I’ve wanted to return to Rome ever since studying abroad there in college, and I was happy to find that it was just as wonderful a city as I’d remembered. We only had a few days to explore, but we made the most of them by walking a lot, visiting museums, and taking a guided tour of the Vatican. And, of course, eating. After a summer of living almost entirely off of rice cakes, gouda, and pb&j, we were pretty psyched to finally eat out in Italy. Of all the countries we visited, Italy had the best quality-to-value ratio when it came to food, and we took full advantage.
Something I’ve always loved about Rome – the ruins that are still scattered around the city. It’s impossible to forget that this is a city with serious history.
What I also love about Rome – cheap, delicious pizza cut to order with a pair of scissors. This pizza is from Pizza Florida just across the street from the Largo di Torre Argentina, where Julius Ceasar was killed. Not only is their pizza the best, but the Peroni is cheap and the historical view impressive.
And, while we’re talking about food, orecchiette with sage, pecorino, and bacon. (Bacon is a gluten-free vegetable, right?) This meal was devoured at Il Bacaro, a restaurant you should visit at least twice when in Rome. (And, while you’re in the neighborhood, go around the corner to Al Duello and order anything containing truffle.)
We spent an afternoon at the Borghese gallery admiring the beautiful statues and paintings. Though I’ve seen them before, I will never get tired of staring at these pieces of art, and we spent awhile roaming from statue to statue admiring Bernini’s work.
View of Castel Sant’Angelo over the Tevere while walking to the Vatican.
We were lucky enough to find an amazing tour guide through a friend of ours in Brooklyn. Though a private tour of the Vatican wasn’t our cheapest move, it was so worth it. Our guide spent over three hours showing us the highlights of the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
We began in the museum where she pointed out pieces we never would have appreciated on our own. Her art history background and many years spent navigating tourist destinations in Rome made her not only an informative guide but a helpful one when the crowds appeared in droves.
After visiting the museum galleries, she gave us background on the Sistine Chapel using photos on an iPad, then let us take in the masterpiece on our own for a half hour. No matter your religious views, seeing the Sistine Chapel in person is a pretty moving experience.
Our last stop was St. Peter’s itself. The audience with the pope had just ended when we left the Sistine Chapel, and so nothing beyond the piazza was yet open to the public. However, our guide wasn’t concerned with the “no entry” signs and closed gates, and after she flashed her badge at some guards and unhooked some metal chain fences we found ourselves totally alone in St. Peter’s. Cool.
After touring the tomb floors, we headed up to the nave where we spent the rest of our visit marveling at the tile mosaics, Bernini statues, and amazing architecture. Our guide pointed out that, though St. Peter’s is one of the largest churches in the world, there are details in it that make it feel much smaller and more intimate than it is. Unlike so many churches we’d seen that were built with the intent to intimidate, St. Peter’s actually felt like a welcoming place to worship.
One of the many mosaics (not a painting!) inside St. Peter’s, since paintings wouldn’t hold up over time.
These letters written in gold are actually 6 feet tall, but they seem much smaller. The huge size helps to make the space feel less vast and intimidating.
More beautiful Bernini creations, these ones with small lines carved into each surface to prevent light from reflecting off the stone. That way, all angles of these 15 foot tall states can be seen from any point of view.
The beautiful dome of St. Peter’s
Rome in the rain.