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Roman Rituals | Day 1 ~ Part 2 of 2

Mustering up all our leg strength, we left the former-arena and climbed up to Aventine Hill to reach Giardino degli Aranci – literally ‘Garden of Oranges’. This orange garden is a romantic and relaxing garden of fragrant orange trees, secluded in a square next to Basilica di Santa Sabina all’Aventino, also having a magnificent view of the city’s skyline. In the background, a trumpeter tooted the melody to ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’ as we strolled through the garden, admiring the serenity and landscape.

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A little further from the garden was ‘Il Buco de Roma’ (literally ‘The Hole of Rome’); this is basically a small keyhole in a large door, which when peeped through magically frames St Peter’s Basilica in the distance like this:

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Pretty cool huh? Well… it’s better in real life.

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The cloud had finally lifted and the sun bore down upon us as we descended Aventine Hill and made our way to see a pyramid. Yes, you heard me. Everyone knows of the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum and the Pantheon, but how about a Roman pyramid? The Pyramid of Cestius is 36 metres high and only one metro stop away from the famous Colosseum. You have to pay to enter and explore the grounds but you can see the facade for free, take a selfie, and confuse your friends and family…

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Right nearby we had to take a quick trip to the Colosseum before sunset for a selfie (or ten) and then walked to another neighbourhood to explore: Monti. Night had fallen and neon-lit signs illuminated Monti’s streets as we suddenly became desperate for some gelato. Alas, each shop we tried to locate from google maps seemed to not exist, which then followed by bitter disappointment to find the shutters down and a note saying CLOSED. Hunger pangs hit hard, the carbonara wearing off and a craving more pasta filled its place.

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The next place on the list was in a neighbourhood a lot further from Monti, closer to Piazza Navona, which even the thought of heading to drained the last of the carbs from our bodies. We pushed on, winding through the dimly lit roads of Monti, but also enjoying the ride by peeking into lit doorways; nestled into buildings and alleyways, you can spot Italian artisans at work in neon-lit motorcycle repair workshops, mosaic art studios, antique bookshops, silversmithing nooks, and guitar ateliers (featuring guitarists playing sweet melodies into the night).

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At long last, we found gelato.

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‘Cul de Sac’ was the restaurant of choice for the evening, and if we’re talking about typical Roman dishes, Cul De Sac should be on your list; located in a more touristy area near Piazza Navona, Cul De Sac’s dishes could surprise you and bring about images of olden-day Roman meals; ‘tongue in mustard sauce’, ‘Roman-style tripe’ and a rather ambiguously named ‘beef rolls’ are all on the menu. If you’re stomach can’t quite handle the idea, there’s a selection of delicious homemade pasta dishes (I had the ‘Roman Ravioli’ – large and flat ravioli parcels filled with ricotta and cheese and topped with tomato sauce and parmesan) and a wide variety of incredible meats and cheeses – do not by any means hesitate to order a ‘bufala’ mozzarella ball and ask for a bottle of olive oil – it will be the best experience of your entire trip. Sweet yet juicy, creamy yet firm, this little dairy ball of delight could satiate you for an entire meal with some bread and oil in itself…

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*drools again*

*and again*

*help, somebody, pls*

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Grabbing some canoli and espresso to fuel our night out…

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To end the night. we wanted to experience some kind of Italian nightlife, namely involved wine – you can’t come to Italy without tasting the wine, right? Ai Tre Scalini, located (frustratingly) back in Monti hit just the spot; the friendly service, lively locals, quirky decor, amazing selection of wines and buzzing atmosphere made us want to stay there the whole night. The wines were really incredible and alongside each glass, we got a little metal bowl of these delicious crunchy snacks (I must repeat: FREE SNACKS!!!) It’s definitely one of those places that would become my regular drinking spot if I lived there… a girl can dream.

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To close the night we travelled to “Gregory’s Jazz Club”; hidden away on a steeply inclined road, the small venue had incredible live jazz music, which is played every night, and an alluring cocktail menu – make sure to book a table on busy nights if you want to head upstairs to watch the incredible musicians in full swing. I grabbed an Aperol Spritz – which by the way is THE most delicious drink and I can’t stop thinking about it – and listened to the jazz float from the top floor to the ground floor – we didn’t book in advance and sadly had to just cheekily run up and down now and again to peek at the musicians.

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Anyway back to the Spritz: this delicious drink is an Italian classic, made with Italian aperitif Aperol or sometimes with Campari (for a Campari Spritz). However, Campari is far more bitter and, for me, less palatable – I began to have flashbacks to when I ordered it by mistake in Cinque Terre but had to down it in sadness at spending 7 euros on a drink I didn’t like. Alongside a glug of this aperitif, it’s mixed with soda water, prosecco, and a juicy orange slice. 

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Head here for Day 2…

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