They say all roads lead to Rome, but it took me a while to get here. Rome has been on my list for quite a while, but boyfriend had been there twice before so he had other places he wanted to visit first. We had actually planned an amazing trip to Iceland this summer, driving through the country, sleeping in 8 different hotels, seeing the most majestic elements of the country. But then corona struck and we had to find an alternative. I had the idea to visit Rome and some other cities in Italy. Why? Because only European tourists are allowed to travel at the moment, and without tourists from all over the world, I figured Rome would not be as crowded as it usually is.
And I am so happy to be able to say that I was right! It was uncanny how few tourists were wandering the streets. Unseen! Of course I hope it will be safe for other borders to open up soon, but it was really special to have Rome all to ourselves.
We had an early flight, arrived in Rome around noon and after searching for trains and busses (seriously, public transport in Italy is the worst), we arrived in our hotel around two. We dumped our luggage, threw water in our faces and quickly changed into a little less clothing, because it was about 36 degrees (96.8 F) in the city. Then, we set out to explore!
We hadn’t planned much for this trip, only made some lists of the absolute highlights that we wanted to visit. So we just wandered for a bit, had gelato for lunch (la dolce vita!) and wandered off.
Anyway, we took our icecreams to the Trevi fountain, which I didn’t even recognize at first because there were almost no tourists around. I’ve only seen pictures with rows and rows of people, but there was no one there! We sat down on a bench in front of it, enjoying our first gelato in the eternal city with the peace and quiet around us. I had wanted to throw a coin into the fountain, but decided against it for now. Because of the corona virus, I imagine, some parts of the fountain were closed and I could not get close enough to throw a coin in there, or I’d have to throw very far, so I skipped it, for now.
We ate our icecream, watching the fountain in the hot Italian sun and it was the perfect beginning of our trip. We took some photos and videos, shared with our friends and family (and instagram) how quiet it was around the Trevi fountain and then wandered off, for we knew that there was a whole lot more that Rome had to offer.
I loved how the smell of pizza filled the air everywhere, how we could hear Italian all over the place (instead of a cacaphony of different languages), the little terraces, how at every corner you could find an amazing building that was built in another century, not to mention the beautiful statues and fountains that we saw everywhere. And it was so clean! I don’t know if that’s because of the lack of tourists, but Rome appeared to be one of the cleanest capital cities I’ve ever been to.
We made our way towards the Piazza Navona where we found some more of these spectacular fountains. By this time, it was getting really hot and we weren’t used to the heat yet (if we ever really got used to it). We took pictures of the amazing fountains, and rested a bit in the shadows, watching people.
The piazza is located in one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Rome and is close to the Pantheon. We came across the Pantheon on our way, but we didn’t go in as I wasn’t dressed properly enough, so we would have to come back later.
There are three fountains to be found at the square, namely the Fontana dei quattro fiumi in the middle, the Fountana del Nettuno at the northern end and the Fontana del more on the southern end. Around the piazza, there are a variety of Italian restaurants, at which one of we would have dinner later, and the Sant’Agnese in Agone, a church that was built in 1682.
After resting and doing a little people-watching on the piazza, we decided to have a stroll along the Tiber, which is something I would really recommend if you want to get out of the bustling city center (not that it really was all that bustling, but you know what I mean). It was so calm there and we just sat down, watching the water and the birds, before strolling past the water and looking at the amazing buildings that surrounded us.
We could see the Corte Suprema di Cassazione, the Castel sant Angelo and even the Saint Peter’s Basilica in the distance. Gods, this city really is beautiful and I was already falling in love with it. Even more so when we crossed the water over the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, a beautiful bridge filled with gorgeous statues (that reminded me a bit of the Charles’ bridge in Prague) and a guitar player started to play beautiful songs as we walked there.
We crossed the bridge and contemplated for a bit if we wanted to visit the Castel sant Angelo but then decided that we’d rather have dinner. We were getting quite hungry, as we only had gelato for lunch. It was a bit early for Italian times, as it was around 7 pm and Italians apparently dine around 8 or 9 pm. So a lot of restaurants were closed, unfortunately.
Lucky for us, the Piazza Navona is a tourist attraction which means the restaurants surrounding it, have different opening times then most restaurants in the city, to accomodate the hungry that can’t wait until eight. Be aware that these restaurants aren’t the best or the cheapest the city has to offer, but they’re good enough if you’re hungry.
We decided on Ristorante Pizzeria Navona where we had traditional Italian antipasti of various prosciutto (ham) and meats, with a glass of champagne on the house.
For a main course, we almost had the same dish. I had read that Spaghetti Carbonara was invented in Rome and as it happens, it’s one of my favourite dishes in the world. Boyfriend had the Pizza Carbonara because it intrigued him. The antipasti had been really good, but I was a bit disappointed by my carbonara. I’m not sure if that was because the way the Italians make the carbonara is different from what I’m used too, or because touristy restaurants like this one, don’t have the quality dishes that can be found in the rest of the city. I never tried another, so I can’t be sure. Either way, I didn’t really like my dish, but the pizza was okay.
And thus ended our first day in the eternal city. Never mind the disappointing first dinner, I already had a lovely time and was curious to see what more beauty we would find here.