Same Old, Boring Rome / by Nadia Fallahi


The first thing to welcome our group in Rome was the heat -- and some humidity.  We got our bags together and took our bus over to our hotel, which was located on the back side of the Vatican.  We learned that our hotel was apartment-style living, with rooms holding up to six people each.  After switching everyone around, our home sweet brothel was ready to go -- well, almost.

We did a short walking tour, which was kind of not worth it as the area we were in was not the most happening at it was super loud on the street so we couldn't even hear the guide.  We ended up eating at a big restaurant near our hotel and grabbed gelato on the way home.  One of the reasons why I don't really like Rome is because I feel like the food is not that great.  All I wanted was some bomb prosciutto and doughy pizza like at Bottega Louie, and that was not accomplished in the slightest bit.  Here's to hopeful wishing.



We had a double header on Friday, beginning with a discussion and lecture at the Accent Center with a representative from Hill+Knowlton and a visit to Rome Reports in the afternoon.  In the other cities, we were staying in places that were close to the Accent Center, but we had to take a bus and then walk some until we got to the Accent Center, further leaving us confused as to why we were staying at the brothel.  

In between the sessions, we decided to walk over the Piazza Navona for lunch, as it was a five minute walk from the Accent Center.  We stopped at a restaurant and made sure to ask about Wifi as we sat.  I used up all of my data just a couple days into Paris, so I was getting antsy.  I don't remember what the restaurant was called (typical), but the food was still decent.  I got a mixed greens salad and focaccia pizza bread, which quickly became everyone's favorite item to order.  I started putting my salad on the bread last year when visiting Positano in the Almafi Coast (the food here is waaaaaaaaaay better.

After being defeated by the heat, we ate dinner at a small place we found on Trip Advisor that was supposed to have the best truffle pasta in Rome.  We all got rigatoni in a black truffle sauce topped with parmesan (except one got gnocchi) and split a Margherita pizza.  The dinner was delicious but the portions were tiny.  I ended up getting a little sick and had to go home after we decided to head to a bar.



We had a short walking tour that started at the Spanish Steps (which I learned are actually French!!) and ended at Piazza Navona.  The heat was easily getting the best of everyone, and our guide was often stopping to dunk his whole head in some of the fountains.  I was reallyyyyyyyy excited to go to the Pantheon.  I had never been inside during the two other times I have gone to Rome.  It wasn't open the day I was there last year, so it was so great to finally get to see it.  The temple in unreal and so amazing, everything was beautiful!! I definitely think it would be awesome to be there when it's raining, as the sun opening at the top is not closed with glass so the water will come all the way down. (Nerd moment over)

We walked through Piazza Navona and grabbed lunch at another little restaurant in there.  It was kind of funny that we kept ending up eating here because I hate how touristy Rome is and this Piazza is the tourist trap.  Not to mention, I had told my mom I wouldn't step foot there when she said I "had to go" the week before.  After lunch, we mustered up the strength to walk back to the Spanish Steps and do a little window shopping and get a little gelato before heading back to the brothel.

We wanted to eat dinner by the Colosseum and decided to eat at a little place called La Biga.  While the view of the Colosseum was unreal, we were not impressed with the food (surprise!).  Because the never-ending need to capture content is always our first concern, we made sure to stop and grab some photos before heading back.  In the middle of this, a bachelor party approached us.  We all started screaming "Noooooooo," but the men we persistent and asked for a photo and a kiss -- only one photo was taken before we basically told them to gtfo.

La Biga -- Tiny little restaurant that overlooks the Colosseum.  We got some bruschetta, caprese and tried to order a pizza to share.  I really wanted a fresh spaghetti pomodoro, but I basically just got a marinara sauce.  Pomodoro is supposed to be a fresh tomato sauce that is created by tossing a pasta in a pot of steamed and cooked tomatoes, so I was extremely bummed.  Not the greatest place but the view is nice. 



On a full day off, we decided to go to the beach.  We had heard to go to Santa Marinella or Ostia but somehow decided on Santa Marinella.  We grabbed a quick breakfast and headed to the train.  We got to the station right as the train was pulling up, but we still needed to grab ticket, so we ended up waiting another thirty or so minutes before the next one.  It seemed like everyone else in Rome was trying to go to the beach that day as the trains were super packed -- and extremely hot.

We finally arrived at Santa Marinella and followed the crowds towards the areas where you could rent chairs.  I had gone to the beach with my family the first time I went to Rome, and I really thought we had gone to Santa Marinella.  I could remember a nice hotel with a huge pool and great restaurant that you could buy a day pass to -- it turned out that this place was actually at Ostia, oops.  We spent at least an hour, hour and a half trying to find a nice quiet spot to get chairs at, but ended up at the first place.  

The beach was packed and super hot with lots of screaming children.  The heat was really killing me so I passed out under an umbrella for another hour or two before we decided to leave.  There were no decent restaurants and all of us were dying of thirst, so we got some waters and tried to get on the train.  Because of our great luck this day, we just missed the 3:20 PM train and would have to wait for the next one at 4:50 PM.  We walked over to this place called Monkey's Pub to tie us over -- plus they had some pretty decent Wifi.

The train back was just as hot and miserable as before, but we finally got back to the brothel and decided to go to Eataly for dinner.  I was reallyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy excited for this because I had just visited the Eataly in Chicago when visiting a friend in May.  I loved it so much and the food was delicious, so I said it was a must-go.  The Eataly here was unreal, and the food was just as delicious.  While the menu was a bit more limited than in Chicago, we all still found some great items.  We also got popsicles downstairs before going home.


Eataly -- The Disneyland of Italian food.  With four floors full of different market options (from wine to focaccia to produce to meat and so on), multiple classrooms and a variety of different little restaurant, this is definitely a must-see.  While we do have them in the States (Chicago and New York, I believe), I would still recommend going.  I got the pasta special at the pasta and pizza restaurant, which was a rigatoni in a marinara sauce with bacon and parmesan.  For desert, I opted for a pistachio cream popsicle, but did not get it dipped in any chocolates or topped with any candies.  Also they have great Wifi.



Back to visits as usual, we went over to the Accent Center to meet with Emma Wallis, a freelance journalist.  She is British but spent a lot of time working in Italy, and she now resides in Germany with her husband.  She talked about Italian media and some media scandals but spent most of the time discussing the Mafia.  I had noooo idea that the Mafia were real.  I had always thought of The Sopranos or The Godfather -- I even joked that the dad of a former roommate had to be a member.  The Mafia are far more intense than I could have imagined, and the chat was quite extensive yet informative.

We had passed a cool looking restaurant near our hotel a few times, so we decided to check it out.  My two friends and I went in and were so amazed -- it felt like we were in a trendy LA spot.  The restaurant was called Ris_Toro and offered a limited selection but would basically whip up anything your heart desired.  I loved the atmosphere (and wifi connection!) and was happy to spend a little while there.  We paid our check and went to Foot Locker to see if they had any good "trainers," but left defeated.  We also went to try this gelato place that always had a huge line next to it.  The gelato was alright, so we ate quickly and walked home.

For dinner, we went to Roma Sparita, a spot one of my friend's saw on Instagram.  We got there a little earlier than our reservation (which we had to book three days in advance), and they were more than happy to seat us.  We started off with some great appetizers and a delicious pizza to split and pasta main course.  I loved the restaurant and wished we had not ordered the pizza so that I could have finished my pasta.  The restaurant was quickly packed after we sat, but the service was still pretty decent.

Ris_Toro -- The hidden gem, of sorts.  We loved going here.  I got gnocchi with pesto, and it came tossed with some tomatoes also.  I also got a bomb cappuccino and a lemon soda.  The bread was also very fresh and delicious. 

Roma Sparita -- This, apparently, is a very famous restaurant in Rome.  For once I wasn't completely disappointed!  We got bruschetta pomodoro and the most delicious and fresh prosciutto and melon I have ever tasted to start off the meal.  We were told to order the famous spaghetti with parmesan and black pepper, and it came in a baked parmesan cup -- like a Caesar salad.  Once we saw how small, or how small we thought, the portions were, we decided to order a pizza to split.  The pizza was alright, but the pasta was so rich and delicious that I wish I could have finished everything.



Our final day in the ancient city started with a visit to Vatican Radio News.  I loved this visit, and I definitely think it was a highlight for our group.  Our speaker was amazing and really helped to connect with us on a personal level -- we all sat in a circle and were welcomed to ask any questions we wanted.  It was great to hear someone speak so truthfully and someone who really believed in our generation.

We opted to stop by Ris_Toro for lunch again and ordered the same meal again.  For whatever reason, their service was especially slow this day, so we ended up sitting for a while.  They also played a lot of random Diplo/Major Lazer/Diplo-produced tracks so I was pretty set.  We decided to do a little shopping before heading to the brother to pack.

Dinner that night was our program meal, so we all headed to a restaurant close to our hotel for a huge family style meal.  We got all sorts of antipasti, pasta, focaccia pizza bread, pizza and deserts.  While everything was pretty subpar, I actually really liked the pizzas that were topped with gorgonzola.  I feel like I'm the only one who like gorgonzola, so I was sure to enjoy a couple pieces.

We were determined to make it out that night, so we decided to go to Ice Club and then Shari Vari, a restaurant that turns into a club at night.  The Ice Club was super disappointing but Shari Vari made up for it once we decided to just go all out and have fun.

Ice Club -- We read online to head here because it was close to the Colosseum.  Also, on Tuesdays, apparently they have an open bar.  We waited in line for maybe an hour, and they informed us that the club was closing at 1 AM instead of 2 AM tonight.  We went in and payed the €15, got our capes and entered the tundra.  The "club" was probably 30 feet long and there were no more than 20 people in line.  There was no bartender in sight, so we only got one drink before we decided to complain and stormed out.  There was a group of kids outside who asked how it was.  We told them not to go in, so they left with us. End of story, don't go here.

Shari Vari -- My friends went here the night I got sick and really talked it up, so I was excited to see what all the hype was about.  After leaving and coming back in, my friend and I decided to just go ham on the dancefloor, as everyone was being super sketch and it was waaaaaay too hot inside.  We ended up getting invited into the DJ booth upstairs and stayed there for the rest of the night.  The DJ was amazing and would play a great mix of songs and any other song we asked for.



Matcha Had Me.....dehydrated and pumped to ball out in Praha.