I love Rome. I always have, and always will. The history, the archaeology, the food, the culture…it’s all right there, at your fingertips, whenever you want it. Joe discovered this, and reveled in it, right away. It warmed the little cockles of my heart. So we’ve been (re)exploring this vibrant place together. It’s an ongoing process, and every day I look forward to what could be next.
It all started on our first day in the city. We’d gotten in late the night before, so Joe couldn’t really see the sights. But that first morning, we went for a walk. And as we turned down a tree-lined pathway eight minutes from our apartment, the colosseum popped into view. It was just there, right in front of us. The magic floored me as much as it did Joe.
From there, the surprises and delights seemed endless. The Arch of Constantine beckoned, the Forum teased us just beyond view, Trajan’s markets flanked the street where we strolled, and so many other architectural memories rose up out of nowhere. During this barrage of extremely worthy and interesting monuments, I have to remember: we have a month and a half here. We have time.
Ancient temples and excellent sandwiches
Joe and I tend to explore in the mornings, when the States are asleep and we have some freedom to roam. Several days this week dawned bright, sunny, and chilly. Our apartment is located in the eastern part of the city near the main train station, so many of the most famous sights and neighborhoods are a perfect 30-45 minute walk from us. Gets the heart pumping and the legs working. One morning, we decided to walk over to the Pantheon.
The Pantheon was initially constructed thanks to the financing of Marcus Agrippa in the 1st century BCE, but was rebuilt under the emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century CE. It’s name means “all the gods,” and it was a temple for a long time before becoming a church. Many Greek and Roman temples underwent this transformation, and thank goodness – it’s why so many of them are preserved at all. As we looked up through the oculus and marveled at the variety of marble adornments, our eyes had to adjust to believe the reality of the circular space.
After such an awe-inspiring experience, we decided to casually wander up to the Trevi Fountain – it’s kind of a must-see in Rome. On the way, we stopped by the Temple of Hadrian – now built into the Roman “stock market” – and discovered a gem of a sandwich shop in the process.
Il Panino Ingegnoso is tucked into a tiny space across from the temple, always seems to be packed with locals, and serves up some seriously delicious and crispy paninis. Their specialty is roast pig, and the pig graces the counter next to all the other ingredients. The ladies slice and chop up the meat, pile it high, and top it with flavor bombs of pesto, caramelized onions, roasted sweet peppers, and more. This is why I love Rome – you never know what you’ll find. It’s the case in any city, really, if you explore diligently enough.
Baroque villas, masterful art, and dynamite pizza
Another morning brought us up to the Villa Borghese. This impressive museum and large park surrounding it were constructed in 1605 under the direction of Pope Paul V’s nephew, Scipione Borghese. Scipione was the patron of the famous sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (and his father, Pietro Bernini), who filled the villa (and its gardens) with numerous masterpieces in marble.
Not only are the sculptures magnificent – and they are – but the inside of the villa itself is completely covered with huge, colorful paintings and carved, gilded decoration. Every ceiling is its own work of art, and the walls are crowded with famous pieces. Step outside the villa, and you’ll be drawn down the peaceful, shaded paths of the gardens. Light filters through the many tall trees, fountains burble in the sunshine, and dogs play in the fields of bright green grass. It’s a quiet oasis in the middle of the city.
After absorbing so much incredible and beautiful art, a person is bound to be hungry. Fortunately, we discovered some of the best pizza in the city a short walk from the villa. Pinsere sits on a bustling street just northeast of the busier neighborhoods around the colosseum. People spill out the double doors waiting to order, and patrons clutching their fresh-out-the-oven pizzas line the shallow counters outside while stuffing their faces with steaming, flavorful, fluffy bites.
The owner and his wife are friendly and playful, and after you order from him, he tells you how much it is and directs you down to her – “13 euros – go tell my wife it’s 13 euros.” It works beautifully. Each personal pizza is finished in the massive oven after you order it, and the result is a light and crispy, piping hot delicacy – all for about 5 euros each.
Every day is a new day
We’ve discovered so many more lovely gems and will continue to do so. Every time we venture out to a different part of the city, we stumble upon (or intentionally seek out) our next favorite spot. That’s the beauty of having a curious mind and a willingness to walk everywhere. Cheers to more adventures!