By Matt Long | Posted to LandLopers.com
Spending a week visiting Rome and Sorrento with Monograms Travel was as much fun as I’ve had in a long time. I haven’t traveled very extensively in this part of Italy, so the trip was very much one of new discoveries and moments of awe. I have a lot to say about my time in Italy with Monograms, but as usual I want to start with these photo highlights, all originally shared on Instagram.
Trevi Fountain, Rome
It’s always a good day when you get to spend it wandering around the Eternal City. I can’t believe it was more than 7 years since my one and only visit to this amazing city. If you remember, back in February I traveled down to Colombia with “untour” company Monograms Travel and I’m working with them again, this time here in Italy. Their trips are very loosely structured which means most of the time is totally independent which is how I found myself spending hours traipsing all over Rome, from the Aventine Hill to the iconic Trevi Fountain. Famous sights are famous for a reason, and in the case of the Trevi Fountain it’s a combination of its incredible size, the stunning artwork and of course the starring role it has played in movies and literature over the years. I wanted to revisit it though for a very simple reason, it’s just really pretty. Sometimes travel doesn’t have to be complicated or overthought, sometimes it’s instinctual, visceral really and that’s how I found myself standing in front of the Trevi Fountain, eating a delicious if not overpriced piece of pizza. Was I the Super Tourist? You bet, but sometimes we all need to walk down that road. Sometimes we just need to enjoy the moment.
When in Rome… My second day was all about food as I did what I normally do when I travel, join a food tour. I’m thankful that an optional activity on my Monograms Travel trip was a food tour with Eating Europe, a company I have come to love using whenever I travel. But this photo isn’t from that tour, no, it’s from a special moment revisiting the magnificent Piazza Navona. The only other time I’ve been in Rome was 7 years ago and it was literally for 36 hours. Not a lot of experience, so one goal of mine this time is to revisit the city’s most iconic and famous sights, to remind myself what makes the Eternal City so amazing. Visiting the Piazza Navona was especially fun because before walking around the plaza, I went underneath it. An archeological site open to the public shows what used to be on this very spot, a massive Roman stadium. In fact, the horseshoe shape of the Piazza is the exact outline of the stadium, a fact lost to history literally for centuries. That’s one thing I love most about Rome, it tells the history of Western civilization in a way no other city can, all in a setting that is undeniably gorgeous. Plus the gelato is pretty good too.
Near the Spanish Steps
Rome has a certain spirit to it. That’s no great revelation, I’m certainly not the first person to fall for its mysterious enchantment. Since the city has been continuously inhabited since antiquity, people have also been continuously falling in love with it for thousands of years, but in 2017 there are some special reasons. Walking around town I thought to myself how Rome really does live up to its promise. Rome is Rome, there’s nothing else like it anywhere in the world. Quiet trattoria tucked away down unnamed streets, discovering by chance little moments of awe and wonder – it all adds up to create an experience that honestly is unparalleled in the world. Naturally, my favorite thing to do is to just meander, to soak up the spirit and to absorb the destination. There’s perhaps no place better to do that than at a small restaurant, sitting outside and enjoying the strangely warm October weather and basking in the soft glow that only the buildings and monuments of the city, this city, radiates. If you ever have the chance, do yourself a favor and spend some time here, creating your own unique moments of wonder and awe.
Of all the amazing sights and monuments I visited in Rome, this sometimes overlooked spot was my favorite – the Theatre of Marcellus. Rome fascinates me because, since it’s been continuously inhabited for millennia, you can find incredible history literally everywhere. Even more interesting, over the years Romans adapted older structures by either building on top of them or reimagining them for their own uses. That’s what happened to this incredible theater. Julius Caesar originally planned the building, but he died before it could be built. Eventually it was finished in 12 BC and quickly became the most important theater in Ancient Rome. Holding 20,000 spectators, the shows may have been what drew the masses, but today it’s an incredible example of Roman architecture. Over the years it slowly crumbled into oblivion, with businesses taking up shop in the bottom and apartments created in the attic section. In fact, people still live in those apartments, believe it or not. With views of the Capitoline Hill and all the impressive monuments, I can only imagine what it must be like to call this place home. Of course, it’s also pretty amazing to live in a 2,000 year old Roman theater, just one of thousands of little marvels found throughout the city.
After leaving Rome, I took an easy train ride down to Naples and transferred to Sorrento on the amazing Amalfi Coast of Italy. Sorrento was my home base for four days of regional exploration, although I soon learned that the city itself has a lot to offer. Chief amongst those benefits are the stunning views found throughout the city, including this one I enjoyed on my first night in the town.
On my first full day in Sorrento, I left the town to spend the day in another special place, Capri. I have wanted to visit Capri for a VERY long time and now I know it was well worth the wait. As incredible as it sounds, the island has been a popular resort since the time of the Ancient Romans, but most of us know it today as the stylish retreat for the rich and famous. And stylish it is, from the mountaintop town of Anacapri to the village of Capri itself, there’s no doubt that this is a place to see and be seen. I always love being on the water though and that was the highlight of my day. The ferry ride over of course is nice, but for something a little extra special I took a short, 1-hour boat trip around Capri itself, seeing this gorgeous place from literally every angle. This almost impossibly romantic region of Italy has so much to offer and to think, this was just my first full day down here along the coast.
I have a strange obsession with the medieval order of knights known as the Knights of Malta. Fun guy, I know. Their home is the island of Malta and the unique eight-pointed cross they use is still known as the Maltese cross. So imagine my surprise when I arrived into the coastal community of Amalfi and found that same cross everywhere. Turns out that the founder of the order was actually from Amalfi and over time the town adopted the cross as their own. Religion has always been important here, particularly thanks to the unusually gorgeous 9th century cathedral. The history this place has witnessed honestly boggles my mind and it’s still an important place today due to the remains it houses of the Apostle St. Andrew inside. There are plenty of reasons to love driving the stunning Amalfi Coast, but for me the village of Amalfi is at the heart of the experience.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
On my last full day in Sorrento, I found myself reflecting on my time not only along the Amalfi Coast. I had an amazing time re-exploring southern Italy with Monograms Travel, they really helped me get the most out of my time there. As I mentioned before though, while I enjoy the entire region, Amalfi itself seems to be just a little more special. Part of the draw to this, one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines, are of the course the homes clinging to the cliffs. The villages seem to rise from the sea, carved from the rocky hills they call home. Splashed in color, most have vines and gardens so that entire towns seem to permanently smell like lemons and flowers. There really is nothing quite like the Amalfi Coast and deciding to spend my time here along the water was obviously one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.
Piazza Navona, Rome
I can’t believe that my Italy trip came to a close so quickly. Time flew by as I spent more than a week exploring Southern Italy, my second trip with independent travel pros Monograms Travel. There are many highlights, but I think Rome will always be a special place for me. There’s nothing quite like it and although my experience with it in the past had been brief and cursory, I now feel like I understand the city a little better and appreciate why millions around the world love it so very much.