“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”
-Giotto di Bondone, Renaissance painter
I fell in love with Italy a few summers ago when I visited the beautiful island of Sciliy. In reality, my relationship with the land of pasta, opera and Versace was forged for me years before I was even a thought on my mother’s mind, her own love for the country forged aged 17 on her first visit and solidified when she married in the capital a few years later. Visiting Rome has always been at the top of my travel bucket list (that by now, spans almost an entire notebook) and so as always, I lept at the chance to spend a magical weekend exploring The Eternal City with my friends.
I’m becoming a cheerleader for Ryanair’s stuff planes and too-close-together seats but hey, I like to travel cheaply. We flew Dublin to Ciampino which is, like a lot of Ryanair’s airports, about 40mins-1hr outside the city. We took a bus from the airport to Termini train station for €5 and were able to use the metro from here. On the way back to the airport, we used a taxi of which there are set fees for airport journeys!
Another of my favorites, we stayed in an AirBnB that was just around the corner from the Vatican and a great base for our adventures! I love getting to really see life like a local when I travel and I think Airbnb is a great way of getting an authentic visit, especially when your apartment is smack-bang in the middle of a more “local” area
Food and Drink
My heart beats almost solely for Italian food (and of course, staying alive and all that but….) thus I was in my element in Rome! Our first night we took a recommendation from our AirBnB owner and ate at a pizzeria across the stress which had a stone oven and the nicest margarita ever (the only item I could be sure was actually vegetarian on the solely Italian menu). As we pottered about the city, we tried to eat as many authentic Italian food places as we could and of course, stayed as low budget as we could.
When we were truly full of pasta and carbs, we took a break from the luscious Italian food and made a break for Tommi’s Burger Joint, a funky, well decorated American style fast food place which was a few minutes from our accommodation.
Love gelato as much as me? Don’t leave the city without trying Gelateria del Teatro on Via dei Coronari or along the Lungotevere; this is truly the nicest, most authentic gelato you will ever taste.
On the drinks side, we spend a wonderful evening in X where we drank stupidly strong cocktails and people watched for the evening.
What to See and Do
The Old Reliables
Have you even been to Rome if you haven’t gotten a selfie in front of the Colosseum? We arrived a little late in the evening and missed the last admission but the entire site itself is something to behold and we were lucky enough to catch it at sundown. The entire is awash with people so be careful of your stuff and of course, avoid the many (MANY) ticket totes trying to sell you (usually) fake admission passes.
The Trevi fountain, of course, is another must but beware, it’s always packed to the guilds with tourists (And pickpockets). Ditto to the Spanish Steps (which is near the Keats and Shelly Museum which I will be returning to visit asap!)
The Vatican Museum
Cheap Travel Tip? The Vatican Museum is free on the last Sunday of every month. Knowing this, we pottered along at 8.30am and joined the queue that literally spread for miles. Luckily it moved quite quickly and within an hour or so, we made it inside the illustrious halls. If you don’t mind crowds, try for a free trip. If you’re prepared to pay, be ready for a sore neck and hours and hours of wowing at the 100s of years of history hidden inside the Vatican Walls.
The “artsy” part of the city, we took this walk to the suburbs on our last day in the Eternal city. Travestere is Rome; Picture narrow, never-ending, winding streets filled with music and art and food and you’ve got yourself a great idea of what Travestere encompasses. Visit for the atmosphere, stay for the fabulous food finds.
A million years ago, my mother got married in San Clemente; a strange going-on for a then 22-year-old gal in the 60s. Of course, on my first visit to mainland Italy, I had to follow my mother’s steps (without the matrimony) and see the beautiful Basilica that my mother had gotten married in a million years previously. Unfortunately, the main church was under reconstruction but undeterred, I visited the other layers of history hidden beneath the Roman Catholic church, taking a tour of the unground remains of a fourth-century temple and an old Roman mansion.
If you’re not religious (or at least tolerant of the Roman Catholic agenda) Rome can be a tough sell. Religious admirations or not, visit some of Romes 900 churches, purely to revel in the luxury, the beauty and the astounding architecture hidden within these places of worship. There’s a number of great ‘must see guides” floating around the internet, I like this Condé Nast guide. We took the more spirited approached and visited churches as we saw them!
Seek the Ruins
It seems that whenever you turn in Rome, there are new ruins to explore. Visit the Forum; an area dating back to 500 B.C. that provides the perfect spot to walk among Rome’s ancient history.
Another great visit is the Pantheon, the burial place of Rome’s kings and other prominent figures. I personally loved Piazza Navona (pictured above) which was filled with beautiful statues and water fountains and if the Collusum’s madness is a bit too tough to deal with or crowds aren’t you thing, check out Teatro di Marcello which is another set of ruins that are equally as interesting (and half as busy!) Most of the best historical sites are around the Centro Storico so this is well worth looking out for on your maps!
Things to Note:
- One thing I was particularly struck by was the homeless situation in the city. While the Vatican is probably one of the wealthiest and glorious entities on earth, the surrounding areas are packed with folk sleeping on the street and in doorways off St Peters Square. The juxtapose between rich and poor there was a little shocking to Catholic raised me who has always been thought about how the church put the poor before others…. this definitely isn’t the case in central Rome
- Italians can’t queue, it’s a fact. Be prepared to fight for your place in line
- St Peter’s Square is more beautiful at night
- I heart the Swiss Guard