Jewish Ghetto and Pons Fabricius, Rome

What does a perfect evening in Rome look like? Perhaps seeing an amazing sunset from the oldest bridge in the city followed by Jewish-Roman cuisine that you will be talking about long after you go home?

This past October, we strolled along the Tiber River (street level not down by the water) to get to Rome’s oldest bridge, Pons Fabricius aka Ponte dei Quattro Capi, arriving just before sunset. Built in 62 BCE, this bridge stands in its original location and its original state. Seriously, how is that even possible??? It stretches from the eastern side of the Tiber (the one with the Colosseum) to Tiber Island in the middle of the river, which is fun to walk around and serves as a great backdrop for photos. The Latin name “quattro capi” means “four heads” and refers to two pillars that each depict the two-faced Roman god Janus. (see picture below) Those statues weren’t on the original bridge but were moved there in the 14th century. Rome truly is one big outdoors art museum.

After you get tired of all the beauty of the bridge and island as the sun sets, you can take a quick walk to the Jewish Ghetto and experience amazing food. Ba Ghetto Oldest Jewish Restaurant In Rome | Kosher Cuisine Rome is where we grabbed a patio table after wandering around and seeing some of the area’s historic sites. While we were feasting on artichokes alla giudía aka fried artichokes, pasta with pine nuts, and lamb stew, we heard someone call out my husband’s name. Lo and behold a guy he went to high school with just happened to be walking by and recognized Thom. What! They had a totally unplanned and happy reunion. They hadn’t seen each other since 1974. But back to the artichokes. They were SO delicious. We are going to Milan in a few months and Ba Ghetto has a restaurant there. I’m building my Milan itinerary around getting more artichokes. Yum!

Needless to say, the Jewish Ghetto should be on every visitor’s list to experience. By the way, ghetto is a name given to a location where people were forced to live. This particular ghetto is among the oldest in the world. We didn’t have time, but I would have liked to have taken a walking tour with an experienced guide to learn more about the history of this area in Rome. Next time!

Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps, Rome

All Rome visitors should visit the Trevi Fountain, featured in movies, a popular backdrop for photos and truly spectacular in every way. Plus, if you throw a coin in (using the right hand over the left shoulder according to legends) you will surely return to Rome. Reason enough to visit! An estimated 3,000-euro coins are thrown in the fountain daily, raising money for Rome nonprofits to assist the needy. Don’t try to harvest euros from the fountain to pay for your vacation though because it’s against the law. See, my handy tips will save you from a visit to an Italian jail AND you will get good photos (see the one I took below with my phone!) but only if you behave!

Just a little Trevi Fountain history for you-the fountain is from the 18th-century and marks the terminal point of an ancient aqueduct. The name “Trevi” is from the Latin word Trivium meaning the intersection of three streets as it is located in the center of De ‘Crocicchi Street, Poli Street and Delle Muratte Street. Entire books are written about this iconic historical fountain so read up before you go if that’s your jam.

Spanish Steps: Walkable from the Trevi Fountain, this staircase has 135 steps between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti and is a major tourist magnet, though I was underwhelmed. It’s a staircase (see middle photo below). Meh. However, the Trinità dei Monti church at the top is a nice background to the steps and there is a lovely fountain at the base to feature as a backdrop for picture taking. Just like the Trevi Fountain, this site has been in many movies shot in Rome. Depending on when you visit, in the spring there are flowerpots with pink azaleas and petunias on the steps which make for even better pictures. It’s all about the pictures and this is the spot! Again, go early for less crowds in your shots-we were there around 9:30 am and it was already filling up.

Visiting Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps: Since these are outside sites, there is no entrance fee. Just show up very early in the morning to get some great pictures and soak in all the unique features of the fountain façade before the crowds show up and you can’t even get close enough to throw a coin in and guarantee your return trip to Rome. We arrived at 8:30 am and joined a few Instagram influencers who were taking their “money” shots in front of the fountain. I proceeded to also pose for Thom to take some memorable photos. It is lovely and I would highly recommend you take an early morning stroll to see it and then walk about 8 minutes to also see the Spanish Steps while you are in the neighborhood. Then, it will be time to enjoy the Rome café life with an aperitif. Cheers!

Trastevere Neighborhood in Rome

One of my favorite Rome experiences was wandering the Trastevere neighborhood. Meaning “beyond the Tiber”, Trastevere is located on the south side of the river away from the normal Rome tourist sites. While there are definitely tourists here, there are also locals eating and enjoying the social life. So be adventurous and immerse yourself in this pocket of charm, entertainment, shopping and food when you visit Rome. Take the back streets, admire the faded Renaissance buildings, towering Roman pines, and enjoy an aperitif at a café on the piazza while the music flows from street entertainers.

I had done some research on this area and found THE coolest shop, Elvis Lives. Two graphic designers create and stock Elvis Lives with kitschy merch featuring Elvis and branded items featuring the Italian term “Daje” (meaning Come On!). We bought lots of unique souvenirs to bring home, especially for an Elvis-loving friend. We also happened upon a pop-up gallery of artists selling jewelry, prints, etc. in a loft space. You just never know what you will find! My travel advice is to not over plan your itinerary and to leave time daily for walking around and absorbing the local culture.

We ended up stumbling upon a fabulous restaurant that had an open table. Nannarella: Nannarella – Locanda in Trastevere – Dal 1930 (nannarellaroma.it) has a great outside patio. The pasta was amazing, and we enjoyed the people watching while we ate. Probably best to make a reservation so you can enjoy Nannarella-we got lucky as it seemed very popular. After dinner, we walked a few miles back to the hotel enjoying the evening and happy that we got to explore the unforgettable Trastevere neighborhood.

Borghese Gallery and Gardens, Rome

One of my favorite experiences in Rome was our day spent exploring the Borghese Gallery and Gardens. Located in the middle of Villa Borghese Park (the third largest public park in Rome with 198 acres), the Gallery is relatively small compared to the other Italian museums we saw on our trip and two hours or so is enough to take it all. Then, take the rest of your day to discover the gardens. We got a combo pass to get into the museum and then took a guided golf cart ride around the huge park. What fun! The views of Rome are impressive (the gardens are high up on a hill) and the Roman pines are stunning.

Just because the Gallery is small doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. Their collection is well curated and features many paintings and sculptures from Gian Lorenzo Bernini including his intrepretation of David. There are small intimate rooms, some even have benches (!) where you can sit and reflect on the beautiful art by Raphael, Botticelli, Caravaggio, and Rubens. Most museums don’t have anywhere to sit so I really appreciated this convenience at the Borghese Gallery. While I love all the “famous” art, I also appreciated the little unknown art that seemed to pop up everywhere in the quirky rooms-over doorways, on the ceilings, etc.

Our hotel was within walking distance (at least for us-a mile or two away) and we enjoyed walking down the hill after our visit and exploring the Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square) and having an aperitif at one of the many cafes. If you have time check out the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in the northeast corner of the Piazza. I can’t get enough of all the beautiful churches in Italy-each one no matter how big or small is spectacular and unique.

ENTRY TO GALLERY

There is timed and restricted entry to keep the Borghese Gallery free of crowds so enjoy wandering through the spectacular collection of Renaissance and Baroque artwork without the typical tourist crush.

Buy your timed entry tickets to the Gallery online in advance: https://borghese.gallery/tickets/. You can also get guided tours of the gallery. We took the timed entry/skip-the-line plus a guided golf cart tour of the gardens (they are massive-too big for even us to walk around and see it all!) This is the tour we enjoyed: Rome: Borghese Gallery Skip-the-Line Ticket & Golf Cart Ride | GetYourGuide.