One of the best places in the world to indulge in both food and faith simultaneously is the ancient city of Rome, the capital of Italy. With a history spanning thousands of years, Rome’s richness can be found in its culture, architecture and cuisine.
Rome boasts 913 churches, acres of paintings, statues and monuments. While there are numerous must-see places of worship, the most prestigious is Vatican City. It is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave located within the city of Rome. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Many people come to Vatican City to get a blessing from the Bishop of Rome — the Pope. On special occasions throughout the year, the Pope makes public appearances here. Even when he’s not around, you will need a full day to tour the premises of the 44-hectares (110-acres) city. With a population of around 800, it is the smallest independent state in the world by both population and area. While a guided tour is recommended, you can also leisurely stroll through St. Peter’s Basilica, the Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel and museums. Many popes and saints are buried beneath the Basilica making it a very spiritual and holy place.
The most spectacular area of Vatican City is no doubt the Sistine Chapel. Built in 1483 AD, it is famous for its intricate frescoes created by Renaissance artist Michelangelo. The ceilings of the chapel span 12,000 square meters of grand scenes from the Holy Bible, including “The Last Judgment,” which is perhaps one of the greatest artistic masterpieces of art that has kept its vigor and beauty for so many centuries. A walk through the main gallery will leave you wide-eyed and awestruck.
Once you feed your spirit, the only natural thing to do next would be to serve your appetite. Italian food has gained its fair share of recognition around the world and for a very good reason. With handmade pastas, thin crust pizzas, fresh cheeses, olive oil, and fine wines, it is a food lover’s paradise!
Rome has many specialty restaurants that represent every major regional style of the country such as alla genovese (Genoa), alla milanese (Milan), alla napolitana (Naples), alla fiorentina (Florence), and alla bolognese (Bologna). Just outside Vatican City, you can find street vendors selling hot and crispy panini sandwiches and creamy gelato in dozens of flavors from hazelnut to stracciatella. A quick walk through Rome’s narrow alleys will get you to small family-run establishments serving pizza rustica where you can order pizza by the slice. Most food is cooked in a simple way, so you can still taste each element of the dish. Homemade pasta is served with a freshly made sauce of your choice. If you order pizza, it will be a thin crust using the freshest tomato sauce and cheese. Italians don’t believe in complicated recipes.
There are also several trattorias (casual family-style eateries) where prices are low and portions larger and ristorante (more formal restaurants with tablecloths) to chose from in the city. Try to stay away from the tourist areas if you want to taste some traditional recipes passed down for generations. Italians believe in living “la doce vita” (the good life). Eating in Italy is generally a three-hour-long leisurely fiesta so make sure you cherish each course, with a glass of wine of course!
From spectacular art to mouth-watering epicure, if you are looking for a treat for all of your senses, Rome is the destination for you.
Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal