Episode 4: We Conquered Rome in a Golf Cart! | Behind The Bucket List
Rome - A city of great beauty. Of architectural wonder and cultural majesty. Of inspiration for travellers throughout history, but also a city of chaos. Let's do this! - Yes! When it comes to bucket list destinations, there are some that contain within them a whole load of other world famous bucket list experiences. But Rome takes it to a whole new level. It really is the inception of bucket lists to the point where trying to cram them all into a single trip is nearly impossible. I mean there's a reason for the saying
'Roma, non basta una vita' - a lifetime really isn't enough, yet many cram away anyway and we're hoping our diy hop-on hop-off golf cart experience will help us on our mission to see and experience as much of the city as possible in two days. But what's the plan now that we have the golf cart? Luckily Leona here, who arranged the cart for us, has offered to help us out. One of the things in Rome is that you can be here for a week, two weeks, a month, and you just scratch the surface of the experience available. And so we want to try and show people that even when you think you have conquered Rome and finish Rome, you haven't! - Yep. Whilst Leona showed us how to drive the golf carts, and with our plan, we learned she's originally from Germany and has her own story about how, like countless others, she was captivated by this magnificent city. - Because it's just like it brings me to my personal feeling of just having like being smashed in your face when you arrive here. So 'there' and it was just there forever! - Okay.
So you have this feeling of 'I don't really care what you do, i'm just here and I'm beautiful and I'm strong!' How can we experience as much of Rome as possible in a small amount of time? We definitely recommend our cute little tiny golf carts, because first of all you get so amazingly close to the sites. So you actually get the chance to not be like on the main roads a lot (sometimes you have to because they are sometimes unavoidable but) - Yeah... like being on the small roads to get from one big fantastic beautiful site like sneaking around and then you're on the next road and just like makes it so smooth and you really can cover a lot of things, in a small amount of time. When you go to Rome the first time, when you arrive here and you just drive through the city on the back of a scooter or with the golf cart or whatever, exactly what I said before with all those beautiful sites so close to each other that's what you experience and it's just there and it's just like smashing your face in a good place! And so are there any parts of Rome that maybe... obviously you've got the big tourist sites, you've got the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps but maybe areas that people wouldn't know so much about that you would recommend for them to visit? I would recommend them to visit a park.
There's a few [parks] around the Colosseum like Villa Chigi Montagna, um one close by here, Villa Ada and... ah, there... there's a lot of green space in Rome. - And now to be able to freely explore with space to embrace and absorb what's happening around you, is a very lucky experience. Guys it's a perfect timing to come right now like if you're not stopped by fear and worries, come now. Like seeing the Pantheon that empty standing here without anyone around us... I cannot wait to experience the rest of the city and see how much we can cram in with the time that we have with our noble steed here.
Ancient ruins to explore. Iconic sites to visit. People to meet, and... a fashion shoot with a dog? Why not! It was time to have a crack at conquering Rome ourselves. Wow! - Yes! And first up, the city's grandest of entrances.
The most northerly gate of the Aurelian Walls, this is the grand entrance to Rome - Piazza del Popolo - the people's square. Formerly a place of execution now a place of grand entrances, socialising and what better place for us to start our journey into the heart of Rome. Take a drive, walk, cycle or golf cart around Rome and you'll see that every corner has a surprise waiting for you.. After all it is the capital of the country that has the most UNESCO world heritage sites and our next stop is one of the most iconic - the dome that inspired that of Florence but happens to be 1,500 years older and still considered a feat of architectural genius. Look how close we've managed to park t o one of my favorite buildings in Rome, the most well preserved roman structure, not just in Rome but in the world, it's the Pantheon.
Let's go and take a closer look. Commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus and rebuilt by emperor Hadrian its date of construction is uncertain. The word Pantheon is originally Greek meaning ''to honor all gods'' and was the building's original purpose yet eventually it fell under control of the catholic church, under which it still remains today. With the huge rotunda complex the largest concrete dome unreinforced in the world still to this day, it's easily one of the most impressive sights in Rome and a must for anyone coming to visit. However there's more than the Pantheon to this part of the city.
It's also where you can find my favourite coffee, Tazza d''Oro. The granita coffee is my favourite coffee experience in the world, you can only get them here by the Pantheon. This little shop over here in the corner where it says ...del cafe is the only place that does them like this.
Dosed up on some of Rome's highest quality caffeine, it was time to hit the road again and for our next stop we've something pretty special lined up. And since we happen to be round the corner from its official headquarters, the Vatican, we decided to try and catch a public addressing from the Pope himself. But getting there may be easier said than done. Making our way to Saint Peter's basilica we felt it'd be rude not to stop and see the angels of Ponte Sant'Angelo as well as the castle itself. You've got the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi fountain but a lot of people don't realise there's a huge castle right here in the center of Rome.
It's Castel Sant'Angelo. Now this castle was originally the mausoleum for Hadrian but now it serves as a museum but also served as a fortress for many popes throughout the medieval period. This bridge itself is adorned with angels carrying different items.
Of all the angels on this bridge there's one angel in particular that draws people from around the city and around the world and that is archangel Michael the guardian angel on top of Castel Sant'Angelo over there in the distance. From the bridge we could see the dome of Saint Peter's basilica waiting for us. After all it is the largest church in the world and kind of hard to miss.
By far the best way to cross the border into the world's smallest country and headquarters of the catholic church, the Vatican. Trying to feel the true soul of Rome here on Via della Conciliazione it's not just the soul of Rome you can feel. This street puts the soul of life deep within you. I've been to Saint Peter's basilica and the Vatican countless times before with groups, with friends, but I've never been here when there's been a live public addressing from the pope. Despite the tight schedule we were actually early for the pope's appearance so decided to take a peek inside the basilica. What better way to build some anticipation for the pope's speech than by basking in the glory of one of the holiest temples in all of Christendom. Every statue, piece of art, fresco and ornament emanate with such intense beauty and majesty.
The kind that even if you weren't already aware you were in one of the world's most important churches, you soon would be. Of all the pieces here the most impressive has to be Bernini's Baldacchino di San Pietro placed above what is believed to be the tomb of Saint Peter directly under the dome of the basilica. It may be the smallest country in the world but the Vatican still has its own military which comes in the form of the Swiss Guard. It was now time for the pope's public appearance. Good Morning! Amen! When the pope is in Rome he usually makes two appearances a week; once for the mass which is free but requires tickets the other is for the Angelus which is always delivered from the balcony of his apartment on a Sunday at 12 noon.
I thought the experience here was going to be quite intense everyone was going to be very serious obviously the pope's speaking, but there's such a good vibe here. You've got people smiling, cheering, a couple of nuns over here taking photos of each other as well. It's such a good energy here in the square of Saint Peter. The day was off to a solid start.
The schedule was coming together and by midday we had already seen so much. But now it was time to bring out the big guns, with one of Rome's biggest and best. But first a snack at Piazza Navona and a quick stop at two of Rome's lesser known spots that Leona recommended we include. Now can anyone else smell chestnuts?? It's the perfect time of year to be having some horse chestnuts obviously you've got all the Italian restaurants around but a good fresh baked chestnut from the side of the street is exactly what you need even when they've fallen on the floor. Jamie's gonna eat that one, that's fine!
I'm totally gonna eat that!!! For the two lesser-known experiences that many tourists often miss, first up is Piazza Dei Cavalieri Di Malta which contains one of Rome's best kept secrets. So we are here at one of Rome's best kept secrets and this is the Aventine keyhole. Now the Aventine keyhole is simply a keyhole in a door going into the Cavalieri Di Malta; the knights of Malta. Originally the Knights Hospitaller this was originally a headquarters for the Knights Templars.
When the Knights Templars were disbanded and destroyed the Hospitallers took over and they then became the Knights of Malta. Now this is a very well guarded complex and technically inside that you're not in Italy anymore, you're in Malta, but through this keyhole it lines up perfectly with the hedges so you get a view of Saint Peter's basilica and the dome in the distance. No one knows for sure whether the keyhole was aligned with Saint Peter's dome on purpose, but the position of the door and the trimmed hedges definitely look intentional. There's also another famous hole not far from here that's also off the beaten track.
We found Rome's legendary Mouth of Truth, however they've closed for lunch and I feel so close to discovering whether or not I'm telling the truth but I just can't quite reach. Some believe that he represents an oceanic god, others that it was a lid for a pantheon-style domed roof that would have been near here, part of an old basilica. However there is still a bit of mystery surrounding this guy but what we do know is that if you lie with your hand in his mouth, Goodbye fingers! So when trying to cram as much of Rome as possible into two days we were bound to meet the odd obstacle like the Mouth of Truth being closed for lunch, but at least we got to see it. But now for the big experience we hinted at earlier.
It's a place that's been a must for visitors to Rome since its creation in 70 a.d by emperor Vespasian and is arguably one of the most famous buildings in the world. It's the Colosseum. An experience that no trip to Rome is complete without, and shown around by our good friend and legendary Rome tour guide, Mitra. Mitra isn't just any old tour guide. She's been working closely with Expat Explore for many years leading tours but also supplying other high quality tour guides for our passengers.
There's a reason she's often referred to as the 'Queen of Rome'. I've brought passengers here for tours countless times before but have only been in once myself. I was super excited not just to be getting to go inside again, but to have a private tour. I thought i knew a fair bit about it before but Mitra showed me there's so much more to it than just being big and awesome. It represents the vast complexities of the roman psyche giving us a deeper insight into who and how they were.
It's the largest amphitheater ever built to date and its construction took eight years.. It was the home of gladiator games lasting a thousand days from the bloody slave battles through which they could win their freedom to wild animals entering on advanced lift systems. It could seat 50,000 plus 24,000 standing and whilst may have been seen by many as for the people of Rome it was essentially a giant propaganda machine serving to gain the support of the people for the emperor, whilst appeasing them through intense forms of entertainment. This architectural wonder still serves Rome today attracting over 7.5 million visitors annually. After our tour I asked Mitra what Rome means to her.
How many tours do would you usually give a week? - I would say that in a week I work Monday through Sunday, so I work seven days a week and Monday through Saturday I do three tours a day. But i guess when you have the grandeur you see here combined with someone like yourself who then adds the layer of imagination and storytelling to enhance the grandeur of what it had then you get the full package. - But those people who look for that are the people who truly are choosing to travel well because if you just come here without wanting a multi-dimensional layer I do feel you miss out but Rome truly is she is a gift of complexity and if you can understand Rome you will understand life in general better but she's such a base source for so many things we do in the western hemisphere. I mean the entire Christian faith starts here in the west. What an amazing experience we've just had in the Colosseum but what's even more amazing is that the golf cart is still here! Now all we need is our driver.
Here in Rome, two of its major sites just so happen to be right next to each other. A stone's throw from the Colosseum is the Roman Forum. The center of day-to-day life in ancient Rome and the most celebrated meeting place in all of history. It's here you can truly lose yourself to antiquity whilst also escaping the chaos for a few calm moments of reflection. It doesn't matter how many times I come here and explore the ancient roman ruins of the forum I always seem to discover something new and just when I feel like I've gotten to know it, I realise I've just scratched the surface and there's something new around every corner it's a new column a new bath house a new angle to observe the sites from. It's just the city that keeps on giving. It blows me away even today when we're here.
Driving to our next iconic site I asked Jamie if we could cram in a quick stop at my favorite Roman column. All day we've been driving around and all I wanted to do was quickly stop to see the Aurelius column because Marcus Aurelius is my favourite emperor. He's one of the few good emperors. That's not him on top of it by the way, that 's St Paul, but this column is dedicated to him, his triumphs, his stories and he's just a great guy. The golf cart was doing a great job of taking us all across the city but with its chaotic roads, a lot of which are over 2,000 years old, there was always going to be a wrong turn or two. I'm turning right, yeah? - Ah yeah. Every time we turn the corner we go down a new path. - Vatican City - Vatican City
I see something new that I haven't seen before and then I find out a bit about it. There's just so much... - I'm not allowed in tunnels! Ah, we're going in the tunnel. It's too late. We can't reverse! Haha! It's telling us to go this way anyway, so... But what would life be without its wrong turns.
Oh, we need to be in the left lane, Left lane. - OK Very Dangerous! - Very Dangerous! Surely that's where the excitement is. Talking of which, we soon found ourselves in some of Rome's narrowest lanes around one of its busiest sites, the Trevi Fountain. This is the first time I've ever arrived at a world-class landmark by golf cart! The Trevi Fountain arguably the most famous in the world, the terminal point for the Aqua Virgo aqueduct a water source 13 kilometers from here, it's probably the most iconic landmark that has a fountain in Europe. Now we're here let's take a little closer look at the fountain.
Probably one of the most important not just touristic attractions but in terms of Rome's history and its rich history of bringing water to the people. The terminal point of Aqua Virgo, the fresh water that still supplies the city today makes this grand entrance for people to see, here at the Trevi Fountain. Now sometimes you've got to use your foot to stop the cart from rolling because the handbrake's not on but that's okay we're limited it on time and so I'm going to hold it! After a whirlwind stop at the Trevi Fountain, it's time to eat and Jamie said his favorite pizza place was nearby. We all have our favourite food spots in Rome - I know I've got mine and I showed Jamie a little bit of mine earlier - but I know for Jamie this is your favorite spot! You've told me a lot about this and I know you've brought many groups in, but this is my first time experiencing what you claim to be the best pizza in Rome.
So we ate a lot of pizza in Rome, but we wanted to go deeper and not just eat them, but learn how to make a truly Roman pizza. To do which, our good friend, chef and food tour guide Fabio has offered to give us a Roman pizza master-class. But he said it's impossible to cook without first having an espresso, so he took us to what is Rome's best Pasticceria. I'm in a state of ecstasy and bliss right now and that's not just because of the sugar! These pastries are of the highest quality, uh you can taste that, and these are some of the the best in Rome you know. - Everything is from Italy, and uh pistachio is from south from Sicily
and the most famous one is Pistacchio di Bronte plus they use hazelnuts from Puglia, there's almonds from Puglia everything like flour - the organic flour - so all this stuff, there is no chemical inside. So it's the best of Italy's produce all coming together in the heart of Italy, Rome, to create these culinary delights. Then the next step is to move on to the pizza! We told Fabio we'd meet him in his apartment in an hour or so but first we wanted to check out an ancient structure just around the corner from here, one that might come as a surprise for some but also had a very different surprise waiting for us. Whoa did you see that? That guy just did a triple backflip! Ancient roman ruins, basilicas, good coffee, pizza. What people don't always expect to find here in the heart of Rome
is a fully formed pyramid. So after much searching we found Fabio's apartment. This is a bucket list experience I've been waiting to do for a long time. A pizza making class in Rome. As we journey deeper into the soul of Rome and its culinary experiences, we've had the pastry but now it is time for the pizza I believe. - Yeah you are going to see that it's very, very easy. So we have like warm water, a little bit honey inside and then this one is what we need for pizza.
We don't have eggs, we don't need eggs, we don't need lard, we don't need butter, yes. We need flour, yeast, water, salt, olive oil. How's the mixing looking? - Yeah it's perfect, it's perfect yes. Yeah but it's fine. I always make like one kilo of flour 70 to 75 percent of water. So are you just literally mixing and turning what's the approach here? - You need to do like this, from the bottom, up. Fold and press. - Fold and press here.
And if it's sticking to the hands a lot that's okay? You just you just keep going? - This one is a little bit like water inside so it's very sticky. We are lucky in Italy. It's very tasty all the stuff. Like tomato and mozzarella. We are going to use today buffalo mozzarella so it's very, very tasty. So we don't need like chicken on top. Chicken needs to be on... with salad.
I've heard that if you ask for chicken on a pizza anywhere in Italy maybe the reaction won't be so good. It doesn't exist here, we don't have chicken. - When I was a kid, I put marshmallows and peanut butter on a pizza. Is that not good?
No, cover your ears. Fabio, it's okay you don't need to listen to this. So now we have the pizza. Now we are going to put like some mozzarella on top. This one is the buffalo mozzarella. And then pork brado (wild pig). Now the pizza is ready, and now we can we can enjoy, we can try.
That is delicious! With just one final stop on our ambitious mission, where better to bask in our final day's golden, hour than one of the hottest photo spots in town. The Spanish Steps. There's nothing quite like getting to see the Spanish Steps illuminated in the golden hour of sunset.
Whilst the steps serve as a popular meeting place and iconic photo spot, there's a lot more to them. They were built in 1723 to link the Trinita dei Monte church with the Spanish square below, named after the Spanish embassy to the Holy See. The area was even considered Spanish territory, meaning in the center of Rome you could be in Spain, walk up some stairs to France, and then cross the road to be back in Rome.
Having seen sunsets all over the continent, here looking out over Piazza de Popolo the cityscape illuminated in the golden sunlight, to see everything that we've been exploring throughout the day there presented before us, really does add such a nice finishing touch to such an awesome, if not a little bit hectic day we've had exploring this magnificent city. We came to conquer Rome. To see and experience as much as possible in two days, and deepen our connection with this city of cities.
But, like so many before us, it was not us that conquered Rome but Rome that conquered us. And we couldn't be happier for it, for it truly is the eternal city and one that to conquer, an eternity is needed. But this isn't something that should intimidate travellers from attempting to experience it in its entirety themselves, but inspire them to listen to the city's calling. Like that which it sings to those who've thrown their coin into the Trevi Fountain and make that inevitable return trip. As, like the Italians say, 'Roma non basta una vita' Rome - a lifetime is not enough.