There's something really sexy about Italy's once mighty capital. It's a warmth that moves through you, like a generous glass of Sangiovese. An energy difficult to describe, unless you've wandered its winding paths. The feeling that, at any moment, something irrationally romantic will occur. This is Roma.
I travelled in Italy for the first time in 2005 and had every intention of exploring Rome. But, just as you do in Italy, I decided to slow down and take my time. To let my senses guide me and indulge in my surroundings, the food, the wine and the people. Having fallen in love with Tuscany, I spent most of that trip exploring this region, all the way north to Lake Como. I always knew I'd go back, and Rome would of course still be there when I returned.
Seven years and many world travels later, I finally returned to Italy, this time on my honeymoon with my husband. Our itinerary: Paris, Rome, Capri and Positano. And while the entire trip was wonderful and romantic, I can't wait to return to Rome. Which really surprised me! Having surveyed several friends who had been before, I had prepared myself for herds of tourists circumnavigating their way to each point-of-interest by way of tour guides and tacky signs. Not my idea of travel. Luckily, there are ways to rise above the crowds and experience all those Roman delights without being photo-bombed by a bevy of tourists.
Rome is much more manageable at night, as many of the tours seem to retire in the evening. Each magical spot is lit up, making it more interesting and alluring than it might be in daylight. After sunset, set your sights on one of these locales:
- Perch at one of the restaurants spilling out into the square underneath the impressive Pantheon. It's swamped with people during the day, but settles nicely in the evening and provides the perfect backdrop for people-watching over Pinot Grigio.
- Pack up some wine, baguette and a bit of provola siciliana and make your way to the Spanish Steps. Abuzz with tourists by day, and mostly lovers lining its steps by night, it's the perfect place for an impromptu picnic and some serious PDAs.
- The Trevi Fountain is perhaps the most photographed place in Rome, but don't let the crowds deceive you. At night, the fountain is magically lit up and attracts mostly adults and lovers looking to cast their wishes in its crystal blue water. Sneak off slightly to the right, and steal a kiss in the grotto.
By day, it requires a bit more patience to find a place to relax and let Rome set in. Here are a few quiet corners worth exploring:
- Several stories above busy Via Nazionale sits Villa Aldobrandini and its surrounding park. It's a bit tricky to find, given it's cloaked with towering trees, but if you enter through a wrought-iron gate on Via Mazzarino, you'll find it. From there, make your way up a winding staircase built into ancient ruins lined with magnolias, pines, and orange trees.
- Sit underneath the fountain at Piazza Santa Maria in the Trastevere neighborhood and mingle among the young locals. If you want to feel like a Roman, even for just one night, this is where you want to be.
Do you have any special spots in Rome you're willing to divulge? If so, please post your recommendations below.