Rome… Through the Eyes of a Semi -Tourist

I’m not trying to brag or anything 😉 But I must say that one of the greatest cities in the world, Rome, is more or less like a second home to me.

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Those two scratched out words underneath ‘Gattella’ are my father’s name. 20 years after we left, my father’s name is still on the nameplate in the building we lived in.

My family lived in Rome for nearly four years in the early 90s (my little sister was born there, and no, she’s not an Italian citizen). So, obviously, we can’t really be tourists in a city that was home for so long. But since I was there only till I turned 4 or so, I can’t say I know it as well as, say, Delhi, Chennai, or even Milan. So, that’s why I call myself a semi-tourist.

My 5 week trip in the summer was supposed to take me on a round from Munich, Germany to Ljubljana, Slovenia in around 3 – 3.5 weeks, and I planned to spend the last 10 or so days slowly savouring the pizzas in different cities in Italy- in Naples, in Pompeii, in Capri, in Sorrento, in San Marino etc etc before finally wrapping it all up with the best pizza I’ve ever had (no joke) in my favouritEST pizzeria in Rome.

Well, plans changed (evidently drastically) and I finally stumbled into Ancona, Italy from Split, Croatia three days before I was due to catch the flight home from Rome. I spent about an hour contemplating staying in Ancona for a night, but I longed for familiarity so badly, I decided to just take an evening train to Rome. I was weary, homesick and perpetually hungry.

Of course, I did end up missing the train, cried my eyes out (oh, how many times I cried on this trip. Rather embarrassing when I look back), and had to take a later one. So on top of weary, homesick and hungry, I was also sulky and sore (from the eye rubbing).

But Rome… Rome makes everything better.

Since Rome was a super last minute decision, it was hard to get a hostel. So I spent my 3 nights there in 3 different hostels, and each one was worse than the last. The first night was at The Yellow, which was quite decent. But after all the epic bargains I had been experiencing in the east, the price tag was a shocker. Yes, I know a €20 hostel is normal, in fact, even a bargain, in all of western Europe, but after 4.5 weeks of couchsurfing and staying in posh hostels with awesome breakfast or non-bunk beds, or 4 bed dorms, or wonderful air conditioning for €8-15, €20 was painful for an 8 bedded dorm with questionable air conditioning and no breakfast. But okay, not complaining. Shush.

The first thing I did was catch the metro to go straight to aforementioned pizzeria. It seemed dark from afar. Heart in my mouth (thud, thud, thud), I inched closer, muttering ‘PleaseDon’tBeClosedPleaseDon’tBeClosedPleaseDon’tBeClosed’ under my breath. And well, what do you know…

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In my head I sank to my knees, shook my fist at the store and wailed ‘WHYYYYYY’.

WHYYYYY

Dejected, I slowly walked away towards the bus stop that I knew would take me back to the centre. Prossima Fermata, Colosseo. Next stop, Colosseo.

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What can I say about Rome that hasn’t already been said? Every time I leave that glorious place, I long to go back… Again and again. So let’s take a semi-touristy walk through the Rome that know and love.

First up… The obligatory regulars.

Fontana di Trevi in the day

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And at night

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Piazza di Spagna

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The Vatican… I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go there, considering I have visited it several times. BUT, I suddenly realised that if I did step in, I would cover 10 countries! Couldn’t miss that opportunity, now, could I? 🙂

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Now moving on to more personal favourites- places that aren’t so much on the tourist radar, or not at all, but hold so much meaning to me that I can’t possibly skip them.

I REALLY wanted to take the free walking tours in Rome, but I had so many places to visit, I couldn’t make it. Once, when I was waiting at a traffic light, I saw some tour group walk past, and the guide was talking about a gelateria that serves 150 flavours of gelato. And I was like… You have GOT to be kidding me!!!! Google is a friend in need indeed, and a quick search let me straight to Gelateria della Palma!!

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150 flavours was not an exaggeration.

But, well, I was slightly disappointed because the flavours were not anything unusual… I mean you had the regular stuff, and with that you had flavours of chocolate bars. So hazelnut, ferrero rocher, gianduja etc etc were not all that different from one another. Apparently there was a Gelateria CentoGusti in Milan and Rome which served flavours like Chickpea and Wasabi. Now THAT is the kind of stuff I would have liked. Unfortunately, both have shut down 😦

Next… My family’s favourite… Piazza Navona (you know it from Angels and Demons). Someday I want to be in Rome during Christmas and see the Christmas market that sets up here. I think it will be lovely. The ice cream in my hand is the triple scoop-ed monster I picked up from Gelateria della Palma. (Did I mention I had nine scoops of ice cream that day? Nine!!)

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I Granai mall is another sentimental part of Rome for me. It was never really easy to get to from wherever we lived, but the food court on the second floor made REALLY good pizza (my second favourite by a very narrow margin) and the best suppli. I happily skipped there, and what do I see? There IS no food court anymore!!! (By then I figured there must be some sort of pizza-conspiracy to mess with me)

I walked back downstairs, went and walked around Panorama for a while (giant grocery store), and decided to get a pizza square and suppli anyway from the pizzeria opposite. And ooohhh my NOM!!! I think they just moved from the food court to the ground floor. Because YUM!

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A lot of people don’t know what suppli is. Well, if you go to Rome, please make sure not to miss it, because it is tastebud heaven… A fried breaded ball of risotto and mozzarella. Drool, indeedy!

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While aimlessly walking around the city, I decided to pay a visit to my old home.

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I BADLY wanted to go inside. Maybe the present owners would even let me in if I could make myself understood. Unfortunately, since I had left that place when I was just 4, I remembered nothing of the floor, or which side the apartment was on. I just knew the building number (and that was confirmed by my dad’s name on the mailbox!). I stood and stared for a long time and finally left. 10 minutes later, my grandfather called, and when he heard where I was, reminisced about the house. I got enough clues to figure out where I needed to go and off I went!! I rang the bell several times. No one opened it though 😦

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Okay. Moving on…

Santi Pietro e Paolo church.

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This church is one end of Viale Europa. Viale Europa is a very nice, pretty shopping street that my family likes to walk along. Viale America runs parallel to it, and that is where my favourite pizzeria is. The one I mentioned at the beginning. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it!!

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This church is also special to me because my late grandmom used to sit on the steps with me on her lap when I was a baby.

Eur Lake (or Laghetto dell’Eur) is right next to Viale America.

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Another favourite of ours is Piazza Garibaldi. It is on the top of Gianicolo Hill (oh man, this reminds me of my creepy couchsurfing host who I fled from a few hours after leaving my bags at his place. Sheesh).

Rome is a city built on seven hills. This is one of them. It also boasts of some of the most fabulous views of the city we can hope to get.

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La Dolce Vita… At the time that I captured this incredibly cliche moment (of a suited-booted Italian guy on his red Vespa on the cobbled streets of Rome), I had a gelato in my hands 🙂

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My last stop was another place we had lived. We had lived here for over a year when we first moved to Rome, and we lived here every time we went back to Rome on our month long trips.

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And THIS is the infuriating bus stop we had to wait at for 22 minutes everyday (and 33 minutes on Sunday) to catch the bus to civilization. A car took 10ish minutes, while bus no 771 took over an hour! Argh!! It’s easy to look back fondly right now, but those days when we watched the bus leave in front of our eyes and knew we had to wait in the heat for a good third of an hour for the next one to come was MADDENING!!!

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And here’s a Throwback Thursday kind of post (even though today isn’t Thursday)… That’s me on the left, on my way down in the elevator in my apartment in Milan, just before I left for this trip. And on the right I’m just leaving the hostel in Rome to go the airport.

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Another sunny day

Has come and gone away

In Paris and Rome

But I wanna go home

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten…

FINALLY! The pizzeria. It is on the corner of Viale America and Viale Beethoven. It’s called Pizza Inn and has a green board. Nearest metro station is Eur Palasport. And believe me when I say I haven’t had better pizza in my life. All you see in the picture below cost me just about €6. Pizza, suppli and chicken with potatoes (I was starving!).

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It’s not on Tripadvisor, but I’m telling you with all my heart. DO NOT MISS THIS!!!

I visited some friends in London last December, and they took me out to dinner and then to the London Eye for dessert. When we were walking back at night, I was so envious that they knew a city like London so well. And then I realised while writing this… That’s what Rome is to me too.

It’s funny how some cities get so close to your heart. Milan doesn’t mean much to me, though I spent an entire year of my adult life there. Rome, on the other hand, in spite of being almost halfway across the world, is closer to home than most cities I have ever visited, or lived in.

Not everything about Rome is positive, of course. Some of the creepiest people I’ve met were presented to me in Rome (my almost-host was not the only one), but my overall love for Rome is so overwhelming, I couldn’t help but share all my favourite things about this wonderful city.

I ❤ Roma!! 🙂

18 responses to “Rome… Through the Eyes of a Semi -Tourist

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  5. Thank you for the tour around Rome from the eyes of a semi-tourist! 🙂 We hope to be there next May so I’m reading everything that I can about Italy at the moment! 🙂

    • Rome is wonderful, Lauren (everyone knows that). And when you go, MAKE SURE you go to the pizzeria I’ve mentioned. I’m serious. Ohhh ❤ And send me pictures 😀
      I know May is a long time away, but I'm already excited for you! Haha!

  6. Sounds like we have a lot in common! Rome is a second home to me too and I only just got back on Sunday from another short trip. I have seen Rome’s attractions hundreds of time (ok maybe not hundreds but ….) and yet everytime I go I always try and squeeze in some alone time…just me and Rome. I adore this city. I walk around it for hours in the evening, eat at my favorite restaurant, go and sit by the fountain (although it’s closed right now 😦 ) stop by the Colosseum etc….and get 2 hours rest before I do it all over again the next day 🙂

    • How cool, Samantha 😀 High5!! Which is your favourite restaurant? Unless I’m explicitly guided by someone who knows, I walk right into tourist traps 😛 Whoops!!
      Have you been to the pizzeria I’ve written about? It is SO good!!

      • There used to be an amazing restaurant called Take it Easy just off the street from Piazza Navona but it has been taken over now but the food is still great. Otherwise Da Francescos is pretty good which is where we ate the other night. Our favorite place 🙂 I haven’t been to the Pizzeria you mentioned but maybe I should on my next visit 🙂

  7. Wow Surya, we must be kindred spirits. I love India, and I am from Milan (you said you know the city well!) and of course, I also adore Rome. I love EUR too, it’s actually my favourite place in the city. Finally a refreshing post, written with the heart by someone who really loves the city, and not full of the usual tourist cliches: well done!

    • Thanks, Margherita! I actually lived in Milan for a year, doing my Masters. And, in fact, I chose Italy because I love Rome so much 😀 Eur is so underrated, I think. No one I know has ever been there :O
      You must try the pizzeria the next time you go there, by the way 😀

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