“Rome is not like any other city. It’s a big museum, a living room that shall be crossed on one’s toes.” Alberto Sordi
Our Italian summer adventure began in Rome. As it was our first trip to this ancient city we (I) decided we needed to try and see all the top touristy sites (insert family eyerolls here). After reading lots of travel blogs, guides and gleaming personal advice from friends I planned an itinerary based around famous sites and those less familiar.
Three things were immediately apparent once we arrived. Rome in July is hotter than the sun, it’s super crowded everywhere and tours are a must do unless you want to queue forever in ridiculous temperatures (luckily I had booked some in advance on recommendation). We stayed in a two bedroom apartment booked via Airbnb in the quaint Monti quarter which we later learnt is known as the hipster area with cobbled streets that are home to cute ivy covered shops, wine bars, cafes and restaurants as well as a weekend vintage market.
It may be cliche but first time visitors to Rome have to tick off the sights, it’s a must even though you are constantly josling with crowds. Pop to the 300-year old Trevi Fountain, find your spot, turn around and toss in a coin (or two) over your shoulder and make a wish. Climb the Spanish Steps, from the beautiful Via Condotti street which is home to designer shops galore, but don’t sit down on the steps though unless you want to incur a fine. We also strolled to the Pantheon and admired it from afar with gelato in hand from Cremeria Monteforte and walked through the monumental Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi.
Hands down the best thing we did was the Scooteroma Vespa tour. A well orgainsed, exciting trip whizzing around the eternal city on two wheels with our Vespari aka the excellent Roman drivers/tour guides. We did the three hour twilight tour which saw our little convoy traverse the city – read more HERE. There’s a variety of tour available including a food tour and bespoke options if you are looking for a tailor made experience – I recommend it as a must do activity.
We took two tours with City Wonders, a large organistaion that offers group tours of the major sites. An afternoon tour to see the Colosseum and Roman Forum was in all honesty pretty disappointing but it certainly beat queuing as it shuts when the capacity of 3,000 visitors is met. Unfortunately our guide was slow, repetitive and the tour itself was dull, pre-arranged entrance with an official tour is a must but even so entry took nearly an hour in the skip-the-line queue. The monument itself is impressive and I was glad we got to see inside, many other people ditched the tour after the Colosseum and we followed suit shortly afterwards as you can easily explore the Roman Forum yourself.
The Vatican, the smallest country in the world, is located in the centre of Rome and home to the pope. It’s another location that a official tour saves you from unnecessary queuing. Again this tour, also with City Wonders, was longer than necessary but better than our experience at the Colosseum. As with all the other popular sites, The Vatican was super crowded even though we took the 9am tour, the Sistine Chapel was worth battling the crowds to see the famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo.
We also saw galleries filled with ancient sculptures, art, tapestries, maps and antiquities as well as exploring inside St. Peters Basilica, the world’s largest church. Look out for Michelangelo’s Pietà, his famous sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling her son. Those looking to enhance their visit can climb to the top of Michelangelo’s dome, the highest in Rome for stunning views of the city (additional cost and be prepared to queue for the lift and then climb the steps to the summit).
Trastevere is must visit area, a hip quarter over the river filled with many of the city’s popular restaurants and bars. The earthy coloured ivy clad buildings are home to many independent shops, deli’s and trattorias and there’s a great atmosphere once the sun had set. In the city high end retail therapy is available at the Rinascente and its rooftop restaurant is the perfect spot to grab some drinks whiling enjoying the panoramic views across the city’s rooftops.
There are so many places to eat that you really are spoilt for choice whatever your budget and appetite. My advice is to try ALL the food, the pizza, pasta and wine is all excellent. I personally did a one woman taste test of all Melanzane Parmigiana (baked aubergine/eggplant with tomato sauce and cheese) I could find. For an authentic, delicious and affordable meal try the tiny Cantina E Cucina, a traditional Osteria/Pizzeria near the Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi, they also served the best Melanzane in Rome.
Roscioli Deli is another must try with fresh, tasty options and a well-stocked wine cellar. Diners can eat in the deli itself or downstairs in the cellar surrounded by quite the selection of wine. Booking in advance is necessary even for lunch on weekdays. If you a looking for a more fancy dinner try La Jardin de Russie in the Rocco Forte Hotel where we dined for my daughters 21st birthday celebration.
- Avoid Rome in summer – it’s ridiculously hot and extremely crowded
- Look at both Airbnb and hotel options especially if larger parties
- Book a Scooteroma Vespa Tour
- If going in a busy month, book tours in advance to take advantage of skip-the-line entrance
- Pack comfortable shoes as you walk a lot and wear your step counter 🙂
- Don’t eat and drink at restaurants/cafes/bars near to the top tourist attractions as you will pay extra (they have two menus, locals and tourists)
- Take a water bottle as there are lots of drinking water refilling stations everywhere
The views in this post are all my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2019. All rights reserved.