My #RomeWithGoogle Adventure

My inaugural project with Google Arabia, and what a project it would unfold to be! When the charismatic team over at Google contacted me to be a part of an exciting adventure across Rome, Italy, I was dumbfounded for a solid thirty seconds before snapping back to reality.

Italy, one of my favorite countries in Europe, where its completely acceptable to overload on pasta, pizza and red wine without looking like a ravenous idiot.

To complete a vibrant group, the hilarious Karen from Secret Squirrel Food and Stef from Dubai Eye joined me on the trip. Rome didn’t know what was coming its way!
The project was simple; navigate through Rome with your new Samsung S6 Edge Plus equipped with Google’s applications and a data-packed Italian sim card.

With our flight delayed a couple of hours, we landed in historical Roma on Friday evening before meeting with the Google London team for a quick briefing of what was to come and a phone handover/setup. Now that business was done, we sped to the nearest restaurant to devour a bowl of delicious pasta.

Day One – Let the fun begin!

Up bright and early, Darrel from Mode Hunter and I ventured across the streets of Rome to shoot a couple outfits for the blog, before heading back to the hotel for breakfast.


After breakfast, we were off to Terezza Caffarelli, a beautiful terrace overlooking the city of Rome. Here, Oliver Astrologo, a professional Italian photographer based in Rome who is famous for his Roma video, took us through his personal tips when it comes to capturing the perfect photo. Here are my top three tips:

1. Keep it clean – avoid distracting backgrounds.

2. Follow the rules of composition – Keep images align with your grid, don’t always center your subject and use curves and converging lines (and them break them!)

3. Organize and share – Something we all really need to do. We take hundreds and hundreds of photos, but when asked to source through them, it takes us a lifetime to uncover them. Google Photos is the solution and something I will go through in details later on in this article.

With Oliver’s tips inspiring and fuelling the photographer within, we teamed up into pairs and were given fifteen quiz type face cards. Of the fifteen, five tasks were to be completed physically, while the rest were Google search type questions such as, “What do Rome’s coat of arms looks like” or “How long is Tiber River”. Now, for the remanding five challenges, we had to scale across Rome in small electric cars, using Google’s applications.


After uploading the location coordinates using NFC tags, we were off! The first challenge Darrel and I tackled was to travel to one of Rome’s famous coffee shops, La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D’oro, and order a cup of coffee in Italian using Google Translate.

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Our next challenge was to head to another of Rome’s hot destinations, Giolitti, and order a huge cup of dessert using the image recognition feature on Google Translate.

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So what the image recognition feature actually does is translate the words live onto your screen as you hover over them. This has finally made French and Italian menus so easy to read!


To get from point A to B, we used none other than the lifesaving Google Maps. This is an application that I have used for a couple of years now and an application I owe early meeting arrivals and dinner dates to. A couple cool features that really intrigued me about Google Maps, was the application’s ability to highlight whether the traffic was highly congested, slow or on the move, like so:


Another cool feature was the timeline. This allowed you to view all the places you visited in chronological order, at the specific time and for how long you stayed (this is something you wouldn’t want your partner getting a hold of!).


To have a shot at winning the Amazing Race styled adventure, we had to reach our finish line before 5pm. Our finish line wasn’t your ordinary finish line, it was a former barracks that has been recently refurbished into an outdoor cultural festival known as NuFactory. The three founders of the festival took as through an extensive tour of the grounds, where we observed some spectacular pieces of art.






NuFactory is currently in its sixth year of celebrating art and creativity in the Italian capital. After the festival, the former barracks will be demolished and the area will be reactivated thanks to a vast cultural program. The creators of the Outdoor Festival are working with the Google Cultural Institute to digitally capture the artworks and create an online, virtual exhibition. You can find more information the outdoor festival brochure.

To cap off an extraordinary day, we dined at one of Rome’s most popular restaurants, Pierluigi, that boasts a wine list of over 300 pages. Here, Darren and I, along with Karen and Stefanie were announced tied winners of the day’s competition (boom!).

Day Two – Buon Appetito

We were up bright and early on our final day with Google to head off to the local fruit and vegetable market, Campo de’ Fiori. Here, we would jump between the market to local delicatessens and butchers, sourcing some of the freshest Italian ingredients ahead of our cooking class.


With our ingredients ready, we entered a tight staircase and into an apartment refurbished and owned by a hilarious chef called Fabio. The gorgeous apartment overlooks the beautiful Tiber River, and would soon be our playground for an Italian style cooking class.


My level of appreciation for pasta grew fourfold after Fabio took us through the steps of making our very own ravioli and curled pasta. From there, we worked as a team to dice cherry tomatoes, eggplants and zucchinis. Halfway through the class, we realized that within an hour’s time, we would be eating everything we were making. So much time put into making something that is devoured in less than twenty minutes. The things we do for food, right?


During the course of our cooking class, we ensured that all the photos we were taking on our phones were being backed up on Google Photos. This application would soon become a lifesaver and something I will use on a daily basis for months to come. A free serviced smartphone application that simultaneously backs up all your photos as they are taken. It gets better though. Say you’re out one night and want to show your friends photos from your trip to London last year, all you need to do is ask Google Photos “show me my photos from London last year”, and voila! Though, my favourite little feature was Google Photo’s ability to gather photos based on single worded commands such as “green” or “sunglasses” or even “food”.


After making a huge mess in the kitchen, lunch was finally served! If there’s one thing I love about Italy other than the fashion, it’s definitely the authentic, delicious and mouthwatering food.

With our communal lunch, came the end of an incredible couple of days with the Google team in one of my favourite countries. I learnt so much about how Google’s applications can be integrated into my life, and I highly suggest you do the same! Everything from Google Maps, Translate and Photos can somehow be used to make your life far more stress free.



Founder of SMF, Elias spends most of his time travelling the world, attempting to become the first Lebanese surfer and rocking the white pant + double breasted blazer combo.