Saturday was the best day I have spent in Rome so far. Why? Because I got to experience the city from the perspective of a native as opposed to that of a tourist.
A co-worker of mine from back in Philly connected me with a friend of hers who lived in Rome, and on Saturday, he brought my roommate and me around some of the historic sites followed by an evening of authentic Roman food and dining.
We started our site seeing adventure by the Coliseum. We walked by the ancient Roman palace, around the Coliseum, and past the ruins of several temples and marketplaces. As we walked, our new friend explained the history behind every site. We learned what the buildings were once used for and who had them built or destroyed.
After several hours on of our private tour, we were ready for a break. We went to a nearby bar and got tea and croissants. We were told how what we were eating was common breakfast food in Rome. Also common was cappuccino with breakfast. Something needed to be paired with the pastry that was wet enough to wash it down; a simple shot of café would not be enough.
After our break, we drove over to Trastevere, a trendy part of the city with lots of restaurants, bars, and shops that the younger demographic frequently visits. Here we found another bar with a very different feel from the first. It was more like what a bar would be in Philly as opposed to a coffee shop. There were modern paintings on the walls of the dimly lit room with an aperitivi bar set up in the middle. We did not eat any food since we would be having dinner later on in the night, but we did enjoy a drink.
After exploring Trastevere a bit longer, we headed down a back street to a small trattoria called Augusto. On the street just behind the tiny trattoria are several bigger restaurants with fancy lights and outdoor seating areas. They certainly look like fine places to dine, but our new roman friend, Andrea, explained to Gina and I how they are establishments aimed at tourists. He revealed that you get better food, and nearly twice as much of it, for half the price at the smaller restaurants located on the back streets, like the one we were going to.
The feel of the restaurant was cozy and simple. It was not trying to be flashy or cool; it was simply doing its own thing. The white walls were not overly embellished, only slightly decorated with a few framed pictures and maps. The tables had only a paper table cloth over them which the waiters used to write the orders down on. It was the opposite of touristy.
Andrea was right about the value of our meal. We ended up getting a first and second course, bread, wine, water, a dessert to share, and tipples (small shots that are sipped after the meal with dessert) for only 20 Euro each.
To end the night, we walked over to the Pantheon and stopped at a nearby coffee bar for the final part of our meal: a café. I do not enjoy drinking American coffee at all, but I find Italian coffee to be rich and full of flavor. The small shot of it we drank was the perfect ending to the meal. It also helped me stay warm as we walked to our final destination: the Trevi Fountain.
The fountain was lit up and looked more majestic than any picture or film could ever do justice to. My roommate and I both threw a coin in and made a wish. I’m not going to say what I wished for, but I will tell you that I have a feeling it is going to come true. Rome is magical in that way. And after spending the evening learning the city’s secrets from a local, I only loved it more.