I saw an amazing video by Contiki the other day and I loved it. It’s good to see that the notion of travelling is changing – slowly but surely.
As for me, I couldn’t have agreed more with the content of the video. I don’t think I can say it enough – Travel is hardly ever about the Collosseums and Eiffel Towers of the world – it’s about smell of unknown spices wafting through the air, running fingers along crumbling facades, stories behind local dishes, and meeting amazing people! This is nowhere truer than it is in cities like Rome or London.
Take Rome for instance. It is a city as old as time. There is history at every corner, there are more monuments than one can count on one’s fingers and there are dozens of tours which claim to show you ‘everything in a day’. Trying to check everything off a to-do list is nowhere as exhausting as it is in Rome. If you’re there for a short city break, you’re bound to leave tired! That’s because you would’ve spent your days trying to absorb every little detail of the Colosseum, battling lengthy queues at The Vatican City, sweating it out at the Pantheon, and wondering what the fuss is all about.
It might be hard but we strongly suggest battling the urge to see ‘everything’ and following our key pointers to enjoy Rome. We promise you will fall in love with the city and Italian culture and come away with a tale (or four?!) to tell.
1) Close your eyes and absorb everything
We know this is easier said than done but sometimes there is no better way to combat the sensory overload than by closing your eyes, taking a deep breath, and absorbing the sights and sounds of the place. Take our word for it – it suddenly makes the place seem a lot less complicated
2) Avoid the tourist traps
Just exercise common sense and avoid obvious tourist traps such as overpriced souvenirs around the main historical sites. Sure your friend back home would love an Italian cheese board or a nice bottle of local wine, but try to steer clear of the tat being sold in touristy areas. Areas such as Testaccio, an erstwhile working-class neighbourhood, have dozens of little known stores that will provide better quality stuff at cheaper prices. While you’re there picking gifts for your friends back home, make sure you explore the area too. Testaccio is a veritable maze of shops, with rustic Italian delis and restaurants at every corner. It’s a win-win
3) Eat Right
Food is the highlight of every trip to Italy. It might seem like an exaggeration but chances are you will be served store-bought pastas and supermarket pizzas at most restaurants around major historical sites such as the Colosseum or Pantheon. Head to Rome’s bohemian district Trastevere for sumptuous Italian food – everything from rustic pasta dishes to finger-licking tiramisu can be found here. Research beforehand and make reservations based on locals’ recommendations.
If you want to take the easy (but equally delicious!) way out, opt for a food tour of Rome. A number of companies offer food tours of the city these days and most of them take tourists around the best establishments of Trastevere. There’s nothing quite like sampling local produce, freshly-made breads, delicately preserved cuts of meat, and home-made pasta straight out of an Italian mamma’s kitchen. These offbeat tours are perfect for tourists who cherish local experiences over seeing historical sites or ticking things off a traditional check-list
4) Offbeat Sights
Of course, there is always the option of going off the beaten track and surveying sights that aren’t usually frequented by tourists. There is no dearth of impressive but less-known cathedrals in Rome. If you’re interested in animals, the zoo in Rome can prove to be a great day out. Here animals aren’t kept in cages and they have large open spaces to themselves – it’s a refreshing change from regular zoos.
If it’s your first visit to Rome, then visit the Colosseum at night when the crowds have left. Skip the queues (and trouble!) at The Vatican City by opting for a skip-the-line tour offered by a number of tour operators in the city.
Whatever you choose to do in Rome, don’t try to cram too much in when you first fashion an itinerary. Take it easy and enjoy the city – bit by bit!!