Despite being a city bursting with history, I must admit the first time I visited Rome, I was underwhelmed. Nearly a decade later, I returned, and learnt that it really does pay to do as the Romans do!
I love Italy as a travel destination. It would have to be one of my favourite, if not THE favourite, country to visit. History, gelati, architecture, marble, vineyards, gelati, floors, pasta, pizza, and oh, did I mention the gelati?! You can really never go wrong with a trip to Italy. So when one of my best friends suggested we meet up in Rome, I had basically booked the flights before I had time to say "hell yes". Repeat offending gets a bad rap, but I've found it can be super rewarding, especially when you weren't that enamoured with a place the first time around.
When visiting a new city, it can be so easy to fall into the trap of racing around, trying to visit all of the major hotspots; sometimes without taking the time to actually look around and enjoy it. This was certainly the case with me and Rome.
This time around the pace was more leisurely, more Roman; we walked everywhere, getting lost only to find hidden gems in the back streets; and enjoying aperitivo whilst watching the sunset (not that I need any help with "opening my stomach," as I am always ready to eat).
Scroll through the photos for a list of my recommendations for Rome and if you have any that I've missed, make sure to leave a comment below or send me an email; I'll definitely be returning! L x
We stayed at the cutest little Airbnb in Monti with The Colosseum quite literally just outside our doorstep. It was perfect for two people and in an ideal location, with everything within a walkable distance. Plus, the view at sunset out of those beautiful shutters, is really just too much.
If you're more of a hotel kind of person (which I can totally understand; who doesn't love fresh towels and a chocolate on their pillow each night?!), take a look at G-Rough. It's part of the Design Hotels network and high on my list of places to try. Paying homage to iconic Italian designers of the 30s to 50s; pieces by designers such as Gio Ponti, are offset by the patinated original features of the 1600s building. Dream.
ARCHITECTURE & SIGHTS
You could spend a lifetime in Rome and you would never see all of the architectural beauty and historical sites this wondrous city beholds. But here are my favourites...
The Pantheon is on my all time favourites list; there's just something magical about being under that dome. A former Roman temple, now Catholic church; you are certainly not in any danger of AFC (another f**king church) Syndrome here! With stunning marble floors, a coffered concrete dome and a truly genius oculus, how could you not be compelled to wander inside almost every time you walk past.
One of the finest examples of Fascist Architecture, the Palazzo della Civilta Italiana (Colosseo Quadrato), is located a little way out of the heart of Rome, in the EUR district. Now, you're probably thinking "why would I want to see architecture by fascists," but just trust me on this one. Fendi loved this building so much, they now occupy it as their HQ.
The Colosseum is on every Rome list for a reason and worth exploring at least once. Go early to avoid crowds and queues. Wander through the streets around the Colosseum to see the Forum, Palatine Hill, and Capitoline Hill.
Although supremely busy at all times of day, I still love visiting the Trevi Fountain. Visit during daylight hours, when its at its prettiest; you don't need to bother with the evening light show.
Spend an afternoon walking around the Villa Borghese Gardens, before making your way to the Spanish Steps. I still haven't worked out why they are so popular, but I have to say, aperitivo at the little bar at the top of steps at sunset is pretty hard to beat! Campari, Aperol, choose your jewel toned poison.
For panoramic views across Rome, climb the many steps and take the lift to the terrace of Altare della Patria.
Once you've had your fill of the popular tourist spots, cross the Tiber to Trastevere, one of Rome's cutest neighbourhoods. Bypass the confusingly popular flea market Porta Portese and get lost in the backstreets, where you might stumble upon a little family church every bit as beautiful as the Sistine Chapel (just minus the agonising queues and crush of people). Trastevere is known for its food, with many food tour options, if you're into that sort of thing!
FOOD & DRINK
Cacio e Pepe. A classic Roman pasta of cheese and pepper, that if you've never been introduced to, you're in for a treat. Amazing already, even better when served in a parmesan cup, even better still when served with shavings of truffle. When a waiter asks if you'd like tartufo, you say "YES". Try the Cacio e Pepe at Canova Tadolini near the Piazza de Spagna. I made sure to get my fill of this dish by ordering it at practically every meal whilst in Rome, ha.
Recommended to me by a friend, the pistachio gnocchi/ravioli (depending on the daily menu) at Spiriti e Forme sounds a little bit odd, but is all kinds of delicious if you're hankering for a creamy pasta. Located near the Trevi Fountain, it's nicely tucked away from the hordes and cosy for dinner.
If you're not a fan of creamy pasta, another Roman classic to try is pasta all'Amatriciana, a tomato based sauce with guanciale (pork cheek).
Rome is also known for its fritti - deep fried delectables. I am a sucker for anything deep fried; clearly didn't learn anything being the daughter of a cardiologist. Ha! From carciofi alla giudia (artichokes in the Jewish style), to baccala (salt cod), to fiori di zucca (zucchini flowers), the Romans seriously love to deep fry everything and I'm not complaining.
Roscioli for when you're in need of a snack, sweet or savoury, and not of the gelato variety. The range of baked goods are as extensive as they are delicious.
I take my gelati very seriously, setting myself at least a two cone target per day in Italy, hence why it gets its own category. Flavour combinations are incredibly important; I will judge you should I witness you ordering a combination as terrible as mango with cookies & cream. You need to build your gelati cone or cup as if it were a complete dish.
Carapina is a Florentine import, but it has to be up there as one of my favourite gelateria in Italy. The mint gelato is so delicious and refreshing, perfect for those hot summer's days. It was my favourite flavour of my Rome visit.
For the inexperienced, do not trust a gelateria with super colourful gelati piled into tall mounds. You'll be disappointed with artificial colours and flavourings, plus potentially days old gelati that certainly won't taste fresh. Don't be scared of gelateria who keep their treats in stainless steel tubs, they're just sealing in the freshness. And don't be too shy to ask for a taste test (or three)!