Vatican City was our first true microstate. (Sorry, Luxembourg, but you were big-ish.) Unlike everywhere else, we couldn't actually stay in the country. So, our experience in Vatican City had two distinctive sides - our "official time," which was spent within the perimeter of the microstate and our "Rome time." Our photos also fall into those two categories and since we could never really showcase our time spent outside the City walls, hundreds of shots from our Rome time wound up on the cutting room floor.
Our rental apartment was just a few blocks away from the southeast border of Vatican City. Remaining in our little corner of Rome, hugging the border of Vatican City as much as we could allowed us to really notice the little things, the details of a city that would otherwise seem epic.Barring the Vatican, all of the real tourist attractions in Rome are east of the Tiber River - which leaves the area around Saint Peter's Square mostly left alone. We got to experience a real slice of Roman life, going to "our cafe" every morning, "our gelato place" every afternoon and "our wine shop" every evening.On a particularly beautiful day, we took a walk up to Aurelio Park. Atop Gianicolo, the second tallest hill in Rome, the park gave us sweeping views over the city. People walked their dogs and bought their children balloons and popsicles. A group of older tourists walked around identifying trees.
A travel article from the New York Times, published in 1987, says that the vendors at the Porta Portese Sunday flea market are "a show in themselves." It's absolutely true that the market itself is your usual street fair fare, but the sellers make it memorable. They call out to you congenially and fraternize animatedly. They're regulars, locals, most of whom have been manning their station for years.They called your attention with signs, smiles, compliments, and - in this case - an enormous red arrow. People walked through with entire bags filled with purchases. Tourists clutched their purses and rifled through tchotchkes. It was crowded and stretched so long without an outlet that we wound up, basically, hopping a fence to get home.
Downtown Trastevere, our neighborhood, was a pretty hip and happening place. John Cabot University kept the after-dark streets filled with fashionable college students. The businesses catered to the young and tasteful, lovely little restaurants, gallery-like clothing boutiques and bars galore. The cobbled streets and 16th century buildings were the epitome of boho chic.
Our grocery shopping was done in Prati, a residential neighborhood just north of the Vatican. There was an international food shop, a gourmet Italian goods store that was spectacular and the wonderful Trionfale Market. It's one of the largest food markets in Italy and inspired a number of dinners that turned out so well, we decided to post about them. (Roman artichokes, linguine and clams, shrimp and asparagus risotto and asquash blossom dessert and our most ambitious, most delicious, braised octopus).
Our final night, we ventured over the river for dinner. Looking back over it, we could see the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica and new that if we headed straight for it, we would find our way home.