One of my favorite ways to prepare to travel to a new city is to make a playlist. You can read travel books or blog posts to get all the necessary information about accommodation, restaurants, must-see monuments, etc., but nothing can quite capture the spirit of a city like music. The perfect playlist will get you counting down the hours until your flight takes off, and may also serve as background music to blast from your earbuds as you wander through the unfamiliar streets. There’s nothing quite like humming along to Billy Joel’s “Vienna” while walking through the wide Venetian boulevards or belting out Joe Dassin’s “Les Champs-Élysées” while strolling along the avenue to which the song is dedicated.
When traveling, I find there are times when you want to absorb the ambience of the city around you, but there are also times you want to create your own soundtrack to life. When the headphones go on and the street noise becomes background accompaniment, you can focus more clearly on your visual surroundings. A few months ago, I visited Rome on a solo trip, and prior to my departure I made a playlist to capture the essence of the city of love. I’ve broken up the playlist into 3 parts: songs for a daytime adventure, songs for a midnight romance, and songs for the eventual goodbye. I hope this post inspires you to take up making your own travel playlists — whether you are looking for that extra boost of motivation to finally book a flight or whether you’re looking for some thematic background music for a long day of wandering through foreign lands.
Part 1: Some Songs for a Daytime Adventure
My days in Rome were certainly up-tempo, with overwhelming crowds at every tourist destination, Vespas whipping by in the streets, and the general hustle and bustle of everyday life. A cappuccino a day (or three) seems to give the Romans lots of energy. So, to start off my Roman playlist, I included some songs perfectly suited to celebrating life under a sunny sky and getting lost with no intention of being found.
1. Mambo Italiano ~ Dean Martin
You better be careful where you play this song. It is impossible not to dance to. I made the mistake of playing it while on the bus at rush hour. When my feet started tapping along to the beat, almost of their own volition, the toes of the people next to me were in the danger zone.
2. Volare ~ Dean Martin
There is a reason the first two songs in this playlist are sung by the “King of Cool” Dean Martin. His rich voice and the upbeat tempo of his songs will have you wanting to volare (fly) and catare (sing) along with him.
3. Rome (Wasn’t Built in a Day) ~ Sam Cooke
A metaphor for love, relationships, and all the good things in life that take a little time but are so worth it in the end.
4. When in Rome ~ Billy Joel
This anthemic song is dedicated to all the couples out there working their 9 to 5’s by day and returning to each other’s arms at night. In one of Billy Joel’s most underrated songs, we see a different interpretation of “Do as the Romans do.”
5. Once in a Lifetime ~ Sammy Davis Jr.
“And this is my moment // My once in a lifetime // When I can explore a new and exciting land” … Seems pretty fitting
6. What a Wonderful World ~ Louis Armstrong
A song to remind you to take in the wonders of the world around you — from the “bright blessed day [to] the dark sacred night.”
7. For Me Formidable ~ Charles Aznavour
With clever lyrics combining both French and English, this song will make you want to fall in love in another language.
Part 2: Some Songs for a Midnight Stroll
As the sun gives way to the moon and the stars, it’s time for the romancing to begin. I find there’s nothing like some classic crooning to inspire a little swooning.
8. That’s Amore ~ Dean Martin
For when you want to get your Lady and the Tramp on.
9. On an Evening in Roma (Sott’er Celo De Roma) ~ Dean Martin
I think the title pretty much speaks for itself.
10. Il Mondo ~ Jimmy Fontana
As with most people (whether they’ll admit it or not), I have subjected my shower walls to many off-tune renditions of my favorite songs, and out of all the songs suited to shower-singing sessions, I have found “Il Mondo” to be one of the most epic to belt out without abandon. Whether you understand the Italian lyrics or not, the emotional intent behind every word is so powerful, you will feel as if every battle between love, longing, and loss is being stirred in your heart all at once.
11. The Way You Look Tonight ~ Frank Sinatra
Another member of the Rat Pack, Sinatra’s velvety voice adds a dreamy quality to life.
12. You Make Me Feel So Young ~ Frank Sinatra
No matter your age or relationship status, listening to this song will bring out all the hope and joy that comes with being young and in love — whether you’ve experienced this love yourself or vicariously through a plethora of romantic comedies (as in my case).
13. Smile ~ Nat King Cole
The universal remedy to life’s problems.
14. L-O-V-E ~ Nat King Cole
I love it when a man knows how to spell correctly.
15. Dream a Little Dream of Me ~ Ella Fitzgerald
Rome already feels like a dream, but this tune will make you feel like you’re walking on clouds and sitting among the stars.
Part 3: A Song to Say Goodbye
Before leaving the eternal city, you can’t forget to say goodbye…no matter what language you say it in.
16. Italian: Arrivederci Roma ~ Claudio Villa
English: Arrivederci Roma ~ Dean Martin
Spanish: Arrivederci Roma ~ Nat King Cole
French: Au Revoir Rome ~ André Dassary
The complete playlist can be found here 🙂