I visited Rome twice last summer. The first time, I flew in the early morning from Munich, running on 15 minutes of sleep and very hungover, to meet my parents in their gorgeous loft apartment in Trastavere. The second time, I flew from Dubrovnik to meet my friend Brooke (who also featured in my Venice post), and checked into a weird and confusing hostel/hostel that was the last one available (that I could afford, anyway). These two very different beginnings were just the start of what would be two completely different trips, but both of them would be so fantastic in their own ways.
I love travelling with my parents for many reasons, several of which are selfish. The kind of accommodation they pick is always amazing and exactly what I would go for if my budget was about 10 times higher. We often rent a car, which is awesome and a nice change considering my lack of a license. They like to splurge on wonderful meals, while left to my own devices I’ll feel guilty every time I do that.
But most importantly, they’re just great to travel with! My dad is basically a tour guide and gives me history lessons everywhere we go, my mom is the queen of logistics, and even if I want to kill them for 50% of the trip the other 50% is so great and fun that it’s all I remember.
I also love travelling with Brooke. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, we have the best time. I’m actually visiting her in London in January, and we are very excited to have adventures in another country. Our priorities tend to drift away from sightseeing and toward….fun. I.e. pub crawls.
Anyway, these two trips combined made me feel like I really saw both sides of Rome. The eternal city has so much to offer and although I definitely want to go back, you can certainly see Rome in a few days.
The Cultured Trip to Rome
Without a doubt, my favourite part of Rome was Trastavere. The apartment my parents booked was literally a dream Italian apartment. It was tiny, especially for three people, but just dripping with charm. The loft, the furnishings, the terrace draped in plants and flowers – it was all perfect. If Rome’s attractions didn’t have such a draw, it would have been impossible for us to tear ourselves away.
But tear away we did! A lot of it was spent wandering our neighborhood, especially for meals. One of my favourite memories of Rome is the mornings – me and my mom would wander out before the city was awake, trying to find cappuccini to bring home as we got ready for the day. It was magical, like cities always are that early in the morning, and spending that time with my mom made it even more special.
One of the most gorgeous spots we found on our wanderings was Gianicolo Hill. We went up there for sunset and the views were unbelievable.
Anyway, Trastavere isn’t why most people go to Rome (although I think it should be). The rich Roman history that is still omnipresent in the city is why most people go. I’ve recently become super into history, but during this trip I still felt kind of meh. I’ve also been way more interested in Greek history than Roman history for my whole life, so I wasn’t particularly drawn to Roman sites.
However, I obviously wasn’t going to go to Rome and skip seeing the Colosseum. Due to the insane heat and insane lines, my family signed up for a semi-private tour via Italy With Us – the Colosseum & Ancient Rome tour. Our guide was fairly so-so, but it was awesome to skip lines and we got to wear some super-cute headset thingies (sarcasm).
I think now, even though it’s only been a year and a half, I would get a lot more out of this tour – at the time, I was just looking at the pretty sights rather than listening to the history. We walked through the Roman Forum with its incredible ruins, the Colosseum with its gory past, and then up the Palatine Hill with its breathtaking views of the city.
One day, my parents went out to see Ostia Antica (more ruins, just outside the city) and I wasn’t super interested so I spent the day aimlessly wandering. The main thing I wanted was to get a view over the city, so I went to the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, a giant white monstrosity. Apparently it’s a very controversial site because it doesn’t match the aesthetic of the city, but it’s got a gorgeous view!
The Party Trip to Rome
Embarrassingly, I didn’t do a single ounce of sightseeing my second time in Rome. Brooke was there for her first time, so before I arrived she packed in all the stuff I had already seen with my parents. When I got there, we decided to sign up for a pub crawl – Rome’s Ultimate Party, to be specific. $25 gets you a shirt (which we forgot to pick up), an hour of unlimited pre-drinks, and admission to a huge open-air club.
It was so nice to indulge in a classic night of going out with a friend from home; it felt so normal and was exactly what I needed. We had so much to catch up on and even before the crawl started we had such a blast getting ready and dancing around our hostel room.
The pub crawl itself was obviously wild. The people were mainly from the UK, North America, Australia, New Zealand…etc. To be honest it’s a little foggy but they ordered us pizza (yum) and the open air club was as amazing as promised. However, immediately upon arrival I tripped up a flight of stairs and cracked my knee SO hard. It was sore for like a week, which was the second time I had hurt that knee on this trip.
My main problem with the pub crawl was the end. Very late (maybe 3AM?) we decided to head back to our hostels and wandered out to the street. We had been escorted to the club and so hadn’t been paying attention to how we got there. Luckily one of the hostel workers was leaving at the same time, because apparently we had to take two separate buses home.
If she hadn’t been leaving with us we would have been totally screwed; nobody explained how to get back downtown from this club in the middle of nowhere. Our phones were dead and we didn’t have internet anyway. Even with directions, we felt extremely uncomfortable; the only people on the streets of Rome at 3AM on a Monday night are drunk backpackers and very sketchy people. We made it home, but it was a trek and I was genuinely afraid for my safety multiple times.
The next morning, we spent several hours looking around for brunch because all I wanted was eggs benedict. We failed.
Looking back on these trips, it’s like they happened in totally different cities. Rome may not have been my favorite city in Italy (Verona, Trieste and Cortona all take that honor) but how could you skip Rome? It’s hypnotizing and dreamy.