“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”
-Giotto de Bondone-
For me, Rome, is the epicentre of my of wanderlust, the city that speaks directly to my heart. For those of you afflicted with a place such as this, you understand such yearning. For those who have never felt such a connection, I both envy and pity you. It is a feeling of utter contentment, of peace and spiritual connection to both yourself and your surroundings, a place you long for every moment until you can return. For some this space is within the mountains, for others the streets of a specific city or a particular stretch of sand. For me, that place is Rome.
Rome is a city that is about so much more than it’s famous architecture, it’s miles of art lined hallways, it’s statues, fountains, or it’s Via Veneto. It’s a living, breathing entity, a way of life. Every square inch of this historic city is stunning and ornate. It’s the fact that I cannot sleep while I am there because there is not a single moment free of people, food, wine, sights and sounds, and I simply cannot allow any moment to escape me. It’s a sweet tooth city, a place I crave, the epitome of La dolce vita.
WHERE WE STAYED:
A few years ago Sam and I made our first trip to Rome, kid free, where we discovered the most amazing gem, Roma Boutique. When we decided to return, there was simply no other place to stay (also see Local is the New Lux). This hotel is perfect for couples and families alike. We love the location, across from the US embassy, a stones throw from Via Veneto and offering walking distance to almost all major highlights, as well as easy access to Barberini station. But it’s the incredible service that you will never forget. From a multi-lingual concierge service with invaluable tips and information, to arranging our transfers to the airport, this hotel is set to impress. It was absolute nostalgia for us to return, to be greeted by my favorite Italian, Alessandro, and for him to meet our girls. We enjoyed a beautiful room with a large queen bed, and the girls made themselves at home in a separate area that harbored a pull out couch and it`s own tv. When you also consider the air conditioning, free wifi and an incredible inclusive breakfast, it is accommodation perfection.
THE BEAUTY OF EVENING STROLLS IN ROME:
Typical of Italy, as the sun sets and the temperatures cool, the city comes to life with an almost palpable magic. For me, walking around full of pasta and wine, surrounded by the energy of the evening, is the most amazing part of the Roman experience. This is when you can grab a gelato and enjoy the street artists, listen to some amazing musicians set up along the sidewalks, and the kids can live like locals as they drink from the public fountain taps and do cartwheels in the open piazzas. Compared to Canada, Italians enjoy a late evening meal. It is common for restaurants to begin seating at 8:00 pm, so you’ll want to take this into consideration, especially with children. The other aspect I love about this typically relaxed culture, is that public attire still holds importance. Italians are such a social culture, you will see them out in the evenings, dining and strolling, chatting and gathering, and they are always well dressed doing so. People watching becomes a pleasure from a fashion aspect, and I could sit and listen to the beauty of Italian linguistics all night. It’s really quite spellbinding.
THE TREVI FOUNTAIN:
My love affair with Rome, and the experience of strolling it’s veins begins here, and it is this fountain that allowed us to return. When we were in Rome in 2012, we spent our first evening getting wonderfully lost. As it was November, it was so much quieter and much more romantic than the summer. We finally uncovered the Fontana di Trevi and had the massive and ornate masterpiece nearly to ourselves. Legend has it, that if you toss a coin in, you are ensured to return, and voila, we did. This summer we were dissapointed to not be able to share the fountain with our daughters, as it was being restored. This city wide restoration project has been funded by some of the largest fashion houses, and the 2.1 million euro, 20 month restoration of this 18th century fountain was funded by Fendi.
One of our favorite areas to walk around are the streets connected to Piazza di Spagna, including the crowded but iconic epicenter, Via Condotti. While we were there, the stage for the haute couture Valentino fashion show was being constructed, highlighting the opening of the new location. The streets are filled with some of the most luxurious names that you can dream of, from Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana to Prada, Gucci and Hermès. One thing that I absolutely love about Italian stores is that the window displays are so beautifully showcased, mini galleries in a city known for art, and that each display item is marked by price, even the luxury boutiques. If you are looking for high end shopping, this is the area for you.
THE SPANISH STEPS:
Just off Via Condotti are the iconic Spanish Steps. The famous staircase, built in 1723 on a design by Francesco de Sanctis, consists of 135 steps over 12 flights, leading up from Piazza di Spagna to the Trinità dei Monti. It is one of Rome’s most common gathering places, and beginning fall of 2015, is yet another site of the city wide monument restoration project. Bulgari is to be thanked for this two million dollar, two year project that will restore the steps. Restoration of the Barcaccia Fountain at the base of the steps was completed by private donation in 2014.
I absolutely love this square, it is so alive and vibrant. Built on the site of the first century Stadium of Domitian, it follows the open spaces of what was once known as a competition stadium. You can grab a plate and people watch, stroll through the market admiring the art, or sit and admire the incredible architecture surrounding you. We always try and visit late in the day, so in the light we can view Bernini’s stunning Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi topped by a slender obelisk, and then stay as the day fades and the piazza comes to life. Other fountains of note are the Fontana del Nettuno, built in 1576 by Giacomo della Porta, and the Fontano del Moro, another design by Bernini, added in the 17th century. The large building facing into the square is that of the Palazzo Pamphilj built in 1644, former palace of the Pamphilj family, and currently the Brazilian Embassy.
Built in 1880, Via Veneto was initially named in dedication to the region of Venezia, and was later changed to honor the WWI, Battle of Vittorio Veneto. It gained it’s fame as the starlets flocked to it during the 1960 filming of la dolce vita by Frederico Fellini. It is home to some of Rome’s most prestigious cafes and hotels as well as boutiques selling Italian leather goods. Being so close to our hotel, we spent alot of time along this street, and quickly fell in love with the atmosphere as well as the familiarity. Our girls loved stopping at Hard Rock Cafe when they were craving a hamburger, and Carlos Pizza, where they could watch their own pizzas being made. Another favorite of mine is Il Vineto, a wine bar close to Piazza Barberini. This is where we had our first official Italian meal on our original trip!
VIA del CORSO:
We also like to spend plenty of time strolling this street and the piazzas at either end. Piazza del Popolo sits at the northern end, and we love it’s wide open spaces as well as the giant doors nearby where local musicians gather for impromptu performances. Piazza Venezia flanks the opposite end, where you will find Il Vittoriano, offering some of the most incredible city views during the day, and equally as beautiful when lit up at night. Via del Corso also offers many shopping opportunities for those looking at mid range stores such as Diesel, Benneton and a super-Zara, as well as the popular department store la Rinascente.
Rome is so vast and so rich in history, that it would become a lifelong journey to cover it. And you certainly cannot cover it all in a single blog! Grazie mille for taking a stroll with me, it’s truly the best part of Rome.