By any measure, Annie Ojile is living out the dreamiest of travel romances. Seduced by a study-abroad visit to Rome, she found her way back to the city and into the arms of a handsome hotel concierge named Giovanni. After a decade, Annie’s love affair with the Eternal City burns as brightly as ever. Her ingenious tour company Scooteroma shows off Rome’s magnificent history and modern street culture with a touch of iconic glamor.
Why do people from around the world come to Rome?
“To visit the Vatican, explore Ancient Rome and get happily lost in the ‘La Dolce Vita.’ Once you visit Rome, it’s hard to shake it. It gets under your skin and you’re never the same again.”
Both Annie and Giovanni are returned dwellers of the city. Giovanni grew up in the resort town of Fiuggi, an hour outside of the city; after building his hospitality career in London and Spain, he was drawn back by the call of his native land.
For her part, Annie still remembers the moment when, standing under the dome of the Pantheon, she knew for certain that she would someday return to live in Italy.
What do you love about travel?
“I love the anticipation of the trip. Once I decide I am going somewhere, I start dreaming of what it will be like. I dive right into learning about the history, culture, the people and always a must: the food. And there is nothing that makes me happier than taking photos, in Rome and beyond.
“The first time I left the United States was just after I graduated from high school in Minnesota. I was 17 years old and I went to Europe with my high school band. I have no doubt in my mind that it was this experience that planted the seeds to my unquenchable wanderlust that I still have today. Thank goodness I own a tour company and I can get my fix often!”
Scooteroma takes individuals and small groups on themed journeys around Rome…on a Vespa scooter. Guided by vespisti, locals who are as knowledgeable about maneuvering the tiny vehicles as they are about the city. For those who prefer a slower pace, bicycle tours are also available. But Annie asserts that covering the city on these iconic vehicles offers an experience unmatched by any other.
“What you see on a Vespa in four hours would take four days on foot or with a bicycle. But most importantly, it’s how you feel when you are zipping through the traffic like a local—it is so exhilarating. It is why I moved here and why I stay.”
What does a Scooteroma tour tell people about Rome that they wouldn’t otherwise learn?
“Since our clients ride with the locals, not only do you discover different parts of the city that you would never find on your own, or are not accessible by foot, you really get to experience a different side of the city with Scooteroma. We like to call ourselves ‘concierges on two wheels’ because we love to give our clients tips on where to eat, drink, shop and how to mix in with the Romans.”
After a decade in Rome, Annie’s passion for the city has only grown stronger. She adores the city’s electric energy, from threading the needle during centro’s rush hour traffic to relaxing with friends over a Mont Blanc from Cinque Lune Pasticceria, from the smell of roasted chestnuts rising from the Piazza di Spagna to revisiting her favorite place in the world, the Pantheon, where she never fails to touch the bronze doors as a talisman of that first moment when Italy entered her heart.
“Rome is such a layered city; hidden gems are waiting for you around every single corner. My advice is to make your own itinerary and always walk on the parallel street that everyone else is walking on. You just need to go one street over and you will discover a completely different world.
What surprises most people visiting Rome for the first time?
“Rome is known for so many things, but most people don’t know that Rome is also famous for its water. It is truly a city of fountains! All the water running through Rome comes from the ancient Roman aqueducts. So just bring a water bottle and fill it up at all the public water fountains through town called nasone. It’s the best water in Italy if not the world. Extra bonus? It’s free!
“One of my favorite streets in Rome (I have many as you can imagine) is when we scooter down Via Panisperna in Rione Monti. The view of the neighborhood with this huge green ivy hanging across the street is what dreams are made of and makes you keep coming back for more.”
“Rome is called The Eternal City because it has always been here and will still be standing long after we’ve come and gone. Every time I scooter around the Colosseum, I’m seriously humbled and reminded that us modern day Romans breathe new life into Rome. Therefore, it will probably thrive forever.”
Click here to learn more about Scooteroma and their custom-curated tours of Rome, Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast and many other cities in Italy.
Chelsea Batten is a journalist and photographer who writes a regular column on Project Bly featuring travelers, photographers, adventurers and doers across the globe. If you’re a traveler with a story to tell, email her at email@example.com.
At Project Bly, we believe that a city is a living, breathing organism, and to get to know it you have to wander its streets, the veins that fork and converge and inevitably lead you to its heart—the marketplace.