As this post gets typed, I have just left Termini Train Station in Rome, making my way to my next destination. I’ll have you know that I’m also on the wrong train and I’m not joking. The train that I was supposed to take is apparently the next one on the platform which is the express train that would take me to Florence in less than 1.5 hours whereas this train that I’m on will take 4 hours. The sweet life of a traveller isn’t it? But that’s okay as I have got a lot to share with you.
I went to Rome having heard so much great things about the city but never thought I would leave the city with my own incredible story to tell. Let me break down my days in Rome in the order of the discoveries.
First meal in Rome
I read somewhere that in Italy, you are never far from a good meal. I didn’t want to take chances so I had to ask for recommendations. On my first night, the hotel concierge kindly shared his knowledge on where to find good food for dinner. He advised on exploring the street of Via della Lungaretta in Trastevere which has good and cheap restaurants lined up along. I picked one and ordered pizza, garlic bread topped with rocket salad, fried zucchini flower and squid. It was a good meal. I also came back to this street a couple of times and picked random restaurants and they were all good.
Roaming the streets of Rome
I love taking my strolls to explore the narrow winding streets and noticing all the pretty little details that seemed to be everywhere I looked.
I have to also point out that whilst wearing heels in Paris is bearable for an hour or two, there was no way one could do the same in Rome where most of the roads are cobblestoned.
When I did my research into Rome, I found that best area to stay is any area close to Piazza Navona and the Trevi fountain. I did exactly that and it didn’t disappoint as every other major attraction was within walking distance.
My two favourites piazza of Rome are Piazza Navona and Piazza di Spagna. Piazza Navona is lined by outdoor cafes where you can just sit and enjoy a sip of wine and just do a lot of people watching. On a good sunny day you can find lots of street artists selling their paintings and the likes.
Piazza di Spagna features the Spanish stairs, where you can find a lot of people chilling out on the stairs. This piazza is also adjoined by the lavish streets of Via Condotti and Via del Babuino where you can indulge in hours of retail therapy and if those weren’t enough, the street of Via del Corso is just a few feet away.
Oh my.. I have indulged in so much gelatos that I have lost count on how much I have eaten. They make them so good in Italy!! Granted I now have my favourite places and I have been gorging on 2-3 gelatos a day. But get this, it didn’t break the bank as a cup or cone with massive scoops of gelatos cost as little as 2 euros and they are all of very good quality. I think my waistline might be a thing of the past by the time I depart Italy.
Hotel de Russie and Tullio Ristorante
Carin so sweetly emailed me her favourite places in Rome. One being the beautiful courtyard of Hotel de Russie for a glass of prosecco and the wonderfully simple but amazing food at Tullio Restaurant. The waiters were very friendly and quick to whisk a table. On top of that, they cheekily gave complimentary glasses of good quality chardonnay. It was the best meal I had in all of my 6 days in Rome.
When I was planning my itinerary to Rome, visiting Vatican City was always part of the 'must-do'. There was no way I would miss out on seeing St Peter’s Basilica and seeing the interior of the Sistine Chapel. These were massive, grand and beautiful works of arts.
Pope Benedict XVI addressed the world for the final time and I was there!
I had this thought of attending a mass lead by the Pope but as I was lodging application for tickets to attend a mass, I read news that Pope Benedict XVI was going to resign from his post. So I was never sure if I’d even get the chance to attend a mass or not.
Dates of his last days as Pope varied in every source I read but the ticket arrived anyway before I left Paris for what turned out to be the Pope Benedict’s last address to the world. I couldn’t believe I got the chance to witness this event live in St Peter’s Basilica Square.
The sky couldn't be more blue that day and I couldn't help thinking “God is definitely watching over the Pope”.
When the Pope made his way through the crowds in his ‘popemobile’, it felt surreal to be standing less than one metre away from him. Oh and I took this photo without any zoom.
There were approximately 150,000 people in the square so it was pretty noisy especially as the Pope arrived at the altar and people cheered on. But just before the Pope started to speak, everybody became quiet within seconds to hear the precious words of His Holiness. This silence felt extraordinary.
We listened carefully as the Pope delivered his main address in Italian and we were all astounded when His Holiness expressed gratitude in no less than six languages: Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese, before leading a song of prayer. He is clearly loved and will be missed by his devotees. The atmosphere in St Peter’s Square seemed pensive as people went deep in thoughts when the Pope acknowledged honestly in his address that his eight years as the Vatican leader had been of happy times but there had been challenges.
The last time a Pope resigned from his post was over 600 years ago so this was a particularly major world event. Never in my life have I seen so many camera crews in the one spot and the level of security – oof! Later on, as this event made breaking news and headlines worldwide, I also caught a glimpse of myself on TV as one of the audience on CNN, SKY and BBC news, not once, but six times.
It felt utterly special to be in the midst of all this, standing in the middle of the thousands of pilgrims who literally made their way from all corners of the world.
A walk along the Tiber River, crossing the Cestia Bridge and walking onto Tiber Island made for the perfect way for the last stroll in Rome.
I absolutely love my stay in Rome and I must admit that it was really naïve of me to have thought that Rome was just about the Colosseum and the gladiator tales when as a matter of fact, this amazing city is about so much more. I consider myself to be so lucky to have visited, learnt so much and also experienced one-of-a-kind event and this visit is most definitely unforgettable.