Ciao Amici (hello friends),
It is said that “all roads lead to Rome”…but before you go, you better make a stop at Ask Mr. Italy. Italians know how to live “la dolce vita” (the sweet life) and it is my goal to help you make the most out of your Italian journey. Here on my website you will find helpful tips on all you travel needs, plus find useful information on the culture, cuisine, art, and lifestyle of Italy and the Italian people.
If I only can get away for four or five days to Italy and this will be my first time there, which is the one city or region I should go and visit to get all the sights, sounds and flavors of Italy all rolled up
Johnny Allioti, Monterey, California
I believe every country has a starting point of entry for “beginners”. Imagine someone from Europe or Asia asked that same question about America, where you would suggest. My answer would be New York City. Similarly, the Italian experience begins in Rome. It is a where it all began over 2000 years ago. It is a city filled with cultural significance where a first-timer can relate to and feel immediately at home and at ease.
Ancient Prophecy: “As long as the Colosseum stands, so will Rome; when the Colosseum falls so will Rome; when Rome falls so will the world”
Rome was founded by its namesake Romulus and his brother Remus in 753 BC and you can say the Roman Empire officially began in 60 BC with the triumvirate formed by Julius Ceasar, Pompey and Crassus. Rome ruled the world for hundreds of years until it was sacked in 455 AD. Rome’s social, economic, political and legal systems that were developed are still evident throughout the world today. Its art, architecture and engineering can be seen in today’s modern cities and no one can doubt Rome’s contribution to civilization as we know it.
Rome has all the familiar sites that we can visualize and have dreamed about: The Roman Colosseum, the Fountain of Trevi, The Pantheon, The Spanish Steps, the Baths of Caracalla, the Roman Forum and of course, St. Peters Cathedral and the Vatican. Just around any corner along the cobblestone streets where Roman chariots once rode you will find antiquity at your feet, at eye level and built into the facades of the ancient buildings.
Panorama of Rome from atop of St. Peter’s Cathedral
As the saying goes, “Roma non fu fatto in un giorno” (Rome was not built in a day). I’d like to add that you cannot see Rome in just a few days either. Give your self enough time to fully absorb the history and lifestyle of the Eternal City. You could live a lifetime in Rome and never experience all of its riches.
The food, as compared to other regions of Italy, is also familiar. Italian food in America is more closely related to the cuisine of Rome (and also my hometown, Napoli) than anywhere else in Italy. This is the land of tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, artichokes and spicy peppers. And we can’t ignore Roman-style pizza, thin crusted and baked in a wood-fired oven; it is the perfect afternoon snack or enjoyed at dinner with family and friends. And “Quando sei a Roma, fai come i romani” (when in Rome, do as the Romans do)…eat gelato at least once a day!
Rome is a wonderful walking city, as most of the centro storico (historical center) is closed to car traffic and now an area pedonale (walking zone). The air is fresh and clean and you can now “hear” this wonderful city again: the kids joking in the streets, the baker yelling across to his neighbor, the fruit vendors bartering with customers, or the old men sitting on the park benches talking about the victories of their youth.
Mario Lanza singing Arrivederci, Roma, 1956
The Roman dialect is very understandable, so if you know even just a few basic Italian words you can get by and the Romans are very cordial if you don’t speak Italian. Rome does not take its wealth of tourism for granted and welcomes visitors with open arms. They know that this is their legacy and the entire city is one giant living museum.
True born and raised Romans have this calm, confident, elegant air about them. Every Roman claims to have been descended from one of the Caesars, but accept the fact that they will probably never conquer the world again. So, Romans go about their lives living “la dolce vita” (the good life) and find a way to smile and laugh their way through life’s daily challenges.
It was once true that “tutte le strade portano a Roma” (all roads lead to Rome) so by all means, I recommend this is where you begin your Italian journey. While there, be sure to pay a visit to the Fountain of Trevi. Toss a coin over your left shoulder which as legend says, ensures your return, and you’ll be planning your next trip to Italy before you get back home.
Pèpe at the Fountain of Trevi
“Ce sta ‘na leggenda romana,
legata a ‘sta vecchia Fontana,
per cui se ce butti un soldino
costringi er destino a fatte tornà.”
(lyrics of “Arrivederci Roma”)