Benvenuti a Italia!
There are three things that typically come to mind when thinking about Rome: gelato, pizza, and cappuccinos. While there's no denying just how amazing the Italian cuisine is, this city goes way beyond its scrumptious treats!
Rome is characterized by ancient architecture, breathtaking skylines, welcoming, boisterous locals and so much more. Most of all, Rome is a city of unparalleled history. From the Roman Forum, to the Pantheon and all the tiny treasures in between, discovering the story behind its old walls and cobblestoned streets will never fail to amaze you.
CIEE’s Craig Deforest recently spent a month in Rome and brought back sweet tales and ancient anecdotes to share with us all. While he certainly got around to all the famous sites, Craig remembers Rome for something a bit more off the beaten path: its greenspaces.
It might come as a surprise to some that despite its size and metropolitan vibes, Rome is home to all kinds of green spaces! You could spend a whole day in the Roman forum, exploring the ancient nooks and crannies, picnicking with a friend, or just soaking up the sun. Sometimes an afterthought, but always a worthwhile is a venture to the Vatican City gardens. Touring these peaceful and gorgeous walkways is a perfect way to spend the afternoon and see the country within a country from the inside out.
If you want to dig even deeper into the city, jump on the metro and head to Villa Torlonia, an estate constructed in the early 1800’s and stands today as a peace and relaxation space for locals and tourists alike. This was by far Craig’s favorite spot in the city, a welcomed reprise from the bustling streets of Rome. There you can explore the old mansions, little ponds, and beautiful walking grounds.
Perhaps his favorite thing about Rome was something that for some would seem small—the Roman coffee ritual. Every day, he and the CIEE team would leave the office and walk around the corner to a local cafe and stand around the coffee bar. The owners would hand them plates of treats as they sipped espresso and savored the morning. It was a simple, five-minute ritual that encouraged everyone to take a step back from life and what experience what it’s like to live like a Roman.
In addition to the traditional sites and hidden gems within the city, you can easily access just about any part of Italy from Rome. Craig was able to visit Florence, Venice, Bologna, and the Sicily region, the last of which was one of his favorites. Smaller cities like this are what makes Italy so unique—mismatched architecture from centuries of regime change, an ancient volcano, as well as more contemporary features like their balmy beaches and swaying palm trees.
If Craig could offer one piece of advice to anyone visiting or living in Rome, it would be this: don’t try to do everything at once. This is generally a good rule no matter where you are traveling, but really applies well to Rome. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there’s so much to do, places to see, and treats to eat! His suggestion is to pick a few key things you’d like to see and let the day unfold. The city is very walkable and you’ll likely stumble upon quaint, culture-filled neighborhoods that you normally would not have found if your nose was stuck in a guidebook. So when in Rome, slow down and savor the day.
Oh and eat gelato at least once a day. Maybe twice.