Now that it’s fall, the beach weekends, parties, and vacations of summer are a distant memory. The days are suddenly short and the heat has vanished, leaving us with daily downpours. With the end of summer, life in Rome has become routine. Work, grocery store, home. Throw in an aperitivo here or a trivia night there.
Living here, it’s easy to pass the Colosseum and barely take notice. Or to walk by St. Peter’s every day on the way to work and think of the normally stunning sight as just a landmark on your commute. When you avoid getting off at the Spagna metro stop because you’re sick of the crowds, (when anyone else would be thrilled to even have the opportunity to walk home past the Spanish Steps), that’s when you know it’s bad.
My friends at home will say I’m spoiled, and not appreciating the city I call home, and they’re right. But when you push through hordes of tourists waiting in line for the Vatican Museum every day just to get into work, do you really want to spend your weekend being one of them? I don’t. And not just because I think I’ve seen most of the “touristy” things there are to see in Rome, (not even close), or because I can’t stand long lines and pushing and hundreds of people posing for photos, (though that is true), or even because I don’t want to be confused with being a tourist, (though, ashamedly, that’s also a little true). It’s because when you live here, you think you have all the time in the world to see everything, and things like deadlines, cleaning, and other daily life activities take precedence. Basically, it’s like living in the US, but with better pasta and slower service.
Two Sundays ago, I panicked. I have been taking living in Italy for granted, and I’m not going to live here forever! So I set out on a perfect Sunday in Rome, doing semi-touristy things without actually feeling like a tourist. The agenda:
- Go for a walk. I love mornings, especially being outside when a city is first waking up. The sweet, warm scents of baked goods and coffee wafting out of cafes, the flower vendors opening shop, the street sweepers, the glow of sunrise, the quiet calm– mornings are the same around the world, just with different scents and scenery. Rome happens to have a gorgeous setting for a morning walk, and you get to see the city in all its splendor before the tour groups pour out of their hotels.
- Get coffee. Coffee is essential in Italy, and for me. There are plenty of great cafes in touristy settings. Sip a cappuccino while gazing on the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, or really anywhere you want, (there is no shortage of cafes in Rome)
- Now that you have your caffeine intake, head to a museum. There are plenty in Rome to satisfy almost any interest. On this particular Sunday, I went to the Mercato di Traino Museo dei Fori Imperiali. I’d been meaning to check out the Travel Routes in Photography (T.R.I.P.) visit, and am so glad I finally went! The exhibit featured four very different photographers — Simon Norfolk (Afghanistan), Elaine Ling (Baobab trees in Africa), Giancarlo Ceraudo (Streets of Havana), and Cristina De Middel (Afronauts). Anyone who knows me can probably guess that I was fascinated by the Afghanistan section. Simon Norfolk’s photos were contrasted with those of John Burke, the first photographer ever in Afghanistan. Both photographers explored encampments and conflict, and though Burke’s were black and white while Norfolk’s bursted with color, the similarities between 1880 and today were striking. As for the museum itself, it’s nice for it’s open air spaces and views over the forum and Vittorio Emanuele, but I have to admit it’s not my favorite.
- More coffee. Drink it strong, drink it often. Welcome to Italy! I finally made it to Tazza D’Oro for their delicious Granita di Caffe, (more of a dessert than a pick me up), and I highly recommend it.
- Go for another walk. One of the best things to do in Rome is to simply walk the streets and see where they take you. It’s almost impossible to not see something beautiful, no matter where you go. I went mainstream, and strolled down Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via del Corso for some window shopping, which inevitably turned into actual shopping. The most enjoyable part though, was walking through the city at sunset. The weather was perfect – the first hint of fall creeping in – and it seemed the entire city was out for their passegiata.
- The crowds on Via del Corso can be a bit much, so next, head to a more relaxed neighborhood. My favorite is Monti, mainly because I lived there for seven months, but also because it has great vintage shopping, galleries, and tons of local restaurants and bars. Meander through the side streets and stop in as many little shops as your heart desires.
- When you’ve had enough, meet a friend for dinner, (for a traditional Roman meal of course, since this is a “non-touristy/tourist” day). I met my friend and future roommate at La Tavernelle, one of my favorite restaurants in Monti. I must confess, I’ve only had the cacio e pepe here, but it’s so good I get it every time and refuse to branch out. (Honestly, I don’t think you should branch out either, because everyone I know gets it, and I’m not sure the rest of the menu is as fantastic). They serve it in a parmesan cheese bowl — So decadent, so delicious. Plus, the staff is friendly and it has that “family” vibe people always talk about when they talk about Italian restaurants. I always love going to dinner on Sunday nights, because it extends the weekend. (When you’re a kid, Sunday nights are the worst, because they mean homework and school the next day. When you’re 25, not much changes, but dinner helps!) Make sure to drink lots of wine and catch up on lots of gossip before walking home through the now lit up city that’s even more beautiful by night, (if possible), than at sunrise.