Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sources of inspiration: Rome // historical treasures // delicious cuisine // top 5 things to see and visit

Rome, the center of religion, historical gems and adorable vintage cars. I was planning on going to Italy's capital a while ago but never got around to visit up until this week. All our Italian customers are located in the Northern part of the country, the economical heart of Italy. So after a hectic first months in the studio, I decided to book a few days to this glorious place. No networking or trade fair shows, just to get away from it all.

There are so many things I love about Italy. The amazing food, soft red wines, the colorful vintage Fiat cars, the expressive Italian people, the coffee breaks, soft climate, amazing historical structures, the foundation of art, the chaotic traffic. There is no better place to start a new season and celebrate spring than in this city. The trees were blossoming, the wind was warm and gentle. And now I am having a really hard time readjusting to the gray skies of Holland. And yes, working again. But after answering over 50 e-mails and creating some new designs already I would like to take some time to write down my personal top 5. Places to see and things to do while visiting this ancient city. So here we go. And if you are planning a trip yourself feel free to reach out!

Rome is an interesting city. The capital of Italy, it can be overly crowded and noisy. And it is huge! The city is big and public transportation is not very good. Busses get stuck in traffic and because of this cities history, there is an entire city underneath, the city can not construct a proper metro infrastructure. So wear comfortable shoes and plan your day a little. You need to navigate and it will take some time to go from one place to the other. But it is definitely worth going out of the city center too.

Of course I can tell you the main sights that are a must see, the Trevi Fountain, The Vatican, St. Peter's Church. The pantheon, Colosseum and so on. But you can get those places from the Lonely Planet. Visiting these places will take a lot of time. Most of the main tourist sights have hour long queues. After you are done with these, you might want to explore the city behind the postcard. So here is my personal top 5. Things to do and places to see while traveling to Rome.

1 // The food
My friend actually got angry when I said that a mayor reason for me visiting Italy is the food. "We have culture you know!" But I think food is a big part of experiencing a culture. Holland does not have a very quality-first based cuisine. I remember visiting Italy for the first time and eating some spinach ravioli. Oh, what an experience that was. Such a simple recipe but such a delight. And the ice-cream. So rich!

In Rome you can find some very fancy places to eat, but if you would like to taste some typical Roman food, stay away of the trendy interiors and tourist areas. You will find some very fine dishes in typical Italian restaurants, try some different anti-pasti, prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, bruschetta and definitely try the typical roman pasta carbonara, after that of course finish your culinary experience with some dolce.

Some places I really liked and managed to grab a bite were Trattoria Pizzeria Vecchia Roma, not too fancy looking but typical Italian family run restaurant. Ai Tre Scalini that has a nice atmosphere, good wine and typical Italian vibe. And Civico 4, a little more fancy but with lovely dishes and great dolce. These places are always busy, try to make reservations or keep in mind that a table can take up to an hour, Italians eat later than you might be used to, back home, you don't have to worry about the kitchen being closed if you go out to eat after 10PM.

But it is not all about food. Of course you have to try the coffee, recharge after walking around the city, enter an out dated looking bar and drink an espresso. Italians consume the largest amount of coffee in the world, and that will get obvious to you while navigating through the city. Every few meters there is a coffee bar. They sure do know how to make a proper coffee. No hipster barista's here, it is all about coffee, they take their job seriously. You won't be drinking an espresso like an Italian espresso anywhere, so if you are a coffee lover, go there!

2 // MAXXI
Rome is not a typical place to visit if you love modern art. Also modern architecture is not really common in the city, but if you take a train out of the city center you can visit a few very interesting places if you stop at Euclide. The 'bugs' at the musical auditorium for instance are a architectural feast. The arena Palazzetto dello Sport built in 1960 for the summer Olympics is a very interesting piece, could use a fresh layer of paint though. But the real gem for me was discovering the MAXXI. The National Museum of contemporary art and architecture. The building itself is simple beautiful and only open for public for 6 years now. With it's sharp edges and overlaps it's a surprisingly pretty composition in a slightly neglected looking area of the city. The exhibits are surprisingly well set up and diverse. I was very happy to see a some Italian parents brought along their kids to explore this place. There is a nice library dedicated to the building and Roman modern architecture. Check out the website before you go. All exhibits are contemporary. The ones I visit were conceptual, highly political engaged and visually powerful. But of course every artist and every expo will be different. Enter a place like this without expectations and it will surprise you.

3 // Romantic sunset over the city
I love to see cities from above. When I travel I always try to visit the highest building or top of a hill to see where I am and how the city is situated and constructed. Rome does not have lot's of modern buildings like many other cities do. There are no flats of skyscrapers. If you do like to watch from a hight you can walk up the Spanish steps. You will walk towards the Trinita dei Monti church (do check the interior) from which you have a great view over the city. If you walk even further up North you can have an even better view of the city and enjoy the city sunset from the Villa Borghese park. The best place for a romantic glance over the city before entering the night.

4 // Trastevere
When you would like to hang our, grab a drink, and not be surrounded by great groups of tourists this is a great neighborhood to spend a night out. This is the place where Roman students hang out at night. They toast and gather outside of bars and restaurants in these beautiful small alleys and cobbled stoned streets. It is a place to enjoy the Roman street vibe and you will feel the pulse of the city. If you look around carefully you can spot some nice street art too or enjoy some live music. This neighborhood is a little rough on the edges but it's honest. Great place to hang out and grab a drink.

5 // Vintage cars
In January i bought my first car. I always drove around in other peeps cars, and used Snappcar before that. But with my terrible joints and this bad winter climate in Holland it was time to get a car to skip the waiting on cold train stations. After test driving and checking out several brands I kept coming back to the cute Fiat500. I found one from the 70's on the internet but thankfully my brain started to work in time and I managed to get a proper updated version I can rely on. I just adore those cute little Fiat cars. These Italian cars are circling around the city like Vespa's. They pop up in from of the Colosseum, circle around the Vatican, they are everywhere. And in so many colors too! While I was in Rome I saw numerous old versions of the 500. It was hard not to stop and make a photo every time I passed one. For vintage car lovers the Southern part of Europe is heaven. Here in Holland we sell our car by the age of three to get a new one. But in Italy they appreciate these little old quirky things. And they are driving around in them until they fall apart. In a city like Rome it doesn't make sense to drive around in anything bigger than the Fiat500 anyway. If you are a vintage car lover, take your time and wait for those things to pass by. They are lovely.