Confession Time: I came to Rome with a hidden agenda.
Mike and I are considering moving to Europe next year once he gets his Italian citizenship (link). We haven’t decided where exactly we would live, but Italy is high on the list and one place jumped out at me from the start: Rome.
Last time I visited Rome I was a college senior. I only spent 3 nights in the city and I saw almost EVERY major sight. I’m not even sure I slept, I just ran from place to place, Lonely Planet in hand. When I think back on that trip it’s a total blur of piazzas, maps and history lessons.
Even so, I remember being entranced by the city in a way that Florence and Venice couldn’t do for me. I’ve always loved big cities with lots of history, like London, San Francisco and my hometown of DC. Rome is the ultimate for this: the past and present mingle in a way that’s fascinating.
Mike had never been to Rome, so it seemed like the perfect time to plan a trip. This time though, I didn’t want to sprint through the city in a long weekend. I wanted to spend at least a week exploring and trying to live locally.
Needed: an Apartment
Enter Go With Oh, an apartment rental company in Europe that kindly lent us a really neat two level apartment in the Monte area for a week (if you’re not familiar with Rome this means we were basically in spitting distance to the Colosseum).
I’ve reviewed a handful of apartment rental companies on this site, but as of right now Go With Oh is totally my favorite. They are only available in twelve European cities, and by staying small they are able to work really closely with the apartment owners to make sure that all the apartments on their site are top notch. In fact, the first apartment we were supposed to stay in was pulled from the site due to a bad review.
Luckily we had much better luck with our second place- a fifth floor walk-up in a historic building near the Cavore metro stop. It was gorgeous, full of paintings and sculptures (by the owner perhaps? They were all of naked ladies). There was a spacious living room area, a kitchen and a downstairs bedroom. After furiously traveling around Finland it felt like a warm and cozy home.
Also those 6 flights of stairs (no elevator) were the perfect counterbalance to the enormous amounts of food I couldn’t stop consuming.
Well it turns out a week is not long enough to explore Rome, not by a longshot. We did a lot of sightseeing- maybe more than we intended, but we also tried to enjoy the luxury of living like a local in one of the greatest cities in the world.
For us that mainly meant scavenging the surrounding side streets for the best local restaurants. Within a couple of days we had found our local pizza place, our favorite local Roman restaurant and of course, our local gelato shop. We debated hotly over whether it was “local” to eat gelato every single evening- I of course lobbied passionately for yes.
We also found the local markets, and took advantage of having our own kitchen to cook fresh pastas, veggies and lots of cured meat and cheese plates. I learned that in Italy most shopping is done not at the supermarket but at local butchers, cheese shops and vegetable stands. It was easy to picture myself picking out vibrant artichokes and strawberries for my own home.
We indulged in a bunch of other local activities: tracking down SIM cards, learning to take the metro, even a visit to the dentist (more on THAT terrifying experience later).
These mundane tasks: shopping, eating, getting from point a to point b, are the core of what makes up a local living experience (well that and finding a community, something we didn’t quite have time to tackle). Even totally boring stuff like reading a book on the couch while your partner cooks dinner. It wasn’t quite the same as actually living somewhere, but it was a tantalizing taste.
It was a great week. Every time I visit Italy I just fall more and more in love with it (must be my genetics), and I was excited to actually meet some expats who have made Rome their home. We didn’t quite feel “local,” I think that you need to stay in a place a least a month to get a real glimpse of that. Still, staying in an apartment versus a hotel or hostel is a great starting point.
I don’t know if we will move here, it’s quite expensive compared to some other cities , and there is still so much of Europe to explore, but I know I’m not done with this city yet.
Special thanks to Go With Oh Rome for hosting us in Rome. Opinions are my own.