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Ciao my Belli peeps!
As you know I have spent a lot of time in Rome, Italy and will continue to do so because it is my FAVORITE city on THE ENTIRE FACE OF THE EARTH!
Rome is wild, loud, beautiful, and always unpredictable! There is honestly so much to love about Rome that I am doing her a disservice listing only 5 things to be crazy about. But go to Rome armed with these 5 things and make up your own list of favorites.
1) The Vatican Art Museums
Rome is a city filled to the eyeballs with art. And it is not always where you expect it. A trip to the Vatican Art Museums is a must do when visiting Rome because it is the greatest collection of fine art in existence. Much of it is Renaissance Art.
The Vatican Museums were originated by Pope Julius II in 1506.
At that time, Michelangelo was working at the Vatican for Pope Julius and the pope had Michelangelo go and look at a sculpture that had just been found and unearthed in a vineyard in Rome. Michelangelo confirmed that this sculpture was the original Laocoon and his sons which had been praised in the writings of Pliny the Elder centuries before.
Based on the recommendation of Michelangelo, Pope Julius purchased the statue and placed it on display in the Vatican.
Since that time, different popes have added art to the museums and have had to add new wings to accommodate it all.
The museum contains paintings by Caravaggio, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael and, the entire Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo. It also contains the amazingly beautiful Pieta sculpture, sculpted by Michelangelo from white Carrera marble when he was only 24 years old.
A tour through the Vatican Museums is like taking an art bath. You are uplifted and happy.
Do, however avoid the lines and headaches by booking yourself a tour. I like Through Eternity Tours in Rome because their tour guides are well trained, personable, entertaining and professional. Book in advance because they do fill up, especially in Summer.
Or Café Macchiato or Café Latte, or Cappuccino!
When ordering coffee in Rome, understand that if you order coffee (or café) you will get a tiny cup filled with fiercely strong and biting espresso. The Italians don’t fool around with their coffee. It is a source of pride.
If this is too much for you, you can order a café latte. Café latte and cappuccino are reserved strictly for morning consumption although when you are visiting and you find a nice man behind the counter, you can sometimes cajole him into making you a cafe latte in the afternoon. Don’t order a latte as we do here in the states or you will get a glass of milk.
Cafe latte is mostly milk with a shot of espresso. It is wonderful for breakfast. Cappuccino is similar but also contains chocolate.
I had heard that ordering coffee with milk in it after lunch was taboo here so I put this to the test in Cremona one afternoon. We entered a small café and a tiny Asian lady attended us. My friends ordered their café and I looked at her and asked for a café latte. Her perfectly crafted eyebrows shot up into her hairline in surprise. She covered it well and brought me my café latte but I am sure I was then branded a tourist in that town.
It is my understanding that the Italians believe that a beverage with milk in it after lunch will ruin your digestion. It seemed like an act of grave recklessness on my part to drink a café latte in the afternoon but I am one who lives dangerously.
A café macchiato in Italy is espresso with a small amount of milk in it but still strong. I have ordered this one after lunch and the eyebrows rose minimally so I think it is ok.
If you like your coffee a little weaker, you can order a café lungo which is an espresso with a small amount of water in it.
The Italians, recognizing that Americans drink our coffee differently, have created a café Americano which is espresso with more water.
The coffee in Italy is, to my mind, the best in the world. Great care is taken to make it perfect and café staffs are well trained. Even the ground coffee you purchase in the supermarket is top notch even though it is inexpensive.
Rome has several fine shopping districts including the Via Veneto, which is a street dedicated to shopping and outdoor cafes. It is a beautiful tree lined street and an afternoon spent there watching the beautifully dressed Italian businessmen and women go by is a treat.
Italy is well known for fine Italian leather goods. Leather has been worked by craftsmen for centuries there and the quality of Italian leather goods is renown. The Via Veneto has many fine leather emporiums however I have found that going a few streets over can save you a good amount of money when shopping.
Aside from the shopping that you would normally expect from a large city, Rome also has outdoor markets.
Every day you can purchase fresh produce and other delectables at the Campo De Fiori (Literally, The Flower Market). This market has been going strong since medieval times.
4) The Food!
The Italians have raised cooking to a fine art form and almost every restaurant I tried has been amazing! A similar meal here in California would be ruinously expensive.
On my recent trip, we walked around the neighborhood we were staying in and stumbled on a restaurant that was the only one open for miles. The restaurant was called La Contrada. I will be doing an entire blog post about that evening because it was unforgettable! Veni, Vedi, Munchie! We came, We saw! WE ATE!
Only once have I had a bad meal in Italy and that is when Pete and I unadvisedly ducked into a restaurant right next to Termini Station, the main train station in Rome. Whenever possible, stay away from any eating establishment close to the train stations, the monuments or any of the touristy areas.
If you find yourself in a touristy area and you are hungry, walk a few streets away from the attraction and you will likely find a great place.
In my experience, you are not taking much of a chance as most restaurants are operated by people who have pride in what they serve you. You will eat well!
5) The history!
Rome was the seat of the entire Roman empire which encompassed all of Europe, a big chunk of the Middle East and the United Kingdom and then some. It was HUGE and Rome was the center of it all! Everywhere you look in Rome are ancient ruins dating from different times and civilizations in the past. Sweeping your eyes from one side to another at any raised point in Rome presents a dizzying array of structures each with its own history, people and civilization.
Any of these magnificent structures generally has a tour associated with it. You can learn so much history here in a few days. And the history itself is standing right in front of you!
Lastly and bestly! The Italians!
I know I promised you five great reasons but I am including my favorite one as a bonus reason.
The Italians I have met in my travels have been the most amazingly wonderful people. They are artists in the art of living, They value family and the well being of others to an amazing extent. They live to make others happy.
Go and visit them. Visit their cities and revel in their art. There is a reason that the great artists wound up in Italy. And Rome is where it all begins.
If you are considering a trip to Italy anytime soon, leave a comment. I can give you ideas!