On an evening in Romaaaaa!
Many years ago, when I was a teeny tiny fourteen year old, I fell in love with Rome. For 10 years, I dreamed about it, researched it, and planned for it… but never actually visited it.
When Gary and I first got together, he suggested doing a weekend break there – but I said no. Because I was absolutely determined that my first trip to Rome would be done properly. I didn’t want to rush it like I’d had to do with Paris. Rome was special and deserved more than a two night stand… So I held out.
Until finally, AT LAST, we booked a five day stay at the beginning of March. And it was perfect.
Here’s a quick run-down of the most important info you need to know about visiting the Eternal City…
1. How to get there
We flew with Easyjet and booked a stupidly early flight out of Gatwick, which only cost us about £90 return each. This meant we’d have more time to spend eating pizza. (You see the logic, right?)
Instead of forking out for a stupidly early taxi to the airport, we also decided to fork out for an overnight stay at one of the Gatwick hotels on Sunday night instead. Which turned out to be a BRILLIANT idea!
We had a drink in the bar and an early night. Then woke up at 5:45am, and were checked in, through security and sat down ordering breakfast in Wetherspoons by 6:30am. And all for pretty much the same price (and half the hassle), as a taxi would have been.
2. Transport in Rome
We decided to get the coach into town. There’s a train that’s a bit more expensive, but much more convenient, and I’m sad to say that I managed to convince Gary that the coach would be better…
I WAS WRONG. Mea culpa. Go for the train! It’s faster, comfier, and less likely to leave you wasting valuable time standing around the airport.
Once yo ‘re in the centre of Rome itself, the city is easily walkable. We didn’t pay for any city transport on our trip and opted to just walk everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. We easily clocked up around 20k steps a day on our Fitbits!
There are obviously other transport options available: buses, mopeds, etc. But there are so many hidden gems that you’d never find unless you were just wandering around! Teeny-tiny wine bars, beautiful little alleyways, stands of brightly coloured flowers…
Walking is absolutely the best way to find those little things that aren’t in the guidebooks or on most websites. (And it’s also, y’know, the best excuse for having that extra slice of pizza. You need to replenish your energy right?)
3. Where to stay (or not…)
Now, I’m a big fan of Airbnb, and would usually have chosen to book an apartment through there… but Gary had hotel vouchers to use, so we chose to stay at the Infinity Hotel Roma.
It’s a nice little three star hotel, down a nice quiet little street just off Via del Corso. It’s in a FANTASTIC location: just a 10 minute walk to the Trevi fountain, 10 minutes to the Spanish steps, and 30 minutes to the Colosseum!
However, the room itself was very basic. We were put in one of the rooms with access via a little indoor courtyard, which was very pretty… but had no windows. At all. There was no fresh air unless we kept the door to our room open, and it all just felt a bit bare and unwelcoming to be honest.
We didn’t spend much time in the room, so it was bearable, and like I said, the location was fantastic. The service was also friendly, and it was all very clean – but we both agreed we probably wouldn’t stay there again.
4. What to wear
If there’s one thing Italians do well (apart from pizza, pasta, wine, architecture and flirting), it’s fashion.
The best dressed people I saw were all dressed simply but elegantly. Well-cut suits, flattering dresses, and perfectly fitted jeans. And they’re all so groomed! Not a hair out of place, and they make it all look so effortless… Sigh.
I took a few simple but nice dresses for dinner, but most of the time I was all about the jeans, trainers, loose shirts and jumpers. We went in March, so it was still a bit chilly and I was glad I took my black winter coat with me, especially in the evenings.
Keep in mind that in summer-time it can get really hot, but there are places that won’t let you in if you’re wearing shorts or flashing too much skin (ie: Vatican City).
If you want to try and soak up a bit of Rome’s effortless style, make sure you keep it simple and think about your accessories. I bought a blue fedora hat whilst we were there, which I wore pretty much constantly. It helped me look like I’d put far more effort into my outfit than I actually did. Hurrah for hats!
Oh and, obviously, make sure you take super-comfy shoes to walk in, whether that’s well-worn boots or sporty trainers.
5. What to eat (and drink!)
a) Breakfast. Breakfast isn’t much of a Thing in Rome. It’s a cappuccino and pastry and be done with it. Our hotel luckily came with breakfast included, so we made sure to take advantage of that. Also: never order a cappuccino after mid-day. They will think you’re weird.
b) Antipasto. This was my favourite foodie thing about Rome! Teeny tiny little bars with just three or four tables, plenty of local red wine, and a sharing board of regional cheeses and cold meats. Perfection. They were the sort of places we discovered by just wandering down backstreets at around 5pm and deciding which looked prettiest. And we were never disappointed!
c) Dinner. OK so Rome has this really annoying thing where waiters will stand outside and yell at you to try and entice you into their restaurants. It happens at pretty much every restaurant around, even ones that aren’t particularly touristy, and it’s SO. FREAKING. ANNOYING. It completely put me off so many nice-looking places, and I really don’t understand why they do it. On more than one occasion, Gary and I would be heading towards a restaurant and then veer off elsewhere when the waiter started shouting at us. So that basically became our way of picking restaurants: which ones AREN’T yelling at people?
d) Guidebooks and blogs! I bought the Lonely Planet guide to Rome before we went, and spent the whole flight reading it and making notes of places where I wanted to eat. I actually can’t recommend this enough, I found it so helpful! It’s a great way to get a feel of the basic layout and history of the city, and the food recommendations were all spot on. I also put out a call on Twitter to some of my fave travel and food bloggers, and had several ace suggestions from them as well – thank you Angie and Vicky!
6. What to see and do
If it’s your first time in Rome, and you want to do all the busy touristy attractions, I actually really recommend going when it’s just out of season and, if you can, during the week.
We went Monday to Friday in March, which meant the weather was a bit iffy, but we were able to visit all the major attractions without any crazy crowd problems. On the Monday evening we visited the Trevi fountain and were able to walk straight up and grab seats on the edge of the fountain with absolutely no bother.
There were obviously still lots of people around, but nothing mental. Nothing that meant we couldn’t easily take photos without having strangers in them, and nothing that made me feel claustrophobic.
a) The Colosseum and Roman Forum. BOOK AHEAD. Seriously, book in advance. Especially if you want to book the tour that takes you down into the underbelly and up into the rafters (which I’d recommend because it was fascinating!). We tried to book the English tour two weeks in advance and it sold out while I was still on the website. We ended up booking the less busy Spanish tour and I had to translate for Gary. Book. Ahead.
b) Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica. BOOK AHEAD. Especially if you want to go in the early morning (which I’d recommend because there’s a LOT to see!). We walked straight in with just a small queue. The people outside waiting to buy tickets were in a queue that went halfway down the hill. Book. Ahead.
c) Figure out your itinerary in advance and be realistic! Because we had 5 days, we alternated crazy busy days (like the Colosseum and Vatican City) with quieter days, where we visited places like the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and Villa Borghese. Erica and Charley arrived in Rome a few days after we did, and because they were only there for about 48 hours, they sped everything up, and did only a couple of the really big attractions. Be realistic with how much you can see and do with the time you have!
As you can probably tell, I absolutely LOVED Rome and already can’t wait to go back again. Gary and I have said that next time we’d like to go back maybe in early September, when the summer weather is still around, but not quite as suffocating as in July.
Now that I’ve done all the touristy bits, I’d love to explore more of the local places. There were a few things on my list that we never got round to seeing, and I’m determined to sit and eat lunch on an outside table one day!
For now though, I’ll have to be content to just look back on my photos from this trip…