So last week I went to Rome, and boy do I have serious neck strain. Yes, marvelling at the size and magnificence of the buildings of Rome does have its dangers; evidently, safety precautions should be taken for anyone visiting this city for the first time. The popular and historic sites such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Roman Forum attract swarms of intrigued tourists and residents every year. And when you’re stood in front of the remains of a 2000 year old temple, with a lot of the intricate carvings and patterns still visible, you can’t help but be transported back in time to the roaring, bloodthirsty crowds of the Colosseum and the bustling atmosphere of the Roman Forum’s market place.
I was initially surprised at the long, winding queues to get into Rome’s famous sites on a chilly February day, but once I had reached inside I could see why so many people visit every single day. After a while of facing moderately sized queues, I was pleased I hadn’t visited during peak season. I can only imagine the horror of the baking hot sun mixed with the crowds of August.
2000 years of history separates us from the ancient Romans, but we’re still fascinated at their heritage. There’s so much speculation at what these great people achieved. So much intrigue into life within what was at one time the most powerful city on earth.
The unashamed arrogance of ancient Rome doesn’t simply merge into the background; it is visible everywhere you go. From the grand, towering buildings to the history that seeps from every orifice, Rome can’t help but remind you of how insignificant, how unaccomplished you are.
They say a lifetime isn’t enough to discover Rome, and in the space of five days I only discovered half of what I thought I would. However, I’d like to think I got a basic understanding of the history of Rome and scratched the underbelly of its underground culture.
The thing about Rome is you don’t have to go out of your way to walk through a grand arch or pass a magnificent building worthy of an architect’s wet dream. Ancient Rome is very much integrated with modern-day Rome, with vast high-speed traffic contrasting with the plentiful historic sites. The fact is you can stumble upon a piece of ancient Rome down most of its back alleys; it is partly this reason the city screams of character at every turn.
Rome isn’t the sort of city you immediately associate with nightlife, and I can only assume this is due to its overwhelming history. After all, this is the main reason tourists visit. But among the picturesque views is modern Rome and with it comes a hip crowd, hungry for secret loft gatherings and the sounds of noisy jazz bands.
I expect that Rome’s nightlife in winter is very different to the night scene I expect to see in the summer months. The majority of people gather outside in the summer months, lining cobbled streets and spilling out into the many Piazzas. With the focus obviously being inside in the winter months, I had to search a little harder to discover Rome’s emerging nightlife.
The area in and around Campo de’ Fiori is where Rome’s nightlife flourishes. You are guaranteed to find cozy wine bars and rustic eateries around this area. Once you venture down the network of back alleys around Camp de’ Fiori, you will discover bars camouflaged against stone walls, hidden so well you wonder if they actually want you to find them.
Open Baladin (address: Via deli Specchi 6) is a great starting point for food and drink if you’re new to the city. Serving a range of artisan beers from Italy and around the world, Open Baladin is leading the way in Rome’s increasingly popular real ale industry. Food wise you can expect to find burger and chips with a twist, and all the ales are priced at 5 euros each. If you want to grab some dinner I would recommend booking a table, otherwise expect to wait until they can squeeze you in.
During an attempt to find that perfect “I just stumbled upon it” bar, we ended up walking past a small door covered in graffiti. From it came the lively sounds of jazz. As we both stopped and looked at each other with slight smiles, I knew I wasn’t the only one who was curious. Though we were tempted, the thought of trying to explain ourselves in Italian as we burst through the door wasn’t very appealing. As we walked away I looked back at another man who had begun to peep through the keyhole. After a short while he gave up, as I think the keyhole was covered up with something. Even curiouser.
Rome is a city of great history and beauty. However, hidden among the rustic restaurants and underneath great marble arches, a secret rebellion is growing. A chic European city, unlike that of Prague or Berlin, that doesn’t have to shout its cool from the rooftops; after all, it’s hidden within them.