Because all roads lead to Rome
History, dreams, life, architecture, people, museums, food and fashion, all in one city. This is Rome.
Roma, the ancient, historic, imperial, powerful, chaotic, loving, and hundreds of more adjectives that I could add to my favorite city in the world.
I’m not sure if I’m pushing it by saying that Rome is my favorite city in the world but for sure the most visited in Europe, the one I’ve spent more time in than any other cities outside the U.S.
This was my 7th time visiting the imposing city of Rome in my life. I remember still visiting it for the first time when I was just fifteen years old and it made such an impact that I always remember wanting to go back. To this day, every time I step foot in the Eternal City, I feel the same rush of emotions: the desire to take in the city jam packed of history formed that for thousands of years of Western Civilization. I reflect that today the city’s reach is so limited. But more than 2,000 years ago Rome influence, its rule spread through most of Europe and Northern Africa. It was the first world power.
I must say that I’m a history lover, not all history, but definitely, Roman as I find it to be one of the most fascinating eras of our history as humanity. It all started there, the Empire, the Senate, the love for art, the passion for war, the way to live life to the fullest as they didn’t know how many days they had in their lives, and always looking to create more majestic buildings reaching out to the sky and the gods that were copied from the Greeks. I can get lost in talking history only so I’ll try my best to stay focus on talk about my latest trip to Rome this summer and how much it impacted me in many different ways.
As I had been there many other times before I didn’t have any plans for us for this stay, it was an open agenda. Once we were back in Piazza Navona it all started coming back to me and then the ideas started flowing. This was so cool about the trip because we didn’t really have any plans and everything just unfolded in front of us without making much effort. That’s the best quality of Rome, you can make plans but if you don’t make them the city will find a way to attract you and guide you through its streets so you can find jewels that had never seen before.
I must say that after being gone from Rome for four years I came back to witness a more organized, cleaner and friendlier city. I always found the chaos in this city attractive, it’s part of its heritage and the Italian way and I love it, but this time I appreciated the fact that people seemed to be more organized, the streets were cleaner, and restaurant staff everywhere was friendly. Still remember the days when you would walk into a trattoria and the patrons would give the look and I’d interpret their silence as “why are you here and what do you want me to do?” — funny, those good days of great customer service in the metropoli.
In past trips we visited during different times of the year — never August. Locals and friends always warned us off of Rome during Agosto: too hot, everybody off on vacation, all businesses shut down, tourists are everywhere, we were warned. Most of the advice was misguided. It was hot indeed, very hot, but you just learn to work around that. We would start our days earlier and explore the city until about two or three o’clock when the hottest time of the day would hit until about six o’clock and that’s when people would go out again to shop and dine. We quickly got used to this routine quickly and after being in the heat of the day we would go back to D.O.M. Hotel and enjoy air conditioning, watch a movie and take a nap. Then wake up, clean up and go out for drinks and dinner. Ah! life was amazing.
This time around we stayed at D.O.M. Hotel, which opened about four years ago. Its location is great, just a few blocks from Campo di Fiori, this 16th-century convent was transformed into a luxury boutique hotel with very well appointed rooms with all amenities of the modern world. I was very impressed with the interior design and how they have matched the old authentic renaissance style with a big influence of modern style with dark colors, rich textures and comfortable pieces of furniture. Staying at the D.O.M made it very convenient for us to go and explore our old favorite spots in the city.
Piazza Navona — It’s beautiful, there used to be a stadium, or circus, here for the Romans’ entertainment back in the day of the Empire, now the cobble-stone streets allow restaurants and vendors to attract the passing tourists. This is another reason why I love Rome, because its architecture and how you can walk through time with different architectural styles. The fountains here are impressive and will always be one of my favorite spots in the city.
Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna— Walking from Piazza Navona to the Spanish Steps is an easy walk through the narrow streets of the Center and you will find many other buildings, fountains and tourist spots in between. Like the outstanding Tempo di Adriano, built in honor of Emperor Hadrian, soon after his death in 138. Outstanding temple that you should see during this walk. Once you get to Spanish Steps you’ll notice how all the high end boutiques are located in this area, most notably on Via di Condotti. The Spanish Steps went through a major maintenance and restoration process recently, sponsored by Bulgari, so this really looked cleaner and more original to the authentic classic style of the fountain and steps.
Fontana di Trevi — Like all buildings, monuments and fountains in the city, the Trevi fountain went through a major restoration process as well sponsored by Fendi. The 18th-century Baroque masterpiece returned to its original splendor, not that it was bad but this time the precision of the sculpture was impeccable with many intrinsic details that before they were not obvious to the sight of tourists. They also incorporated new lighting that works with the natural light of the fountain to enhance its features. Clean, detailed, elaborate and just perfect. Make sure that you through an euro or two into the fountain as all proceeds go to local charities.
Piazza Venezia — This shows the splendor of the city from back in the early 1900’s to make room for a modern city and showcase the grandness Rome. Palazzo Venezia was used as residence for Benito Mussolini back during World War II when he gave many speeches from that balcony. One of the cool things about Rome is how over hundreds of years imperial buildings were incorporated into structures by the Vatican, the power that ruled over the city, saving them from destruction or demolition. As a result, many monuments and buildings are on top or right next to imperial buildings, such as like Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli.
Colosseum — One of the most photographed places in the world. It’s incredible how after hundreds of years, no, thousands of years still stands giving us a glimpse of the greatness of the Roman Empire. Abandoned and sacked for hundreds of years, popes did their part in stripping it of marble for the Vatican and other buildings to create Renaissance Rome. Still, what they didn’t sack for themselves had to be saved — surely not an easy task. If you can do the tour inside and learn more about historic details.
Castel Sant’Angelo — Also known as Hadrian’s Tomb, was commissioned by Emperor Hadrian to become his and his family’s mausoleum. His ashes were placed in the Treasury room deep within the building. Emperor Hadrian is considered the third of five great emperors during the splendor of the empire: Nerva (reigned 96–98 ce), Trajan (98–117), Hadrian (117–138), Antoninus Pius (138–161), and Marcus Aurelius (161–180. )In later years, , the popes converted the structure into a fortress, connecting it to the Vatican with a bridge, a convenient escape route in case of a sack or uprising. Spend some time here and get lost in the past as this is one of the oldest still standing buildings from ancient Rome.
Pantheon — A perfect example of the engineering and architectural knowledge that Romans had back in their glory. Originally commissioned by general and architect Marcus Agrippa, it was rebuilt more than a century later under the reign of Hadrian, in 126. It is the best preserved and longest standing structure in the city. Parts of the exterior architecture details and columns were added later by popes. In front of the portico It is one of the most famous squares in the city. You’ll understand its greatness when you see the Pantheon in person. It humbling grandeur invites you to enter and stand under the dome. Breathtaking!
Campo di Fiori — A gathering place for tourists and locals smack in the city center. Anchored by a centrally-placed statue of early 17th-century philosopher monk Giordano Bruno who was burnt at the state of heresy by Pope Leo XIII whose bronze likeness was cast in 1889 to honor secularism in the face of stern Vatican opposition to the recently united Italian state. Local fruit and vegetable vendors set up shop come here every day to sell fresh produce, jams, pasta and other items. Locals and tourists mingle here surrounded by bars and restaurants that sometimes make you think you’re back in America. Once there, don’t forget to check out Palazzo Spada two piazzas away. Coffee shops and restaurants make this area very lively, very authentic and very Roman.
Food is not be missed here. Anywhere in Italy, you’ll get a great plate of fresh pasta and good wine from any of Italy’s 20 regions. So chefs and restaurants are taking this to the next level with a level of sophistication and easiness that will conquer your palate over and over. Some of the restaurants that I recommend in the center of town include Emma and Hotel de Russie for a decadent lunch. Really anywhere your chances of having a gastronomic experience are pretty good.
As it was a hot week during our visit, we ventured into some of the many indoor museums that not only boast impressive collections but showcase the magnificent buildings where these are hosted. We checked out the National Museum of Rome in Palazzo Altemps and the Ara Pacis museum in front of the Augustus Mausoleum.
Rome is my favorite city to visit in Europe, there are endless streets to walk and checkout, get lost in the center with the smell of espressos, pasta and cigarettes. People are authentically Italian, dressed up just like Italians know, fashion is amazing here, I’d venture to say that fashion here is so more remarkable than Paris because in Rome they make it look effortlessly elegant, like the rest of the Italian style. This effortless and appreciation for life and the daily pleasures that we take in life is what makes Rome unique.
It makes me wonder why all roads lead to Rome, like back in the Imperial days. Because they wall wanted to live in the city of Rome, be called Romans and live with the luxury, protection and organization that the empire had. Yes, the city has had many setbacks in history since its Golden Days but just think that after hundreds of years the buildings, streets, palazzos, statues, they all are still standing one way or another, even the aqueduct built to bring fresh water to the city almost two thousand years ago is still the one providing water to the city, with enhancements of course but what was built back in the day still supports the current infrastructure of the metropolis.
It was my seventh time visiting the most impressive city in the world and cannot wait to go back there and explore more hidden treasures. After all, Rome is filled with treasures that you can only discover one layer at the time. Whatever you do in the city will be memorable and will always be in your heart. Grazie Roma.
Special thanks to my Roman friend Adam for the historic facts editing.
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