Article and Text by Leila Herrmann
When I'm asked "What's your favorite city?", I always answer "Rome!". Yet I've never been there. I only know the city from postcards sent to me by my aunts, from influencers posing with their gelato in front of the Spanish Steps and from movies like Eat, Pray, Love. So far, it's just an idea in my head – or rather an illusion formed from familiar clichés.
For two months, I want to test if I only love the idea of Rome or also the city with all its facets? Is it a coincidence that Roma finds itself in romance?
I sit in front of my laptop on my bed in Munich and think about my last two months in Rome. When I look out the window, instead of terracotta-coloured facades, I see beige concrete walls of 70s buildings. Instead of fresh cacio e pepe, tonight I'm having homemade pasta arrabiata with pasta from the supermarket. I listen to the song I heard played live by jazz musicians outside Bar San Callisto at the time, "Roma non fa la stupida stasera“, and reminisce, in a very classic post-holiday downer.
I enjoyed living in a foreign city for two reasons: first, to get to know the city, and secondly, (note the cliché) to get to know myself better. It's so exciting to live in another city just long enough that everyday life doesn't quite set in yet, but you already get to know the city outside the sights. Eating in, strolling through a bookstore (where I don't understand 90 percent of the books anyway), or going to my hairdresser, made me hardly feel like a tourist anymore. It’s also great to do whatever you feel like doing every day. A spontaneous day trip to Naples? Or rather relax until 12 PM on the terrace with homemade caffè? These experiences made me deeply recommend a trip like this – whatever your Rome may be.
Now, friends ask me if I want to move to Rome. No, but Rome remains my refuge, my comfort zone, my place of longing. As Simon Strauss wrote in his novel Roman Days, "I had to get away. To yearn again.“
So the final conclusion to my initial question if I only loved the idea of Rome or also the city with all its facets? Yes, I do. I love the reality of the city and I will love it forever. Despite negative acquaintances, catcalling, garbage and lonely moments: There is no other place where the pasta is as delicious, where the Aperol tastes as good, as on a piazza in Rome. In the end, I feel like the poet Robert Browning: „Aprendo il mio cuore, vi trovereste inciso Italia“ – “Open my heart and you will see, 'graved inside of it, Italy“.
My favorite spots in Rome:
Trastevere great for strolling, days and nights)
Monti (great for strolling, days and nights)
San Lorenzo (nights)
Historic center (great for strolling, days)
(Not basic) sightseeing:
Orto botanico (botanic garden)
Orange Garden Aventino (most beautiful view, bring wine and watch sunset)
Piazza della madonna dei Monti (drinks at the piazza)
Colle Oppio (hidden park next to the Colosseo)
Isola Tiberina (chill place for sunny days next to the Tiber)
San Lorenzo Basket Playground (nights)
Porta Portese (the BEST and biggest fleamarket I have ever been to, every Sunday)
Via Sannio (also good fleamarket, from Monday to Saturday)
There are also lots of super cheap mini flea markets (rummage tables, which look horrible, but are great to find cheap treasures) next to the underground stations, so just check them out when you pass by, I have always found something – for example next to the stations Piramide and San Flaminio. I have also been to maany Vintage shops (mostly in Monti), but they are always so much more expensive. I would definitely just go to Porta Portese (for a few hours) on Sundays.
Museo Maxxi (especially because auf the Zaha Hadid building)
La Galleria Nazionale
Pantheon (a must!)
Food and cafés:
Peppo (best pizza)
Felice a Testaccio (best Cacio e Pepe in town!)
Roscioli (best pizza slices to go)
Caffè Settimiano (cute café with oat milk and iced coffee, which is rare)
Le Levain (for the best croissants and cinnamon buns – try pistacchio croissant!)
Café Letterario („underground“ café, Coworking)
Via della pace (hidden café for rainy days especially)
Bar Antico Caffè (authentic little café)
But actually it is very hard not to eat good in Rome!