What can I possibly tell you about Rome that you don’t already know? I felt like one of the last people to have ever visited the Italian city. Apparently everyone has been. And not just once either. It’s a destination many have clocked up some serious hours over two or three occasions.
My Roman holiday very nearly didn’t happen because two hours before I was due to set off on my first proper holiday for a year, I looked in the mirror and located a mini-golf ball size lump inside my mouth. So that’s how I found myself 45 minutes later at the dentist, where she pronounced a mouth/tooth infection and handed over a slip for me to collect a round of antibiotics that scores of Mumsnetters deemed to be worse that the illness for which they’d been prescribed it for. Ever an optimist (or cynical optimist) I grabbed my suitcase after I cycled back from the dentist in a frenzy and set off on the train. But, alas, when I reached Rochester, my mouth throbbing, I hastily made a U-turn and jumped off.
Four days later, feeling much healthier and no golf ball in sight, I rebooked everything, including a cute Airbnb in the leafy suburb of Garbatella, staying with fellow journalist Chiara. I flew over armed with a notebook with a few scribbled down recommendations, one of which was a restaurant near Trevi Fountain that left me a good few euros out of pocket after the truffle pasta highly advised by the disgruntled waiter (they were all pretty miserable in there) turned out to be an eye-watering €35. Probably more than I’ve ever spent on pasta in a year.
So apart from being left high and dry, what else did I get up to? I soaked up the very hot rays in the Villa Borghese gardens until a man sat two metres away (there’s five hectares available, why does this always happen?), took his top off and spent the next hour staring at me. I skipped the dreaded queues at the absolutely glorious Colosseum by visiting around 5.30pm (and using the Roma Pass to bypass the other late-comers). I spent hours hoarded around the Vatican like a sheep. I had a weird – one of those days – on the Wednesday, when I thought I’d head to the beach on the scorching hot day. What I wanted and what I received were two very different things. Instead, the entire journey went from one mishap to another, ending with finding myself 5km inland many hours after I originally set off, at a small village where I tried to hunt down someone who spoke English to find out where the hell I was. I’d jumped on the wrong bus and ended up in a village with a similar-ish name to the beach. By the time I reached the beach, it was 3.45pm, the beautiful blue skies had turned to grey clouds. There was zero chances of risking swishing about in the sea in my underwear. But hey, the day massively improved when I returned to Garbatella and I hit the gelato (always three scoops at a time, please) but resting face returned after I pulled a vegetarian fried courgette flower out of my mouth and discovered some kind of animal flesh. “Ah, I forgot to say,” admitted the waiter as I vomited into the tissue.
But otherwise the trip was filled with the sweet smell of jasmine as I roamed Rome happy as a lark. The Protestant cemetery, also a cat sanctuary, was the most tranquil spot away from the busy streets of Rome. I stocked up on Burning Man outfits at a vintage store I came across in the Monti neighbourhood Monti. I tried (very easily) to eat gelato twice a day, of course having it for my first meal of the day one day, and squeezed in a visit to Eataly (think the Selfridges of Italian food).
I’ve returned with light dusting of freckles, a spring in my step, and a burning desire to grab my 13-year-old backpack and take off for some extensive travelling later this year/early next year. Ciao, bella!