Rome was the gateway for my most recent trip to Europe in August 2017.
After many months of planning, I arrived into FCO (Leonardo da Vinci – Fiumicino Airport) on a British Airways flight at about 10:20pm. The airport is easy to navigate, customs was a breeze, the tricky part is trying to make it to the taxi stand. I did plenty of research, arriving into Rome for a single traveller you have a few options, pre arrange a transfer in a shared vehicle, take the Leonardo Express (the train) into Termini Station or get a cab. Cabs (white cabs, in the taxi line) do have a fixed fare of €48 to get you into the walled city of Rome. My suggestion if you arrive at night is to take a taxi, it’s safe, gets you directly where you are going and the drivers can be very polite and willing to chat. As I mentioned it’s just getting to the taxi stand that can be a bit of an issue, you will have people approach you for a transfer, just ignore them and keep walking. Black cabs in Rome aren’t legal, they are private transfer companies they aren’t supposed to be taking extra travellers.
Once at my hotel (the De Petris Hotel), I checked in and relaxed for the evening. Jet lag to Europe is somewhat easier than jet lag to Asia, still not fun, but more tolerable and has it’s benefits. I woke up bright and early at 4:30am local time in Rome and ventured out of my hotel room by 6:00am. The great thing about the location of the De Petris Hotel is that you are so close to quite a few main sights, you are a five minute walk from the Trevi Fountain and about eight minutes walk from the Spanish Steps. Venture out early. You see how the locals live and enjoy Rome’s busiest sights without any tourists to be found. Down the side streets that normally look like cattle herding gates, shoulder to shoulder with tourists come 2pm, are empty. You see local deliveries to restaurants and hotels, the bustle of local life in Roma. “Buongiorno!” echos down the roadways. It’s a magical time to explore Rome in my opinion.
Getting Around Rome
Ok, I enjoy a good quintessential touristy way to get around. I opted for a hop on, hop off pass with City Sightseeing. Honestly I think they are good value, a great way to get around the city and has the highlights of what to see along it’s routes. I usually ride one loop around so I know exactly where stops are and to listen to the commentary that is provided. Other ways to get around Rome reasonably are the buses, it does take a little more figuring out, but is a very cheap way to get around Rome. Taxis line up at taxi stands, you can find most near main Piazzas. If you do call for a cab from your hotel, etc, they do start their meter when they receive the call to pick you up.
Eating in Rome
Breakfast in Rome (or anywhere else in Italy) is simple, “caffe e cornetto” (espresso and a pastry) are all the words you need to mutter. Be sure to order at the cashier first, then go to the counter with your receipt. Standing at a counter is typical European way, if you sit in for breakfast or just a coffee, you do get charged an extra service fee. A great cafe would be the Antico Caffe Greco, located just down the street from the Spanish Steps, it bears the plaque of a Roma Historical Site and locals argue it’s one of the best places in Rome for a coffee. Another morning drink to try would be a “cappuccino al ginseng”, a cappuccino with ginseng extract which is surprisingly amazing and gives you quite a kick to start your day. Asking for your coffee to go is sacrilege in Italian culture. It’s the one time to stop, and literally smell the coffee.
Lunch and Dinner in Rome was for me, street food time. This is a newish concept to Italy, however the bakeries can be centuries old. Forno Campo de’ Fiori has some of the best pizza I have ever tasted. Try the Pizza Bianca with mortadella and figs, absolutely amazing. Near by another bakery serves up pizza by the slice (no, not like you would typically find here in Canada) and the best arancini I’ve ever had, check out Antico Forno Roscioli.
If pasta is more your thing, try “Cacio e pepe”, a traditional Roman pasta dish of butter, fresh cracked pepper and pecorino or parmesan cheese, aka heaven in a bowl. Pastifico Guerra is located on Via della Croce (street connecting to the Piazza di Spagna, or Spanish Steps), this place offers a choice from two pastas for lunch and dinner, a glass of wine for €4. Yes, no joke, €4. They don’t have a place to sit in, they actually make and sell pasta, but offer a “taste” of their labours at this very reasonable price. The choices the night I went was a linguine with arribiata, pecorino and pancetta, or a vegetarian option of linguine with fresh pesto and zucchini.
Dessert in Rome is simple, you need to try Pompi’s tiramisu. Literally kitty corner from Pastifico near the Spanish Steps, this is the best tiramisu I’ve ever had. The gelato there is pretty good too.
I always travel with a refillable water bottle, you don’t know what each countries rules are for recycling are, so it’s just something that makes me feel better. What I didn’t realize and was so happy to hear that you can drink out of the fountains in Rome. There are specific places to refill your water bottles at each fountain and is completely safe to drink. The water comes from an artisanal well and is looked after and tested daily by the Italian government. Buying bottled water in Rome therefore is really unnecessary. On a hot day, the water is cool and refreshing, and always available.
I’m not a religious person, however the Vatican is still a sight to see. I did a guided tour of the Vatican, while I did enjoy it, I think I would have just enjoyed wandering around on my own. I felt like we were being rushed around (yes, even a 4 hour tour felt rushed) and really only skimmed the surface. If the Vatican interests you, do it on your own, arrive early to beat the crowds and just wander. There is a lot of history held within those walls and some artwork by some fantastic artists. While I was there in one of the courtyards they had an Egyptian exhibit, some of the historical pieces were a delight to see.
I had an amazing time in Rome, it’s actually a place I could totally see myself living. I found the city to be quite safe if you knew what to look out for, I saw a few of the scams I had read up on in the Lonely Planet guide and online on various blogs, but didn’t have any problems personally. I found Rome to be clean and welcoming. Whilst I did find some unfriendliness in the city, many locals were chatty and quite nice. Travelling as a single woman in Rome didn’t make me uneasy at all. I didn’t have a huge amount of time in Rome, I’ll be looking forward to the day I come back. Yes, I threw my coin over my shoulder at the Trevi Fountain, so it will only be a matter of time…