Where I went, and for how long?
In February 2013, I took the plane from Belgium, my homeland, to Italy. The city of Rome was meant to be my new home for five months. Indeed, I had applied and been chosen for an Erasmus exchange program in the Eternal City. An amazing experience was waiting for me there.
What was great?
Summarizing all the great discoveries I have made in Rome would be impossible. So, I made an uncomplete list of the things that were (more than) great.
- To be amazed by the gorgeous view from the roof of my appartment
- To put my feet in a fountain at night (which is normally prohibited)
- To live the "Habemus Papam" in direct
- To go to the sea and the beach in only half an hour by train
- To find Ancient Art at every street corner
- To eat pasta ai porcini at "Da Francesco"
- To arrive a quarter late at university, because even the professors are always late
- To drink chocolate shots in Trastevere
- To admire the work of Michel-Angelo at the Sixtine Chapel
- To learn how to make my own delicious pasta all' amatriciana
- To see the city under the sun
- To spend evenings with friends, drinking wine on a terrasse
- To learn italian gestures
- To walk during a whole day in the city, without precise goal
- To eat a gelato from Giolitti
- To find works of the Caravaggio in churches
- To study in a parc, under the sun
- To see the sunset from one of the Roman Hills
- To imagine being a gladiator in the Coliseum
- To pass by "Largo Torre di Argentina" nearly every day, where Cesar was killed
- To find a magnificient museums everywhere
- To see the fountain of Trevi by night
- To live like a real Roman person
What was a letdown?
Sometimes, Roman people aggressively shout instead of speaking. Some other times, you really have to use one's elbows to make your way though hordes of tourists in some place of the center.
What does it cost to do it bare bones/live comfortably/live like a king?
Living in Rome is quite expensive compared to other cities of Italy. You can find an flatshare for around 500 euros in the city, and at least 600 downtown, in the very center. However, if you want to stay only a few days, you can find a lot of nice hostels, B&B and even former monasteries and convents for around 25 euros the night.
Regarding the food, there are many cheap and very good typical roman restaurants, where you can end up with a whole dinner and wine for 20 euros per person. I would suggest the neighbourhoods of Trastevere, Piazza Navona and Campo dei Fiori, in order to feel the charms of Rome. Trastevere, very quiet during the day, wakes up at night to welcome students from everywhere, tourists and Romans. There, you can find an incredible number of charming restaurants. My advice concerning Piazza Navona and Campo dei Fiori: don't eat right on these places, restaurants there are expensive and not that good. Just walk a few minutes past it, and you will find some of the cutests streets of Rome, full of simple typical trattoria's and pizzeria's. My favourite secret place is Piazza della Pace, but don't tell...
Tips on being prepared
Be careful to pickpockets! The beautiful Rome took me one camera, one mobile phone and one wallet... Bringing a good guide book is always usefull: the city looks even more interesting when you can imagine more than 2000 years of historical events going on in the streets you are passing by.
One might think that four days are enough to see Rome, I can assert that five months aren't! This city is so full of cultural legacy that you cannot do all in one stay. Therefore, if you have only a few days to spend in Rome, the best thing to try to grab a bit of its vibrant cultural and historical identity is to get lost in its charming streets (and to wear good shoes!).
Roma is maybe not anymore capital of the world, but it will be capital of my heart for a while now...