Prior to my winter weekend away in Rome, I told myself I would be very much a people-watcher on this trip, an observer, a wanderer. That’s exactly what I did, albeit in a rush of just 2 and a half days spent in the city. Rome proved to be a beautiful escape into history, architecture and cuisine and although my time here was short, I think I learnt a few facts about the Eternal City that I hope are useful/interesting.
1. Romans are not as rude and grumpy as they are often known to be. If this connotation of Romans has any truth, I think in most cases Romans may give a poor first impression for a number of reasons; but kill them with kindness and try to throw in some Italian words and they’ll soon warm up to you. I thought we started on a bad note one night with a waiter when kindly asking to move tables and he looked irritated, however throughout the evening he offered very nice service and as we left he shook each of our hands and wished us a lovely stay. This surprised me and I thought it was a lovely touch.
2. Italians adore gelato. Even in the month of December! Fortunately Rome is full of gelaterias on pretty much every corner serving hundreds of flavours and yes they were enough to tempt me even in Winter time! How could I turn down amaretto flavoured ice cream?
3. Romans can be extremely stylish. They can somehow pull off outfits that I would ordinarily mock anybody in London for wearing. The men can wear pink trousers, yellow cardigans, red bow ties and navy blue jackets as one outfit and they look divine. And if the women want to wear sunglasses the size of moons on their face at 10 o’clock at night, why the hell can’t they?! With this level of style however, for some there can be a downside of vanity, which makes these attractive Italians suddenly seem a little less attractive in my opinion.
4. Sometimes simplicity is everything. ‘Cacio e Pepe’, a traditional Roman dish is literally pasta in cheese and black pepper. It’s so simple, yet so delicious and it featured on every menu I saw in Rome. I would’ve eaten it again and again if I could’ve, but there is just too much gorgeous Italian food on offer and a weekend is too little time to try it all!
5. Road crossings are deadly. White stripes across the road are NOT like zebra crossings in Rome, so don’t mistake them for this. However unless you start walking into the middle of a road, don’t expect cars to stop for you. Be prepared for some insane taxi drivers too.
6. Queuing systems and signage at attractions don’t seem to exist. The Vatican was a confusing queuing and ticket-buying experience and I really wish there were staff members or at least signs pointing us in the right direction to save time-wasting. Sadly whilst ‘queuing’ for the Colosseum, we encountered several rude people jumping in the line. Thank goodness our British morals were present and we weren’t afraid to tell these people the rules of a queue, alas they were ignored. Prepare for some frustrations.
7. Even with language barriers, I realised that a universal expression for absolutely everybody is a sigh of relief when taking your seat on a bench or in a restaurant, followed by a chuckle whilst you look at the person next to you after a day of walking around the city. There’s nothing like resting your legs with a hot cup of chocolate and a canoli.
8. When picking a restaurant in Rome, go for a trattoria which is a family-run restaurant. I found one on my first night hidden in a little corner called Trattoria Scavolina and it was my favourite meal of the three nights I was there. They tend to have a ‘local’ vibe to them, can be a cheaper alternative and you should find, like I did that the pasta is handmade and tastes fantastico!
9. Rome really isn’t that expensive. The year before, I had a city break in Paris at the similar time of year and it emptied all of our wallets completely. Rome was fairly priced from eating out to souvenirs to entry tickets and transportation tickets. Do your research as well because there are many free museums and I was lucky enough to gain free entry to the Colosseum because I was visiting on the first Sunday of the month!
10. Rome is easy to fall in love with. I didn’t even realise it until about 2 weeks after returning home to England when I had a day out in London to see all of the grand Christmas lights and it didn’t have much of an effect on me. I go every year and somehow this year I didn’t get any special kinda feeling walking the festive streets of London. Instead I thought back to my festive trip to Rome and how beautiful and subtle and sweet the Christmas decorations were in the city and how the whole atmosphere made me feel. And I learned just how much I loved my weekend and can’t wait to return to the Eternal City.