To write a series of posts about a holiday in Italy and specifically about Rome is folly. A folly it shall be then. I’ll euphemistically call this series of posts “When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do,” a very familiar saying, one my wife and I and our friends lived in earnest. Wherever we went in Rome, we piled onto buses or boarded the metro rail with the masses. Sticky, smelly humanity—anxiety always welled up in my being. I don’t like crowds, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. Rush-hour commute in Rome. It always seemed to be rush hour in Rome.
We would wait on the platform for a metro, wait as bodies were disgorged from the train carriages, and then we would quickly fill the voids left behind as people went this way and that throughout the city. You just haven’t lived until you’ve made your way around a big city on its rapid transit systems. They all seem, more or less, the same to me: a bit grungy, somewhat smelly, filled with humanity—always in a hurry. And pickpockets. Click here for tips on pickpockets.
Rome and the Piazza dei Re di Roma
From our apartment on the Piazza dei Re di Roma, we enjoyed a view past diaphanous curtains out the windows and over a terrifically busy city. For instance, we observed cars in three lanes (suggested lanes, not actually followed) driving counterclockwise on the ring outside a small, round park with sycamores and park benches, all making for one street or another that angled off toward other parts of the city.
It was somewhat entertaining to watch this flow, if you can call it that, from our fourth-floor apartment. This level was actually the fifth one from the street. The bottom floor is not number one as it is in American buildings; rather, it is level zero, or ground level. We marveled at cars diving for and angling in their desired direction, only inches from each other—if that. Then there are the ubiquitous ambulances, horns blaring; delivery trucks parked in one of the aforementioned lanes, setting off goods for one store or another; and pedestrians, who always feel they have the right-of-way. But the cars, trucks, motor scooters, and busses come barrelling down on you so. A little scary for a non-urbanite like me.
Our time in Rome began when we were picked up at the airport by a driver arranged by our host in the city. We were driven in the luxury of a black Mercedes sedan through the evening rush-hour traffic to an apartment we had reserved months prior by using AirBnB.com. Our host, Andrea, met us on the sidewalk and ushered us up to our apartment. He taught us how to use the old-school elevator and gave us a quick tour of the apartment’s rooms and amenities before handing us the keys and leaving us to it. Click here for the series on using Airbnb in Italy.
Once settled, we attended to our first order of business: food and wine. So off to find a trattoria. Not far from our apartment and just off the Piazza dei Re di Roma, we found a quaint little place. The restaurant felt and looked just as one would think—small, with maybe eight tables, decorated with wall paintings of ancient Roman life, worn or made to appear so. We walked through the doors and down the few steps from street level and realized that we were the first of the night’s customers. We were greeted cheerfully and decided on one of the few tables not yet reserved.
We had been told by friends and acquaintances that the house wines were usually quite good in such restaurants, so we ordered up a bit of red for the guys and some white for the ladies. I, being a little bedraggled by air travel, thought a liter of wine for two people was too much. Silly me. We managed to finish them off with no problem during the lengthy meal.
Coming up next in this series: Out and About in Rome