We left Florence for Rome and per the usual Italian train experience we were completely unsure whether our train was actually going to take us to our final destination. Why? Well mainly because the European train labeling system is confusing to say the least. Confusing because things are labeled at the last 5 to 10 minutes before your train is set to leave and you have no idea which platform to go on. On top of that, sometimes your destination or train number that’s on your ticket is completely wrong and you just have to guess.
Well luckily, we guessed right.
We arrived in Rome and were immediately greeted with the stark contrast between our new destination and our previous one. Where Florence was quaint and charming, Rome was bustling and overwhelming.
We boarded the Roman subway (our first Italian subway experience) and immediately regretted that decision. To say the car was packed would be an understatement, the overall experience is not really enjoyable and I’d recommend against using the metro system if you can/afford to avoid it. It’s not that it was unsafe or didn’t run on time, rather it’s just so poorly ventilated, loud, and crowded that you just feel nauseated almost instantly.
From the subway station we walked a mile with the heavy (albeit only) bags on our backs. And as we arrived to our hotel like a ray of sunshine there beamed our island pizza oasis. On the quiet street that our hotel was on, lied a pizza oasis. This pizza oasis, otherwise known as Pinsere , serves up the BEST pizza in Rome. Why is it the best? First the flavors are unlike I have ever had before.
Flavors like fat with brown sugar and walnuts absolutely blew my mind. The pizza was cooked perfectly on a thin pillow flatbread with toppings that worked perfectly together. Now I will say that this is not a traditional pizza place, you walk in and order the pizzas that they have prepared halfway, they then finish them off in the oven and serve it up to you. Now the best part, this place is CHEAP! Pretty much any pizza you want only costs 4.50 euro. That’s INSANE!
The staff is super friendly and welcoming, they became familiar with us as we came back again and again because it was the best cheap meal you could get in Rome for our money.
This pizza experience leads us to our first rule:
When in Rome, ALWAYS eat at Pinsere.
The first real surprise of the trip was waiting for us when we checked into our hotel room. So unlike all the other hotels we had stayed in where the shower was you know in the bathroom, the shower in this hotel room was right next to our bed completely separate from our bathroom. Also it wasn’t enclosed with anything other than 4 glass shower panels. It was just bizarre and it was just the tip of the iceberg with our hotel room. As a result of being situated directly under the rooftop restaurant, every night we were serenaded with a cacophony of rumbling tables and chairs as we tried to sleep. And just like clockwork at 4AM, the symphony would start all over again for the breakfast service.
Needless to say, we hated our hotel room.
Which leads us to our next rule:
Don’t be afraid to change rooms, don’t be like us. (Although the reason we didn’t was because we had heard from other folks that part of the hotel wasn’t updated and we didn’t want to risk downgrading on our room)
Now Rome itself is a interesting city, obviously it’s exploding with history and ancient structures that will blow your mind. As a history major in college, visiting the famous historic landmarks was one of the top things on my list to do in Rome. And then we got to Rome and it hit me.
All these sites are just gigantic tourist traps that feel more like a amusement park than a journey through time. I don’t know how to explain it, but the fact that so many sites are just so crowded and so jam packed with people trying to take advantage of tourists the landmarks kind of lost their luster for me, almost immediately.
But when you’re in Rome you have to visit these places even though the sites will make you feel like human cattle by the sheer volume of people visiting alongside you.
Our hotel was not centrally located, so any landmark was a good 30 to 45 minute walk away or a 10 minute cab ride. Since our main food source was bread and pasta on this vacation, more often than not we opted to walk to the tourist sites. Unlike Florence, Rome is a HUGE city and it’s sprawling (think L.A.), this layout makes visiting everything in Rome somewhat exhausting.
Luckily, much of the ancient landmarks are somewhat lumped together, so we booked tickets in advance to visit them all. Which leads us to our next rule:
Unlike the other cities in Italy, DEFINITELY book your museum/landmark visits in advance.
It’s literally a hellscape if you want to try and make a go of it on the day of. You can easily buy things the day before you want to go and just walk right in (other than at the Colosseum, which just might be hell on earth when you’re waiting in that line to go in)
I will say this about all the landmarks (i.e. Colosseum, Vatican, Pantheon, etc.) they are all worth seeing, but they’re also exhausting by the sheer volume of people who visit them. So plan accordingly.
All our exploring led us to some solid meal options, most nights honestly we just visited our pizza oasis. But on one night we visited Cibificio which was this hip (empty) restaurant.
The meal here was a solid and affordable option, more importantly it yielded two of my more memorable experiences in Rome. First, the waiter/Owner scoffed at my meal choice proclaiming that I was ordering too much. By the end of it, I showed him who was boss, or I proved his point of me being a fat American. Either way I ate all the food and laughed in his face! (The food is pictured below, all this cost 20 euros!)
The other was the Roman version of the “meatball” , it was pulled beef that was coated in breadcrumbs and fried. It was heavenly and way better than your typical meatball.
When we weren’t stuffing our face with cheap delicious pizza, we were getting gelato. And said gelato came courtesy of Gelateria Romana. Now my understanding is that this place is somewhat of an Italian chain (at least by how many locations they have on their website), but regardless of that fact this was some of the best gelato that I had in all of Italy.The crema dal 1947 flavor was to die for, it had this light citrus flavor to go with the vanilla cream flavor.It was perfectly smooth, cheap, and the wide variety of flavors made me crave it again and again. It also didn’t hurt that this place was a block away from our hotel. But I digress…
Rome was somewhat of a dud for us, I don’t know why, may be it was because of where our hotel was but we just both really did not enjoy our time in Rome. Which is shocking because it was the one city I thought we had to visit. I’m sure that Rome has more to offer than what we saw, and I think it’s really impossible to enjoy a city on the scale of Rome in just a few days. I would definitely recommend staying longer and really researching places to visit in Rome (outside the tourist areas).
That’s it for Rome, next up is the final leg of our journey. Positano. Or as I like to call it, heaven on Earth.