I’m going to let you in on a lil’ secret of mine.
When someone asks what my favourite film is, officially, and this is the truth, the answer’s Kill Bill
(Volume One, if I’m being forced to be specific) – I LOVE all things Tarantino. But… I have an oh so secret runner up; Only You. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a hideously nineties and sickeningly romantic comedy about a woman named Faith who gets the name of her true love off of a ouija board when she’s a kid. Flash-forward many years later and she ends up getting a call from him out of the blue a week before her wedding (convenient!). So, she runs off to Italy (in her wedding dress, of course!) with her best friend to track him down. I watched it when I was nine and totally fell head over heels for Robert Downey Jr and Rachel Portman’s Soundtrack and of course Italy. I wanted to go. Immediately.
Flash-forward about seventeen years, give or take, and I got my wish. I went on a Mediterranean cruise with my own true love and his family. Since it was leaving from Civitavecchia just outside Rome, we took a couple of days to live El Dolce Vita and explore Rome 🙂
We perused the long lines outside the Colosseum and cashed in on a trick my parents figured out when they visited Rome. Go and see the Forum first. The ticket you buy there for 12 Euros (might be more now) is valid for 24 hours and includes entrance into both Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. So, once you’ve finished up climbing the hill you can just strut past the long queues and boss it into the Colosseum. Tada!
But, make sure you give the Forum and Palatine Hill a bit time too. Palatine Hill is one of the seven hills of Rome and one of the oldest parts of the city. It’s a shady walk beneath olive and lime trees and giant umbrella pines. There are lots of water fountains where you can fill up your bottles on a hot day. It’s where the legend of Romulus and Remus began and it was pretty much the Beverly Hills of Ancient Rome. This is where all the big wigs in the senate had their villas. You can still see a couple of them today; the ‘Domus Augustana’ and the Domus Flavia’.
Plus, at the very top of Palatine Hill you’ll find a great view of the Colosseum below – perfect spot for a selfie 🙂
On the Largo di Toree Argentina – which hosts yet more ancient ruins (you can’t avoid them in Rome!) – we met a friend. The Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary is a no-kill animal shelter that looks after over 250 of Rome’s stray cats. They’re sterilized, vaccinated and treated for illnesses and you can find them lazing in the shade around the ruins.
Rome’s oldest market is on the Campo di Fiori. If you want to visit, you’ll have to get there early because all the sellers pack up by 2pm. You’ll find lots of coloured pastas but take a tip; don’t buy them there! Would you pay £4 for a pack of pasta back home? Didn’t think so. Find a shop tucked away from the touristy spots.
When you tell people you’re going to Rome be prepared for the whole ‘Oh my God, eat all the Gelato!!’ speech. You’ll raise an eyebrow and nod along. It’s ice cream at the end of the day, right? Wrong, because guaranteed once you’ve been and gone you’ll become one of the ‘Eat all the Gelato’ people. It’s the best you’re going to get, so, what am I going to say? EAT ALL THE GELATO! Don’t walk past a parlour without going in. Try every flavour (Fior di Latte is a great alternative to Vanilla, but if you want to venture on the wild side, try Viagra flavour instead. ‘Suppa Inglese’ – English Soup – is a boozy, trifle-flavoured scoop. Yow).
Now, this is important. (Not as important as gelato, but still up there). You can’t go to Rome without visiting the Pantheon, especially as it’s completely free. Pantheon means ‘all the Gods’ and the building’s original purpose when it was built in 125AD was as a temple to the seven Gods of the the seven planets recognised by Ancient Rome. It’s probably the best preserved building of its era in the world.
The Dome is the third largest in the world (Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is the first, closely followed by St Peter’s), but what’s most amazing about it is the Oculus (the big hole). It works as one big air conditioning unit, so the Pantheon is absolutely the best place to stop if you’re melting on a hot day. I’d love to see it during a thunderstorm; in fact, if you’re in Rome and it’s raining, hightail it to the Pantheon and watch the rain pouring in.
I desperately wanted to climb up the dome of St Peter’s (551 steps if you’re fit, or a lift halfway if you’re lazy :-)) but the queue was just far too long and we didn’t have time.
The Colosseum is another of those, ‘You can’t go to Rome and not see’ sort of places. It’s just incredible, and the helpful information posted around the walls helps visitors really understand and visualise what attending a gladiator match at the old Flavian Amphitheater was really like.