You know what they say: “All Roads Lead to Rome” and that’s why you have to visit it at least once in your life. I don’t know why it took me so long to visit but I have to say it’s now one of the top 5 places that I’ve ever been to. Here are my top tips about how to get around, where to eat, and what to do.
How to get around Rome
The best way to get from place to place in Rome is on your own two feet. Rome is a highly walkable city, assuming you’re not trying to walk all the way from Vatican City to the Colosseum in one go. We were staying very close to the Colosseum so we were only two metro stops (around 5 minutes) away from the main Roma Termini station and around 17 minutes walk from the famous Trevi Fountain.
If you’re not up for walking or simply can’t, the local bus system in Rome is easy to use and cheap. Buses are frequent, but not necessarily always on time or reliable. I suggest using an app like Citymapper to plan your route. One-way bus tickets or all-day passes can be bought at most newspaper kiosks, convenience shops or metro stations in Rome, be careful though, most of the shopkeepers we spoke to wanted cash and wouldn’t let us pay for tickets with a debit card.
What to eat & drink in Rome
Grazia & Graziella
This vintage-style restaurant, located in Trastevere relies on tradition and creativity, with their 60’s and 70’s inspired decor. It is named after the owners grandmother, Grazia (who is also to thank for the unique recipes) and from Graziella, the traditional Italian bicycle.
Largo M.D. Fumasoni Biondi, 5,Rome
Just across the street from Grazia & Graziella is this very popular and very busy restaurant so come early or be prepared to wait in a queue. It’s a classic italian restaurant but with very tasty food and amazing service.
Via della Paglia, 1,Rome
Mr. 100 Tiramisu/Two Sizes
These two tiramisu places couldn’t be more different but they are both delicious!
As the name says, Mr. 100 Tiramisu is a place where you can choose from 100 different types of tiramisu. Unexpectedly though, it is very small and serves tiramisu at the bar because the tables are reserved for food and wine (you can have tiramisu for dessert), the food menu was mainly charcuterie (cheese and cured meats). But because it’s a bit off the tourist track, it doesn’t get overly busy. After a long debate and looking at the menu, we chose banana, dulce de leche and cinnamon along with dark chocolate with orange, it was great watching them create our tiramisu for us right in front of our eyes whilst we sat at the bar!
Via dei Sediari 11/12,Rome
Two sizes is a much more touristy and straightforward tiramisu place, classic tiramisu in mini and normal sizes. It’s ideal if you want to grab something quick and not hang about.
Via del Governo Vecchio 88, Rome
Known as one of the coolest bars in Rome (and one of the most instagrammable because of the pink flowers on the facade) featuring cool rotating art on the walls, magazines, vinyls scattered around, plush chairs and beautifully made cocktails. The €10-€12 cocktails always come with a simple side of olives and chips and mini sandwiches at the end so make sure to pop by and sample one of the signature Spritzes. Yes,that’s right Spritzes. The trendy bar has a cocktail menu dedicated entirely to the Spritz!
Piazza di Pietra, 42, Rome
Bar del Cinque
Another gem in the Trastavere neighborhood. With a beautiful facade often seen on Instagram. I felt this was the most authentic place we visited as we were the only tourists inside.
Vicolo de’ Cinque, 5, Roma
This is the only hotel which features in this post and it’s because of the amazing views that you can get of Rome from the rooftop. Everything here is a bit pricey but we paid €5 for coffee, €5 for water and €5 for a selection of biscuits, but it was worth it, don’t you think?
What to see in Rome
The ancient city of Rome is literally an open air museum, and can be traced back to 753 BC. There are certain sights everyone will see but here are my top picks and some advice on how to beat the crowds, take the best pictures and generally enjoy stress free sightseeing!
Colosseum and Roman Forum
It’s not surprising that the Colosseum hosts 4 million tourists a year being one of the 7 Wonders of the World. That means you can expect the queues to be very long any day of the week and at any time of the year. Throw the hot sun and humidity into the mix and you are asking for a recipe for disaster!
When you google tickets, you will get dozens of different websites and tours, many of them very expensive. Another thing that we didn’t want to do was to take a guided tour, they take too long and we wanted to go and see things at our own pace, so I was very happy when I discovered the perfect ticket for us on the ticketing website Headout. We bought a skip-the-line with escorted entry ticket which included the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill and this cost only €28 per person. So how does this work? We (and lots of other people) meet the guide down the street from the Colosseum at an agreed meeting point and they accompany us through a special tour group entrance where we jumped the queue and got inside within minutes! The only thing you can’t skip is the security bit (same as the airport) but that was quick as well because we took the earliest ticket we could find which was 8:30am and there weren’t as many groups.
If you want to capture a good picture of the Colosseum or Roman Forum you actually have to be on the outside. The street Via Nicola Salvi, just above the metro station ‘Colosseum’ is the perfect spot to capture an iconic Colosseum photo. You won’t be here alone but it’s doable as people move fast.
We got to spend around 2 hours in the Coloseum, which was more than enough to see the entire thing and read all of the information about the building and it’s history, we then went back to the meeting point to meet our guide and be escorted to the Forum.
To get great a Roman Forum picture head behind Museu Capitolina to Via di S.Pietro in Carcere.
Trevi Fountain & Spanish Steps
Trevi fountain is the fountain of all fountains, one of the most iconic spots in Rome and literally the most crowded spot of all time. One of the reasons for this is due to the legend of throwing coins into it. The legend claims that you should throw three coins into the fountain. The first coin guarantees your return to Rome, the second will ensure a new romance, and the third will ensure marriage. It’s no surprise that around €3,000 is collected from the fountain every evening! That money is donated to a non-profit organisation that provides food to the homeless in Rome.
This fountain is a real masterpiece but in order to see it you have to get up early. And by early I mean 5am! We got there at 6am thinking we had the jump on the other visitors and to our shock dozens of people were already there! It was mainly bloggers and newly weds trying to get that perfect photo but there were also regular tourists. From my experience, you can’t even see the fountain in the afternoon, it’s that crowded and sections of it are closed off by the police so you can’t even get access to them.
The Spanish Steps are another place which you have to visit early. We got there at 7:30am and it was okay but I think that’s due to the fact you are not allowed to sit (or eat or write) on the stairs any more. In fact, you can be fined €200 or even €400 if you damage the stairs in any way.
Trastevere, my favourite neighbourhood in Rome, and from the looks of it – it’s also everyone else’s favourite too! This neighbourhood has such a local vibe and tons of character! I loved to just walk around the narrow cobblestoned streets and find a place for an aperitivo and soak in the energy! (I included my favourite spots in the Eat & Drink section).
This area also has some of the best and the most popular restaurants so don’t think it’s any less busy than central Rome.
Because we stayed near the Colosseum, we took a bus there which took us around 20 minutes but we walked on the way back.
The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved buildings of ancient Rome. The former temple now converted into a church has a massive dome on top with an opening that allows natural light to light the entire building. The beam of sunlight creates a magical feeling inside the dome. How about rain? Well, a drainage system makes sure the Pantheon doesn’t flood. Outside the Pantheon at Piazza Della Rotonda there are lots of terraces where you can sit for breakfast or simply enjoy a cappuccino.
Altare Della Patria
In front of Piazza Venezia is a gigantic pure-white marble moment that has a panoramic view of the entire city. To honor the first king of Italy, the Italians built the Altare Della Patria (also known as the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument).
The first part is free to visit, but to visit the top, an entrance ticket is required. Sitting on the monument or stair steps is not allowed.
Borghese Gardens & Piazza del Poppolo
The Borghese Gardens are Rome’s version of Central Park and stretch for 226 acres from Piazza del Poppolo to the top of Via Veneto. The lush, green Borghese Gardens have it all! Bust-lined paths, statues, a carousel for the kids, an artificial lake that you can rent a row boat on, and even a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
We spent one whole afternoon wandering around whilst enjoying gelato and much needed shade.
Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel
The famous spiral staircase, the papal throne, the Gallery of Maps, the Sistine Chapel. If the opportunity to take in the beauty of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, possibly the most famous work of art ever doesn’t convince you to visit the Vatican Museums (or Rome for that matter), nothing ever will!
There are 54 different galleries and several courtyards within the Vatican Museums, featuring chosen paintings and sculptures collected over the centuries. Like the Louvre in Paris, the Vatican Museums contain more works of art than can be seen in a day, but if you give yourself around three hours, you’ll still be able to see the museums’ most famous bits.
Once again we chose an Escorted skip-the-line ticket on Headout and explored the museum at our own pace.
We spent a while looking for the new Bramante spiral staircase. We’ve were even told that it wasn’t open to the public! But this is the big disadvantage of taking a guided tour, if you are part of a guided tour, you won’t pass the staircase because you will end up going straight to the St Peter’s Basilica, but if you’re not part of a tour, it’s most likely you will exit the museum and pass the staircase. It is located in the main entrance hall of the Museum.
Unfortunately, we missed the chance to visit St Peter’s Basilica and to see the iconic view of St Peter’s Square but the queues were just too long and it was far too hot. I suggest going there as soon it opens in the morning, or look into buying a ticket which lets you jump the queues. Tickets for St Peter’s Basilica are available on Headout and start from around €19.50 (at the time of writing).