Travel is never a race.
There, I’ve said it. I would not deny the fact that there is something sexy about bragging rights of able to visit “X” amount of places in “Y” countries on a single short trip but it is just not something for me. Perhaps it is the *ahem* no-longer-young version of me but these days I would settle for a free and easy kind of trip even if it means that I only get to see a small glimpse of a new city/country.
Having said that, in planning for our trips, my better half and I have this “unspoken KPI” of making an attempt to visit one new country each year. Sure we will still re-visit some of the visited countries to explore deeper and further but by adding new countries to our travel list, it adds up a bit of variety to our travel experience. Language, food, culture, people and sights. Those kind of experiences.
In 2017 Alhamdulilah, we were lucky to be able to include Jordan and Palestine into our list. This year it’s Italy.
So when I was planning for this short trip to Italy, it was so tempting to throw in all the major cities into the itinerary. History lessons in Rome, skiing on Gran Sasso mountain, fashion shopping in Milan, bargain hunting in Florence and romantic gondola ride in Venice were some of the initial ideas until we realised that we will end up wasting time on the road and with limited time enjoying the sights. Scrapping off the snow resorts and Milan from the list, we decided to keep it simple and enjoy Rome and Venice at our pace with a quick shopping trip to Florence.
By the time we reached Rome from London (read my previous post on London here), the sun was just about to set. The weather was too beautiful to stay indoor so we head out for a random walk.
Our first stop, Ponte Sisto, one of the bridges spanning the Tiber river.
This bridge dates back to 1475 when it was built by order of Pope Sixtus IV Della Rovere (1471-1484). One of the key features of this bridge is a round hole in its central pier which is crucial to reduce the river’s pressure on the bridge during times of flooding. Another cool fact about this bridge, it was featured in the James Bond movie, Spectre.
On the way to Piazza Navona, we made a quick stop at Campo de fiori. Back in 1600, this was the place where gadfly philosopher Giordano Bruno was burnt for heresy. The statue of him is located here making the place quite easily recognised besides the fact that this place is a popular market during and a hangout place with cafes and pubs surrounding the area.
When it comes to discovering a new place, getting lost is part of the deal. We were trying to calibrate our directions when we discovered this nice church – the Sant’Andrea della Valle.
After a while we managed to get our way to Piazza Navona, the place to be at for my favourite activity of “people watching”.
Once upon a time a Stadium of Domitian, Piazza Navona is also famous for its fountains which are beautiful at night.
And if you can navigate around the selfie-sticks sellers and random large tour groups you would be able to enjoy the night view and activities here.
A short 15-minute walk away is one of the best preserved Ancient Roman monument and one of my favourite sights for the evening – The Pantheon.
Constructed 2000 years ago, this former Roman temple and now a Church, is a site not to be missed even if it just viewing it from the outside.
On a chilly winter night, walking around the heart of Rome’s city is quite a fun activity. Plenty of things to see, people to admire and shops to stop at.
Without realising, we have walked for a few KMs and reached the iconic Trevi Fountain, known as one of the most stunning fountains in the world.
This is the place that will challenge your photography skills as it is super crowded most of the time.
Of course the fountain is link to the legend of “Three Coins in the Trevi Fountain”. According to this legend a visitor should throw three coins into the fountain in which the first coin guarantees a vistor’s return to Rome, the second will ensure a new romance, and the third will ensure marriage. No prizes for guessing how many coins that I throw into Trevi fountain. 😛 I was told that every night about 3,000 Euros are swept up from the bottom of the basin. The money is donated to charity so it is not too bad kind of legend.
Just nearby Trevi fountain is where I ended up “throwing” my hard-earned euros the most for that evening. For Muslim visitors, Luna Caprese is a MUST VISIT!
This is home to awesome halal pizza. Yes, when in Rome eating Pizza is part of the experience and Luna Caprese has a delicious range of halal pizza that makes a great meal after a long evening of walking.
A perfect meal requires a perfect dessert. This is where a gelato makes a perfect combination. We recommend Venchi but any gelato outlet would be able to confirm your doubts on why Italy is known for its gelato. However if you are a Muslim, always check for ingredients that may contain alcohol.
And the tour continues.
Thanks to good metro and bus connections around the city, we were also able to make a quick stop at Altar of the Fatherland, one of the largest monuments in Rome and home to the Tomb of the Unknown. Also a great place for some light trail action.
And just next to it, Piazza del Campidoglio a little square where we spent some time alone just admiring the beauty of Rome at night. A nice spot for photography if you are a fan of lines and perspective but we were there just to enjoy the moment as unlike other squares, this one is a bit quiet.
We were there for quite some time. It was nice as this square is not quite famous with tourists at that hour and most that were there at that time were locals. A nice way to end our first night in Rome.
Next up, a day in Rome and Vatican City.