Since some gamedev friends might come to Rome sooner or later, where I was born and still live 20% of the year, I thought I’d share a blog post about my personal tourist guide, for people that have never been there.
Beware: this is a guide FROM a gamedev, not TO gamedevs (meaning I won’t mention game-related places, since there are none of interest).
I’ll try to avoid the usual tourist traps, though some of them are indeed beautiful and deserve a visit (like the Colosseum). I’ll also avoid churches and stuff like that. While I had my share of churches and mosaics and frescos and blahblah when I was younger, and some of them are indeed beautiful, I think you should consider them as a bonus. Wherever you go, at least within the center of Rome, you’ll find churches with, often, beautiful paintings and architecture. If you feel like it, go inside.
Circo Massimo (wiki)
One of my favorite places. It’s an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium, completely open and paved with grass. You should definitely go there and have a picnic, either by day or by night, and possibly get drunk.
While you’re there, you could walk south and reach…
The Pyramid of Caius Cestius (wiki)
Nothing really special about it. But it’s just a 10/15 minutes walk from Circo Massimo, so while you’re there, why not take a look?
Parco degli Acquedotti (wiki)
This is another wonderful place for a picnic (and to meet dog owners, since plenty of dogs will jump on you while you’re lying on the grass), or just for strolling around. It’s a giant open park, which connects with other giant parks in the vicinity, and where you’ll find ancient Roman aqueducts lying everywhere, as if they had nothing better to do. Tourist tip: get out of there before sunset. It’s pretty big and you might get lost.
The crowded center, a good place to start
If you’re up for a walk, and to have your senses overfed by all the ancient stuff Rome has to offer, Piazza Barberini, reachable with the metro, is a good place to start. All around its north-west/west/south-west side you’ll find places like the Fontana di Trevi, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon and shit like that. North is another park, Villa Borghese. South will lead you to the Colosseum and the Foro Romano, and yes, the Circo Massimo. East is mostly churches, so it’s up to you.
Where to eat
The place that has probably the highest concentration of good but usually not expensive restaurants is Piazza Vittorio (and while you’re there, check out the park at its center, which also houses the Porta Alchemica). Walk around its alleys, and you’ll find lots of places to eat Roman cuisine, but also Indian, Chinese and whatever. I recommend trying the typical pasta Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara, or Gricia (which is kind of a mix between Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe). Cacio e Pepe, even if it sounds easy, is actually the hardest one to make, so you’ll have to be lucky enough to find a restaurant that knows how to deal with it.
If you like wine, never order the “wine of the house”. 99% of the time it’s poison.
Other notable places
- While I’m pretty anti-clerical, the St. Peter’s Basilica is impressive and beautiful, and would deserve a visit. Be prepared to hyper-long queues and a ravaging mess of people.
- Castel Sant’Angelo is pretty cool too, and if you plan to see St. Peter’s Basilica, you could start from there, then walk to Castel Sant’Angelo, then proceed east to Piazza Navona or other places like that.
- Museums: there are various museums in Rome but, hey, you probably have museums in your city too.
If you want to avoid being robbed of all your travel money, don’t eat in restaurants in the center of Rome. They’re highly expensive and usually suck. Grab a slice of pizza on the go instead. Also, avoid the wheeled kiosks lying around: judging from their prices, they’re selling holy bottled water blessed by Jesus himself.
Also, you have to know that Romans usually don’t stop at pedestrian crossings. If that happens to you, just kick the side of their car while they speed by1 (use the sole of your foot, or you might get hurt), and if they stop to look at you, walk towards them and shout: “Did you hurt yourself?”. They will usually run away. If they don’t, and they’re big, you run away instead.
- If you’re a Roman, and reading this you thought “Hey, that happened to me!”, then yes, it was me kicking your car, and I hope you learned the lesson. If you’re a policeman instead, that wasn’t me at all, I’m just bragging. [↩]