off at Salita di Sant’Onofrio, 19, Rome, Lazio – Home for the summer. The IKEA designed flat exuded a European modern ambiance, and while minimalist the décor looked insanely lux.
My balcony overlooked a terraced enclave of other balconies and rooftops landscaped by beautiful trees and flowers of summer: This would be my serenity from the concrete and heat of the city center in the early mornings with my coffee or at the end of the day with an aperitvo and some cured meats and cheeses. My new home for the summer was a 10-minute walk from the Vatican and a five-minute walk from Gianicolo Hill as it is called in Italian; one of Rome’s most romantic places to visit that provides stunning views of the city.
There are some lessons that I have learned during my first week in Rome while transitioning into becoming a resident of the city.
Lesson 1: So what does one do when arriving in Rome but see the historical sights of course and to do this it is better to book a guided tour. Tourists, though, bombard Rome, in the summer months. A guided tour provides an intimate and memorable experience to explore the home of some of the world’s most famous monuments and you can save time, as you will get to jump the lines. Initially, I thought it was a good idea to take a Hop on and Hop off bus tour to save money and to orient myself to my new home for the summer by getting an overview of the city. However, the tour provided only a cursory description of the city’s monuments and revealed very little about those who had walked these ancient streets.
Lesson 2: It’s HOT in the summer. It is best to go sightseeing in the early morning or evening so as to avoid the heat and the throngs of tourists; for example, visiting Piazza Navona in the early morning was a pleasurable experience as there were very few people which made it easy to move around and soak up the history of monuments. In the early morning, the lighting is spectacular and the piazza was made even more beautiful as the sun bounced off the water of the fountains and accentuated the whitewashed colors of the blues, reds, and whites of the ancient buildings surrounding the square.
Lesson 3: When living in Rome, find the local forno (bakery) and gastronomia (deli). My favorite bakery is Forno Roscioli located in the heart of Rome and in a square that is home to a lively market and swarm of inns since 1819. The bakery sells traditional sweet & savory baked goods & slices of pizza. Ordering bread is an experience and is bought by weight; in addition, very few bread shops actually label the types of bread. The meal to be eaten determines the type of bread that is to be bought. There is salted and unsalted bread with some bread better for sandwiches and others for pasta.
Lesson 4: Local foods are a gateway to a true cultural experience of any city and this can be found in Rome’s delis that are a treasure trove of quality foods that are a feast for the senses. So to experience Roman life, I found my own Antica Botega dei Sapori Ruggeri to provide me with my very own gateway into Roman culture. This deli has been in business since 1935. On offer is a wide range of cold cuts and cheeses typical of the various Italian regions fresh and dry pasta, and wines of fine labels. Oh, the wine!!!
Lesson 5: Drinking coffee is one of Italy’s national pastimes and cultural experiences. Certain coffees are drunk at certain times of the day. A cappuccino is most commonly enjoyed before or during breakfast, but never after a meal. A macchiato is traditionally enjoyed as a bit of an afternoon pick-me-up and espresso is served after dinner. During the hotter months order a caffè freddo which is simply an espresso shaken with ice and sugar until the drink develops a slightly frothy head. Coffee is regulated by the city and one will end up paying around a euro a cup and if you truly want to be decadent order alongside your coffee an Italian cornetto with cream for an added euro. My two favorite coffee shops in Rome are Caffè Sant’Eustachio and Tazza d’Oro.