An editor by day, journal blogger by night and a beautiful soul forever, Mona Karaoui’s blog depicts a dose of observations from her daily life, a bit of art, a bit of love, and a bit of literature, from Dubai and crazy beautiful Beirut to the whole world. She has a unique personality. Smart, beautiful and filled with inspiration and passion for Arabic language. We are delighted to have her here on Travel Junkie Diary! Make sure to follow her blog everyday. Share her passionate stories and fall in love with her.
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I was just about to say London (I’ve been a regular for the past few years), but I most recently did fall under the spell of Roman charm, and I’d like to shed light on that. The food, the food, the food. And then the thick divine olive oil! And then the national heritage, the preserved culture and architecture, the walking, the pausing, the buongiornos..(sigh..)
I was with two very good friends of mine and we stayed quite central at the Rome Times hotel, Via Milano close to the Colloseum. We chose a hotel that would allow us to be at the heart of the city and would give us the opportunity to walk around. The experience was exceptional. The hotel had 2 buildings, the common 4- star hotel we’re all accustomed to, and then attached to it is an annex, but in the form of an old-style building with a massive black wooden door. That is where we stayed. An awesome old-fashioned elevator was my ride to the second floor everyday. The rooms, were, while not very lavish, kept tidy and clean. The service was good, and we happened to have breakfast there twice, which was also quite acceptable.
Month September, and I think it was perfect- quite warm during the day, just chilly enough at night
In your suitcase
I kept it quite casual: one boyfriend jeans, 2 shorts, 2 day skirts with Casual Tees and jumpers, with a Converse and 2 Soludos for the day. I had a slightly chicer evening wardrobe but did stick to flats also at night. It gets chilly around the city in the evening so make sure you have a light jacket or scarf on you. Also stick to messenger bags while you’re at it. The lighter you are, the longer you can walk.
We didn’t really hit any Michelin- starred restaurants. I was more interested in keeping the experience random, and aimed at discovering the local culture and cuisine.
– “Da Luzzi” in the Celio neighborhood is where I had the yummiest Italian pizza of my life- at a very local, modest yet lip-smacking, family-owned restaurant. They serve their red wine in a pitcher- and their Tiramisu: Divine!!!
– We also accidentally discovered an amazing bistro restaurant called “Ginger” in a narrow alleyway, by the Piazza di Spagna. Not only are their salads fresh, extra large and absolutely delicious, their fruit smoothies are also out of this world! Their concept is centered on promoting the consumption of more fresh fruits, veggies and herbs. SOLD!
I didn’t spare much time for shopping (Surprise!!) as I got truly engaged with the city, but I did get killer biker boots from a beautiful leather shoe-shop that sells local emerging designer shoes only, called “Altariva Roma” at Via del Tritone. Also while you’re there, you might want to pay Via Margutta a visit. The street is arguably the best for antique and vintage stores. I unfortunately did not get the chance to drop by.
For four days, I strolled. The city was a walking museum and there was something new for me to discover at every corner. I was having too little sleep (that’s me when I travel, I don’t want to miss a thing). Suddenly, tacky “Eat, Pray and Love” was no longer tacky. I made a wish at Fontaine Trevvi (am still waiting for that to materialize), I walked up the Spanish Steps, and then I spent the sunset up there devouring the beauty of the city from atop from the Roof garden of the Portrait Suites Hotel owned by no other than the Ferragamos, which by the way serves exquisite cocktails.
I met plenty of smitten tourists like myself, annoyed employees, hasty taxi drivers who insisted to speak to me- an alien to Italian language- in Italian (which I found quite amusing). The city shouts, laughs, and breathes Italian. LOVE.
I was lucky to have been introduced by a friend to her friend who lives and works in Rome. Samir was kind enough to not only show me around, but also treat me to another side of Rome at night on the back of his Motorcycle, twice. It was fantastic! Names for you to note down:
– Campo de Fiori: has pubs all around it, and it’s great to go on a football game night. Supporters of Lazio vs. supporters of AS Roma almost had a quarrel there, but it was all so fun to watch. Rest assured, it all ended amicably.
– Sites to visit: My time was limited so I bought a red-bus 48 hour pass and hopped on and off at most of the cultural sites. Make it a point to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican (if you can spare a free day), and the Colloseum (I rented out an Audio Guide and allowed for my imagination to freely vagabond there for an entire morning. Being at the same place where “gladiators were made” definitely forced me to reiterate my faith in the goodness of humanity)
Expect to step into small beautiful churches at every corner of the city. Expect not to be spoken to in English. Expect not to stick to a schedule. Expect the unexpected!
– For those of you who are lovers of art, Il Vittoriano Museum is definitely worth a visit. I was lucky to be there in time for an eccentric art exhibition by Italian artist Bruno Pellegrino, and then I waited in line to climb the top of Il Vittoriano and enjoyed a breathtaking panoramic view of the whole city.
– For those of you who are lovers of Tiramisu, make it a point to visit Pompi at Via Albalonga. It is allegedly the best in Rome and does serve Banana Nutella Tiramisu!! Don’t go on a Monday night though. I did, and it was closed.
Mode of Travel
We travelled from Dubai via Paris with Air France. We had a very smooth flight on the way there and back. Once in Italy, we used the train to travel to Florence and back for a friend’s wedding (which was also magical)
“So Rome, in a nutshell (the travel junkie does not believe in nutshells) is at once enchanting and enchanted. You will feel it the moment you set foot in the city. You give her love. She gives you inspiration. So do allow yourself to get immersed in its wonders. Take note of its untouched architecture. Gaze at the abundance of its random local art. Acknowledge family ties between its locals. Admire its elderly couples still holding hands at the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. Make friends with its Pinocchios! Hop on its carousel rides! Overdose on its Amaretti Gelato, and then before bed, rewind, write, and archive! Get lost!”