Saturday 30 April 2011

Rome Beer Trip: Veni, Vidi, Vici, I Got Drunk

Here’s a video of my trip to Rome, including some of the sights and some of the beer bars. The music was a choir singing in the Pantheon – an amazing sound.

Rome is an incredible, awesome place. It’s impossible not to be struck with a sense of wonder as you walk the worn streets, to be filled with the stories, shadows and shapes of history, to wonder how many great men have walked here or seen this or made that happen, to get philosophical about life and work and play and feel tiny at the base of giant and beautiful monuments.

The Trevi Fountain is stunning, a story in stone; the Pantheon makes you marvel, the huge columns holding it steady are impossible to forget; St Peter’s Basilica is the sort of place where you forget to look down only to miss something amazing under your feet, but then you look to the side and see a statue or a painting that you’ve read about or seen in books and there it is in the real world; the Colosseum makes you think harder than any other, think about the eight years it took to build, the lives of the 30,000 slaves, how they made it to be over 50 meters high, and then the fights themselves, the raw brutality of it all, the savage entertainment of it; Palatine Hill seems overgrown now, a different place to the history books, but the stories that are set there are the beginnings of the city. (There’s also the Spanish Steps which are a bit shit and can easily be skipped).

It all combines to be a powerful, almost overwhelming, experience in looking at the past and seeing it in the now. It makes you philosophical, which is where the beer comes in; there’s nothing better than a few glasses of beer to make you more loquacious about life and history and philosophise about the past and the present.

And Rome has lots of good beer. Bir&Fud, Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa (or the Football Pub which is far easier to spell and remember), Open Baladin and Brasserie 4:20 are the four places that anyone interested in beer should visit in Rome. It’s in these bars that you’ll find the best of Italian beers and the best of world beers, with each bar standing out in their own unique ways: the pizza and Italian beer in Bir&Fud, the drinking atmosphere in the Football Pub, the cool interior and the long list of Italian beers in Open and the smart dive bar brasserie with casks and kegs of world beer in 4:20.

And then there’s the food. The great thing is that food and drink is central to everything and they always go together. Buckets of home-fried crisps, aperitivo, impossibly thin pizza bases, rice balls, gelato everywhere (I am now obsessed with hazelnut ice cream), bowls of silky pasta. Our favourite place to eat was Pizzarium and the pasta in Brasserie 4:20 was incredibly good. We ate very well in Rome.

There are two warnings. The beer costs 5 euros a glass and most places serve it in 330ml glasses (6 euros for a pint). The glasses change size and shape depending on what’s in it, and the beer is well cared for and well chosen, but that’s a lot of money even by big city standards. Yet if you know it’s coming and are happy to pay, which I was, then it’s not so bad. The other is that none of the beer bars sell Diet Coke. For most people this is a good thing (I think it’s a good thing), but when you are dragging your girlfriend who doesn’t drink anything but Diet Coke around these bars until as late as she can possible bare them, she turns grumpy and you (I) have to drink very fast...

Rome is the sort of city that is hard to take in, hard to understand, hard to appreciate. It’s epic in all senses, it’s busy, it’s as exciting looking up as it is looking side to side or down. It’s also a sad place to visit; nowhere has ever struck me as so rooted in history, so important historically, with so many lives and stories played out on its maze of streets. There is also sadness that I could never tell what was real, or original, and what was new or preserved. Was I looking at something made 2,000 years ago or is that just a recreation? You also get used to seeing such enormous and beautiful buildings that they no longer surprise you and you even expect them (oh look, there’s another piazza, another church, wow that’s a big one).

As for the beer? I loved it all. It was all great, all interesting, all delicious. Bitters, pale ales, saisons, sours, beers with fruit, wheat beers, stouts. A mix of it all, all with a classy Italian stamp. I went expecting to be impressed with the beer and it beat my expectations.

For a mix of amazing sites and sights and great beer bars, Rome has to be high on the list of places to visit.


  1. Like all your Rome tour posts, great for stirring up ideas about future visits. In my recent Brugge visit it's impossible not to sit in some of these buildings that are hundreds of years old or places like the Menin Gate and not be struck by a sense of wonder about the events and people that have gone before. In historical terms when you talk about Rome and the effect they had on world history it's obviously very apparent with so much to see in one place.
    I had no real burning desire to visit, but now I have to go.


  2. That rocks! Can't wait for my stay in wonderland in July.

  3. Would that be Veni, Vidi, Bibi?

  4. I don't mind paying 5 Euros for high abv beers. I pay more for some beers back in London. Thanks for the heads up on the prices. I am going in May.

  5. Luke Corcoran3 May 2011 at 21:10

    Im loving this Rome posts since, as I mentioned in the comment on another post, im going there this year. The price of beer im not too concerned about, especially for awesome beers.
    I just have a quick question(s) about Diet Coke. Do they serve any soft drinks or at least bottled water? Do they serve spirits?

  6. I say sir, I had no idea Rome was so good for ale! Rome is amongst my favourite cities and next time I go, these places will be visitied. Considering it is 5 euros for 400ml of Moretti these prices are damn good.