I visited Rome for the first time in December 2011. It was also my first visit to a big-European-top-ten-tourist-must-see-before-you-die kind of city. (I know, I live in Madrid, but I wouldn’t put Madrid up there with London, Paris, and Rome in terms of tourism.) Prior to Rome I’d traveled in South and Central America, Spain, and southern France during off-season. In all of those places I just la-la-la-ed my way through museums, monuments, and sites. Never making reservations, never calling ahead, and never waiting in line. This is SO NOT THE CASE in Rome. In Rome there are fast lines, short lines, pre-bought ticket lines, pay-more-money-to-get-there-sooner lines. It kind of made me feel like I was in an adult Disney World. Basically, when I left Rome after my first visit I was not exactly in love.
But this weekend I went back and all it took was two days (and no lines) for Rome to completely win me over. Here are a few line-less but AWESOME things to do in Rome:
1. Eat something…or everything…that has truffle. I’m not talking about chocolate, I’m talking about the “the fruiting body of an underground mushroom.” Uhhh, you’ll know it when you smell it? Throughout the weekend I ate truffle pizza, truffle pasta, and truffle bruschetta. All of which were the bomb.
2. Hang out with Sally Roberts and Marissa Limsiaco and Aurelia Elfstrom. Sally is my cousin who lives and works in Rome. Marissa dropped in during the last leg of a long journey. Aurelia is a college friend passing through Italy. Seriously though, the company you keep is just as important as wherever in the world you may be.
3. Go shopping on Via del Governo Vecchio. Fabulous, fabulous, FABULOUS vintage stores. I think I saw every kind of leather bag I could have imagined. And for “vintage” shops they were still reasonably priced (clothes from 15 to 40 euros, bags from 40 to 100).
4. Walk around the Vatican. Instead of waiting all day to get inside the Vatican, just take a walk around the walled city. Once you move away from St. Pete’s the tourists thin out and since it’s on top of a hill there are some good views. (Truth: I actually did this on my first visit to Rome.)
5. Stop in a cafe and get a caffe correto. It’s espresso with your choice of grappa, brandy, or sambuca (I got it with grappa). I know. It’s like wow.
6. Befriend the guards at the Vatican. This may or may not be possible, but is totally worth trying. I at least asked for a picture with them (aka, I walked up and said foto? with a Spanish accent and a questionable look on my face). They glanced around a little before warily saying yes.
7. Walk around Palentine Hill. It’s one of Rome’s seven hills (I’m all smart now, thanks to Sally). It’s the hill where, according to myth, the twins Romulus and Remus were found. It’s close to the Roman forum and a nice place to meander among ruins.
And voila, you’ve got yourself an epic, line-free, Roman holiday.