I’ve been twice to Rome, once with my best friend and once with H, and both times have been pretty magical. As you’d except from a city so steeped in history, everywhere you look, every side street, every church you pop your head into offers something so incredibly breath-taking you almost become blasé at the splendour and sheer feat of what the Romans achieved with bricks and a paintbrush!
Another great thing about Rome is the food. Oh, the food. Even the tourist traps offer delicious pasta, albeit overpriced, but because Italians don’t suffer bad food it’s hard to get a bad meal in the city which definitely makes it my kind of place.
I’ve been in April and in October and in my view, both are perfect times to visit. Sunny day times and fresher nights (although October nights were warmer) it’s a fab way to get some sunshine on your bones for the weekend without spending a fortune. The wisteria in Rome in April is amazing if you’re into that kinda thing, it makes for leafy, fragrant walks. A lot of Italians go away for the month of August, and I can’t imagine how stuffy it gets in July, so Spring and Autumn are my bets. My parents once went at Christmas and said that was great too.
Rome is a much documented city, so I won’t sit here and give you all the super obvious stuff. Any first visitor to Rome would want to do the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon (one of my favourite buildings in Rome), the Roman Forum, the Vatican Museum and the Jewish Quarter (lovely). All are incredible you-can-only-see-this-in-Rome sights that deserve some time from your weekend. My only tips for the Coliseum and the Vatican are to book ahead. You can avoid some SERIOUS queues for both if you print out your online ticket and walk past the selfie stick hoards. Pleasing.
Here are some of my (rather obvious) photo highlights or just skip to my lesser known recommendations!
My tips are either areas, restaurants or food stops that impressed me, and I hope you can add some to your itinerary if you find yourself in the area.
- Finding the good spots in Trastevere
This is on every list and in every guidebook of where to go in Rome. Its narrow, picturesque streets and cute squares do make for a lovely visit. I went twice this time – once in the day and once at night and it shone at both times of day. It’s even more touristy than it was when I first went five years ago but don’t let that put you off as there are some real gems of bars and restaurants. Hybris Bar and Art Gallery is a fantastic little place to stop for a drink either before or after food. Their cocktails are well priced and expertly made with delicious all-you-can-eat snacks to go with it. Gino 51 was a lovely Italian bistro where we dined next to many Italian couples and groups of talkative Italian friends (always a good sign). I ordered a salad and it came in a pizza dough container, of course. I wasn’t complaining, it was delicious and not touristy at all which is unusual for this part of town. How did we find it? We went by font, the sign had the best font in the street. Always a good barometer!
Another great spot is Piazza di Santa Maria which is brilliant to sit and people watch. I whiled away a happy afternoon in the sunshine slowly turning my bloodstream to Aperol when my legs would carry me no further (we walked 58km across four days!).
- Climbing the Dome of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican
I have done this on each trip because the views you get of Rome are incredible. You can take a lift half way (7 euro) or walk it all (5 euro). My tip is to not do the full walk after a carafe of red and a pizza in the sunshine, it’s a long way up, it’s dizzying and pretty claustrophobic at the top but please don’t let any of that put you off! The roof of the basilica is a sight to see in itself (there’s a shop on top of the most famous church in the world?!) and then you climb the final steps to the Dome and take in the glorious city. Just be sure to take water and top it up at the ornate water drinking taps at the top. This is one of my favourite things to do in Rome, especially if you pair it with the following tip…
- Eating a slice of Rome’s ‘best sliced pizza bar none’ at Pizzarium
Once you’ve climbed that (or maybe done the Vatican Museum) you’ll fancy a pit stop. A fifteen minute walk from the Vatican’s museum sits Pizzarium, hailed as Rome’s best pizza stop. You’ll wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn into this fairly ugly, residential area but bear with it as this place ended up being our most memorable meal of the holiday. Sitting on a street bench alongside some plump looking Italian pigeons, eating pizza we’d paid for by the slice was a brilliant post-Basilica treat. The pizza is like nothing I’ve eaten. Fresh, springy bases topped with the tastiest of Italian ingredients. I couldn’t fault this causal, takeaway eatery. You’ll queue a little, but it’ll be worth it, trust me. Top tip: get a slice of the simple margherita. THE BEST.
- A cocktail with an Ancient Rome view at Hotel Forum
If you’re doing the colosseum at cocktail hour then you could do worse than sneak a quick drink on this hotel’s rooftop bar. There aren’t loads of bars in this area, so they can (and do) charge a pretty penny for pretty much anything, but the views overlooking the ancient city, especially at sunset are worth the 22 euros you’ll spend on a couple of Aperols.
- Fancy dining at Casa Copelle
If you need a break from the Italian bistro menus and don’t mind a posher, more upmarket environment then Casa Copelle is a great option. It’s a dark, beautifully interior designed restaurant serving delicious, local Italian food in a more formal setting than you get in most of Rome. You can go wild on a tasting menu or, like us, share a starter and order a main each with no dessert (we’d eaten a lot of pizza and ice cream in the day!) but it’s a wonderfully romantic place full of Italians and I loved the atmosphere. If you book (you should) ask to be put in the rooms at the back where it’s much more bubbly and lively than the entrance dining area. They also have a gorgeous little cocktail bar too. Fancy but delicious.
- Venchi Cioccolato aka chocolate ice cream of dreams
I was too busy eating the wares of this joint to take any photos, I hope you understand. You’ll see a few of these dotted around the city, and I would wholeheartedly take part if ice cream is your thing. Chocolate is their speciality so any of the chocolate flavours will pretty much blow your ice cream mind.
- An Italian market and a mozzarella bar at Campo De’ Fiori and Obicà .
One of the first and favourite things I do when I visit a place I don’t know well is to find their best market. Nothing can immerse your senses firmly in your new hood than when you’re walking through a local food market seeing, smelling and hopefully tasting some of the local produce on offer. Campo de’ Fiori does not disappoint. Eccentric market sellers stand chopping local Roman artichokes next to tourist pushers selling dodgy willy-shaped pasta. It’s a mix of traditional, stunning produce and gift packets of herbs you’ll want to take home for your mum. It is a glorious way to spend a few hours, especially if you pair it with a meal in one of the restaurants around the edge. I recommend Obicà, a mozzarella bar in one of the far corners of the market. Everything we ate and drank was incredible, and again, like most places, the people watching was fascinating. Do spend some time walking off your mozzarella by exploring the streets just off the market square, which offer some of the most beautifully traditional side street experiences in Rome.
- A night out in Monti
Of all the places I’ve been on both trips, the area of Monti was the least touristy. Full of young Italians, this area was a joy to wander around and window shop in its vintage clothing and furniture places before finding a place for dinner. Urbana 47 is my pick. Serving only locally sourced plates of Italian food, this is such a good restaurant. We sat overlooking the chefs, who were incredible to watch and ate delicious plates of pasta, drank sparkling Italian wine and then followed up with some fresh profiteroles we’d watched the pastry chef make moments before. The service was a little bit slow, but they were ridiculously busy, and who’s in a hurry on holiday? There are lots of bars to follow up with a few nightcaps, I enjoyed Libreria but there are loads to explore.
There you have some tips to help your Roman adventures along with a little pizza, people watching and mozzarella for good measure! What are your Roman tips? I’d love to know. There’s always room in my diary for another Roman adventure…