Cappuccinos, Pizza, and Gelato pretty much sum up the last ten days of my life since coming to Roma for a backpacking trip with my girlfriends. I thought Paris was my “main squeeze” in Europe, but I quickly found myself cheating on my boo thang after falling in love with the perfection of Rome the minute I landed from my luxurious RyanAir flight into Ciampino airport. As the days passed, my girlfriends and I searched through every tiny cobble stone street, ate at every gelato spot that popped up in front of us, and sat in every plaza to people-watch the way Romans do. In these ten days, I feel like I’ve made some habits (most of them are free or cheap) that I must share with you so you don’t miss out on your next trip to Rome.
Forget the 12-euro combo deals with crappy commercial food, all you need is a plate of Carbonara pasta for four euros from Pastificio and you’re good to go. Show up anytime between 1PM-6PM and they’ll be selling fresh, homemade pasta to take away. Take your plate of pasta onto the Spanish steps which is only a three minute walk away, and you’ll be feeling Italian on your third bite in. This isn’t a restaurant; so don’t expect a fancy waiter and Italian music to serenade your meal. It’s the go-to place for authentic Italian food without the hefty Italian price. We even met the owner; Giorgina (whom I secretly wish she was my Italian grandmother) and she explained that the store has run through four generations of her family. They make and cook the pasta fresh everyday al dente style, perfect blast of flavors in your mouth, and they even give you little cups of water to wash down the goodness.
I thought I’d seen a lot of intense European architecture and art, but it’s as though every single drip of beauty and talent in the world lives within the walls of the Vatican, Exaggeration? Nuh uuhh honey. The line to get inside of the Vatican itself took an hour and a half of baking in the sun, and about 400 “no, grazie’s” to the annoying hagglers trying to get us to buy 40-euro tickets to skip the line with a guided tour. Anything over 16 euros and you lost my attention, 40 euros is just a joke. So instead, we waited like the rest of the cheap tourists with no shame and got in only to find out that if you flash your school ID (even if its international), you get half off on the ticket. Eight euros will get you to see the most breath taking masterpieces that will leave you with chills. All I have to say after that experience is that the Popes be doin’ it big.
Il Colle di Gianicolo
Rome is no New York City, but its skyline can still be marveled, especially fo’ freeeee. This often overlooked tourist attraction costs absolutely nothing and gives you some exercise to burn off the pasta from Pastificio. The reason it’s overlooked is because its next to the Vatican, and because like us, most people can’t find the walkway or bus to get you there. My friends and I searched for about an hour and asked five different police officers until we accidentally stumbled upon some steps that eventually led us to an uphill climb. It’s an awesome getaway from the crowded and sweaty mainstream tourist attraction, and seriously, you’ll be thanking me for the exercise later.
As soon as you walk out of the “Colloseo” stop on the subway the grand Coliseum slaps you in the face, chillin’ in the middle of normal 21-century people. It’s a sight to see from the outside alone, but if you want to splurge on a worthy investment, I highly suggest paying the 16 euros to get in. The ticket to get in lasts for two days and you can visit the gardens on the other side of the street from the Coliseum. There’s something so grand about sitting inside of the same theatre where Julius Caesar once stood in. It’ll really leave you with chills.
I had another chilling experience right outside of the Pantheon during one of our last days in Rome. After dinner on a Sunday night, my girls and I decided to buy a gelato and take a stroll around the historic part of town. We were blindly guided to the Pantheon by perfectly serene classical music from a cello. We noticed that the piazza, or squares, would always be an authentic part of Roman life. These meeting areas give musicians and curators and opportunity to enjoy perfect moments such as the one I was experiencing. It wasn’t just the beauty of the Pantheon, or the fountain in front of it, it was the people curled into the circle where this musician was pouring his heart and soul into the music. For zero dollars, you can feel like you’ve gone back in time hundreds of years and really live in the moment.