Rome is one of my favourite cities hands down.
The Eternal City has a draw to it that I can’t quite put my finger on. It might be that I’ve made so many amazing memories here, or simply that to me it feels like “home”. So with my recent trips here and heading back yet again I thought I would update this blog post as there are so many new experiences and places to see and do I’ve been recommending to clients and friends.
Arriving into Rome
The Fiumicino 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 taxi. Taxis (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 (you will find them just as overpriced on Uber), they are private transfer companies they aren’t supposed to be taking extra travellers.
Where to Stay
Jet lag to Europe is somewhat easier than jet lag to Asia, still not fun, but more tolerable and has it’s benefits. I typically wake up bright and early at 4:30am local time in Rome and venture out of my hotel room by 5:30/6:00am depending on the time of year. Venture out early. You see how the locals live, enjoy Rome’s busiest sights without any tourists to be found and take some pretty amazing photos with the soft warm sunrise lighting. Down side streets that normally look like cattle herding gates with all the crowds and are shoulder to shoulder with tourists come 2:00pm, you’ll find are empty and peaceful. You see the local deliveries to restaurants and hotels, the true bustle of local life in Roma. “Buongiorno!” echos down the streets. It’s a magical time to explore Rome in my opinion.
I typically stay in the vicinity of the Trevi Fountain & Spanish Steps. I just find it’s a great spot to stay as that’s where most of my favourite restaurants are.
Hotel de Petris (basic/mid range accommodations) – Staying at Hotel de Petris (or the area) 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. Some of the rooms have been updated, the hotel has a beautiful rooftop patio, where they serve breakfast and a beautiful place to relax at night.
NH Collection Roma Centro Hotel (great mid range property) – I stayed here on one of my last trips to Rome. It’s a great location in regards to walkability to many top sights, it’s on the West side of the Tiber River (same side as Vatican City). I woke up quite early and easily got to the Vatican with no one around. Property is in quite good condition, breakfast was very good and lots of choices. The cappuccino/espresso machine I would have loved to have taken home haha. Love the bathrooms at the hotel as well, the bathrooms featured bathtubs, which are so nice at the end of a long day walking around Rome. Rooms are also well furnished, beds are very comfortable and I slept very well.
Hotel Modigliani (mid range accommodations) – I was highly recommended this property by a friend and it’s got great reviews on TripAdvisor. It’s a boutique hotel owned by husband and wife Giulia and Marco. Hotel features an inner garden, an extensive continental breakfast and most rooms feature a small balcony. Breakfast was good and had both hot and cold items.
La Griffe Roma, MGallery by Sofitel (mid range/luxury accommodations) – I recommend this hotel to many of my clients due to location and service level. Great location to Roma Termini (train station) and the hop on hop off routes.
The Westin Excelsior (luxury accommodations) – I stayed here for a night and loved this hotel. It’s so classy and again near the area of Spanish Steps, so close to my favourite part of Rome to wander. Everything and more you would expect at a Westin Hotel. Rooms are more of a traditional style, however to me very respective of Rome.
The St. Regis Rome (luxury accommodations) – Absolutely stunning and beautiful hotel. All the service and amenities you would expect at a St. Regis property. Rooms have been renovated recently and look amazing.
Getting Around Rome
Ok, I enjoy a good quintessential touristy way to get around. The first time I was in Rome, 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 public 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 (orange sign, black lettering), 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. Taxis are very reasonable and have found them all to be quite good and honest with the routes taken.
Rome does have Uber now, however the prices are very expensive compared to other places where Uber exists. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rome or Italy in general no longer supports Uber like some cities like Barcelona.
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, try Tazza D’Oro for one of these right near the Pantheon. 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.
A few of my favourite restaurants are:
Fiaschetteria Beltramme (near Spanish Steps, 39 Via della Croce) – Honestly the BEST carbonara you will eat on this planet. Period. They also serve up amazing appetizers such as Burrata and Prosciutto, Caprese Salad and other great dishes including a great Cacio e pepe. Glasses of house wine are also really good quality and like the food prices, very reasonable.
Ristorante All’Oro (slightly North of Piazza del Popolo, 23/25 Via Giuseppe Pisanelli) – An intimate Michelin Starred restaurant with the best seven course tasting menu I’ve probably ever had. Staff are incredible, friendly and very good with food preferences and sensitivities. It’s well worth the price to experience the full dinner here, so memorable.
Piccolo Arancio (near Trevi Fountain, Vicolo Scanderbeg 112) – Located very close to the Trevi Fountain but in an alleyway that is very “local Roman”. Try the amazing Ravioli All’Arancia, ravioli pasta filled with ricotta cheese and orange served in a cream sauce. Delicious!
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.
So a bit of an update here… I had another amazing experience at the Vatican which I would HIGHLY suggest if you can book a tour that offers it. I had a private after hours tour of the Vatican Museums followed by dinner in the gardens after hours! It was so amazing to see the Vatican again in this way with NO crowds. We could take our time and we were the only ones in the Sistine Chapel! Such an amazing experience!
Other Experiences in Rome
I highly recommend doing an Urban Adventures tour in Rome. I did the “Rome Highlights” tour and it was a great introduction to the city the first time I was here. Tours are very small groups (one paid passenger means the tour is guaranteed to go) and the local guides are amazing! Guides in Rome are very highly trained and especially have PhD’s because of the historical significance of pretty well everything you walk on or look at.
Of course there are so many of the iconic things to see and do such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Piazza Navona, the markets (don’t miss the market at Campo de’ Fiore, it’s where I buy my kitchenwares such as ravioli presses, pasta tools, etc, however the flowers here are stunning!). I could go on and on. Rome is full of so much stunning architecture and history. If you do go and see the Colosseum and Roman Forum on your own, buy your ticket at the ticket office located on Via dei Fori Imperiali (the main street near Piazza Venezia). The line was maybe five minutes wait and was stamped with an entrance time to see the Colosseum. The lines to buy tickets at the Colosseum were crazy, I got to basically walk right in (just a small line for security).
I always have an amazing time in Rome, it’s actually a place I could totally see myself living. Everywhere you look and corner you turn there is more and more history. I find 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 of the locals are chatty and quite nice. Travelling as a single woman in Rome didn’t make me uneasy at all.
My most recent “pinch me moment” was on one of my early morning walks to Vatican City in May 2019, standing in the empty Piazza in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. As I was standing there all alone with the sun rising on this beautiful scene, an all girls children’s choir singing “Ave Maria”, followed by “Hallelujah”. I seriously started to cry as it was such a beautiful moment.
I’ll always be looking forward to the day I come back to Rome. Yes, I always throw my coin over my shoulder at the Trevi Fountain, so it will only be a matter of time…