Experience Rome with all 5 Senses

Cultural Travel, Italy — By on March 23, 2011 at 7:01 am

By Briana Palma
LG Contributor

In Italy, indulgence is the law of land. People often opt for pleasure, whether in the comfort of home-cooked food or the excitement of an extramarital affair. The Mediterranean country awakens the senses, and no place more than its historic and vibrant capital city.

A friend from Rome once told me his city was the most important in the world. When I responded with skepticism and a hint of American pride, he gave in. “OK, maybe not the most important, but it is the most beautiful.”

The landscape of Rome includes some of the world’s most recognizable landmarks like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Saint Peter’s Basilica. Though the list of specific sights goes on and on, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to take it all in on a grander scale. Visit Castel Sant’Angelo and climb up to the terrace, which affords sweeping views of the city. You can also feast your eyes on the stunning panorama at the top of Michaelangelo’s dome (Saint Peter’s Basilica), or for free at Gianicolo, a hill in the western part of Rome.


As students at a language school, my classmates and I were frequently asked why we’d chosen to study Italian. The most common answer: “per piacere,” for pleasure. Dianne Hales echoes that sentiment in La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language, writing that she became “inebriated with Italian’s sounds.” During your Roman adventure, pause at a piazza or café to absorb the melodies and rhythms of the language around you.

You can also treat your ears to the sounds of opera in the country that created it. Rome’s majestic opera house stages productions that feature some of today’s greatest voices, and in the summer months performances include an extra touch of history as they move outside to the nearly 2,000-year-old Baths of Caracalla.

As a metropolis packed with cars and mopeds, Rome sometimes produces unsavory smells. You can escape it all, though, by wandering into Villa Borghese, an enormous city park that feels miles away from urban life. Once the oasis of an aristocratic family, the expansive green space includes gardens, fountains, temples and the Casino Borghese, the villa that houses the prestigious Galleria Borghese art museum.

You can explore another natural space in the hip Trastevere neighborhood. Like Villa Borghese, the 30-acre Orto Botanico once served as a private garden, but today the University of Rome La Sapienza operates it and shares its thousands of species with the public. The Orto Botanico even boasts an area dedicated to pleasant scents, the Giardino degli Aromi.

If you choose to indulge only one sense during your trip, let it be taste. In Rome, you’ll find all of Italy’s famous recipes, but here, as in other parts of the country, you’ll eat best when sticking with local culinary traditions. Try Roman pizza, which differs from the Neapolitan variety with its thin, crispy crust. Or dive into a plate of cacio e pepe, pasta made with pecorino cheese and black pepper. Romans also love porchetta, boneless, seasoned pork typically served in a sandwich.

You can’t neglect your sweet tooth either, especially if you find yourself in the Eternal City during the brutally hot summer. Kiosks around Rome sell grattachecca, a cool concoction of shaved ice mixed with fruit and syrup.

In the imperial era, Rome contained public thermal baths that, like modern day country clubs, were large centers of hygiene, leisure and social interaction. Today you can still visit the remains of those constructed by Emperors Trajan and Caracalla. To get out of the past and into your own relaxing experience, however, take a daytrip to the natural hot springs (terme) of the Lazio region.

In less than two hours you can arrive in Viterbo, a small medieval city known for its hot springs, mentioned even by Dante in The Divine Comedy. Simply take a dip in the sulfurous, 135-degree waters of the Bullicame spring, or arrange for a day of pampering at spa complex Terme dei Papi, which provides a private shuttle service from Rome.

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