By Brad Leone
I started my trip flying into Milan, and the plan was to head south until we hit Rome. I was traveling with Lucini Olive Oil to visit all the estates and orchards they use to make olive oil. It was a trip made in heaven and for 5 days I thought I had just about the best Italian trip one could ask for.
The time came to go home and I was planning to fly out of Rome. Then it hit me: my good friend Gary, who is a manager for Bus2alps, is living in Rome and is one of the most interesting people I know. It was a no-brainer that I had to stay an extra day and hang with Gary, a guy who could show me the real side of Rome that you can’t just stumble upon.
The taxi dropped me off and waiting downstairs was Gary. We dropped my bags off and started to hit the pavement. First stop was one of the best lunches I had in a while: braised rabbit in a lemon and wine broth served with a simple tomato and pasta soup, paired with a ½ liter of red wine, as one does in Rome. This place was the best; I was probably the only one speaking English and you could tell it was the spot where the locals ate. Simple and delicious dishes, the Italians really hit it on the head with less is more as a philosophy; let the ingredients do the talking.
From there we walked around and had one of the best espressos I’ve had in a while, if ever (the most expensive one in Rome, Gary told me. $1.25). Both the lunch spot and the espresso were in shops that I probably would have walked right past.
In my experience in traveling, it’s all about having a local with you. Someone who knows THE spots and the language will always take your traveling experience from a 5 to a 10, and since Gary has worked for Bus2alps in Rome for almost three years, he knew where to go. We walked past the normal tourist spots and stopped in at small little bars for a drink or two. Then, we swung past a skate shop to say hi to some friends and get a jive on the night’s plan. Both of us were ready for some dinner and a shower, so we headed back to clean up.
For dinner we went to another gem that I would have passed and had some pizza and some fried rice balls whose name I can’t remember [editor’s note: suppli], but Gary was right for ordering them. Perfectly crispy and greasy and what I needed for a night out in Rome ahead of us.
Next stop was a bar right in the heart of Rome. It was still early so we hung around and chatted with a beautiful bartender that Gary knew. Not for nothing but Gary seemed to know everyone in Rome and I can’t say I was mad about it. We drank and chatted for a few hours and then a lady came around and offered us wristbands. Turns out the wristbands got us on onto a bus filled with beautiful young people (I kid you not).
The bus brought us to some crazy nightclub where people were waiting on line just to get in as we strolled right past them. Once inside it was people dancing and doing the whole nightclub thing. Before we knew it, it was 2:30am and my flight back to NYC was right around the corner.
Long story short, I made the flight and even had time to have some tea with ol’ Gary. I was stoked to see Gary but what we managed to do in the short period of time really blew me away. Now I just have to figure out a way to get back to Rome and get some more of this inside travel treatment.