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Rome For the Second time: A perfect Weekend

Rome is one of those cities that for me took time to fall in love with, as hard as that is to admit. A rambling city where you quite literally trip over an artistic treasure or two, visiting its greatness can be overwhelming. The first time I went, I tried to see the most I could, a feat complete with fatigue and foot blisters. I stayed in dirty, dark accommodations because everything was expensive and lunched on crappy paninos but yet still saw what everyone sees in The Eternal City, a place like no other, quite simply, just Rome. A place where phalluses were considered good luck charms and home to a cross-dressing Emperor {Caligula}.

Since my first awkward trips, each time I came back for work I started to ease back into a sort of friendship with the city, no longer comparing it to Florence’s small size and food but instead enjoying each moment. No longer in a hurry to see everything at once and enjoying it more. This August, I chose the time that every Roman normally escapes the city, the weekend of August 15th, or Ferragosto, to explore with Nico before heading to Corfu, Greece for a week of sun, fun and to attend a friend’s wedding.

We arrived late Friday morning and left earlish on Sunday, basically a 36-hour bite where I think it’s fair to say we did more than we both expected. Despite the fear of a vacant city only full of tourists, I found perfect spring-like weather, soft sun and less crowds. We stayed at The Beehive hotel/hostel which is sort of legend in Italy. The owners Linda & Steve have made this oasis near Termini train station into more than just a pet-project, their network Cross-pollinate seeks to review and recommend awesome places to travel all over the globe. A project I find particularly intriguing and will be following.

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The Beehive, stylish simplicity with a touch of ‘bohemian’ and pretty damn good breakfast

To get there we took Italo Treno from Florence, a new high-speed rail network which offers free WiFi and some extras. While prices are similar to Trenitalia’s options, it was interesting to try something new though my seat’s plug definitely didn’t work and you have to struggle to find room for your bags in the storage above the seats. 1 1/2 hours and some change and we were sliding into the Rome Tiburtina station, not far from Termini, which is a short metro stop away. I would highly advise people who, like any major urban city center, be very careful for pick-pockets. We definitely saw a few, they seem to work in teams, one distracting while the other carefully slips a hand in your pocket or jostles you as the train cars get packed. Just be aware and keep your bags in front of you at all times, and you’ll be just fine.

Friday: late morning. Arrive at The Beehive and get a map, tour of the premises, for purposes of this blog post, we stayed in two different rooms – an air-conditioned one with private bathroom in ‘the sweets’ and one of their classic rooms with shared bathrooms, though it’s worth noting that the classic rooms have an in-room sink and mirror. Five minutes walking to Termini and the metro station and about 30-45 minutes walking to famous sites as the Colosseum etc. I found the location  to be very convenient and the place itself to be our little weekend oasis from Rome’s chaos.

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No real expectations in mind for our first walk into Rome, just a chance to get our blood-moving before dinner and bask in a truly gorgeous August 15th. There was a festive vibe to the city since many had escaped and streets were free of traffic and the usual insane honking. No ideas of where we wanted to go, the only thing we had organized was dinner that night. One thing that strikes me everytime I come to Rome is just how beautiful this place really is, colorful and varied, plus for people like myself who have a light obsession for vespa scooters, the chance to naughtily climb on a few and take cheesy photos, so original. 

We happened to walk by the Trevi fountain, which is currently going through a massive restoration with much of the fountain covered in scaffolding. I thought it was very cool that they erected a transparent suspended walkway to give visitors another chance to tour this famous monument in a way they very well may not be able to ever again.

That’s not all, according to ITALY Magazine, “A fun initiative launched by the city of Rome is the Fontana di Trevi app, available for iPhone and Android, which allows visitors to take a selfie, within 200 meters of the site, by clicking on the appropriate button “Take your selfie”. Each user posting the photo on the corresponding website will receive an email with a photo of the Trevi Fountain personalized with their own portrait.”

We didn’t partake ourselves mainly because I was keen to escape the chaos around the fountain which is really not my thing. We did make a stop at the Pantheon (a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus) to take some very cheesy photos that pretty just involve us staring into the sky, perhaps a tribute to our own personal favorite pagan god.

pantheonrome_girlinflorenceWe stopped at a monument that neither of us had ever been, the Castel Sant’Angelo along Rome’s Tiber river, built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian but which had several purposes throughout the centuries. It also served as a Papal refuge, containing a secret corridor, known as the passetto di borgo, connects Castel Sant’Angelo with the Vatican. Not only does this place host a museum but it also offers some of the best views of Rome, plus a charming cafe that wasn’t as overpriced as it could be.

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The view from Castel Sant’Angelo this Ferragosto

We quickly stopped by the Vatican, we’ve both been several times but it’s close proximity meant that at least one look around one of the most powerful (and small) cities in the world was a must. I love stopping by the Vatican’s post office, which was closed when we were there (even they take a break on Ferragosto) since who doesn’t love getting a post card from here?

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After heading back to The Beehive for a quick shower and change, we headed towards the vision of architect Giuseppe Valadier, Piazza del Popolo, close to the restaurant we were headed to that night. Like any major Italian city, street-performers were in abundance, a guy playing bass guitar and a street performer channeling Micheal Jackson with a smile as wide as the Tiber.

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As we slowly made our way through this delightful piazza, we headed to The First Luxury Art Hotel in Rome for drinks & dinner on their fabulous roof terrace. I had looked it up a few times online before we went but the pictures do not do this place justice, I would quite happily live here, scrubbing plates to marvel in this view daily.

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A stylish boutique hotel and an in-house Michelin-star restaurant with top chef Riccardo di Giacinto – the roof garden restaurant, 0-300 Cold and Grill, will take your breath away. The garden is also perfect just for drinks, of course I had a moscow-mule which was a perfect gingery heaven, they got a lot of points for adding ginger beer and not using ginger ale, served with refreshing hors d’oeuvres.

After taking in a wonderful sunset, beautifully illuminating Rome’s rooftops, we sat down for dinner trying a sample of raw-fish appetizers, sauteed mussels and a succulent pork main. We also tried a beautiful white wine from Sicily, Kaos Etna bianco 2013, memorable with a mineral taste that got better with every sip. The service here was top on, our server chatty and helpful. While I wouldn’t describe it as a budget option, with the view you get from the top – this is really worth a visit.

rome10That night, we quite happily walked the 40+ minutes back to Beehive, happy and perhaps just a little tipsy, because nothing really compares to strolling through Rome at night. We stopped at what I’m sure is a total tourist trap, the Ice Club near the Roman forum mainly because I just had to see what it was like. At minus 5 degrees and for 15 euros (includes the drink) you can sip a cocktail served in, well.. ice, surrounded by people all draped in special protective shawls. It was better than I imagined, with fur-lined ice seats and even a Colosseum ice-sculpture.

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The next morning we headed up the Aventine Hill, a very beautiful area of Rome and home to the famous keyhole, where by squinting you can spot St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s position makes you wonder if this was placed on purpose or a lucky coincidence. This is definitely one of my favorite places to wander for the wonderfully curated gardens and parks.

aventineAfterward we had a tour lined up with The Roman Guy, a reputable tour company offering all sorts of options for first-second-or third time visitors to the city. While I have already been to the Colosseum, I always wanted to visit the Arena floor and one of their tours offered the possibility to check out the third level, arena floor and the Roman Forum. Our group was small and fun, around seven people in total. We traipsed our way through centuries of Roman history, learning about how Mussolini destructed ancient monuments to get a view of the Colosseum and spotted Roman coins burned into marble, dropped by fleeing citizens during the Barbarian invasion that overtook the empire.

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Soon we were on our way to Rome’s most famous site, and in true VIP style promptly whisked behind a rope by security to a special area that not many get access to, the arena floor. Gladiator fans will remember this place where competitions were played out, lives hanging on a simple thumbs-up or down from the standing emperor. We also were gained access to the dungeons, where animals and humans waited before the games began. Afterwards, we headed to the third-floor, where you get a bird-eye view of the forum and the city itself, and spotted what almost seemed like ancient graffiti ‘vino’ (Italian word for Rome) sketched in red in the Colosseum walls.

theromanguyAfterwards we headed back to shower and change before a final memorable night in the city. We decided to stop for an aperitivo at one of the most gorgeous courtyards I have ever seen, the Stravinskij Bar at Hotel de Russie. Five stars all the way, nothing compares to sipping a fresh ginger spritz in the Piazzetta Valadier. I’d like to think of it as my own personal Audrey Hepburn moment :).

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Dinner that night was not in the center of town, but rather at a just-opened new restaurant, Pepper on via nuoro. We were meeting a foodie friend of mine, Gina from GTFoodandTravel, who runs private food tours and is one of the nicest, energetic people I have ever met. She too has lived in Italy since 2007 and literally lives and breathes delicious food – hence why we’re friends. Pepper is not the easiest place to arrive via public transportation, you have a 15 minute walk from the closest metro station, near an ancient aqueduct and in a neighborhood where Romans actually live.

The food is a blend of Rome classics with a modern twist using locally sourced ingredients, carbonara with a special pepper sauce which was out of this world. Pepper takes risks by adding *gasp (Italians close your ears) cheese to their fried anchovies instead of the classic lemon, which I really enjoyed. The wine list also impresses, lots of local options, we left Gina pick since she has much more foodie clout than I do. Dessert, perfection with a simple peaches soaked in white wine with mint.

pepper restaurant36 hours of walking, eating and taking in what is a truly remarkable place that gets better with every visit. I may end up writing 10 posts on what it’s like to visit because quite frankly, each time is so different and I love to share. Learning about new sites, visiting old friends, discovering an off-the-beaten-path monument and trying new restaurants. My recommendation is to not get stuck thinking the only thing you need to visit is the main sites, give wider Rome a chance and trust me, you will be glad you did.

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A lone vintage Fiat in the wild who decided to stay home for Ferragosto


Places mentioned in this article

Where we stayed

The Beehive Hostel & Hotel, Via Marghera, 8, 00185 Roma
06 4470 4553. Prices around 80 euros per couple for the classic room, 100 for the ‘sweets’ version with in-suite bathroom [during high season].

What we visited

Castel Sant’Angelo. Lungotevere Castello (along the Tiber). Closed on Mondays, Tuesday to Sunday open 9am -7:30pm. €10,50 . *Entrance is free the first Sunday of every month.

Aventine Hill: Keyhole and Surrounding Parks, Via di Santa Sabina, Rome, Italy. Highly recommend taking some time to wander through the parks and pack a picnic.

Roman Forum & Colloseum arena floor & third level tour with The Roman Guy, 79 euros per person for the three-hours tour, tour details here.

Where we ate (and drank)

0-300 Cold and Grill, Roof Garden, Via del Vantaggio, 14, 00186 Rome, Italy. Amazing views over Rome, if you don’t make it for dinner, come for a drink!

Stravinskij Bar – Hotel De Russie
Via del Babuino | Piazza del Popolo, Rome, Italy. Beautiful courtyard, make sure to ask for their seasonal cocktails, ‘lady bird’ is their signature drink.

Pepper Restaurant, Via Nuoro 17, 00182 Rome, Italy. New restaurant with variations on Rome classics.

Ice Club, Via della Madonna dei Monti, 18-19, 00184 Roma. 06 9784 5581. 15 euros gains you entrance to the ice bar & one cocktail.

A Few Rome Resources to help you get your feet wet, or at least satisfy a craving for fried, stuffed artichokes

Parla Food | Katie Parla shares my own obsession of food, on her blog she quotes about ‘eating all the bad food in Rome so readers don’t have to’ and she is a plethora of foodie wisdom. I also happened to love an article she wrote for Bon Appetite about One-hit Wonder restaurants in Rome that do one dish great and everything else terribly. Instagram (warning, you may drool continuously)

BrowsingRome | is the first place you want to stop if you are looking for expert tips on what to do, see, feel or just well, anything Roma. She wrote a guest post for a popular travel blog I adore, Mrs. O Around The World, about a perfect weekend in Rome which is absolutely worth bookmarking.  Instagram, full of ‘Rome Porn’ and if you tag your photos with #browsingitaly, you may be featured in her sister blog, Browsing Italy’s weekly ‘best of’ instagram posts. 

Elizabeth Minchilli | Elizabeth has been living in Italy for most of her life and is based in Rome. She is the brain behind a couple of apps that I adore, EAT ROME, EAT FLORENCE, EAT VENICE, which are very useful to people like me who can be lazy while doing research. Plus she has some fabulous recipes for those who want to be a little Italiana at home.

Rick Zullo | Rick’s Rome. I think Rick is hilarious and genuine, one of those people that will respond to your email and smile when you talk to him without making you feel stupid for getting the name of a Roman monument wrong. I know that sounds a little silly but in this tech-savvy world with everyone vying for the top spot, things like that matter to me. Rick is a nice guy and his life in Italy tips and Rome mentions are worth a read.

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6 Comment

  1. Reply
    Marcello
    26.08.2014 at 14:51

    Looks like you haven’t gotten tired of the most famous landmarks of Rome 🙂 IMHO, once you tick off the most famous, Rome has lots of virtually tourist free curiosities and art treasures that are definitely worth visiting. As an English mother tongue, for example, I think the so called English cemetery is a nice choice, especially if you have fond memories of your English literature classes ( Shelley and Keats are both buried there, alongside Americans and Northern Europeans). The Capuchins’ crypt, though definitely creepy, is something you won’t easily find anywhere else.

    Ps. I checked your youtube channel ad found that you have a very lovely accent. You sound like Heather Parisi lol

    1. mm
      Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      26.08.2014 at 14:55

      Ciao Marcello, I never get tired of Rome’s most famous landmarks and many of the lesser known ones as well. The next time I’m in Rome I have some plans to visit the suburbs and hidden areas that 36 hours wouldn’t allow this time. I need to also check out the catacombs! I love the idea of visiting the English cemetary, there is a nice one in Florence which is definitely worth visiting, a tranquil and beautiful place to be certain. Thanks for checking my youtube channel out, I’m quite shy in front of the camera but your compliment made me smile 🙂

      1. Reply
        Marcello
        27.08.2014 at 17:03

        I think I know that cemetery you mention. It’s in the Oltrarno neighborhood, on the way to San Miniato, right? I saw once an English/Italian movie where Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are in that place and indeed it’s lovely. One of the very few spots in Florence I haven’t seen, alongside that bloody elusive Corridoio Vasariano that is never open!

        Oh well, despite what many tourists think, visiting all of what Florence has to offer takes several weeks…

  2. Reply
    Rick Zullo
    26.08.2014 at 17:05

    Wow, GRAZIE, GIF for mentioning me in this amazing post. However, if I’m being totally honest with myself (and everyone else), this one post on Rome contains more useful information for the visitor than my entire blog! Very well done, and incredible photos, as always. Love the picture of the three motorini against the orange wall. And you made it to the Ice Club! Who says there are no “cool” spots in August? A presto!

    1. mm
      Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      26.08.2014 at 17:12

      Hello Rick, I really liked your Rome suggestions and appreciate your witty candor 🙂 and thank you for the compliment. I loved that orange wall as well, a ‘holy roman’ parking lot ;-).

      ps. I actually loved the ice club, its so touristy it was even highlighted on my free map of Rome but guess what, I could care less – I had fun!

  3. […] Georgette Jupe Rome is one of those cities that for me took time to fall in love with, as hard as that.. […]

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