Night and Day: Two Ways to Experience Rome
“The city- so grand and monumental- becomes intimate and approachable [at night]”– Rick Steves, Rome After Dark
Rome is a city of history, romance, food, and culture. Everywhere you turn the city is bustling with tourists and locals enjoying pizza, pasta, or gelato in the shadow of the Colosseum or the Pantheon. There are fountains built hundreds of years ago right around the corner and ruins towering in corners right next to restaurants and cafes. Walking around the city during the day is a breathtaking experience even after you have lived here for five weeks. Every day I have seen something new and exciting. Public transportation ushers crowds of people as they make their way to work or to explore the many historic sites, shops, markets, and restaurants. Towards the middle of the day as the temperature rises the city starts to wind down. While tourists attempt to get in as much sightseeing as possible many of the locals head home to relax, run errands, or maybe even take a nap. When the sun sets, however, the city begins to come alive in a whole new way. The city itself takes on a whole new light of socializing, eating, drinking, and karaoke. The best way to experience Rome is to explore both during the day and at night because they are two very different experiences. Living and studying in Rome has given me the unique opportunity to experience it as both a tourist and a local.
As a tourist, we had walking tours all around Rome seeing as many sites as possible. These tours were early in the morning so the temperature was fairly cool but still very hot compared to Colorado. During the day it is easy to see all the incredible details of many of the monuments. One of the most detailed I have seen is the column dedicated to Trajan which spirals scenes of his victories. Each recreation features scenes from the battles with small intricate men, horses, and weapons. To see amazing pieces like this you simply have to turn the corner or lookup. The best part of walking around the city is the unexpected findings of famous structures. I loved the Pantheon because the back looks like a building in a cute little square, but as you turn around the corner you see a building that looks exactly like what you’d expect to see in Rome. It is a huge structure held with columns that you can’t wrap your arms around and topped with the classic triangle design. Seeing this structure during the day makes you feel like you’re in one of the most romantic and gigantic museums in the world. Sites like the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Roman Forum, and many others that you have seen in movies seamlessly blend into the city that you may not have seen before. To both Romans and tourists, these places are incredible but for locals, they are part of everyday life.
During the day as a local, the focus is on coffee and transportation. Doing daily activities like work and errands create a more fast-paced and serious environment compared to the nightlife in Rome. You can see Italians going to their favorite coffee bar and starting their day with a cappuccino and cornetto. Public transport seems to be the most crowded in the morning as people make their way to work. There have been several instances on the way to class where the tram is so full people are practically spilling out the doors. However, when I say busy transportation I mean busy in the Italian sense of the word. Italian time is different than American time. Americans value their time and expect everything to be on time. Italians go with the flow and are not always punctual. Transportation is like that as well but they seem to be a little more on schedule in the morning. Throughout the day to keep them going Italians have anywhere from 3-15 shots of what we call an espresso. In Italy, they call it cafe and you drink it at a bar quick and easy as you walk around the city. It is a very normal routine for an Italian and became a very normal routine for me as well. Rome during the day is a lively city of people living ordinary lives and occasionally dealing with tourists. After the bustle of the day when the temperature starts to get hot, the city begins to slow down. It becomes more peaceful (excluding many of the tourists) as everyone rests in preparation for the nightlife.
As the sun goes down the city begins to light up. Restaurants along the streets turn on string lights, the lights from the tents down by the river reflect in the water, and neon bar signs light up the streets. The night time has a different vibe that made me feel more like a local despite the moments where the language or cultural differences got in the way. With the temperature lower there are a lot of people out, but they do not have places to be like they do during the day. This means people are gathering around to be social and maybe have a few drinks. Open places like the stairs in Trastevere right next to the river become a place for all kinds of people to come together. Even some piazzas with historical sites attract many Romans looking for a chance to meet up with friends. The streets lined with restaurants are also filled with Italians enjoying their dinner. Some streets have music floating in the air and couples dancing right in front of the restaurants. The river also comes alive at night with tents filled with shops, carnival-like games, restaurants, and even foosball tables. The environment is cool, relaxed, and romantic. There is something special about the little streets of Rome at night.
The nightlife also offers many unique bars and clubs that create a slightly different environment. Our two favorite bars in Rome were G-Bar and Scholar’s Lounge. G-Bar is a small place with study abroad discounts, loud music, and people spilling into the street dancing. Scholar’s Lounge is an Irish Pub right in the center of Rome that attracts many locals and tourists. Scholar’s Lounge like many other bars in Italy has Karaoke some nights. The cultural diversity of the city really shows as you jump from songs from Lion King performed in German to Mama Mia songs, to an Italian ballad. Some of my best nights include going to these bars. The city also offers unique bars like from Vaudvillien style to Bars made completely out of ice. The bars here are more for the social and experience then just getting drunk like they often are in the U.S. Pretty much everywhere sells alcohol so you go to bars to sing karaoke and meet people from all over the world. The best way to find great places is to simply wander.
When you wander through the streets and alleyways it is likely that you will come across famous sites but at night, the lights shape them differently providing a whole new experience. Most of the buildings are lit up from below casting an almost eerie light on them. This effect though does not make them seem unreal but rather accentuates their magnificence. The Colosseum looks massive as it sticks out of the landscape, the Trevi Fountain sparkles from the reflecting water, and the Roman Forum takes on a new vastness with the contrasting light and dark. Whether it is the cool air, the few stars, the random music, or the lights, something about the night makes experiencing the sites magical. The feeling is one that is hard to describe so I think the best way is to show pictures.
When I left, my uncle told me to simply “take it all in”. It was the moment when I was sitting at a cute restaurant on some random street that I really understood what he meant. I looked out onto the street and realized how truly happy I was in that moment. Italians love life and strive to live from moment to moment. In the states, it is always so busy that we often forget to just sit and take everything in. We can take a few tips from the Italians- live in the moment and enjoy every experience life has to offer. Rome really is a place that can be experienced in two ways so make sure you enjoy every moment each one has to offer.
About the Author
Taylor is a Junior at Colorado State University with a double major in Theater Performance and Hospitality Management. She grew up in Greeley, Colorado and has wanted to attend CSU since she was in seventh grade. She loves learning as much as possible about different cultures. Some day she hopes to work in the international tourism industry. She wishes to thank her parents, professors, and everyone in her program for making this trip a dream come true.