Rome: The Eternal City

by Karin T.

I love Rome for its food, fashion, art, history and ancient ruins. The soaring umbrella pines. The wisteria in spring.

Rome offers hundreds of paintings, sculptures, monuments and churches I want to see, and just one glorious week to see it all. But my philosophy of travel is to see a few things well rather than try to cram six or seven attractions in each vacation day.

That’s why I’ve visited Rome three times in five years – because I had to return to see more.

My husband and I save our vacation budget for a couple of years to visit. And yes, there are so many other fascinating destinations, both in the United States and abroad. For our next trip, we’ve resolved that we really must go somewhere else.

For now though, let me extend my trip just a little longer by sharing some recommendations. Whether you’re planning a vacation or you prefer armchair travel, the library can help.

Photo credit: Karin Thomsen

Via Margutta

Photo by Mark Valliere

Borromini’s Sant’Ivo

For long flights, I like to read or listen to at least one item related to my destination. So when we went to Rome in 2013, I read Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. Two of my favorite scenes include when the author and his wife race through the long halls of the Vatican Museums in order to be the first people in the Sistine Chapel that day, if only for a few moments, and his description of Borromini’s Sant’Ivo church. So beautiful that I wanted to visit. But by the time of our trip, the church was open only on Sundays and we had missed our chance. So we returned two years later.

Doerr went to Rome on a fellowship, toiling over a novel about the German occupation of France during World War II, while he coped with the challenges of a new city and language and six-month-old twins. Though he didn’t finish it during his time in Rome, that novel later became All the Light We Cannot See, which won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2015.

For delicious food in Rome, far removed from tourist sites, try Elizabeth Minchilli’s Eating Rome. She shares tips on finding the best pizza (of course) but also mouth-watering vegetables and sides and where to have Sunday lunch.

And, the gelato! At her suggestion, we visited Gelateria Gracchi in the Prati neighborhood near the Vatican. It didn’t seem like an “easy stroll” to us after the exhaustion of walking around the Vatican Museums for several hours before that. But the gelato was worth it.

Another food lover is Luca Spaghetti, the Italian friend of Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote about him in Eat, Pray, Love. Spaghetti is thoroughly Roman, with a personal pasta ranking system and a love of meat dishes using the whole animal.  He grew up playing soccer in St. Peter’s Square, near his home, and is an ardent Lazio fan.

One of my goals when visiting Rome is to see as many paintings as possible by Caravaggio. We went to the Vatican Museums, Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, and the Borghese Gallery to see the master of the chiaroscuro technique—the light and dark. Caravaggio’s paintings are also one of the reasons I love Kate DiCamillo’s Tale of Despereaux, with the rat Roscuro, who, unlike most rats, is fascinated by light.

Photo credit: Mark Valliere

Ostia pines near the Spanish Steps.

For the traveler, a print guide to neighborhoods and walking routes is another useful tool. Walking Rome has many delightful routes.

A short walk from the throngs of people at the Spanish Steps is a quiet, leafy street called Via Margutta. It’s the location of Gregory Peck’s apartment, where he brings Audrey Hepburn, in Roman Holiday. We stayed near this street on our visit last April.

For a one-hour visit to Rome without the fatigue, try a walking tour. You can view the Forum, Palatine Hill, Piazza Navona, and the Pantheon from your treadmill or armchair. With your library card and Hoopla, you can see Venice, London, and Paris too.

Where will you go on your next adventure?  Share your plans in the comments below.

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One response to “Rome: The Eternal City”

  1. Erin L. says:

    I found the audio book “In Flight Italian” from the In Flight series very helpful.
    Just the basic phrases and words a tourist would need for a trip and you listen and repeat back to learn. Basics like “how much…”, where is…”, courtesy greetings etc. I had several successful interactions with what I learned. Once, in Rome, I was able to ask a local in Italian for directions back to the street our hotel was on after a walk. I asked in Italian and then, even though she responded in rapid fire Italian back I understood the words for right (a destro) and theater (teatro) and put it together with her pointing to get her meaning “that way and turn right at the theater. It felt good to be able to do that. BTW we didn’t have a great guide for the Vatican Museum and Sistene Chapel. After waiting in line for a long time in the heat she led us through the halls of the museum stopping at each item on the way. By the time we got to the Chapel it was packed. Still enjoyed it though because, well, you’re in Rome right? What can you complain about? Next time I’ll try the racing down the corridors.

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