Thursday, 15 May 2014

A Guy’s Guide to Rome(ance) in Italy

A post by Scott F

Guys, face it, in this day and age we’re expected to work in a little romance now and then. You can blame Hollywood for pumping out a new Nicolas Sparks book-turned-movie every week, or the music industry for allowing The Postal Service to make every teenage girl of the 2000s tear up with ardor and unrealistic expectations listening to “Such Great Heights” on the Much Music Video Countdown. Either way, the glory days of being strong, emotionless piles of jagged glass and rock (you know, real men) are long over.

There’s a trick to this romance thing, however. One every guy needs to know to survive this Taylor Swift-addled world of ours. Indeed, some say that French is the language of love, but those people are a crazy little thing called, wrong.  The truth is, you don't need a whole language; there’s one simple word that can turn even the glassiest rock pile into a veritable Luther Vandross, and that word is...

Oh, just the mention of travel renders images of cobblestone streets, windblown terraces, beaches at sunset and a host of other romantic visages, irresistible to any person possessing of a pulse. In fact:

And you know it’s true, because it’s impossible to lie via meme.

I’ve not been shy to use this fact to my advantage. In fact, it was just such a tactic I employed when pulling off a legendary event that has forever won the ire of each and every one of my male friends by setting the romance bar at untouchable heights. That event: the time I proposed to my wife-to-be on a romantic holiday in Rome, Italy. Jack Johnson, you've been served.

Rome, aptly named, is crazy romantic. Even I can admit that. Narrow, cobblestone streets; vibrant piazzas with musicians on every corner; eclectic restaurants serving delicious fare and copious amounts of wine – it truly is the eternal city.

We spent seven days in Rome and got to see and experience much of what it offers. From the grandiose and auspicious Pantheon, a 2000 year-old temple featuring a 9 metre-wide oculus that pours in natural light from almost 45 metres above the floor, to the awe-inspiring Colosseum of gladiatorial combat-fame, the city is positively decked in historical significance. Taking time to explore the stunning, in-tact ruins of the Roman Forum is enormously rewarding as you find your way to Palatine Hill: Rome’s first neighbourhood, and marvel at the remains of a culture that shaped history. Continue your walk to the Circo Massimo, an enormous track once used for horse and chariot racing. Here you might relive a golden age of the silver screen, knowing it was on this spot that the classic Ben Hur was filmed, or simply ponder the violence and excitement of the sport that took place there thousands of years before.  

The key thing to do in Rome, and what will truly cement the ro"man"ce of it all, is simply walk. Even unguided, you’re sure to stumble upon sight after sight that will steal your heart and imagination. Find your way to Piazza Navona, in the center of which you will find the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers, a classic work by Bernini. You’ll also find the Obelisk of Domitian, one of many Egyptian-inspired works in the city. Or you might find your way to the Trevi Fountain, a stunning work of art that takes up an entire piazza to itself. Piazza di Spagna is sure to stir up the amore as you stroll up the Spanish Steps and explore the high-end shops the dot the side streets. You might even come upon some of the lesser know sights of Rome such as Torre Argentina, a set of ruins-turned cat sanctuary, or the Fontane delle Tartarughe (the Turtle Fountain) in Piazza Mattei.

For those looking for an out-of-the-ordinary and truly humbling experience, find your way to the Capuchin Crypt, where for a small donation you can enter halls decorated floor to ceiling in human bones. Alters, ceilings, ornaments, all from the remains of the devout who served the order long ago. The ominous message behind the frighteningly beautiful scene, as explained in their literature: “as you are we once were; what we are you will be.”

Other sights not to be missed include the Vatican Museums, home to countless priceless works of art and the famed Bramante spiral staircase. Get there early, the line moves quickly but it usually enormous. While at the Vatican you’ll naturally want to thoroughly explore the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Square. It’s worth noting that these are only the city’s most renowned; there are countless smaller chapels (such as the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria) and other museums (such as the Capitoline Museums) more than worth the time to explore.

Rome is also a culinary paradise, but like many tourist havens, you need to choose wisely. Going to restaurants in and around major sights is likely to see you spend more money for far lower quality food. Our best experience was at Ristorante Maccheroni, a beautiful traditional Italian restaurant a little ways from the Pantheon (asked to be sat in the basement, it's beautiful and cool on warm evenings). Also, treat yourself to the creamiest espresso at Sant'Eustachio in the same neighbourhood.

Choosing the perfect place to propose amongst this smorgasbord of romance was tough, or easy, depending on how you look at it. But knowing my future bride’s love for green spaces I quickly noted the Villa Borghese, a large park in the middle of the city. The park’s central and, as I divined, most romantic feature is a small lake that allows for rowboat rentals. Boom, proposal plan set. However, when we arrived we found a tiny pond with so many boats it called to mind bumper cars at the county fair... and no one wants to be proposed to at the county fair. With no Plan B  I started to panic and insisted we continue walking. To my luck, and true to the city’s form, I was provided a perfect opportunity in the form of the Pincio, a structure that forms a path from Villa Borghese down to Piazza del Popolo, where three of Rome’s main streets converge onto one massive and extremely scenic square. I snuck my soon-to-be fiancée through a small gate at the side of the Pincio where we found a quiet path overlooking a deserted street, sat her on the railing, pulled the ring, and the rest is history!

So guys, if that special lady in your life’s been binge watching rom-coms or has had Bruno Mars’, “When I Was Your Man” on repeat, it might be time to buy that ticket. Make travel, not war.

P.S. Our head honcho, Chris, will be heading to TBEX in Athens, Greece and will be stopping in to see Rome on his way. Don't worry, he'll tell us all about it! 


Post a comment