One Friday, I took a train from Milan to Rome to spend 36 hours in the Eternal City.
To be completely honest, I spent a bit of time finding somewhere that felt right in Rome. As a tourist I understand both the hypocrisy and pointlessness of criticizing tourists for being touristy; I, too, took pictures of the Coloseum and threw a Euro into the Trevi fountain and walked to the Pantheon. But it didn’t take long for me to become irritated with crowds of families decked out in American flag garb. I reached the apex of my frustration when I sat down for a glass of wine at a restaurant in front of the Monumento a Vittorio Emmanuelle and was handed a menu boasting of frozen pasta selections.
Luckily, sightseeing in crowded places isn’t really my traveling style anyway. So I started my first and only full day in Rome by taking the metro to Testaccio (Piramide stop), a neighborhood a little off the beaten path known for its outdoor market and incredible food. Testaccio cooks were preparing offal-based dishes before they were cool: the population once was composed primarily of poor stockyard workers.
My first stop in Testaccio was Gastronomia Volpetti, a shop with meats, cheeses, pastries, olives, wines, fresh pasta, and coffee. It smelled like a million paradises crammed into one tiny shop. I looked around for a bit and bought a calzone with spinach and cheese, which I ate on the way to Testaccio’s famous outdoor market.
There are very few things that I enjoy more than an open-air market, and they either consist of butter and sugar or are inappropriate to put on the blog. Any time I travel, I do my best to seek one out. It’s a great way to find local produce and get a taste of the culture. Testaccio’s market was split between produce stands, butchers, and a flea market. I bought a peach and walked around.
My next stop was Trattoria Checchino dal 1887. I forget what type of cheeses were used for these dishes, but I hadn’t had them before. Obviously the riagtoni and pesto were absolutely perfect.
A brief aside: do you eat alone often (hey all you people who don’t click hyperlinks — click this one)? I always intend to take myself on dates, but I never end up doing it. While I ate, I sipped a glass of wine, wrote in my travel journal, and took my time. This was the first of many hour-long, solo meals in Europe, and when I get back, I’m going to keep making time for them every couple of weeks.
I spent the evening walking through Villa Borghese, a giant heart-shaped park. It was one of the most romantic places I’ve ever been, and dozens of couples around me thought so too. I had a special moment with some tomatoes, bread, cheese, and The Sun Also Rises on a bench near a fountain. The night ended with gelato, eaten while sitting on some stone steps and watching a lengthy, dramatic gypsy fight. And those were my 36 hours in Rome.
Roma travel tips:
- Spend some time walking around and seeing the sights, but do some research and find some things to do out of the center of town.
- If a restaurant is near a monument or tourist attraction, you probably don’t want to eat there.
- If someone is yelling at you from the street to come eat in their restaurant, you definitely don’t want to eat there.
- Treat yo self to a nice meal alone (and I’m not talking about a veggie burger eaten standing up over the sink while watching Arrested Development) (although there’s a time and place for those meals too).