When in Rome… eat Pizza, drink coffee, oh and maybe see the sights!
- Visit the busiest attractions first to avoid the queues
- See Rome in all its glory at night
- Take a look behind the city’s tourist façade to enjoy its authentic delights
They say Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Having stood at the centre of power for centuries, Rome has borne witness to Italian poets from the thirteenth century, mathematicians whose work has shaped the modern world, physicists whose thirst for knowledge has changed our perceptions of the universe, politicians who brought about change, and much more besides.
Like all metropolises Rome has plenty to offer in terms of restaurants, bars, entertainment and nightlife, but on the flip side there are very few cities in the world where the deep sense of history and culture is so palpable.
This was my first trip since leaving university in 2016 and my first to Italy (I’m ashamed to admit).
There’s several things that attracted me to Rome: its vibrant culture, its laid-back lifestyle, its historical significance and, of course, its pizza.
Trust me, you won’t find better pizza anywhere else in the world!
Italian people are known the world over for their love of food, and being from the UK – where Pizza is one of our adopted national dishes – it’s easy to tell the difference.
Try and venture off the beaten track to discover authentic Italian restaurants down a side street, rather than the conventional high street pizzeria, and you’re sure to find some hidden gems.
If you’re a romantic, Rome is definitely the place to be.
Stroll alongside the River Tiber, follow in the footsteps of 1960s Hollywood icons Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on the Spanish Steps, dine at the swanky restaurants of Piazza della Rotunda and go for moonlit walks along the streets around Trevi Fountain.
Although, if you want to relax in the sun on the Spanish Steps or get a great photo of Trevi Fountain then you should note that both landmarks get extremely busy so I’d recommend planning your day with this in mind.
Alternatively, if you’re a history buff like me Vatican City, The Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Roman Forum are all definitely worth a visit.
If you’d rather not wait in a queue then simply admiring these palatial giants from the outside whilst drinking a cappuccino or slurping on gelato can prove equally satisfying. One should note that Italian cafes are fiercely traditional, so ordering food and drinks in the way you’re accustomed to can be considered sacrilege in Italy.
Vatican City (6+ hours)
One piece of advice before planning your day around a visit to St Peter’s Basilica – make sure it’s first on your list, and go EARLY! You’ll be queuing for hours otherwise.
My friend and I waited in line for an hour and a half before being told access to the dome had closed. We only managed to get in and climb the 551 steps to the top of the cathedral early the next day, but the views are totally worth it. You get 360 panoramic views of the city and St Peter’s Square and on a clear day you can see the Seven Hills of Rome.
Luckily we managed to avoid the queue outside the Vatican Museums located within the city boundaries, but it’s usually very busy. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’ve got some spare time in Vatican City.
And of course the famous Sistine Chapel is located within the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, which is now the site of the Papal conclave. It too is a must see since its fame lies mainly in the artwork that decorate the interior and the ceiling and The Last Judgement by Michelangelo.
I also recommend visiting the Vatican Gardens which cover more than half of the country (remember Vatican City is a state within Rome) and offer picturesque views of the dome of St Peter’s Basilica. In its grounds you can shop, eat, and drink whilst relaxing to the sound of fountains and wildlife.
The Colosseum & Roman Forum (2-3 hours)
Excuse the cliché, but the Colosseum is a MUST! And the Roman Forum is a bonus.
I can’t emphasise enough how impressive Italy’s most iconic landmark is and its only an effortless amble away from the Roman Forum.
Once the site of gladiatorial combat, performances, public spectacles and executions, the concrete and sand amphitheatre – which took eight years to build – is the largest in the world. It is estimated to have held between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators and sits as a stunning backdrop to the busy metropolis.
On par with the Pyramids of Egypt, the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum are ancient monuments and ruins representing the strength, history, and culture of this fine country.
You can buy a ticket for 7.50 € (very cheap if you ask me) if you’re from a member of the European Union (18-25), whilst the grounds are free to access for all citizens under 18 years old and incur a 12,00 € charge for everyone else.
The ticket gives you access to The Colosseum and the Roman Forum.
The Pantheon (<1 hour, FREE)
The former Roman temple, now a church, sits in the idyllic Piazza della Rotunda amongst a collection of restaurants, shops, fountains and places of worship.
It is a remarkably peaceful place and the open dome remains the largest, un-reinforced concrete dome in the world. The unique building and architecture is vast in scale and many religious and historical statues decorate its beautiful interior.
There was very little queuing involved to enter the ancient monument and it was free.
Fancy a break?
You may be asking yourself: ‘is there anything else I should know?’
Well, if you’re willing to venture outside of the city on the Metro and tram then perhaps you could catch a football game at Stadio Olimpico, home to AS Roma. I’d recommend trying to arrange your trip so it coincides with one of the team’s matches – when we visited Rome we managed to watch AS Roma take on Napoli (it’s safe to say there’s a bit of a rivalry between the two local clubs).
There’s truly something for everyone in this great European city!
N.B. Try the gelato…
Suggested Rome playlist: