If anyone wants to experience Rome and truly enjoy its energy, without spending a lot of days in the Eternal city, there is only one recipe – walk until your feet really start to hurt and then walk a little bit more… before you take a short rest.
The city on the seven hills hides so much history, that even today it is still possible to orientate based solely on ancient landmarks, and even entire ancient streets. If you are a Roman history freak like I am, though, Rome can appear a bit ghastly and empty with only shadows answering your thoughts and looks. Especially at night, when all the archeological sites and their surroundings become empty of tourists, cops, sellers, everyone. When the entire ancient Forum is silent, that’s when it is best to be around and marvel on how life must have looked like.
Once you snap out of it, which you must, you can open your mind to the unusual symbiosis of metropolitan bustle and Italian dolce vita, hipster youth and middle-age elegance, locals and a sea of tourists.
A morning coffee on top of Castel Sant’Angelo is an ideal way to start your day with a mix of culture and relaxation. This monumental stronghold has been built in the second century AD as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian, but was later transformed into a Papal fortress and round the beginning of the previous century it became a museum.
Castel Sant’Angelo was the tallest building in Rome for almost one and a half thousand years, until St. Peter’s Basilica was built. Even today, from its roof where the cafes are located, all the famous landmarks are visible – The Pantheon, Vatican, river Tiber and its centuries old bridges.
Pasta... from a plastic plate!?
Once you cross the river Tiber over Ponte Sant’Angelo, a beautiful ancient bridge built in 134 AD, road takes you straight to the city core. Check your Google Maps, close by is an amazing and very cheap “pasticeria” called modestly “Pasta Imperiale”.
Almost invisible from the street, but still one of the best cheap pasta places I tried in the Italian capital. Portions are massive, taste is great and although a lot of tourists found out about it in recent years, it kept the old epic flavor, the messed up arrangement and the “could’t care less” attitude. Not for those imagining the Italian fine dining.
If you missed out on impressing your other half here, you can continue with promising a visit to the mall, just miss out on the info that the stores are closed for over a thousand years.
Trajan’s market, the oldest and biggest shopping mall of the ancient world, is a massive multi-storey complex of buildings that overlooks Piazza Venezia, with its modern parliament building, as well as the Forum –social and political center of life in ancient Rome. Trajan’s market is not only one of the most astonishing feats of Roman architecture, but maybe the most striking example of the impact that the Romans had on today’s civilization…
Network of Streets and Squares
For a taste of modern Roman nightlife, head out to Trastevere district. Best way is to go by foot and cross to the Vatican side of the river via Ponte Sisto, a fifteenth century bridge that will lead you straight into the center of network of tiny streets and squares, lined up with beautiful Italian bars that serve amazing cocktails and delicious Mediterranean appetizers.
One of the most famous bars in the area is definitely Freni e Frizioni that has a wide terrace, open table for snacks included with drinks, and prices on average between 1 and 1.5 euros lower per cocktail. All that, while being able to boast that legendary Anthony Bourdain loved to drink negroni in the place.
Still, if you have time and are not lazy to explore, the area offers a lot more amazing bars to warm up.
When you are ready to go dancing and clubbing, depending on your mood, whether you want live music or DJs to drive you through the night, go for Alcazar by foot or catch a cab to take you to Circolo degli Illuminati. When in Rome for only one weekend, can’t miss with these two.
Also, if you take this route, don’t forget to ask the driver to pass next to The Pyramid of Cestius, it’s locateed around halfway between the two clubs. Even though it is the only ancient Roman pyramid, it still doesn’t get that much tourist attention and is especially amazing to visit during night.
Not the first, but the last...
In order not to leave Rome without visiting an actual museum, by far the best solution for weekend visit is The Capitoline Museum in Piazza del Campidoglio. Numerous artifacts, statues, objects, stone inscriptions and manuscripts from ancient Rome, Medieval and Renaissance Italy adorn the famed collection and tell the story of Rome in an incredible way.
Just ten minutes’ walk away from the museum is the fabled Fontana di Trevi, crowded as always, a short stop on the way to the Colosseum. If you decide to enter the old Giant, prepare to leave a few hours. The que and the sheer grandeur of the object make it impossible to really cut corners. In my opinion, if your trip to Rome is coming planned, apply for visiting Domus Aurea, the palace of Emperor Nero built after the great fire of 64 AD. The palace today lies underground, under Baths of Trajan, near the Colloseum. The magnificence of the object and the story of madness behind it’s downfall can hardly leave anyone indifferent.
Most of the people are probably by now thinking what about the Vatican? I just think that both the museum part and the Churches inside are not something you should run through.
When in Rome just for the weekend, hundreds and hundreds more works of art can really mess with your ability to receive. If you are really eager to visit such, don’t miss the Pizzarium Bonci, it’s near the outer city walls. The Maestro makes different variety of pizzas every day, and he never uses more than three ingredients. Que bella cosa…
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