Rome is not just a destination, it’s an experience. The capital of the old empire possesses a rich heritage with the relics of over two thousand years of inhabitation. The city is made up of layers of history interwoven to an almost overwhelming degree: medieval churches build on ancient basilicas above Roman palaces; house and apartment blocks that integrate remains of eroded Roman columns, carvings, escutcheons and inscriptions. Exploring the Italian capital by feet is a no-brainer if you look at the density of Rome’s traffic. With imagination I reconstruct the old empire as I walk the cobble roads, alleys and piazzas which follow the lines of ancient amphitheaters and stadiums. I take Piazza Navona as the center of the city from where I calculate that I’m probably twenty till thirty minute walk away from most of the places I want to see – the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Piazza di Spagna, St. Peter’s, the Trevi Fountain, Castel St. Angelo, Villa Borghese or the bohemian Trastevere district. And getting to those emblematic places is the real adventure as behind every corner lays a new puzzle piece of what was. Sometimes it is a façade with angels, another time it is a beautiful fountain with no name and a lot of times it’s a kind of déjà vu sensation as we all have seen Rome a billion times on postcards, movies and so on.
It is always the unexpected here in Rome. Every now and then it even seems like things doesn’t fit. The Pantheon for example… or the building is too big, or the square is too small. The Colosseum for example… is that even possible the way it stands so high and vertical, the way it seems so solid and brittle at the same time, standing here in the middle of a modern city. There is even a religious capital inside a political capital… a city inside a city. Is Nicola Salvi’s Fontana di Trevi the façade of a building? I tell you, at every corner there is a new bit of the long story of this city. Rome has fifty monumental fountains and hundreds of smaller fountains and over 2000 drinking fountains, more than any city in the world, it counts over 900 churches, 14 catacombs and about 40 Roman ruins to visit. It has the Tiber river flowing through and you can walk along it taking sunset pictures at the over 30 bridges it contains and even an island to take a rest at the riverside. It’s blessed with an endless list of restaurants, takeaway pizzerias, pasta bars, charming coffeehouses, taverns with sunny terraces and crowded ice-cream shops without closing hours.
Rome at night is what I liked most and what I recommend most. The heat of the day fades away and a fresh breeze runs through the streets. The streetlight gives a special vibe to the city and transforms it into a magical place with luring bars and clubs, with local youngsters gathering together on the minor squares and students from all over the globe celebrating student life as they do each evening. There is no queuing at 2am and at 4am there are no people to mess up a nice picture… a unique moment for a city as Rome.
There is this moment without the souvenir fridge magnets racks and without fashionable shop windows… there is just me and these small ancient stonewall passages. The same passages that were there a thousand years ago and now and hopefully another thousand years withstanding modernization.
- Before hitting Rome, read a bit about its history. Who were Julio Ceasar, Pompeyo, Augusto,…
- The same for its art, lookup the history behind fontains, emblematic bridges, squares,… Having a bit of information before you get on the streets will save a lot of time and will change the way you perceive its beauty. You can click on the links in this post or click on this INFO-GUIDE that I found online and helped me a lot to understand more about Rome.
- The ruins of antiquity allow us to reconstruct with the imagination how Imperial Rome was. But after spending three hours in the Roman Forum, looking at broken columns and scattered stones, you’ll want to enter a building that still stands. Similarly, if you visit 20 baroque churches in a single day, you will be so “saturated” that they will all look the same to you. So alternate between ancient and modern. In Rome you have enough variety to avoid monotony.
- Most of the important monuments are inside the Aurelian wall, which delimits the center of the city and whose area is quite accessible on foot.
- Rome, it’s an ancient place, yet it’s so much more than an open-air museum: its culture, its food, its people make up a modern, vibrant city so enjoy every aspect of it.
- We all know what a pizza should taste like but if you really want something original, fresh and with superior quality… I recommend Pizza Grand Gourmet as an alternative on anything else you’ve ever experienced. 🙂
Not only was it the cheapest flight we could find from Sao Paolo but also the most convenient, as we had a 24 hours transit at Casablanca waiting another airplane. Diner, 4 stars hotel and breakfast offered by the flight company. So what for most people is a ‘no-go’ is for a low-cost backpacker a ‘can’t-refuse’. Another stamp on the passport an here we go for our “Blitz-visit”.
With a population of almost 5 million, Casablanca is the largest, most liberal and progressive of Morocco’s cities. Its past interactions with different cultures, -founded by Berber fishermen around the tenth century, used by the Phoenicians, Romans, Merenids, to be destroyed and rebuilt again by the Portuguese who abandoned it after an earthquake. Then rebuild again at the hand of a Moroccan sultan but plagued by Spanish traders who established trading bases there and to finally get occupied by the French in 1907-, taught this city to cope with change and evolution. Nothing in this city is truly endearing and that’s exactly the reason why you should visit it. You’ll get the right idea that nobody expects travelers as other cities already serve very well that purpose. Casablanca has a “medina” or walled old city of winding alleys, except here it’s smaller than most and quite run-down, with most shops devoted to day-to-day items that are of little interest to the tourist so do not expect immense labyrinthic medinas like Rabat, Fez or Marrakech have. It does not offer a walk through the High Atlas and neither overnight camel ride through wavy, deep reddish-orange dunes. It’s not as characteristic as the blue city of Chefchaouen. It’s the unpretentiousness together with modernity, Moresque and Art Deco architecture that are the true delight.
Wandering through the city a traveler gets to see the real Morocco and not the well prepared tourist theaters as in other towns. We haggle for some leather souvenirs without the typical scenes. At the Medina we try olives, dried fruits and spices without having to buy any. The unforgiving nature of time forces us to go back to the hotel, the airport and eventually home. Casablanca, it was nice to meet and greet and do not worry sooner or later we’ll be back!
- The Old Medina is nice cozy
- The Hassan II mosque, one of the biggest mosques in the world and just at the waterside. Unlike most mosques in Morocco, non-Muslims are allowed inside, but only on guided tours for 10€ a person.
- Mohammed V Boulevard, lined with buildings from the 1920s and 1940s, (2km from the Old Medina)
- Square of Mohamed V
After discovering Sao Paolo, Marcella and Antonio take us to Sorocaba where we are baptized to the Brazilian lifestyle. We first thought that we would go to the ‘Parque Natural Municipal da Agua Vermelha Joao Cancio Pereira’ or Sorocaba’s Contemporary Art Museum, the Catedral Metropolitana de Sorocaba, the museum of railroad or maybe even the spectacular ‘Jardim botánico Irmaos Vilas Boas’. But no no… at Marcella’s parents we are about to find out what’s Brasilian churrasco all about. Brasil, as many other nations, is proud of its food. While each has a different approach, Brazil and Argentina both claim to be South America’s barbeque champion. Despite the discussion of naming it churrasco or asado, the cuts and the accompaniments, some things are simply the same; the ogre-sized quantities of meat which is best appreciated at a laidback pace. We can easily state that the preparing and the cooking itself is 90% of the experience. Onions spiked on an épée are carefully turned above the vivid fire while an infinite assortment of sizzling meats are judiciously been looked after.
In the mean while the table fills up with all kind of vegetables cut rightfully by the experienced hand of the ‘avó’. With a ‘cerveja Skol’ in the hand a wood oven is lit for the grilled vegetables side dishes.
There is no sitting down at this bacchanal, so as we are talking the wooden cuttings board passes by with all kind of meats nicely cut. Another Skol later the same cutting board passes by with other meat and some grilled vegetables.
Maybe a sporadic fork searches its way to some grilled peppers but for as far as I know seems cutlery just an option. Whilst a new batch of meat is getting to its point, Marcella’s father gives me a private tour on the property explaining all the tricky parts of having and maintaining an orchid garden. With my limited Portuguese I can figure out that it must be very complicated. So here goes my tribute to a man with a passion for beauty and nature. ( Just a tiny selection of the photos I made…)
But before all the Skol, before being part of a Brazilian Churrasco, even before striking any match we went for a moment downtown to take a look at ‘Amabili‘, the patchwork shop of Marcella’s mother, a cute atelier where creativity has no frontiers and where colors brighten the grey city routine. Definitely a place to stop by and inhale some positive energy.
Thanks Antonio, Marcella and all the family for opening your hart and house.