I’m conflicted when it comes to the Colosseum. It’s among the most stunning sights in the world, but it’s flanked by so many tourists that at the end of the day, you’re too distracted to pay any attention to the towering columns in front of you because you’re busy getting getting shoved into line after line after line.
That’s essentially how our fourth morning in Rome began. After standing in a tangled, irate crowd for over an hour, we grabbed our Colosseum tickets and things calmed down from there.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the Colosseum that hasn’t already been said. It’s really, really old (built in 72 AD to be exact), and really, really big (it could seat over 50,000 people).
We circled the perimeter and made our way across the street to Palatine Hill, which was once ancient Rome’s equivalent of Beverly Hills. Dotted with ruined villas, Palatine is an archaeologist’s dream and the oldest site in Rome that has been continuously inhabited. It was also the birthplace of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor.
Palatine leads right into the Roman Forum, which was my favorite of the three sights. The ruins of the ancient government of Rome, the royal residence, Senate house, tribunals, and government buildings are all housed here. Not everything has survived the centuries, but it’s easy to imagine the hustle and flow of daily life in ancient Rome at the Forum.
By the time we finished walking through the Roman Forum, we were starving, and the local neighborhood didn’t have many restaurants nearby. Trastevere was next up on our list, so we hopped on a bus in search of what’s touted as Rome’s most picturesque neighborhood. Unfortunately, we got off at the wrong stop, and we were so famished that in our hunt for Trastevere, we gave up and popped into the first restaurant that we could find.
I don’t remember the name of this restaurant, but Melody and I referred to it as “Italian Olive Garden” for the rest of our trip, let’s just put it that way.
We were craving seafood, so we had the sauteed mussels to start. These were simple and satisfying, though a bit on the salty side.
I was really craving seafood, so I ordered the seafood ravioli as my entree. I take back what I said about the mussels being salty. No no, this was salty. The sauce was essentially the same as the mussels, but with an extra few spoons or so of salt thrown in for good measure. The seafood itself was fresh, but the ravioli left something to be desired.
Once we finished eating, we resumed our hunt for Trastevere and as luck would have it, it had been less than a block away all along. Melody and I wistfully walked past postcard-perfect trattorias and restaurants advertising stewed oxtail, truffled pasta, and fresh sugo, wishing we’d been a little more patient. We still wanted to soak up a little of Trastevere, so we stopped at Babylon Cafe for a drink.
I had the hazelnut affogato, a delicious blend of creamy gelato and warm, energizing espresso. A word of caution: Babylon Cafe has all kinds of NSFW artwork adorning the walls as we discovered halfway through our drinks, so be forewarned if you’re traveling with the kiddies.
There was one other stop we had to make before we called it a day. We got on another bus to head towards Volpetti, a deli my friend Menyui had told me about while I was planning this trip. Located in the Testaccio neighborhood, Volpetti is arguably Rome’s best deli. The quality is top-notch, but it comes with a price tag. The friendly butchers behind the counter fed us samples of truffled salami and Parmesan while we perused. I bought some truffled honey and other goodies to take home.
We’d wanted to go to nearby Da Felice for dinner, reputedly a favorite of Roberto Benigni’s and well-known for it’s homestyle Roman fare, but it was closed. Dejected, we got on the bus and headed back to our hotel. We were only temporarily disappointed though, as we’d have a chance to make up for it the next day.