Not one much for tradition, I decided on my recent holiday to Rome to do what most tourists on a Roman holiday don’t think of doing.
While I slept 4 out of the 5 nights I was there in the city, by day I was gone like the wind checking out some of the other cool places that are within close proximity to Italy’s capital. Sounds like a sorry excuse for a Roman holiday, I know, but truth be told – it was my second time visiting. The first being 9 years ago when I still traveled with a Rick Steves’ guidebook and a mile-long checklist of mandatory sights to see, so I wasn’t worried about missing anything since I can safely say I have already “done” Rome.
Another important thing to note about my un-Roman Roman holiday was that I was visiting my best friend who lives there and also happens to have a car. This made escaping the city significantly easier and mindless for me thanks to her cute little Alfa Romeo and insider knowledge. All I had to do was sit back, relax, and enjoy the rosė (or limoncello) while she navigated the streets and highways of Italia – something that I recommend you also do before I visually navigate you through the places we visited.
A day trip to Assisi was our first outing from Rome. Nestled high on a hill in Umbria, this beautiful little town is famous for being the old stomping grounds of Saint Francis (or Francesco), patron saint of animals and the environment, so lots of people visit for religious reasons and such. We just came to party.
Don’t worry. I always try to squeeze in some cultural activities whether I am partying or not during my holidays, so we made sure to hit up all the main sights while we were in town starting with a visit to the Basilica of St. Francis – both the Upper Church and Lower Church, as well as the crypt where he is buried.
Since crypts creep me out and I generally try to respect no photography policies inside places of worship, there are no photos of that, but lucky for you, they have installed a webcam in case you are just dying to know what is happening down there at any given moment.
After we finished at the Basilica, we continued our self-designed, rosé-fuelled walking tour with a trek up to Rocca Maggiore Castle and a stroll past San Rufino Cathedral plus six other churches that I don’t know the names of. We counted nuns and winked at monks. Feasted on black truffle pasta and some ridiculously tasty cannoli.
Assisi is not the most exciting town you will visit in Italy, but perhaps one of the more special ones. It feels like one big open-air museum and you can enjoy some pretty incredible views from lots of spots thanks to its elevated position – just don’t forget a bottle or two of vino, especially for sunset…
Distance from Rome: 180 km/ ~ 2 hours and 15 minutes
Pompeii is actually a pretty popular day trip from Rome, so nothing unusual about ending up there. In fact, it was one of the things on the checklist back in 2005, but wisely my travel companion and I decided to cross it off and spend more time in Rome instead. I say wisely because 1) it shows that already at a young age I was of the travel mindset “quality over quantity” and 2) Pompeii is super boring.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have a strong fascination with ancient history, maybe it’s because it’s predictably packed with large tour groups, or maybe, just maybe my aversion to one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions is because I’m fairly convinced the entire thing is one big farce.
At least they were cool enough to put a bar in the center – made the entire experience way more tolerable. Great fun, even.
Now, I’m no archaeological expert, but I’ve been to enough historical sites to know if this place is as important as they say it is and everything in there genuine, don’t you think they’d take a bit better care of it? Surely there are safer ways to store 2,000 year old artifacts and bodies than this.
And surely with all the people passing through on any given day they might have considered roping off some important looking parts so people weren’t free to dispose of their cigarette butts in them (seriously, I don’t know what those holes below were for, but now they are ashtrays). Or even worse, accidentally splash them with their glass of white…
Are you picking up what I’m putting down? And don’t even get me started on their perversion for decorating the place in dicks and ancient porn…Sorry if the following offends you, but join the club.
Like, what? I don’t even know, nor do I want to – just add this to the list of why I can’t take this place seriously and wouldn’t recommend bringing small children or blonde gypsies. But hey, sex sells…
This obviously deserves to be investigated much deeper and quite frankly, I don’t have the time nor the desire to be the one to blow the lid off this scam which has no doubt raked in millions. Is it a coincidence that it’s in the backyard of Naples – one of the meccas of mafia? I think not.
All I am saying is that we don’t always have to believe everything that we read in history books or travel guides…and that sometimes it’s really fun to think up wild conspiracy theories to spread on the internet that are for the most part baseless.
Distance from Rome: 243 km/ ~ 2 1/2 – 3 hours
My favorite lil’ excursion and only overnighter was the trip we took down to the Amalfi Coast – a place that I had always wanted to visit but was holding out on since I thought it was mainly a vacation spot reserved for families or people in committed relationships.
Since I’m more likely to adopt a stray unicorn than have either of those in the near future, I decided that was silly thinking and to go for it. As I’ve learned in the past, typically “romantic” places can be just as fun with friends, if not better, so why wait?
While I wouldn’t recommend only one day along the Amalfi Coast as there is so much to see, it is entirely possible to do it if that’s all the time you have. Just make sure you do it right which in my opinion includes not only seeing it by land, but also by water.
From Salerno to Positano, the day was almost too sexy for words and truthfully deserves its own post so just going to leave you with a few more images and a promise that you will see one sometime before 2015.
Distance from Rome: 268 km/ ~ 3 hours
Of course I didn’t go all the way to Rome and not see anything of her – that would have been ridiculous. It’s such a delightful city to stroll around what with all of its historical sites, beautiful green spaces, and liberal open container laws.
Nine years later walking the same streets in the same summer month and I found nothing really had changed except for my fashion sense and travel style (thank f*ck for both). Rome itself, though? Well, there’s a reason it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. It’s timeless, it’s easy, it’s been visited and written about a billion times over…
It’s not called the Eternal City for nothing and if you’ve never been, I highly recommend spending a decent amount of time exploring it before you think about leaving because there is a lot to see. Just keep in mind that there are some cool places to see nearby if you like the idea of getting away for a day.
As for my un-Roman holiday in Rome and need to travel on my travels – it may not be traditional, it may not be what most tourists visiting would think to do, it may even sound CRAZY…but it sure was fun. And how I will continue to roll. Eternally.
Special thanks to my girl Melissa (and Dom!) for the great times and being such wonderful hosts to this gypsy. So blessed to have such amazing friends <3
P.S. Anyone else ever done any day exploring away from Rome? I’m already plotting my return.