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Wonders of Rome: A Journey Through Time with Chris

Category: Destination Guides | 06.23.2023

Welcome, fellow travelers! I’m Chris, a Director and Experience Manager at HV, and I’ve recently had the pleasure of returning to Rome after a long absence. From its awe-inspiring ancient ruins to its vibrant modern culture, Rome truly is a wonder that never ceases to amaze.

The expression goes ‘Roma, non basta una vita’

‘To see Rome, a lifetime is not enough.’ And while perhaps slightly hyperbolic, with its historical streets; myriad ancient sites; iconic public monuments; teeming museums; and more than 1,500 churches, there is indeed a seemingly limitless list of must-dos and can’t-misses amid Rome’s streets. Add to this that it’s the world’s only city to contain an entire separate country within it, which is itself a vast trove of art and history, and it is plausible a lifetime would not suffice, even if the city were frozen in time.


The thing is: Rome is not frozen in time

It is a living city, vibrant and important, forever evolving and deepening its legacy. This is no Pompeii, or Venice, both little more than urban artefacts. I recently had occasion to visit for the first time in years, and was astonished by the changes that made it feel both familiar and new.

Let’s start with the ancient

Finally reopened and refurbished for public viewing, after decades of on-again/off-again closures, the Domus Aurea was Nero’s grand palace on a site adjoining what would become the Colosseum. It is hard to understate the importance of this archeological site; in the Renaissance, both Michelangelo and Raphael crawled into its rooms, by then caves, to study and emulate the frescoes to be found there.

As for the Colosseum itself, visitors can now experience the fabulous labyrinth of what was once its underfloor, the hidden staging area where gladiators and beasts were prepped to do combat. Not far away, the city has at last opened the temples in the Largo Argentina – long a feral cat sanctuary, protected by a “moat” of roaring municipal buses – to up-close-and-personal inspection.

And then there’s the culture of contemporary Rome

Always a place of energy and style despite its traffic, crowds, and noise, the city has made gigantic strides in making itself more liveable. New restaurant patios abound; backfiring mopeds have been replaced with environmentally friendly, quiet e-scooters; and vastly expanded pedestrian zones make strolling through the historical centre more pleasant than ever, rendering the streets so safe that even bicycle and Segway (!) tours are now available. Dare I say that some aspects of Rome are even ‘cool’ these days, with the solid but somewhat stodgy trattoria now joined by flashy, glass-enclosed restaurants offering more experimental menus amid chic décor.

This newfound coolness extends to the accommodation scene too

Long the domain of elegant but fusty “Grand” hotels, the Roman landscape is now speckled with boutique chic – JK Place, Cosmopolita, Nobu, and Six Senses are cutting-edge brands to open of late, with ROMEO Roma soon to join them. On the short-term rental front, where a stay can make one feel more integrated into Roman life, the new Palazzo delle Pietre provides a wonderful base for exploration near Montecitorio, in the heart of the pedestrian zone. And yet, in true Roman style, no matter how design-forward a property may be, there is always antiquity to compliment the modernity: a 2nd century bust of Centurion standing watch below a Rauschenberg, or a Warhol hung above a Renaissance mantel.

By integrating its storied past into the present, the Eternal City has guaranteed its future and should remain…eternal. I am looking forward to my next return – of course I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain to safeguard this – to again see what is new in one of the oldest of world capitals.

Join us in Rome

Also read our guide: “A perfect week in Rome

Who is Chris?

Chris left his home and native land at 23 for a five-month, 10,000 kilometre cycling trip through Europe and never looked back – mostly because, after that much time on a bike, he could no longer rotate his neck in either direction. Prolonged stops in Burgundy, northern Italy, and Tuscany instilled in him the travel knowhow to fuel a two-decade-plus career in luxury vacations, as well as the language skills to order a kir royale or prosciutto e melone without having to point at the menu. An active cyclist to this day, Chris is often seen pedalling the streets of Toronto’s west end on nighttime rides, dreaming up innovative travel ideas when not frantically dodging raccoons. As a Director at HV, he has a hand in all aspects of our business, in particular experience development and guest management.

Interested in chatting with Chris? Drop him an email at chris@hostedvillas.com 

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