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Episode #217: 5 Must Have Experiences in Rome

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There are many amazing experiences you can have on a visit to Rome. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, the Eternal City never fails to captivate with its timeless charm and awe-inspiring landmarks. We share some quintessential experiences that promise to immerse you in the heart and soul of this ancient metropolis and that you can enjoy on every trip to Rome.

Show notes
In this episode, Untold Italy founder Katy shares her recommended top 5 experiences to have in Rome. On Katy’s recent trip to Rome, while on a tour with Untold friends Liv Tours, was wandering past the Pantheon, when none other than travel legend Rick Steves walked by (see their group selfie here!). If you’re not familiar with Rick, he’s best known in the United States and has almost single-handedly changed the way Americans travel to Europe through his books, audioguides and tours.  His multimedia approach to travel is an inspiration to Katy and everything we do at Untold Italy. On her long trip back to Australia she started reflecting on her trip and realized that while she has been to Rome countless times there are some experiences that she seeks out every time she is there, that she decided would be great to share. 

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • These are those quintessentially Roman things to do that you can only experience in the Eternal City and whilst some of them are ancient, they never get old (for Katy anyhow!).  Lots of them are also free or cost very little. 

Walk in history

  • Katy finds it incredible that she has walked in the footsteps of some of the greatest rulers that the planet has ever seen and stood on the sites of world-changing events
  • She loves to simply walk around in Rome and look around her – at the buildings that have been adapted over centuries and absorbed into the modern city. Most Romans are pretty chilled out about this and don’t seem to notice how over 2000 years of history surrounds them every day but it still amazes Katy, despite her countless trips
  • One of Katy’s favorite places in Rome to wander around is the Jewish Ghetto district. This is where ancient temples co-exist with Renaissance palaces, fountains and medieval streets. There are layers of history everywhere you turn in this area including somber and poignant reminders of the city’s fascist past with brass stumbestone markers outside the houses where victims of the holocaust once lived
  • Just a short stroll away you’ll find Torre di Largo Argentina where Julius Caesar was assassinated on the 15th March in 44 BC. This site has traditionally been a cat refuge but was recently reopened to the public after careful restoration
  • Sometimes Katy goes on a walk around the major sites which can take between 1 to 2 hours depending on how many stops you make – for photos, for coffee or a bite to eat and how close you may want to get to the Colosseum
  • There’s nothing that reminds you more that you’re in Rome than a stroll by the Trevi Fountain or admiring the view from the top of the Spanish Steps 

Devour Roman pasta

  • All the walking you do in Rome is sure to build up your appetite which is perfect alongside Katy’s next top experience which is eating traditional Roman pasta
  • Nowhere in Italy or the world can you find a better carbonara, cacio e pepe, alla gricia, or amatriciana
  • Katy will always order a plate of at least one of these when she is in Rome
  • You might get a delicious ragu pasta in Bologna or a divine quid in pasta in Venice, but you won’t get quite the real deal on the 4 classic dishes (carbonara, cacio e pepe, alla gricia, or amatriciana) anywhere else in Italy as these are the traditional local pasta dishes from Rome
  • Artichokes were in season when Katy was in Rome so she enjoyed a very tasty version of alla gricia with artichokes at Da Felice in Testaccio 
  • Spring is an amazing for artichokes in Italy. They are everywhere – on market stalls, on menus, and even as decorations in shops and restaurants. They come fried or braised or added to pasta
  • If you want to learn more about the traditional pasta dishes of Rome you can listen to our episodes on this very topic with local Roman Nesim from Full Belly Tours in episodes 181 and 182. This is a great listen to get the best tips on where to eat the best versions

Enjoy the views

  • Whenever she is in town, Katy loves to seek out some great views of the Eternal City. There’s nothing like gazing out over the rooftops of Rome to cement that wonderful feeling that you’re in one of the world’s most amazing cities
  • The light at dawn or dusk is particularly special – giving the city an ethereal glow
  • Some of the views Katy enjoyed on her last trip were over the Tiber River and Trastevere from her hotel, a rooftop work lunch close to the Pantheon (with a couple of cheeky spritzes included), and a very special treat from the balcony at the Vatican Museums during a very special early morning tour with Liv Tours – Alone in the Sistine Chapel & Vatican Museums
  • There are so many beautiful and unique angles from which to view and enjoy the city, so we heartily recommend including some epic Roman views in your plans
  • One of Katy’s favorite places for views, that she didn’t get to visit this time round is the Victor Emmanuel II Monument in Piazza Venezia. You can go to the very top on an elevator for a small fee and gaze out across the city
  • This building known as the ‘wedding cake’ sits on the edge of the Roman Forum so it is in a prime position to capture so many iconic sites including the Colosseum
  • If you fancy sitting, gazing out over the Roman Forum, Katy can recommend the cafe at the back of the building as a perfect spot for a sunset aperitivo

A little bit of shopping

  • A lot of people, quite sensibly, like to travel light (as recommended by our friend Rick Steves), but Katy is not one of those people and is not ashamed to admit it. There are too many great treats and treasures to bring home from Rome that she is often forced to purchase yet another hold-all to get everything back home with her
  • Things that Katy likes to buy include:
    • handmade jewelry – unique pieces you won’t find anywhere else
    • pistachio paste – Katy’s whole family loves this spread which is like Nutella but made with pistachios instead of hazelnuts and is therefore green and with a slightly more complex flavor. You can get it at Eataly in Ostiense or the food court at Rinascente department store ( which also has an amazing rooftop view)
    • Another luxury food item is truffle salt – utterly delicious sprinkled on an omelet

Pay my respects to the Pantheon

  • Katy always drops by the Pantheon to make sure it’s still standing (as it has been for over 2000 years). She loves this ancient, grand building that presides over Emperors, Popes and both invasions and celebrations
  • The Pantheon’s dome has inspired countless buildings around the world from the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence to the Capitol Building in Washington DC and, of course, the Pantheon in Paris
  • It never fails to inspire Katy and even if she takes a casual stroll past, she’ll stop for a few moments and soak up the beauty of this incredible monument in the very heart of the city
  • To Katy, it represents Rome more than the Trevi Fountain or the Colosseum. It’s her north star in Rome and no matter how big the crowd is in the Piazza della Rotunda outside (which can be shockingly busy), the Pantheon stands serene among the hubbub waiting for the next installment of the city’s story
Places mentioned in the show
  • Roman Forum – rectangular site that is surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient Roman government buildings 
  • Trevi Fountain – iconic monumental fountain
  • Largo di Torre Argentina – the spot in Rome where Julius Caeser was murdered. Has been home to a cat sanctuary for a long while, but parts are now just re-opened to the public
  • The Pantheon – former Roman temple and, since 609 AD, a Catholic church in Rome
  • Testaccio – neighborhood that is known as the kitchen of Rome
  • Da Felice – restaurant in Testaccio, great for classic Roman dishes and a firm favorite with Romans
  • Victor Emmanuel II Monument – the huge white monument in Rome, known as the wedding cake
  • Eataly – a shop across Italy and around the world with a wide range of Italian quality products and restaurants

Resources

Resources from Untold Italy

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