Went for a lovely little trip to Rome, Italy. As odd as it is, I have never been to Rome before. My Italian adventures have all taken place in northern Italy. My friend Jay Tee and I found wonderful flights and an amazing hotel. We stayed near the northeastern edge of Vatican City at the beautiful Orange Hotel. The hotel was very accommodating, allowing us to check in our bags hours before our room was ready. We dropped off our bags and the adventure began. We first explored the Castel Saint’Angelo, it was beautiful. We crisscrossed the Pontes Sant’Angelo & Vittorio Emanuele II a few times that morning and then a few hundred more times as the week went on. Our first meal was a late breakfast at Barnum Cafe off of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. Although they did have a lovely outdoor seating section, we opted to eat inside as we did not want to wait to be seated. Plus, my blood sugar was starting to dip and I needed to eat ASAP. The host and servers were all enchanting and easily forgave our lack of Italian language skills. Although, I must say Jay Tee’s Spanish really got us in good graces with most Italians. The food was delicious and exactly what I needed. Jay Tee went outside for a smoke, and I got to take this moment to google translate how to ask for the check in Italian. In case you are wondering it is: “Il conto per favore” I was so happy to learn this that I used it as often as I could. We satisfied our bellies and the shopping hunt began. We scaled Via del Pellegrino from one shop to another. The number of leather shops was unbelievable. We found a fabulous place and each bought two bags, then we found another fabulous place called Bags & Fruits that specialized in local products. The owner, who had a crush on Jay Tee, went into great detail about how “Italian leather” is legitimized. We decided to head back to the hotel to actually check in, shower and get ready for are dinner that night. Jay Tee found a gorgeous rooftop dinning experience at Oro Bistrot Roma. The views were incredible. The food and drink were good, not outstanding, but good. We finished our meal and decided to head to the gay bars for proper drinks. The entire week leading up to Rome and while we were there Jay Tee was pushing Aperol Spritz like they were going out of style. The two gay bars we wanted to try first were near the Colosseum so we got to stop and take a few hundred photos. The first bar we tried was called My Bar Roma, it was cute, we sat outside, had a few drinks and a lil nosh. The host/server was very cute making it even more difficult to jump to the next bar, right beside it called Coming Out. Coming Out felt more like a gay bar in the states, but it was a fun mixed crowd. After this we made our way to the Social Club called 101 Roma. This place was terrifying at first as you had to pay a cover for a membership when you entered but that included a free drink. It had all the feelings of a gay bathhouse even walking in it was very dimly lit, and a few private rooms in the back. In the front was a bar though with some comfortable seating, so we made ourselves comfortable. The bartender was very kind, pouring with a heavy hand, so he already had our favor. Jay Tee would talk with him more and as always, would collect him on Instagram. As we sat enjoying our drinks another young guy sat across from us, so we striked up a conversation with him, he was from Venezuela but had been living in Rome for over 6 years now. He was a cute guy, but he enjoyed showing off his abs more than necessary in a public clothed place. Jay Tee and I couldn’t figure out which one of us he was trying to pick up, either way, it wasn’t happening. As the night progressed the bar area became crowded and I noticed a cute guy smiling at me from across the room. Well, when in Rome. So I walked over to the well dressed young man and attempted to introduce myself. He did not speak English, and my Italian ends with lasagna. Google translate helped with our introductions. He was an art student. Let me start by saying that I assumed Art Student meant college student. I had no idea he was in High school, but he is 18 and aside from a broken conversation, and exchanging contact information, nothing happened. His name is Noel and he was visiting Rome with a friend from Marche, Italy. The night ended around 4 or 5am, with us attempting the 3 mile walk back to the hotel, but ended with an Uber ride back.
The next day we enjoyed walking around the city more, seeing so many beautiful sites. We ended up with a lovely dinner at Caffe Vitti, I had a delicious pesto that made me happy. After dinner we took a walk to the Trevi Fountain, which was crowded even after midnight. Damn tourists! Friday night is club night at Qube on the outer edges of the city. The party is called Muccassassina (The Killer Cow). Jay Tee secured our VIP tickets online, but we still had to wait in a huge line. Luckily it did move fast, we were only waiting for about 30 minutes. When we were standing there halfway in, some random guy walks over to us and starts talking to me. I know what line jumpers are like and I wasn’t having it. Jay Tee is fine handling other people’s bullshit, but I had no energy to do so. We allowed him to stay as he said he was waiting for his friend, he was from Switzerland, but in Rome getting his degree. His name is Fabian and he was handsome, he was also amazed that I knew other cities in Switzerland aside from Geneva, and when I told him Lucerne was my favorite area, he was in awe as that is his favorite too. Finally his friend joined us, Ilan, who was a very cute Israeli guy who had been living in Rome getting his med degree. We talked with them for the remaining 15 minutes in line and then we finally were admitted into the club. Three stories with drag shows, multiple dance floors, DJs and bartenders. It was a ton of fun, the drag shows were on a level I have never seen before. RuPaul has got nothing on these productions. Buying drinks was the most annoying aspect of the night though, as we first had to buy drink tickets from a separate vendor and then take the tickets to the bar to get our drinks. Needless to say, we ended up with a few dozen extra tickets in our pockets the following morning. We ran into Fabian & Ilan a few more times throughout the night, and finally exchanged contact info. We made a few new friends inside as well, but then they started kicking everyone out. Apparently, the party stops at 7am, rude.
The next day was a bit of a blur, but I do recall us walking a few more miles, getting gelato around midnight, seeing the ridiculously crowded Trastevere area. The strawberry gelato made me feel alive, like coke but much more flavorful. The next morning, we were set to take the 5:55 train to Florence. We left the hotel around 4am to walk to Roma Termini station. The city streets were almost empty and, as in Paris, walking around the city that late always makes it feel more special, as you get to enjoy it all by yourself with no tourists in the way. As we were standing outside the station, Jay Tee was having a smoke and none other than Ilan passed with another friend catching a train too. We exchanged greetings, none of us actually being too alive at that hour. The train ride was beautiful, looking at the lovely countryside was gorgeous, I could never live that far away from the city, but the villages were very quaint. We arrived in Florence, Ilan and his friend got off there as well (small world, right?!). We wandered around the streets making our way to the Uffizi Gallery, which was spectacular. The gallery was a maze and a hike to get to the actual start of the tour. I think the layout was the only problem I had with the gallery. The first floors were all overly religious paintings, I never need to see another Madonna and Child again for as long as I live. Towards the end of the tour though I was overly excited to discover Medusa by Caravaggio. I have loved this piece for years, I even used it as one of my college projects design. Being able to see this incredible work in person was a real highlight for me. The other big piece (no pun intended) that was a requirement for me was Michelangelo’s David. We walked over to the Accademia Gallery and joined in a line that wrapped around the block. Tickets to get in were only 12 euros, but some shifty tour guides were selling tickets to skip the “3-hour line” and gain entrance right away. The line was only 45 minutes long, and worth the wait. David, this statue that I have admired for years was finally in front of me. So much grander than I could have ever imagined. The amount of detail that Michelangelo put into this great work is unparalleled. This needs to be seen by all, such an incredible work. We shopped, got some lovely trinkets, and headed to a bar. The Joshua Tree Pub, delightful and friendly staff. We grabbed a table to relax for the last hour before our train back to Rome. As the day was drawing to a close, regulars (with their kids) stopped in for a quick drink before heading home. Two women brought in their dogs with them, and I instantly fell in love. We boarded the train back and we both fell asleep; we had been up for some 38 hours by that point.
On Monday we shopped, we ate, we drank. There was a delicious Fish & Chips shop by our hotel where the food was outstanding. We walked by some Roman ruins, the Circus Maximus and the Colosseum again. We ended up at Coming Out again, this time an Australian queen, drunk beyond belief was making an ass out of himself and caused the bar staff to regret allowing him in. It was amusing at first then just annoying. The bartender offered to pay when the Australian threw a hissy fit about not paying for his drinks because it was too much.
Tuesday was Vatican tour day. Although we got the VIP tickets with early entry, it didn’t feel that was as the place was crowded as can be. The tour guide was wonderful providing us with some interesting facts about the Vatican and everything we were admiring. The Sistine Chapel was gorgeous, unfortunately photos are forbidden, as was talking. A speaker would play overhead when people started to talk to tell them to shut up. I had fun pointing out all of the fig leaves of different colors that covered the once exposed genitalia of the male statues. It was pope pius IX who went around with a hammer and chisel to remove the male members from the Vatican as he didn’t want it to incite lust in the vatican…(so many jokes, so little time).
After the tour we went to a delicious restaurant downstairs from our hotel called La Zanzara, I had a three meat stuffed ravioli that makes my mouth water just thinking of it. We wandered across a few more bridges slowly making our way to Osteria Da Fortunata where they make their pasta right there in house. Jay Tee was very excited about this place, and he was not wrong. The food was incredible. We slowly enjoyed our delicious last dinner in the city and after walking around the shops for a little while, found a cute pub to end the night at called the Drunken Ship.
The next morning, we were on our way back to the airport. Ater a quick negative covid testing, we were sadly headed back to the states. The entire experience was so exciting, so many amazing people, so much delicious food and so much shopping really made this a remarkable experience. Going in April was the perfect time too, as it wasn’t too hot yet, so we could still wear layers while walking miles. Seriously, we racked up over 80 miles of walking. So, Rome is not to be missed, the same goes for Florence and Vatican City. Until next time Roma, Arrivederci!