People come out at night in Rome. And not just tourists–regular Roman citizens go out in the evenings to enjoy the cool air, good food and the company of friends and family. Dinner is late by American standards. Seven o’clock is kind of early to start dinner. A lot of restaurants don’t even open until then.
Going out in the evening is a nice social tradition. I noticed that many couples, especially the older ones, make it a habit to walk arm-in-arm. I like that. They dress up, too. Not like we Americans. It seems we’re always casual, except on a few special occasions. But I digress.
Rome has many plazas (piazzas) where lots of people congregate in the evening. After a day in Vatican City, we returned to Rome to get a taste of the night-life. We followed the Rick Steves’ chapter, “Night Walk Across Rome”, www.ricksteves.com rather haphazardly because we were looking for a restaurant as we went.
First we found the Trevi Fountain. You can’t see this fountain until you’re suddenly there because it’s tucked away in between buildings. But you can hear it and feel the energy from the happy crowds as you approach it through the narrow streets. This large Baroque fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1762. The water comes from one of Rome’s many aqueducts. This is a great place to people-watch. Tradition holds that if you stand in front of the fountain and toss a coin over your shoulder, you get a wish and you will return to Rome one day. So of course we had to toss coins over our shoulders. I’m going to have to come back to see all the things I missed the first time around.
After the fountain, we stumbled upon the Pantheon. The Pantheon itself was closed (we went back when it was open–I’ll get to that), but there are many restaurants on the square surrounding it. It was a lively place, but we moved on.
I think we must have had the map upside down, because the next place we came to was Piazza Venezia, in the complete opposite direction of the restaurant we were looking for and not part of the walking tour. This plaza is not a place where people hang out, as it is a busy intersection. But it looks pretty impressive at night, with its beautiful, white building topped with huge statues on the roof, all lit up. For us it was a landmark telling us we were going the wrong way.
We turned around and made our way–finally–to Ristorante il Gabriello on Via Vittoria, not far from the Spanish Steps. The restaurant was a nice place, and the food was good, though the portions were smaller here than at some of the other places we ate. Drew and I split some ravioli with spinach, and our daughter, Kari had an entree. For 2 meals, it cost €33, which was about what we paid for 3 meals the night before. But I would eat here again. The food was very good, as was the atmosphere. We all enjoyed our meal.
We ended the night at The Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna). This is a beautiful spot with a picturesque fountain, bright flowers, and a lively crowd. The steps lead up to the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican, where there is a pretty view, especially at sunset, but the real attraction is the people congregated in the plaza, and the designer-name shops nearby on Via Condotti.
After a long day of sightseeing and walking, we were ready to hop on the metro and head quickly back to our hotel for some sleep. It was not to be. We were very disappointed to find that the metro had shut down early (for construction or something) and we would have to take a bus. When we finally figured out which bus we needed to take, it was late and we were in danger of having the busses shut down, too. But we managed to cram ourselves into what was an already jam packed bus on one of the last runs of the night–along with about 100 other tired tourists. We were literally smashed together with no room to breathe with all the other people desperate not to have to walk home. (I don’t know how they got the bus door shut) It was the most uncomfortable bus ride of my life! We were relieved to get off the stifling bus, but then we kept getting turned around trying to find our way back to the hotel. (This was a recurring theme tonight). By this time we were all exhausted, frustrated, and starting to worry about our safety on the streets of Rome at this late hour. My husband finally figured out where we were (I am notoriously bad about directions) and got us safely back to our hotel. We all gratefully collapsed into our beds just after midnight.