Rome has been on my bucket list for some time now, so when the opportunity arises to meet a friend in the Eternal City, I’m on the plane before you can say ciao! And, as a city famous for its coffee culture, our sightseeing is broken up.
Starting my coffee marathon in front of the Colosseum
I call Paolo and we decide to meet in the morning in front of the Colosseum. I reach the metro station and follow the directions to the exit. But while going out, I freeze in a moment of amazement.
I wasn't expecting to find the Colosseum right there, in front of my eyes. I stopped so violently, I think a few commuters, engaged in their morning rush to reach their workplace, almost crashed into me. After I regained my composure I stepped outside to gaze in wonder at this man made wonder: it’s incredible to think that a 2000-year-old arena is still there in all its glory, bringing to mind images of gladiators performing in front of emperors and crowds of up to 80,000 people.
In the meanwhile Paolo arrives and wakes me from my daydreams of ancient civilizations. After a kiss and a warm hug, it's time for the first coffee. Climbing steps to the Oppio Caffé, gives us incredible, uninterrupted views of the Colosseum.
As we take the first coffee of the day, Paolo explains to me that this is his breakfast! Italians don’t tend to eat much at the start of the day, maybe just a croissant with their coffee. So it’s good that I ate at the hotel, otherwise I’d be starving by lunchtime, as we have a jam-packed schedule ahead of us to make sure I get so see as many of Rome’s tourist attractions as possible.
Strolling along the Roman Forum
There is a long queue to visit the Colosseum, so we decide to jump ahead in our itinerary, since I'll have time to visit it by myself in the next days. We walk along the road leading to the historical center, with a view of the Roman Forum, a plaza surrounded by the ancient ruins, on the left and Trajan's Market on the right.
Once upon the time, there was no separation between the two, but during the fascist era, a road was built down the middle, destroying many archeological ruins.
Climbing Capitoline Hill
After a short stroll, we reach the top of the Capitoline Hill. At the back there is a terrace with an amazing view over the Roman Forum, with the Colosseum in the background. It’s probably the best place to admire these ancient Roman relics.
Entering the famous Michelangelo's square, it's like traveling forward in time from the ancient Roman Period to the Renaissance era, even if the Piazza was actually completed only 70 years ago. Here, you’ll also find the municipal hall and the Capitoline Museum, but we’re on a tight schedule – and it’s time for another coffee!
We climb down the monumental staircase on the other side of the square and after a quick stop in a bar, for Paolo's mid-morning espresso, we reach the Altar of the Fatherland, built in memory of the first King of unified Italy. It's not really a loved landmark by Romans, as they nicknamed it the "typewriter" because of its boxy shape.
Reaching Fontana di Trevi
We keep walking toward the center, and I have to thank Paolo for pulling me on to the zebra crossing like a dog on a leash. Otherwise I would probably have waited ages to be able to cross the road, hypnotized by the crazy Italian driving style. We pass from Piazza Venezia, where the fascist dictator Mussolini famously spoke to his people, reaching the shopping road, Via del Corso.
Only a few blocks away is the Trevi Fountain, with its Triumphal Arch and allegoric sculptures dipped into water.
I can't miss the opportunity to toss my coin and hope to be back soon in Rome. So I find my way through the crowds of tourists and contribute to the inheritance of the fountain! Oceanus, the titan of the seas, is watching me from his shell-throne and he looks satisfied of my donation.
The big hole of the Pantheon
After a quick meal, we are ready for our afternoon exploration, but clearly not before having gulped down the third coffee of the day! We pass in front of the Italian parliament and then through a traditional alley, arriving in Pantheon Square.
The front really looks like a Greek temple but with a strange circular body: as they would say in Asia, same same but different! It’s free to enter, so we head on inside. Among all of the statues of kings and notable people, what strikes me the most is the big hole on top of the roof: it's already difficult to imagine how they built such a huge dome with the technology available two millenniums ago, but even more difficult to imagine how they managed the nine meter hole in the middle! To this day, the Pantheon still has the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.
Sant'Eustachio: the best coffee in Rome
Only a couple of hours have passed from our last coffee, but it's already time for the afternoon shot. Paolo is guiding me to what he says is the bar with the best coffee in Rome. Open since 1938, Sant’Eustachio is not a fancy place, but it's really interesting and still has its original floors and furnishings. They serve their own coffee mix, prepared in the back of the shop with a wood fired coffee roaster. On the shelves sit packages of coffee from exotic places including the Galapagos Island, Dominican Republic and Ethiopia.
I try to spy on the locals to understand their way of drinking coffee, but I just can't get used to it! They don't even take the time to sit down. Standing at the counter, one after the other like an assembly line, they down their Espresso. I certainly enjoyed my Espresso but I’m afraid I must have stood out as a tourist as I slowly savored each sip.
Relaxing in Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is probably my favorite square in Rome, with its cafes, street artists and painters, melting together to create an incredible atmosphere.
We spend almost two hours walking around the former Stadium of Domitian, still recognizable for its shape, and enjoying the art and architecture. The amazing Rivers fountain, standing in the middle of the square, was created by the genius sculptor Bernini: it represents the most important rivers of the Renaissance time: the Rio de la Plata, Danube, Nile and Ganges, one for each known continent. Shaped like the Eiffel Tower, it has an Egyptian obelisk on top. In fact, says Paolo, there are more Egyptian obelisks left in Rome than in any city in Egypt!
Tired after a long day walking around, we sit at the Bar Tre Scalini in Piazza Navona with a great view of the square, enjoying our last moments together while getting ready to say goodbye. But not before enjoying our fifth coffee of the day!
Katie is an aspiring food and travel blogger for the UK. You can keep up with her adventures on twitter.