Rome, ITALY

Rome is one of my favorite cities in Italy. I did one of my first solo trips here a month ago. I was nervous about understanding public transportation in a foreign country, but it was super easy. Upon arrival at the train station, I followed the signs downstairs to the metro, bought a pass at a newsstand on the way, and found the Colloseum within 15 minutes of arriving in Rome.

There’s a metro map on the station wall. It’s helpful to take a picture of it to keep on your phone. The name of the train is always the last station in the direction that it goes.

Traveling alone has never appealed to me, but this day roaming around Rome and seeing all my favorite spots was amazing. I didn’t have to compromise on where to go, or to think about engaging in conversation. I just left my headphones to music in and navigated myself around using the Offline Maps app. While on wifi the day before my trip, I downloaded the Rome map to the app. Finding public wifi or wifi that works is not something to depend on. If anything, you will waste a lot of time and end up frustrated. The best spot for wifi that I’ve found while traveling is Starbucks, but they don’t exist in Italy.

From the Colloseum, it’s an easy to walk to all the main iconic Roman sites which I did my first day. Right around the corner from the Colloseum is the Roma Capitale. I recommend the view of the Roma Capitale from Piazza Venezia.

By walking past the Roma Capitale and behind, you can get to the Jewish Ghetto.

Otherwise, there’s a metro stop for Circo Massimo that’s a beatiful walk along the Circo Massimo park and river to the Jewish Ghetto.

I love finding the Jewish Ghettos in Italian cities. Rome’s is one of my favorites. There’s a Bar del Cappuccino that I love for their iced cappuccinos that this adorable Italian grandpa makes behind the bar.

Largo di Torre Argentina is the location of the ruins of Pompey’s Theater where Julius Caesar was killed. The south street that borders this square are a couple great places for a good, cheap, quick lunch. Panepiù for baguette sandwiches of which I recommend the tuna, tomato and tapenade. Next to it is Pizzeria Florida where my friends recommend the pumpkin bacon pizza.

There was some cute shopping in the Jewish Ghetto in Piazza Benedetto Cairoli, like this boutique BE C.

From the Jewish Ghetto I found my way to an Italian restaurant I had been recommended to: Spaghetteria L’Archetto Pizzeria. Like most touristy Italian cities, it’s hard to find a good authentic Italian place, but this one is definitely that. The outside seating is literally in an alley with the waiters dodging oncoming cars to deliver food.

After my late lunch, on my way to the metro station at the Spanish steps, I made sure to pass by the Trevi Fountain that was just around the corner. Like a lot of Roman monuments this trip, it was under renovation, so if you are planning a trip to Italy, do some research to make sure you are coming at the right time.

The next day, I spent my morning at the Vatican Museum. I took a not so touristy road through a local neighborhood and passed through this park.

The Vatican Museum is one of my top favorite museums so I made it a priority to fit it into my short trip. I love that the ceilings and walls are covered in gold and marble statues and  Michelangelo originals.



That evening I met my friend Jen, who’s more of local having lived in Rome a couple years, and she showed me her favorite spot in Rome. She took me to Villa Borghese Gardens.


    

We walked through the park to a lookout that Jen said was her favorite spot to watch the sunset: Terrazza del Pincio. It overlooks the city and Piazza del Popolo.

We walked down into the Piazza and then stumbled on a great Italian restaurant. Again, it’s difficult to find a good authentic Italian restaurant in the touristy cities, so this would be another restaurant I’d recommend: da trani. Get the spaghetti alla carbonara. Even my friend said it was the best carbonara she had had since moving to Italy.

The next day, I had plans to meet some Italian friends at the Spanish Steps.

I arrived early so I could get caffeinated at one of the more famous coffee shops in Rome: Antico Caffé Greco. Such shops in Italy usually show in price. The cappuccinos here are €10. There’s a charge for taking a seat, so if you are on a budget, you can stand at the bar, like an Italian usually would. It’s not common to get something for free in Italy, even if you make a mistake on your order, so I was extra surprised and appreciative to receive my cappuccino for free.

A lot of Rome can be seen by walking, so my friends gave me a tour of the city all by foot. We started at the lookout point, this time by early morning light.

We stopped at a local favorite spot called Ginger, and grabbed pineapple ginger juice to go.

Walking the city of Rome to all the main sites is intensive, but it can be done. We walked through the Pantheon piazza and on to the famous Campo de’Fiori.

  

Here at Campo de’Fiori we stopped to eat. It’s uncommon to find burgers in Italy, and even more so a good one, but my friends knew a spot with great burgers, so if you are in Rome and craving a burger, go to Aristocampo. I believe they actually have locations in other Italian cities as well.


Next we walked through the french piazza Piazza Farnese and on to finish our evening in the city at the Colosseum and Piazza della Madonna dei Monti in a more hipster district of the city.


Koblenz, Germany

 I recently went to Germany for my first time to visit my new friend Michal, who I had met the month before.

I had gotten in to Koblenz late the night before and was now waking up in Michal’s home to coffee in bed, windows open, and the warm sunlight and brisk cool breeze on my skin. 

  

Michal had work every morning of my visit. So the first morning, as we rode our bikes to her work, she took me the scenic route to bike the river and Deutsches Eck (German Corner). 

After dropping her off at work, I rode around and happened upon the Altstadt (downtown). I saw an old couple drinking coffee at this shop, so I stopped for a cappuccino too. 

  

I returned back to Michal and we rode around the bridge at sunset. The architecture and weather and all was so beautiful and was a great first impression of Germany.

  

 

The next morning I found my way from Michal’s house to the hotel coffee shop that she recommended. I sat outside in the warmth of the morning light, but it was difficult finding a good cappuccino in town. 
  
 

Afterward I spent the morning discovering the Altstadt. Loved biking around finding palazzos of German architecture and secret gartens (gardens).
   

 

 

When Michal was off work, she took me to one of her favorite local roasters Kaffeerösterei Nero and we grabbed cappuccinos to go. 
   

 

We spent the afternoon walking through the Altstadt, stopping in and out of shops, and finally ending at the Schlossgarten (castle garden) at sunset.
   

  

  

 

I asked a few Germans for their coffee shop recommendations and from that got Wartesälchen and Kaffeejunge so I went on a coffee crawl the next morning. 
   

I loved Wartesälchen for its space, friendly staff, great wifi and location. Like really loved the location: on an island in the intersection overlooking this basilica.

  

But Kaffeejunge came highly recommended for a reason. The cappuccino was the best I found in town. The seating was limited, but I liked that. There were a couple spots at the bar, four at the window, and four outside right on the busy road. I definitely sat outside for an hour of car and people watching. 

  

 

I was also told a very German thing to try was Schnitzdl. So I found a spot that served it with potatoes. It reminded me of chicken fried steak by the crispy outside and meat inside, so comfort food and basically as delicious as I had been told. 

 

The next morning, before Michal went to work, we biked along the Rhein to Kaffejunge so I could introduce her. We had had a late start to the morning, and then spent a couple hours people watching and talking over cappuccinos, so it was pretty much the perfect start to a day.
   

When Michal was done with work and I with biking around the city, I met her at her studio for a shoot. Michal is well known for her moon paintings and weavings, and seeing her studio alone was an excitement for my trip, but getting to collaborate and shoot her at her studio was a favorite moment for sure. 

  

  

  

 

We then met up with Robby for a sunset bike ride along the Rhein. We crossed over to the other shore to a beach. 
  

While on the beach, I photographed Robby, to him saying, “I’ve never had someone take so many pictures of me before.” And somehow that shortly turned into some history on his life, which I was grateful for. He shared how he was from East Germany and that his parents had lived behind the wall in communism and the details of what that meant for daily life. It hit me in that moment that this wasn’t textbook history, but real life, and even just a couple years short of being Robby’s life. 
   

Travel is all about the people you meet and the experiences you have with them in the short time your life paths have crossed. That night after the sun had set on the beach, we biked over and along the Rhein, and the lights from the home windows on the dark waters while we rode through the night breeze was beautiful. 

 

The next day being Saturday, Michal, her friends, and parents were off work and we all got to spend the day together. It was such a beautiful day and beautiful experience getting to know those in Michal’s daily life and learn their culture. 

  

  

After hiking through the woods and along the Rhein, Robby introduced us to his favorite coffee shop Café am Kapuzinerplatz where there were plenty of ice coffees (affogatos) and tiramisus at our table. 

To end the day, we took a boat back across the Rhein (which was apparently a first for everyone and not just myself) to Michal’s house where her mother made a traditional German dinner: veal with potatoes and a homemade garlic basil butter, and the German fizziest water ever. 

  

  

 

Germany was not only beatiful in architecture and land, but also in the hospitable and genuine and friendly kind culture. I loved my experience here and am so glad it happened and for those I met.