Why You Absolutely Must Visit Rome

There’s nothing that quite tempts humans like the unknown. It’s a calling that most of us can’t quite deny. Even if we were to resist, it continues to pull at us until we give in. While most of us will never be explorers in the full daring sense of the world, we will explore in a capacity that feeds our curiosity and makes us hungry for more. The pursuit is beautiful. The day that we stop exploring is the day that we stop growing, being wholly content with who we are.

There’s always more to explore and we shouldn’t be overly afraid of what we’ll find. After all, we all tried our favorite food for the first time, it’s just that at some point some of us stop trying foods for the first time, or trying out destinations for the first time. But if we stop trying foods for the first time, how can we be sure that we haven’t tried our favorite food yet. If we stop exploring, how can we be truly sure that we’ve found our favorite destination?

My first trip to Rome was a trip into the unknown. I had never left North America, so I didn’t know what I would find on the other side of the Atlantic. What I found was the chance to explore. Even though Rome is a famous, well-populated and well-visited city.

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The view from Terrazza del Pincio in Borghese Gardens overlooking Rome

The Streets of Rome

The one of the best things about Rome is the streets. Not only because they take you to some fabulous places, but because they’re not wide grand boulevards. They’re streets that take you through history to places that you’ve only seen in magazines in movies. They take you to piazzas that open up before you, just a step or two away from the narrow back streets to reveal a new surprise at each corner.

Walking the streets of Rome

Rome tells a story through its streets. It’s beautiful that Rome isn’t pretty like Paris or London. It has a slight layer of grime and grit in its corners. The buildings, piazzas, and streets are worn by time in a way that Paris and London haven’t, and it shows.

For a first time traveler to Europe like I was, the age and time were readily evident. I felt that I was transported to another era. After all, I had never laid eyes on or entered a building that was hundreds and hundreds of years old. I had never walked down streets and alleys that had the time to accumulate the grit that Roman streets have.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the streets of Rome have such a unique story, since Rome was known for its roads.

The Age and Beauty of Rome

I’ll never forget my first glimpse of the great city. As I emerged from Termini Station on that bright, hot June day, the facades of the buildings that first came into my view looked picture perfect. They looked lifted off of a movie set. They looked so perfectly Roman, at least how I imagined Rome to look, that they almost looked fake. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was a surreal experience.

Building in Rome

I was endlessly fascinated with the age and wear on the buildings and could not stop looking.

I quickly discovered one of the best things to do in Rome. It’s to take some time and wander the streets, back alleys and side streets, gelato in hand and let the city reveal itself to you. No matter what you happen upon in the historic center, you’ll likely be fascinated by your latest discovery.

What to see in Rome

The famous landmarks are a prime reason to visit Rome, but the true beauty lies in the fact that no matter where you go, you’ll find something intriguing. As a pro tip, I suggest that if you see an open door that leads to a courtyard, follow it. It seems the secrets that Rome holds are infinite and it’ll take a lifetime and a half to appreciate them.  And even then that’s probably not enough time, but it’s just as well to try. You’re sure to be better off for it. Even if you avoided the main sites and just took in the less known sites, you’d love Rome.

Archivio di Stato in Rome, Italy

If you’re visiting Rome, you’re going to see the Colosseum and the Pantheon, and the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica and Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, and Piazza Navona.

The Pantheon in Rome, Italy

One of the most remarkable things about visiting is the impressive list of Instagrammable places in Rome. Any one of those top three would be #1 in any city in the world save a handful, but Rome has them all, and then some. That’s not even mentioning the dozens more that aren’t as famous, like the Castel Sant’ Angelo. For a city that is as old as Rome the city is still beautiful and remarkably intact.

Looking out from Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, Italy across Ponte Sant'Angelo

I loved the Colosseum, but my favorite experience in Rome is visiting the Trevi Fountain at night. Gelato in hand of course. It’s such a large fountain, with beautiful sculptures made of exquisite detail and artistry. With the fountain being so large it dominates the piazza that it sits in but somehow that translates to a type of intimacy within the piazza. Even on a crowded night, once you find a place to sit so that you can admire the fountain, it is an incredible experience.

The Great Opportunity to Visit Rome

Piazza della Rotonda in Rome with the Pantheon in the background

I’ve had a fascination with Rome for as long as I can remember. I also have a love for history and architecture so Rome is the perfect city to match my interests. It’s, of course, a fascinating story of empire and the influence that Rome had throughout the years and in western civilization up until today. I always wanted to see it all for myself. Because of this, Rome has always been in my top 3 of places that I have to visit. The other two being Israel and Egypt.

When the opportunity came to visit, I jumped at the chance. Rome was my first trip outside of North America. It was an immersive experience and was the change that I was looking for. It was a unique feeling to be completely away from all that I’m familiar with and surrounded by people that I wasn’t used to.

What I learned on my visit

The most striking thing that caught my attention was that everyone around me spoke Italian. That would seem to be obvious being in Rome and all, but it wasn’t something that I anticipated being a thing that would stand out to me. But it did. It was weird, awkward and amazing. No matter where I was, all I heard was Italian.

This was the first time that I would be surrounded by people that didn’t speak English for a significant amount of time. Even when I visited Rome for the second time, it was something that I noticed and appreciated. It was a nice break to hear something different, to be in a different environment. Even for my second trip to Rome, it was different and alien, but I loved it.

I’ve always had an interest in other cultures and a particular interest in seeing what other parts of the world looked like, how other people lived, talked and ate. I wanted to see and experience it for myself. This has made me appreciate other people more, celebrate the differences and come to a better understanding.

Santa Maria Piazza in Trastevere in Rome, Italy

You have no choice but to have greater empathy for others when all of a sudden, you’re the foreigner, you’re the one that doesn’t speak the language and you’re at the mercy of strangers while you’re trying to find your way around and figure things out.

We had so many great interactions with people that it was one of the best parts of our trip. Despite the language barrier, people were very helpful, kind and nice. Always willing to help us out. We received help on the bus, trying to get our tickets in the machine.

People would overhear us mentioning our destination and they would alert us when we got close so that we wouldn’t miss our stop. If they couldn’t communicate with us, they’d do their best to find someone who could. I left with a greater appreciation for people in general and their kindness.

When you venture into an unknown country and don’t speak the language it’s a very humbling experience and gives you a completely different viewpoint. It’s an interesting experience to realize that you’re in their country, in their home and that you’re just the visitor, but they still welcome you.

Our trip to Rome made me excited to see what else the world has to offer.

The Return to Rome

My wife and I had just been to Rome two years earlier. Even so, as we were making our plans for our 2 week trip to Europe in 2019, putting together an itinerary, we just kept coming back to Rome. We would be joined by our two kids and my wife’s two sisters. They had their itinerary, but we were planning to meet at approximately halfway through our trips. They had never been to Rome, our kids had never been to Rome and I was begging for any possible reason to return. I was also excited to watch other people discover the city that I’d fallen in love with. Since our kids would be 9 and 7 when we went on our trip, we had to tailor our itinerary for Rome to fit them. We included a park (Borghese Gardens), playground (Piazza San Cosimato) and shopping that they would like.

Walking the streets of Rome, Italy

Between our efforts and the city working its charm, they loved our visit to Rome, despite the heat. A place like the Colosseum is fairly exciting for all ages. It’s instantly recognizable and just an amazing, impressive structure to be able to roam and wander around. Walking through its corridors and its stairwells was a spectacular experience for them. There were lots of questions asked and I tried to answer them the best I could.

It’s nearly impossible to leave Rome thinking and feeling the same as before you visited. It’s such a complete experience that you’ll never forget it.

Seeing the buildings and ruins were quite interesting and they enjoyed that as well. They were happy to spend time in Borghese Gardens which gave them the freedom to run and skip around.

Piazza San Cosimato has a nice little playground that they enjoyed. When you think of Rome, you likely don’t think of playgrounds, but if you’re bringing kids with you, it’s nice to make that stop and find something that you will enjoy. It was enough to see them happy, to sit on a shaded bench and meditate on the fact that I was in Rome.

Their favorite part of the trip was the copious amounts of gelato that we all consumed. At least one per day and some days 2 per day! After all of the culture and impressive buildings and all of Rome, I think that gelato was what they loved the most about Rome and I can’t blame them!

Gelato in Rome, Italy

It was great to allow them to see another part of the world and for that part of the world to be Rome. There’s nothing that they can read that can match what they were able to see with their own eyes. For my kids, Rome was a place of wonder, exploration and seeing the impossible. Of course, it was also the place they had their first experience with gelato. But naturally, it was an experience unlike any other. We had gone to Paris the year before, but Rome is a different experience altogether and they seemed to pick up the differences between the two cities and enjoy them for what they were.

Bicycles on a side street in Rome, Italy

They often ask when we’re going back. I often ask myself the same question, trying to figure out the answer. The truth is, there’s so much more for us to see and the world is a big place just waiting for us to see it, to explore it. While Rome is my favorite, I don’t want to stop exploring and I don’t want to stop experiencing new things. Even though I have a favorite now, who knows, maybe my true favorite has yet to be discovered and we’ll keep exploring until we find it. But if after all of our travels are done, it turns out that Rome is my favorite after all, I really can’t be disappointed, because Rome is quite the favorite to have.

Author

  • Jeremiah Pittmon

    Jeremiah Pittmon is a published travel writer and photographer from Cleveland, Ohio. Passionate about exploring the world with his family, he finds inspiration in all types of travel. Through his blog, smilesonarrival.com, and social media channels, he shares captivating experiences and valuable tips for families who love to travel.

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Why You Absolutely Must Visit Rome
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