When in Rome, look up! (A different way to tour the Eternal City)

Sometimes we’re so beguiled by what’s directly in front of us that we forget to appreciate the rest of our surroundings. On a recent trip to Rome, Italy, I realized I had an ideal opportunity not only to visit some of the top things to see in Rome, but to focus attention on where I was focusing my attention.

With so many captivating sites in Rome (the enormous scale of the Colosseum and St. Peter’s Square, the grandiose ascension of the Spanish Steps, the mind-boggling architecture of the Pantheon and the aquatic temple of the Trevi Fountain, not to mention fluffy gelato oozing from practically every corner), you can easily get caught up in ticking famous Rome attractions off your list, only to realize your time has flown by in a blur of body jostling and camera flashes.

What got me thinking was a small cat who lives directly across from the Trevi Fountain:

So close...!! A cat eyes a pigeon near the Trevi Fountain in Rome

So close…!!

While we humans are mesmerized by the history, artistry and cascading water of this Rome landmark, the cat was obviously mesmerized by something different but equally compelling! And I would have missed a great laugh, as well as this bit of philosophical pondering and many more interesting shots to come, if I hadn’t bothered to look up and around in that instant.

Trevi Fountain, Rome

Trevi Fountain

So, for the rest of our Rome tour we decided to pay attention to what was up above us. The results are some of my favorite images:

Street art

Street art


Columns at St. Peter's Square

Texture and perspective in the columns of St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City

Interesting exterior architectural details:

Exposed relieving arches on the outside of the Pantheon

Exposed relieving arches on the outside of the Pantheon

An archway uncovered

An archway uncovered

And interior ornamentation:

Hotel Britannica hotel room

Our room at the Hotel Britannica

A different take on favorite landmarks:

Near the Campo de Fiori

Near the Campo de Fiori

View from the Pantheon

View from the Pantheon. What would it be like to live in those rooftop apartments, with such a view?

Greenery in the urban jungle:

Vine bridge in the Trastevere neighborhood

Vine bridge in the Trastevere neighborhood


Eruption of flowers in Trastevere

Eruption of flowers in Trastevere

And the perfect visual accompaniment to food at Osteria da Lucia in the Trastevere neighborhood:

Spaghetti cacio e pepe

Spaghetti cacio e pepe

Antique copper pots decorate Osteria Da Lucia in Trastevere

Antique copper pots decorate Osteria Da Lucia in Trastevere

In short, our advice is to take a look around you next time you travel to Rome, or even next time you find yourself focusing on the obvious. You just might make unexpected discoveries that turn an experience like this:

Inside Enoteca Cul de Sac

Inside the humble Enoteca Cul de Sac

Into something like this:

Wine bottles at Cul de Sac in Piazza Pasquino, Rome, Italy

Wine bottles at Cul de Sac in Piazza Pasquino

Does travel sometimes pass you by in a blur, or do you take time to smell the roses? What has made you stop and take a look around on one of your trips? Tell us in the comments below.

Things to do in Rome

  • Enoteca Cul de Sac in Piazza Pasquino
  • Santa Maria de Trastevere
  • Opera performances in medieval churches (check out this link)

Learn more

Related tweets

  • The flavor explosion of a salad in Italy is a surprise every time, but enjoying it after two weeks without greens due to e-coli in Germany is orgasmic
  • Then again, listening to Crystal Gayle in a trattoria near Piazza Navona is a bit of a mood-breaker
  • Just enjoyed a totally memorable evening of opera arias at Chiesa All Saints Church: totally intimate and “best acoustics in #Rome”
  • Thought we’d be smart and buy a 6 pack of large waters, but politely declined the 15 euro price. “Ok, I give you special discount of 1 euro”
  • Priest on his phone, jaywalking in front of a bus; great shoes. Must be #Rome
  • Turns out we landed here during #Rome’s annual wine festival, #Vinoform – unplanned, really – so had to make our way to the fairgrounds …
  • Last night was a great no-tourist experience in #Rome. Forget wine; it was a shoe fashion show, and every woman despite age participated
  • Hats off to Cul de Sac in Piazza Pasquino – when you think noplace in center city #Rome feeds real Romans…
  • Don’t even bother ordering – let your waiter suggest a perfectly light Frascati (or three) plus pheasant pate with truffles, best salami …
  • So glad we left centro storico #Rome yesterday, crossing the Tiber into the Trastevere neighborhood. Still touristy, but gentler
  • And oh so pretty for a Sunday stroll. Quaint. Still some clotheslines strung between bldgs, shunning modern conveniences
  • Recommend lunch at Osteria da Lucia, where we tried the traditional Roman pastas cacio e pepe (pecorino cheese and pepper) and amatriciana
  • All divine, but the panna cotta took the cake. Always thought it was like a very light flan, or even gelatin. Not here. It’s like burrata
  • At 10deg C (50F), it was 1/3 the temp in Germany when we landed(+ rainy)than #Rome’s 30 (86F). But after city heat, I kind of like it!
  • Our top wine discoveries in Italy? Firriato’s Chiaramonte, a nero d’avola from Sicily; Cormons pinot grigio from Friuli Venezia Giulia
  • Plus Encry champagne, produced in France by Italian producers
  • We weren’t familiar with mild, dry Frascati wine, but it’s our new fav – not grassy, not creamy with oak … just right for summer!
  • Top Frascati recommendations: Poggio Verde Frascati Superiore from Pallavicini and Lorenzo Constantini Borgo del Cedro
  • Italians measure their wine by alcohol content. We asked for a “light red” and they rattled off alcohol % for each bottle
  • Wines with higher alcohol % are called “more important” wines, and tend to cost more


Enhanced by Zemanta

Connect with the author on Google+


  1. What awesome photos! I recently had a similar epiphany about Zurich, where I started looking up to notice more details about buildings and views I thought were familiar… but as it turns out, only from a certain angle 😉

    I always make time to just stop and smell the roses, on all my trips. That’s why (and here you will see just how neurotic I am) I make lists of what I absolutely want to see and what I’d like to see if there’s time, and I leave time and space for just walking around aimlessly, or stopping at a playground with the girls, and so forth.

    Loved this post!

  2. Glad you liked it! You seem like a stop-and-smell-the-roses type from your writing 🙂 If you have time to post them, would love to see some “look up” photos from Zurich.

  3. Great pics, great blog! That pasta looks fantastic!!!

    I went to Rome four years ago and took a guided tour, now I realise what a mistake that was! I found the tour really rushed and the tour guide didn’t know much about Rome other than what you can pull of wikipedia! I’m of Italian heritage so I really want to look around the city some more, I plan to go once I’ve graduated from my masters degree in two years time.

  4. I guess it’s “win some, lose some” with tour guides. With or without, I’d go again in a heartbeat 🙂

  5. At least you’ve seen some of the major sites, and now can relax into your second visit. I found some of my best tips by searching “Rome” on Twitter! You might want to check it out yourself. With smaller destinations it can be difficult, but Twitter works well in large cities for providing live info on the best things happening at the moment.

  6. Great photos! We officially like your style–this is TOTALLY the way to see Rome.

  7. And vice versa 🙂 Thanks.


  1. […] GUYS. We found another travel counterpart! We learned via Twitter that @jenna_harrison also missed a top site in Rome in exchange for culture alcohol. And then she sent us this, and we love: When in Rome, look up! (A different way to tour the Eternal City) […]

  2. […] GUYS. We found another travel counterpart! We learned via Twitter that @jenna_harrison also missed a top site in Rome in exchange for culture alcohol. And then she sent us this, and we love: When in Rome, look up! (A different way to tour the Eternal City) […]

Speak Your Mind