There is so much to do and see in Rome. As I was thinking of how to begin writing about our trip to Rome, other than the obvious must-see touristy places such as the Colosseum and Vatican City, I thought I would write about a list of things that hopefully give you guys a real essence of Rome.
1) START A CONVERSATION
You will be amazed at the stories you will hear. We found Italians to be very kind and loving people. Now this might seem a very simple one, but I guess we weren’t expecting the kind of hospitality that was shown, which was very welcoming.
On the first day that we arrived in Rome, the husband and I went to a nearby restaurant called ‘Ristorante Le Caveau’ for lunch. It was our first Italian meal and it was incredibly tasty. The husband had seafood spaghetti with mussels, prawns, squid and clams and I had tomato gnocchi with pecorino cheese. But aside from the food, it was the conversation with the owner of the restaurant that made the experience unforgettable. We simply began our conversation when I said “delizioso, grazie mille” he then asked us where we are from and the conversation led from him living in London 30 years starting work as dishwasher at a restaurant to owning one in Rome. He shared many stories and showed much interest in ours too. Later he called his head chef ‘Kamal’ and turns out he is a Punjabi. It surprised us how an Indian was cooking such good Italian food. Thereafter, when he heard we are Bengali, he mentioned about a Bengali man whom he gave a job to at the kitchen. He doesn’t know how to speak English or Hindi let alone Italian, but he had a family with children. Chef Kamal simply gave him the job to help him and they communicate in sign language. This act of kindness just made my day. Later the owner gave us complimentary Tiramisu, which was the fluffiest and delicious tiramisu we have ever had. We took photos together with the owner to remember the good times!
(Fun fact: Traditional tiramisu in Italy do not have alcohol which is something I learnt on this trip. Its strange all the tiramisu I had come across including online recipes seem to have alcohol. My all-time desire to try a good tiramisu is now ticked!)
Note: Tiramisu picture taken from tripadvisor as we forgot to take pic and ofcourse the cartoon on our face!
2) PLENTY OF BANGLADESHI PEOPLE AND MANY OF THEM CAN SPEAK FLUENT ITALIANS TOO!
Being Bengali, it was awesome to see many Bangladeshi in Rome and what was more fun was watching them speak fluent Italian. Most of them were selling flowers, hats, umbrellas and tickets to tourist attractions. We visited the Mosque of Rome and there was hardly anyone there let alone anyone praying. The main part of the mosque is only open during Friday prayers and special occasions such as Eid.
3) SLOW DOWN AND HAVE ESPRESSO
We had a lot of espressos in Italy. The best espresso we had was a place called ‘Caffe tazza d’oro’ near the Pantheon. Espresso and Macchiato cost us just 0.90 euro and the after-taste aroma was just incredible… almost mesmerizing! I may have had one or two or maybe three while tourist watching in the shop. We also tried something called “granita di caffe” which is ice blended espresso with cream. It was perfect for the hot weather!
4) GRAB A GELATO AND TAKE A STROLL AROUND THE OLD ALLEYS OF ROME
Our favorite part of ‘roaming in Rome’ was walking through the old rusty alleys. We visited Rome in mid-July and it was scorching hot! We were relieved to find gelato shops in most alleys and my goodness were they fresh and delicious! We mostly had fruit flavors as they were very unique such as watermelon, peach, berries, melon, strawberries etc.. What is even more exciting is you essentially pay for the size of the cone or cup and choose unlimited number of flavors. They even add whipped cream to top it all off. You can never have too much gelatos! Win win situation I would say 🙂
5) PRAYER TIME
There aren’t any places specifically for prayer, so simply combine your prayer if you’re able to. Although we prayed at a small park under a tree near Piazza Venezia and no one seems to be bothered. It was next to a water fountain, which made it easy to make wudu (ablution).
(PC: my cousin sister)
6) HALAL FOOD RESTAURANTS ARE AVAILABLE BUT AREN’T ALWAYS THE MOST AUTHENTIC
There were many halal places we had come across which are mainly run by Bengalis. They were selling not just pizza and pasta but also, doner kebab, fried chicken, beef burgers and even desi food such as curry, daal and biryani. So, if you feel like you had enough of pizza and pasta then you can give this a try!
7) WHAT ABOUT TOILET SITUATION?
Most restaurants let you use their toilet even if you are not a customer. This was incredibly helpful, and we are so thankful for that. So, if you want a clean bathroom try to choose a good-looking restaurant.
8) THEY DON’T SEEM TO SERVE TAP WATER. YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR WATER!
Yes, you read it right. I still can’t get my head around that. Perché??
9) TOURIST CITY TAX ON ACCOMONDATION
Under Italy government regulation, there is a tourist city tax that you must pay on accommodation which is about 5 Euro per day! If you are booking airbnb, you can double check if its something included in the price or something you must pay in cash. Our airbnb accepted cash.
10) GO TO A FORNO AND TRY FOCACCIA
A forno is basically a bakery. They sell pizzas, which are sold by grams (not per slice), and bread such as Focaccia. Focaccia comes with different toppings and perfect for on the go snack. It’s fresh, it’s cheap and it’s simply delicious!
11) TRY PIZZA WITH PESTO AND POTATOES
Compared to the husband, I prefer my pizzas with minimal toppings. I never had pizza with potatoes before and I mean how did I not? This is like match made in heaven and top it off with pesto? Mamma mia! The other favorites were pizzas with Buffalo Mozzarella which was extremely fresh and light, Gorgonzola and Pecorino cheese were also delicious if you like slightly stronger flavor.
12) BE CAREFUL OF PICK POCKETING
Now you have heard many say this to you before travelling to Italy. But let me tell you, do not underestimate this! These people are professional, and they mainly target tourists. So be extra vigilant around those spots, especially Pisa if you are visiting there for a day trip. Use a backpack if possible. Wearing your backpack in the front is another way to keep your belongings safe.
13) ‘MY TAXI’ APP SEEMS TO BE CHEAPER COMPARED TO ‘UBER’
14) BOOK ATTRACTION TICKETS IN ADVANCE
Big attractions such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel etc Book them online in advance. We recommend choosing a specific time if the option allows so that you can be sure about your day plan. It’s all worth it as you simply jump the queue which will save you a huge amount of time. We also recommend getting there as early as possible to avoid swarm of humans.
15) DON’T GET TOO FRIENDLY THOUGH!
Now I know earlier I mentioned, “start a conversation” but also be careful with the kind of people you are speaking to. You should be able to tell who its okay to be friendly with e.g. restaurant owners and officials. Beware of the people selling things around the streets that get chatty and offer you things for free. Do not accept, we saw that they reel people in with empathic stories and then ask for money. The next thing you know is they you ask for big notes saying they will give you change. Do not make this mistake.
We had an incredible time in Rome, especially because we were there with my cousins. Travelling with the people you love just makes the experience a lot more memorable and we made memories for a lifetime. We certainly encourage everyone to visit Rome, which also makes a great place for family vacation, however we recommend going there either late spring or in autumn as weather will be more pleasant. If there is anything we missed out, or you have further questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below xx
Copyright: All photos taken by Followmyhijab unless otherwise stated