Our amazing friend, Julia, is the inspiration for the Julia Everywhere Tote. She travels everywhere, so we listened to her advice when making this bag, especially when she suggested adding a bottom compartment to the tote. Of course, we had to name the bag after her!
Julia is a full-time business-woman and happily-married mom with two kids. She met her Italian husband, Alessio, when she was studying in Rome, so Rome will also be a special place for both of them. While she regularly takes her Julia Everywhere Tote on overnight business trips, she recently packed it for her trip to Rome to visit Alessio’s family. Check out how she packs her bag for the long distance flight to Rome below.
When she came home, we asked her to share with us her favorite things about Rome, her insider tips, and her love of gelato!
There's so much to see! Where do I begin? I love all the art! Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Bernini.... Art for the soul.
I CAN’T LEAVE ROME WITHOUT SEEING…
- Family! One of the best things about being married to Alessio is my Roman family. I love coming home to visit them! I know I am so lucky to have family in Rome. They know all the best places!
Julia and Alessio in Rome in 2018
- The Pantheon. This building is at the top of my list for three reasons.
1. It's just the most breathtakingly beautiful ancient building.
2. One of our favorite local lunch spots is just around the corner, Miscellanea (but call it "Mickey's" if you want to sound like a local!).
3. Alessio and I got married right around the back of the Pantheon at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. This place is just so full of love!
- The Piazza Navona. It's the first "piazza" I stumbled upon as a student and I absolutely fell in love with it. Filled with light, fountains, artists, and people wandering from one end of the piazza to the other, go sit and enjoy the scene.
- The Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Take the time to walk the whole Forum down to the Colosseum to really step back in time and walk in the footsteps of the ancient Romans. And don’t forget to come back and check out the Colosseum at night - it is so breathtaking with the moon as the backdrop!
- The Trevi Fountain. I love Rome, and the legend is that if you throw a coin in, you'll return. I do it every time to make sure I’ll come back. It's a crowded piazza, so watch your pockets, but it's worth a euro, once you’ve fallen in love with Rome like I have.
- The Hotel Minerva. You don’t need to stay at this amazing hotel right around the corner from the Pantheon to enjoy its highlight. Take time to stop in for a cocktail on the roof and one of the best panoramic views of Rome.
SPECIAL PLACES I LOVE
Every visit to Rome, I make sure to go back to Loyola University Rome Center, where I studied in college and where I met Alessio! So many memories...
This past trip, we also stayed overnight at Castello Della Castelluccia, the villa where we had our wedding reception ten years ago. Only a fifteen-minute drive outside of the city, it is a special place to visit. This 13th-century castle is the perfect mix of medieval splendor and modern luxury, complete with horses, an outdoor pool, a sauna, a top-notch restaurant, and, well, it's just perfect.
Picture here shows Julia and Alessio in front of the Castello Castelluccia on their wedding day 10 years ago.
Julia and the family at Castello Castelluccia where she and Alessio got married ten years ago
Go any place you stumble upon that looks good. Italians take pride in their food, so you can't really go wrong. And of course, eat the pasta! Some favorite local pasta dishes are Pasta alla Carbonara, Pasta All'amatriciana, Pasta Cacio e Pepe, and Sugo al Bolognese. Watch out for places that offer Pasta Alfredo or Pasta alla Vodka sauce, as these aren’t actually Italian sauces. If you see these on a menu, it is probably not an authentic place.
Make sure you grab a slice of pizza rustica and eat it on the go. Try Pizza al Taglio, a type of pizza baked in rectangular trays. (If you are from Chicago, like me, and know Bonci Pizza, the concept is the same.) My favorite is a tie between Pizza Fior di Zucca (topped with zucchini flowers, anchovies, and cheese) and Pizza con Le Patate (thinly sliced potatoes with rosemary). I know both of these may sound weird for pizza, but trust me, when in Rome.....
Pair any meal with a glass of wine. I recommend a Brunello, It's a full body red from Tuscany. Finish your experience with a Limoncello or Amaro Montenegro.
GELATO, GELATO, GELATO!!
Gelato is not to be missed in Rome! While you can find gelato all over Italy, Rome has the best. There are lots of great choices, but my top three are:Mondi at Ponte Milvio. It’s not in the city center, but it’s a true local Roman favorite.
Old Bridge Near the Vatican, go to Old Bridge for huge portions that are so darn good!
Gelateria Siciliana is located at Via Marcantonio Colonna and specializes in Sicilian flavors. Ah-mazing!
Insider tip: Travelers “in the know” order gelato "doppia panna.” This tells your server to put homemade whipped cream on the bottom and top of your gelato. And don’t worry, the gelato in Italy is calorie-free (especially with all that walking)! :)
Coffee is an essential part of Italian daily life. Make sure you try it out. And it’s not at all like getting coffee in the US. There are different ways to order, different kinds to drink, and little secrets to fitting in like a local.
First of all, you drink coffee in Rome on-site where you buy it. There are no such things as to-go cups in Rome (and no doggie bags at restaurants, either).
Despite this fact, If you sit down at the coffee shop, you pay more. So Italians (and smart travelers like you) drink their coffee standing at the bar.
To order your coffee:
- Get in line at the register and place your order there. You order your drinks and your snacks at the same time (cornetti, croissants, or whatever you'd like).
- The cashier will give you a receipt.
- Take your receipt to the bar and place the receipt on the counter. You add your tip along with it if you like. (A twenty-cent coin is perfect.)
- Tell the barista what you ordered. He'll tear the receipt and make you amazing coffee faster than any Starbucks.
What to order?
- The typical coffee order in Rome is simply espresso. You can say “caffe” for the same thing. This is not American coffee!
- Order "Espresso lungo" if you don’t want it as strong (it is diluted a little bit with water).
- Cappuccino is a cappuccino!
- Caffe Macchiato is espresso with a dollop of milk.
- If you order a Latte, they will just give you steamed milk. So if you want an American-style latte, you have to ask for "Caffe con Latte."
- Latte Scremato is "skim milk." You have to specify this if you want it, as the default in Rome is whole milk.
- Cappuccino Freddo, or Cappuccino Scecherato, (pronounced Shake-er-ato) is Iced Coffee
- You must try a Caffe con Panna: espresso with whipped cream
- And for a special treat, order Granita al Caffe con Panna, crushed iced with coffee and whip cream on top. It is usually served in a plastic cup with a small spoon.
Miscellanea (locals call it "Mickey's"). This great lunch spot near the Pantheon is frequented by local Romans during the day and by college students at night. The perfect order is the basket of bread, a media chiara (beer), and a salad! Tuna or Turkey Salads are my favorite. Trust me! Get the pizza somewhere else, because their lunchtime salad and tomatoes-with-mozzarella is too delicious.
Address: Via della Palombella 37, 00186 Roma
Tel: 39 (0)6-6813-5318
Le Grotte (also called La Grotta Dal Piccione). This is the best place for fish, and it’s right near the Spanish Steps. It’s a great fancy dinner spot. The food is delish. Grotta means cave and you'll never find it by googling, so here's the direct link: http://www.legrotte.eu/site/ristorante-le-grotte-a-roma/
Address: Via Della Vite, 37, Roma
Tel: 39 (0) 6-6795-336 or 06-6784-117
La Fraschetta in Trastevere is my favorite spot for pizza. It has the perfect Roman ambiance with garlic bunches hanging from the ceiling, fantastic bruschetta, and, of course, pizza.
Address: Via di S. Francesco a Ripa, 134, 00153 Roma
Tel: +39 (0) 6-581-6012
IVO in Trastevere. For anything Roman, you really can't go wrong at IVO. It's too hard for me to pick a favorite dish here. Try it all!
Address: Via di S. Francesco a Ripa, 158, 00153 Roma
Tel: 39 (0) 6-581-7082
If all else fails, wander the cobblestone streets of Trastevere for a great dinner. Whenever you’ve seen classic pictures of Roman restaurants, they were probably in Trastevere. Follow the crowds and your nose. In this area, stores tend to stay open late as well, so you can always shop while you wait for your favorite table.
Insider tip: Italians don't really eat chicken when they go out, so don't look for that on a menu. If you want fish, you go to a fish place; if you want pizza, go to a pizzeria; if you want pasta/steak etc, go to a trattoria or ristorante. Roman restaurants are usually specialists at what they do. Don't expect to get fish at a pizzeria, it just doesn't work that way.
Also, 99% of the restaurants in Rome are Italian, and the remaining 1% are Chinese. Don’t go looking for Thai, Mexican, sushi, etc.
The two best places to shop in Rome are the Cola di Rienzo and the Via del Corso. Take some time to stroll both of these famous districts and enjoy their unique shops and atmosphere. Don’t forget to buy something, too!
Walk the Cola di Rienzo for all of the best fashion stores. Explore the Via Del Corso, Rome’s main shopping street, all the way from the Piazza Venezia to the Piazza del Popolo.
And remember, almost everything already includes the tax. If an item says “5 Euro,” it is just 5 Euro. Some large purchases may add an EVA tax, but you can declare it back at the airport when you leave with your "duty free form."
OTHER USEFUL TIPS
Don't tip your taxi driver! Ever! They are already charging you fees for bags, fees because it's out of a district, fees because it's Tuesday, etc. They probably already took you around the block three times, as well, to squeeze some extra cash out of you. Do not tip at all. ZERO! And make sure you get all your change back.
Also, only get into legitimate taxi cars. This is not usually a problem, except at the airport, where random private drivers try to offer you a ride. Don't go with them (in Rome or in any other cities). Always go to the taxi stand.
Waiters and waitresses are paid good wages by the hour, so they don’t rely on tips in Rome the way they do in the United States. It is still common to leave 1-2 Euro on top of the bill, but that’s more of a courtesy than a wage. You aren't obligated to leave a percentage since their pay structure is stable.
Buses run on an honor system in Rome, but you are better safe than sorry. An inspector will get on occasionally to check to see if you have tickets, and you don’t want to be caught without one. Bus tickets are available at the "Tabacchi" (Tobacco shops). You'll know them by the black sign with a white letter "T" on it. Phone cards for calling the USA are also sold here. They are 5 Euro for 3 hours of talking time from a landline to landline (fewer minutes from cell to cell).
On buses, trains, and at stations are the most common areas you will get pickpocketed in Rome. Watch out for little kids with fast hands or gypsy women pushing their baby into your arms as they steal your wallet. They will reach through the closing doors of the bus or train, too, so be aware.
Also, be aware of pickpockets at restaurants, food venues, and popular sightseeing spots like the Trevi Fountain. Pickpockets are common in Rome. I cannot stress how important it is to watch your things.
My Roman Holiday
Any time to visit Rome is the best time. This city should not be missed. Whether you love art, history, food, or just amazing sights, there is something for you here. You definitely need a couple days to enjoy the best parts and find some of your own favorite spots. Ciao!