It seems like Rome was months ago at this point of our travels throughout Italy. However, it was just over a week ago that we checked into our hotel, dropped our bags, exhausted, and jetted out to not miss a thing Rome had to offer. The juxtaposition of Rome is absolutely incredible: Rich history amidst an urban chic metropolis. Spanish Steps just a few meters from a Chanel store. Roman ruins standing next to 19th century homes. Pope Francis and young Italian children. Wine from 1990, Prosecco from 2010. The tourists sprinkled among the locals. Tiny smart cars, huge tour buses. The romance and slower pace of Rome at night, the energy of Rome during the day. It’s truly a remarkable city and one that I want to share my personal travel stories, the moments or people or things that stood out for me, for Rick, for us.
It comes as no coincidence that our first night in Rome was introduced with a rich tradition featuring a glass of champagne. We stayed at the St. Regis and every night at 7 p.m., there is a tradition in the lobby where a server opens a bottle of crisp, delicious Perrier-Jouet Champagne with a sword. Yes, a sword. They deem this moment the opening of the night, appropriately named open the bottle, open the night. And a perfect way to open our vacation. And perhaps a great concept to bring back to the Ueno home for our upcoming parties 🙂
I would say that on almost every single trip I have taken in my life, the people I meet on my journey are what turns travel into a unique, memorable experience. And this time, it is no different. From our lovely tour-guide-turned-friend, Damiana (and her amazing husband, Luigi) to the man who sliced me the best piece of Prosciutto, to Ivana and her husband chatting with Rick and I about life and work and travel, I feel very blessed to have gotten to experience Rome from a local lens, making my trip that much richer.
The fresh food. Ahhhh! The fresh, melt-in-your-mouth food. I now 100% understand and appreciate why anyone wants to eat local, wants to eat organic. There is an immense difference in the flavors and freshness of the foods in Italy and being a foodie, you can imagine how my stomach smiled with each bite, with each meal. From the thin crust tomato and basil pizza to the sweet and slightly thick balsamic vinegar to the peppery arugula greens and the creamy dark chocolate gelato, eating the food in Italy is truly a bucket list experience and one that I look forward to checking off my bucket list again and again.
And speaking of food, I have to say that coming from Chicago, where there is always a healthy argument between which is better, deep dish or thin crust pizza, I was excited to not only eat the thin crust pizza in Rome, but to eat “fast food” pizza. It’s like their coffee bars. You stand, you order, they hand you a pizza that is folded in half like a red sauce, buttery crust and mozzarella sandwich, and you stand and eat it. It was just what the doctor ordered and just what Rick and I did after a long morning of touring. I may be on team thin crust now. But don’t tell anyone from Chicago I said that.
While there are hundreds of sights to see in Rome there is one sight in Rome that I loved the first time I had seen it 15 years ago and I loved it even more this time: The Colosseum. Considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture with construction starting in 70 AD, the Colosseum was an amphitheatre, a place where the Romans would go for entertainment. I think this is one reason I love this historic concrete and stone landmark so much. And for me, I am immensely attracted to the exterior design of it. The symmetry. The arches. The textured, gray and tan and ivory stones. The circular shape. The way the sun makes its mark on it during the day. The way the golden lights shine through at night. Created for entertainment. And admired by many. Imagine having an event there now!
Another highlight was the streets of Rome. Given it’s a walking city with much to do, Rick and I spent hours and hours hitting the pavement, taking pictures, soaking in the culture, appreciating all that happens on the streets. Not only are they beautiful with their slim, grayish cobblestones, but they are global, they are colorful, they are energetic and they are filled with life, literally. From the outdoor cafes, to the rich historic landmarks, the streets of Rome will forever be implanted on my heart.
The wine. Enough said.
And my second favorite drink of choice in Rome (ahem, in probably the whole word), coffee. Or in Italy, espresso. Or if I want to sip a bit longer, a Cafe Americano. It was fun to experience a true Italian bar where nothing is to-go, everything is served in glassware and it’s fast, furious and delicious. And one thing I learned is that you are supposed to let the espresso flavors sit in your mouth for at least two hours. Don’t chew gum. Don’t brush your teeth. Don’t wash it down with anything else. Savor the flavor.
Last, but not least, one of the absolute highlights of Rome was experiencing it with the love of my life 🙂