Eat Something Typically Roman
This one’s a bit vague, so bear with me for a second. My first inclination was to tell you to head for the old Jewish ghetto and order yourself a plate of Jewish-style carciofi, or artichokes, which are deep-fried. But as Italian cooking is all about seasonal ingredients, you can only get carciofi in the spring when they’re fresh. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t something wonderful and very Roman for you to enjoy, no matter when you’re there. One of the most popular cheeses in Roman cooking is pecorino romano (makes sense, eh?), and one of the favorite dishes of my many Rome-loving friends is cacio e pepe – a simple pasta dish with lots of pecorino romano and black pepper. Other common Roman pasta dishes, which you may be familiar with from restaurants outside Italy but should try in the place where they come from, are bucatini all’amatriciana (a tomato sauce cooked with onion and a fatty pork called guanciale) and spaghetti alla carbonara (the sauce is made from egg yolks, pecorino romano, and pancetta). In short, get yourself a copy of “The Hungry Traveler” before your trip so you know what’s local, and sample liberally.
Do Some People-Watching at the Trevi Fountain
I admit that the Trevi Fountain is seriously touristy, and can even be kind of a pain in the you-know-what to visit in the height of the tourist season because of the crowds. But if your agenda at the fountain isn’t the same as everyone else’s, then it’s not as much of a pain. See, if you’re intent on clawing your way through the hordes to throw your coin in the water (right hand over left shoulder, remember!), then you’ll get annoyed by the sheer number of humans milling about taking pictures and silly videos. But if you can skip the ceremonial coin-toss, then you can just relax, hang out, and watch the throngs of people repeating the same ritual over and over again. It gets pretty amusing, actually – especially when the designated photographer or videographer goofs up and the whole process has to be repeated (there goes another euro!). I do suggest that if you’re taking this opportunity to slurp down some gelato that you bring your cone or cup from elsewhere, as the gelaterie around the fountain are overpriced and not as good as you can find in other nearby neighborhoods.
Visit Another Church in Rome
If you’re reading the title for #9 with an eyebrow raised, I don’t blame you. I’m cheating a little bit with this one, but I’ve got a good reason for it. Most people I know make plans to see St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican during a visit to Rome, but many people overlook all the other fantastic churches in this church-heavy city. (And I know that technically the Pantheon is still a church, but I don’t count it as such for these purposes.) Rather than just suggest one of them, however, I’m suggesting that you find at least one other church that sounds or looks interesting to you and make it a point to visit it. Many of the churches in Rome house works of art by masters, artists whose names you know, and there’s often no fee to get in, so it’s a bargain traveler’s dream, too. Santa Maria del Popolo has two Caravaggio paintings, Santa Maria della Vittoria has Bernini’s “St. Teresa in Ecstasy,” San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane was designed by Borromini, San Pietro in Vincoli has a Michelangelo statue of Moses, Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the city’s oldest churches, San Luigi dei Francesi has three Caravaggios, Santa Maria alla Minerva is the only Gothic church in Rome… The list goes on and on. At the very least, poke your head inside any church you see that looks even vaguely interesting – you might end up finding what is, to you, a hidden Roman treasure. And that’s one of the best things that can happen when you travel.
Browse the Campo dei Fiori Markets
Every Italian city has an outdoor market where you can buy foodstuffs, and cities the size of Rome have several. But the one that’s worth your time to visit is the market at Campo dei Fiori. It’s not far from the famous Piazza Navona, and while the name means “field of flowers” it’s been the setting for a daily morning food market since the mid-1800s. Far from being just a tourist attraction, the market at Campo dei Fiori – like nearly all Italian food markets – is where locals come to stock their kitchens. If you’re staying in a hostel in Rome or have an apartment rental with a kitchen, you can peruse the offerings and buy what you need to cook your own meal. If you don’t have a kitchen at your disposal, don’t worry – you can still interact with the vendors by purchasing the makings of a lovely picnic lunch. The market is only in the piazza in the mornings, so you can’t sleep in or you’ll miss it. And don’t forget to read up on all the market rules you’ll need to know before you buy.
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