First impressions: The heat! No wonder wealthy Romans in all ages have headed out of the city for the summer. The always present sound of ambulances. The way the town has grown in the gaps between the ruins.
Three days in Rome is nothing, so I didn’t even try to see all the “must sees”. I will probably be back again soon, so I tried to relax and enjoy the town. Whenever I visit a new place I try to find some favorite spot a little off the beaten path. I guess it’s a way to make a more personal connection to the city. In Rome I found two favorite areas: Villa Borghese and San Lorenzo.
Villa Borghese is the big park in the northern part of the city center. Once a vineyard, it is now both a tourist attraction and a recreation area for metropolitan Romans. There are museums, a theater and a zoo. You can stroll along the walkways or go for a jog among lakes, fountains and statues.
San Lorenzo behind Stazione Termini is the student area around la Sapienza, one of the universities of Rome. Here are lots of small and cheap (but good) restaurants, bars and cafes. After a long day of sightseeing I found a small park in the campus area where I sat down to relax for a while with a book.
I was also looking forward to renting a bike and follow Via Appia south into the countryside, but I soon discovered that I had picked the wrong day. On Sundays they close large parts of Via Appia to cars, and it becomes a popular route for family outings on foot or by bike. All other days you share the road with cars, trucks, motorbikes and tour buses that all seem to race each other. This can be a scary experience since the road is narrow, doesn’t have a sidewalk (or shoulder) and is lined with stone walls on both sides – so there is nowhere to escape.
Other highlights where Forum Romanum, Colosseum, Circus Maximus and Pantheon. I actually found Il Vittoriano, the building all guidebooks love to hate, irresistible. The massive scale and pompousness of the monument have an appeal of its own. And at the top of the stairs there is a pretty nice cafe with a great view over the city.