Big cities have nicknames. New York is called the Big Apple, Las Vegas is Sin City, and Paris – of course – is the city of love and romance. There is only one Caput Mundi, though. Rome. The Eternal City. It is home of chaos, beauty and tourists. It is also an open-air, walk-in museum. Layers of human history decorate the narrow streets that lead you astray step by step.
My first visit to Rome was at the end of September 2018. I rented a lovely attic apartment in the Vittoria district, which is a bit outside of the tourist buzz. I immediately loved this cozy abode. The icing on the cake was a rooftop terrace where I enjoyed my morning coffees and sipped red wine while looking at the sunset.
Rome welcomed me with September sun and clear blue sky. On my first night I wandered to Piazza del Popolo and accidentally found Fontana di Trevi. It was under renovation so there was no water running in the fountain. With or without water it was still mesmerizing. Apparently there is a tradition of throwing a coin in the fountain to make sure you will visit Rome again but I feel sure enough of my return.
When I felt exhausted by being a tourist I went to Testaccio. It’s easy to reach and less crowded. There is a market, which I reached just minutes before it was closing so I had time for a quick coffee and walk around the stalls. My favorite find in Testaccio was a small shop Le Bambole Testaccio. This is a small place owned by a couple making jewellery and diverse objects decorated with different techniques. I bought a lovely pair of earrings, made in the style of Bourbon.
In Testaccio there is also a pyramid. Yes, a pyramid. It was built as a tomb for Gaius Cestius and I think it is a calm hideout with special atmosphere. Partly because of the presence of the pyramid itself but partly because of the tranquility of the “colony” of cats called “i gatti della piramide”, Cats of the Pyramid.
In Testaccio there are great possibilities for aperitivo. I stopped at Tram Depot, which is located centrally amidst of traffic, and enjoyed my moment of dolce far niente. After a day in Testaccio I felt more at ease. Luckily, I have a friend in Rome who showed me the local’s viewpoint to Rome. My friend introduced me to grattachecca, shaved ice with syrup and coconut chunks, and I got to visit La Garbatella, a district which was built for workers in the 1920s. This for me was the Real Rome: getting a couple of beers from a Bangladesh shop and sitting in a piazza talking, sharing and watching people.
One of the accidental highlights was when we went to Vatican City. It turned out that the Pope himself was giving the mass. Afterwards Papa Francesco addressed the audience from his little window talking about acceptance and compassion.
We ended our day in the most beautiful restaurant: Da Augusto in Trastevere. I was the only tourist there and the food was amazing: real Roman cuisine made with a lot of love. We even got a little serenade as a musician with his guitar was passing by the restaurant.
There is lot more to say about Rome but as all good things in life, it is best experienced, explored and enjoyed as it is.
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