Ciao, Roma! The city that stole my heart.
I first visited Rome after I graduated high school, in 2012. Three years later, I spent the summer of 2015 studying there – living in Trastevere, studying the cinema of Fellini, and eating all the pasta that I could. I couldn’t help but laugh when I realized that my third visit to Rome came another three summers later, in 2018. I thought of the legend claiming that if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, you will someday return to Rome. I’ve thrown a coin three times now, and it hasn’t failed me yet. I suppose I’m just destined to return to Rome every third summer from now on. No complaints here.
My friends and I jetted off to Italy for a city break a few weekends ago. It was their first time in Rome, and having once been a self-declared local, I was excited to show them my favorite haunts while discovering new ones along the way. We packed our bags and were ready to live our best Lizzie McGuire-meets-Roman Holiday lives.
Lunch at Andrea’s
We checked into our room at the Funny Palace Hostel, a comfortable accommodation with the friendliest staff and a building near Termini that lets you live like a local. We were recommended a restaurant a street over called Andreas. Our stomachs had been growling since our plane touched down, almost like they knew we were in Italy. Forget the Colosseum – our first priority in Rome was dishing up some pasta.
The staff didn’t speak much English but were still overwhelmingly welcoming. In Italy, it’s common for waiters to place bread on your table and if you choose to eat it, you pay for it. They set two loaves fresh out of the oven, as well as a chorizo spread and a spicy tapenade, and charged us for neither. Both were divine – as were the house wine and the plates of gnocchi, lasagna, and carbonara we dug into next.
Gelateria La Romana
It wouldn’t be a completely authentic Italian lunch if we didn’t finish it off with gelato, would it? We made our way to Gelateria La Romana nearby. There was already a line down the sidewalk, but I’ve learned to take that as an indication of some place good – especially when those in line are locals.
I filled my liquid-chocolate-filled cone with scoops of stracciatella (chocolate chip) and baccio (hazelnut) – this had been my favorite combination when studying abroad.
Via Del Corso + Piazza del Popolo
I’m a firm believer that you’re not really in Rome until you catch your first sight of Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum. Standing on the cobbled streets surrounded by millennia-old ruins of what was once the greatest empire in the world. The same streets that gladiators and Julius Caesar once walked. It’s humbling. That view is when it always hits me that this is truly the Eternal City. Rome is yesterday, today, and tomorrow in one extravagantly, anciently beautiful city.
We strolled down Via del Corso… or rather, wove our way through the congested pedestrian traffic. We paused at the Spanish Steps, which too were crowded, and opted to grab a seat at an outdoor cafe on a nearby side street. Wine breaks are, after all, essential for resting your feet when exploring. We followed along Via del Corso until it finally opens up into Piazza del Popolo.
Campo di Fiori
That night, we headed for Campo di Fiori. By day, the small piazza is a marketplace crowded with vendors touting fresh produce. By night, the cafes set up their outdoor seating and it’s the perfect place to grab a drink and people watch. I felt like I was in college again, sitting in the heat of a Roman summer night before the locals head out dancing into the early morning hours.
Colosseum + Forum
Day two. We made our way back into the heart of the city until the road opened up and there was the colossal gem of Rome. We opted not to tour the Colosseum, but rather admired from the park beside it, feeling humbled in its shadow. From there, we wandered back towards Via del Corso, this time weaving our way through the streets towards the River Tiber.
Gelato at Giolitti
Naturally, it was time for our post-lunch gelato, so I led my friends to my personal favorite – Giolitti. Opened in 1900, it’s rumoured to be one of the first gelaterias in Rome. But apart from tradition, Giolitti serves up a large variety of flavours. It’s always busy and a bit chaotic, but it’s always well worth the wait.
Pantheon + Piazza Navona
Gelato in hand, we continued to wander through the streets. Eventually we stumbled upon the Pantheon, and I was reminded of one of the main reasons I love Rome. You can be wandering narrow cobbled alleys and turn a corner and suddenly you’re standing in front of one of the oldest, grandest monuments in the world.
From the Pantheon, we continued into Piazza Navona. The oblong piazza was busy. Crowds gathered around La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, sculpted in 1651 by Bernini. People idled in cafes. We thought of grabbing a seat, but decided instead to cross the river first, back to my old stomping grounds.
Trastevere. The hidden gem of Rome. For anyone heading to the Eternal City, this is the one place I recommend adding to your itinerary. It quite literally translates to ‘Across Tevere’ (or Tiber) – sitting just across the river, this neighbourhood is as cozy and local as it gets. You’ll find Italian nonnas stringing up their laundry. Ivy is strewn across the narrow streets. This is where my apartment had been when I lived in Rome.
In the heart of Trastevere is Piazza di Santa Maria. The square is lined on one end by a beautiful basilica, whose campanile towers above. There’s a fountain in the middle of the square, and you’ll always find a crowd sitting on its steps. We grabbed a table at and outdoor café, ordering bellinis and olives. Outside of the bustle of the city center, it was the perfect Roman afternoon.
Cacio e Pepe at Spaghetteria L’Archetto
That night, we found ourselves back on Via del Corso, looking for dinner. We wanted something that felt local, not touristy – a hard ask on the most popular street in Rome. But just off the way, we stumbled upon Spaghetteria L’archetto. This side-street gem is officially one of my highest recommendations in the city, besides Dar Poeta and Fontana di Venere. This ristorante specializes in – you guessed it – spaghetti. Their menu is literally filled with hundreds of spaghetti dishes. It’s overwhelming and completely mouth-watering.
Despite the many options, I ordered a simple cacio e pepe. This dish is classically Roman, and one of my favorites from studying abroad. The spaghetti is tossed in cheese and pepper. But you’ll never go wrong with a good carbonara either!
The spaghetteria was just around the corner from the Trevi Fountain, so we wandered back in hopes that we’d find less of a crowd at night than we had the day before. It was still busy, but we were able to make our way to the fountain’s edge. We each kissed a coin before tossing it over our shoulders into the water splashing behind us. I suppose I’ll just have to go back to Rome now.
Wine on the Spanish Steps
We ended our day by grabbing a couple of bottles of wine and wandering through the streets until we found the Spanish Steps.
My friend managed to haggle a bottle of wine off a vendor for €1. On complete accident that is, by telling him she couldn’t buy the €10 wine because she only had €1. He walked away before coming back and saying that €1 would suit him fine. We deserved the wine so we could enjoy Rome. A classic example of the friendly Italian hospitality we were met with everywhere we went. It was a perfect night being young in an ancient city under ancient stars.
Rome will always have my heart. Anywhere that you called home for a time always will. I wasn’t there long, but the memories I made will last me forever.
It’s funny, how distant my summer in Rome felt until I set foot back in the city, and finding my way through the labyrinth of cobbled streets came effortlessly. From the days in Trastevere to the nights in Campo di Fiori, I always cherish my time spent in the Eternal City.