When in Rome


--By: Asshur Cunningham 


Entrance to the Vatican City
After a long summer, jumping on a plane and going far, far away as a means of escape was necessary. A Google Flights search at that time showed that Italy was one of the most cost effective places to fly. Italy was not immediate on my list but it made sense to take advantage of this opportunity. Might I say, it was one of the best decisions I‘ve made. After finding a reasonable flight via Google Flights, my friend and I booked our 9 day travel to Italy, which originated from JFK on American Airlines, connected in Philly and on the return connected in Chicago. 



We booked a room at the centrally located Britannia Hotel. We quickly realized that most sites in Rome were walking distance from there. It is this fact that I loved the most about the city in general. Literally, most of the major sites were no more than a 30 minute walk from the hotel. 


Kay
Every place that we visited swarmed with tourists from all corners of the world. Therefore, I recommend that you purchase “skip the line” tickets. We did this for most sites. I remember visiting both the Sistine Chapel and Colosseum and had it not been for such a ticket we would have waited for quite some time to get inside. 


Sistine Chapel Museum
The Vatican City was captivating. You hear rave reviews about sites like the Sistine Chapel, the truth is, words simply can’t describe its beauty and grandeur. Had I known, I would have dedicated much more time to seeing this wonder. It's like a 3D story painted on a ceiling-a marvel! I could have stood there for hours and soaked it up but other sites called. 


Coliseum
The Sistine Chapel Museum is around the corner from St. Peter's Basilica. Aside from being mesmerized by St. Peter’s magnificence, I was spooked by the fact that there were mummified popes laying around the cathedral. If you want to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, I recommend going late in the evening just before its close time of 7PM. The lines will be much shorter and you will not have to pay to skip that line. Plus, sitting in St. Peter's Square at dusk, and seeing the orange sun play hide and seek with the clouds and skyline before it disappears for the night is truly breathtaking. It’s moments like those when a single man like me thinks about future bae. Where is she? Haha. 


St. Peter's Basilica at closing
The food in Rome was a culinary experience, of course, and one of my favorite areas to dine was Trastevere, a hip and trendy neighborhood. There are restaurants everywhere, and everyone I tried served delicious dishes. When Kay asked where dinner would be, he knew that my response would be, "in Trastevere." One of my favorite restaurants there was ARistoCampo. We were drawn there by their chalk written sign which read “We are against war and Tourist menus,” lol. It was at that point that we knew this was the place owe’d to have dinner that night. It was not the gigantic Tonorollo, although Tonorollo was a good restaurant and a place most tourists flocked to. But ARistoCampo, this little hole in the wall, allowed us to sit and chat with two friendly table mates—a father and daughter who travel together every year, they were from Amsterdam— over my delicious Scallop Pasta… The company was delightful and the food was tasty. 



Finally, it was on this trip that I realized why some people rave about the shopping in Italy. While I didn’t intend on purchasing from designer labels, like Fendi which is Roman, I observed that clothes shopping in general is cost effective in Italy. I found men’s jeans for less than $20, which any male shopper can agree that generally a good pair will run for about $50- at least in NY. Seeing these prices was like striking a gold mine. The prices were so good that I could not fight the urge to get an Italian suit. Don John was the store and $150 was the cost. A well tailored fit, for $150, it couldn’t get any better than that. 



I am certain the next time I return to Italy, I will be saving some money and luggage space to do some shopping. Overall, Rome did not disappoint. It is laced with history at every turn and is another place that makes your textbook history come alive. 

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