Saturday, November 30, 2013

TRAVEL | rome photo diary

To sum it up, Rome was warm, crowded, and noisy. After a month shivering in the cold in northern Europe--making sure I pack on several layers before leaving my hostel--Italy was a nice change of pace. Even in mid-October the weather was warm enough to walk outside in short sleeves and more importantly, warm enough to dine al fresco as the Romans do. 

My hostel was located right around the corner of the Roma Termini train station. It was an ideal location for backpackers since it is a little off the beaten path from all tourist locations, but still within a comfortable walking distance to the city center. My main mode of transportation was the metro, which I took from Castro Preteorio station all the way to Colosseo every day, and then from there I picked up on foot. 


I sort of stumbled upon Campo de' Fiori. It is a square just south of Piazza Navona and home to the oldest outdoor market in Europe. Walking around the market was an adventure in itself. Left and right, people were selling products ranging from olive oil to pasta, and regional candies to homemade liqueurs. Everything was so fresh and the atmosphere was so lively, I wanted to stay there all day.

I had my last lunch in the Jewish Ghetto. I was told by my roommate to try { Ba Ghetto }'s homemade ravioli. So I did, and she was right, it was completely out of this world good. I also ordered their Roman style fried artichoke as a starter. At first I wasn't entirely sure how to tackle the dish--the artichokes I'm used to at home were so stringy and tough only a little fleshy base were edible and the rest just gets tossed into the trash--so imagine my surprise when I saw the couple next to me devour the whole thing, leaves, heart and all. It wasn't long before mine vanished completely as well.

My one and only mission in Rome were to find the city's best Pistachio and Banana Gelato. I was told that if there were any flavor of gelato I needed to try, it would be those two. I stopped by Giolitti twice during my trip to try out some of their famous gelati. The first time I tried a combination of dark chocolate, pistachio and banana topped with a healthy serving of panna (cream). It was possibly the most stressful ice cream experience of my life--due to the warm weather I had gelato running down waffle cone then down my arm even before I stepped out of the store. I had forgotten to take napkins before I left but at that point the gelato had made such a mess I was too embarrassed to go back inside. Instead I found a secluded corner by the busy street to eat in private as fast as I can. Thank goodness I had a little bit of water left in my water bottle or else it would have been a very embarrassing, very sticky walk home.

I was a bit more prepared the second time though: two flavors, no whipped cream, a cup to go, and a handful of napkins. This made for a more comfortable eating experience. And I got to stand in street with all the other people enjoying their gelato, and as an added bonus, watch the newbies fail at conquering their 3+ flavor frozen treat in the 70 degree sunlight as I had done so the previous day. 

Live and learn.

To be completely honest, I did not love Rome. I tried falling in love with it, but I just couldn't. Perhaps it was the hordes of tourists that caught me off guard, but mostly it was because I felt incredibly pressured--pressured to soak up the cultural heritage, learn all the history and see all the arts as expected from most travelers who visit Rome. For example, I had no intention of paying 11 euros to enter the Colosseum to see something I've seen a million times in guidebooks or friend's photos--yet, a voice in my head kept screaming "what kind of tourist comes to Rome and doesn't tour Rome?". It was just a constant battle between just doing what I want to do, and what people say I should do. In a way it goes somewhat beyond sightseeing--but quoting Jesse Wallace from the film Before Sunrise: "I could never get very excited about other people's ambitions for my life." So it made more sense to ignore the nagging voice, and in the end had more fun doing things my own way.

And by "my own way" I mean eating my way through Rome, hanging out at my hostel's amazing lounge for hours on end, staying up all night with friends, and then...more eating, of course. 

And I'm leaving out the best part: I never had to wait in line. Not even once!

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