When In Rome

 

Well, it’s been a few months since we returned to the UK and Rome now just seems like a two-week holiday that I enjoyed over the summer.  And, just like a holiday, apart from the occasional, ‘How was Rome?’ from acquaintances I bump into in Waitrose [Ed: what the hell are you doing in Waitrose?  You haven’t got a job, you daft bint.  Off to Lidl with you], nobody’s interested and I don’t really think about it, unless a TV show has the hero driving around the Colosseum on a scooter and I suddenly blurt out, ‘Bloody hell, I used to live there!’

But then the lovely Elaine from I Used To Be Indecisive asked me for my insider tips for a weekend in Rome and I remembered how much I loved it and decided that I really should reminisce more.  So here are my suggestions for a great visit:

DO NOT go in the summer.   It’s ridiculously hot and sweaty, there are thousands of tourists everywhere you turn and it’s ridiculously hot and sweaty.  September or October are the best times to visit, followed by April or May.   Roman autumns are just beautiful with warm, sunny days and cool evenings.

Unless you’re HWW or Lewis Hamilton, DO NOT attempt to drive.  Or cross the road.

If you decide to speak Italian while you’re there, Romans (yes, they are called that!) WILL laugh at you.  Possibly not to your face, but the waiter will be sniggering when he walks away from the table.  My coffee shop Italian spoken with a strong West Country accent was a particular source of amusement for pretty much every Italian I ever met.  I don’t have this accent when I speak English, only Italian…

WATCH OUT for the dog poo.  Italians are far too cool and lacking in a well developed sense of community spirit to worry about picking up cacca from the pavement.

Drink cappuccino after 11am just to annoy the locals. If you avoid the real touristy places, you shouldn’t have to pay more than €2 for a cappuccino. I can honestly say I never had a bad cappuccino but they are always served luke warm so if you like it hot (as I do), you have to ask for ‘bollente’ or ‘molto caldo’.

Ok, where to go.  Obviously all the usual places first:

The Colosseum, Forum and Palentine Hill.  Yep, definitely worth seeing, even after my sixth visit (tour guide duty for various sets of visitors).  The Colosseum often has long queues but you can get tickets online, or at the Palentine Hill ticket office (the ticket is for all three sites) which has smaller queues.

Trevi Fountain (once all the scaffolding is off).  Throw those coins in.

Vatican City.  St Peter’s Square and the Basilica are free to get into but the Basilica usually has huge queues. Tickets for the Sistine Chapel can be bought online if you fancy this, but it might take a long chunk out of a weekend visit.  Once you’re in the vicinity of St Peter’s Square, you immediately get hassled by tour guides who promise that you will skip the queues if you buy a tour with them.   I never did it but could be worth it if you’re time poor but cash rich.  I have to confess that I was underwhelmed by the Sistine Chapel.  Yes, I’m an uncultured oaf.  I did however, adore the spiral staircase that you sweep down to exit the Vatican museums!

HWW’s favourite place to visit is the Pantheon, with its amazing concrete dome and oculus open to the elements.  Stunning to look at and totally free to get into, it has been in continuous use since it was built almost 2,000 years ago. It’s still a working church so expect to be ‘shhhhhh’ed every five minutes.

Now some of the less well known spots.  One of my favourite places to visit is the Aventine Hill, not far from Circus Maximus. It’s a lovely place to walk around, with great views over the city (from the gardens) and the most wonderful view through the keyhole of the Knights of Malta doorway.  Not far away is the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth), made famous in the film Roman Holiday and now a popular photo-opportunity for Japanese tourists.

Trastevere is a lovely area to visit with lots of shops, bars and restaurants, especially in the evening when they all appear from behind shuttered doors.

The Vittorio Emmanuel Monument (or The Wedding Cake as the locals call it) has stunning views over the city, along with information boards so you know what you’re looking at.  Most importantly, it has a lovely roof top cafe with reasonable prices.

I will let you in on my secret bar where you can get a cappuccino for 90c. Go up the right hand set of stairs to the right of the Vittorio Emmanuel monument, through the statues of Castor & Pollox then across the Capitoline Museum Square.  Keep to the right and head through a small lane where there is a locals’ bar with the 90c cappuccino.  Not bad for the centre of Rome.  If you walk to the end of the lane, there is a fabulous view over the forum (almost better than going into the forum!)

Piazza del Popolo is up past the Spanish Steps and worth a visit.  There are two cafes at either side which are Roman institutions. Pricey but we had the best spag bol we had in Rome at the one on the right hand side looking back towards the Spanish Steps. From the piazza, you can walk up to Villa Borghese (more great views), where the Romans go for a stroll on Sunday afternoons whilst the tourists ride around on Segways.

Piazza Navona is a stunning square and has lots of touristy places to eat or grab a coffee.   There’s an excellent gelato shop, Grom, which offers natural, traditionally made (and delicious) ice-creams.

The Island in the Tiber is beautiful, it’s joined by two bridges so you can walk across the river and stop for a coffee halfway (well, it is a strenuous two minute walk…) In the summer, the usually neglected banks of the river are full of pop-up bars, restaurants and shops and the island is also alive with music and people.

I can’t help with many places to eat as we had two fussy-ish kids with us, so usually just got a plate of pasta which is much the same everywhere, or we went to La Boccaccio in Trastevere.  It’s just a tiny shop, with a few bar stools inside and three tables outside, but it does amazing pizza by the slice with a wonderful ever-changing selection of toppings, anything from pizza bianca (totally plain) or margarita, through to bacon and potato (the best!), peppers, courgette and aubergine or rocket and mushroom.   Sadly, no pineapple.  When will Italians learn that adding pineapple to a pizza takes it to a whole new level of yumminess??   You pay by the weight so a couple of slices of pizza and a beer would cost around €5/6.  Not bad for a lunch in the centre of Rome.

I’m sure I’ve missed off loads of my favourite places and I’ll update if I remember any more so that this becomes my tribute to my time in Rome.

I'm pretty sure David Tennant would stop for a Spritz so that fully justifies a random picture...
I’m pretty sure David Tennant would stop for a Spritz so that fully justifies a random picture…

But my biggest tip is just to take it easy.  Don’t try to pack too much in.  Enjoy a cappuccino at Caffe Greco and admire all the fashionistas tripping along, with their Dolci & Gabanni handbags in one hand and mini sausage dogs in the other.  Go into a church (they’re all lovely and individual) and contemplate the meaning of life…or just rest your feet.  Get lost in all the little lanes around Campo de’Fiori and stop for a Spritz and antipasti at 6pm.  Think of me back in England drinking tea and wondering why it’s so bloody cold.

PS And for god’s sake, whatever you do, please pack a guide book so you’re not relying on me and my half-arsed recollections.

 

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39 thoughts on “When In Rome”

  1. At last! I wondered where you’d got to. I’ll bookmark this in case I make it to Rome. Hope life back in England is going well and we’ll get to hear about it soon. Are you allowed to blog more now????

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  2. A word of caution, pick pockets abound at touristy places as I found to my great cost. So be alert & careful where you carry your cash

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    1. Naahhh, it’s not that bad! Unfortunately, you were targeted but none of our other visitors or friends ever had a problem. However, it’s good to be cautious – I always wore a cross-body bag when sight-seeing (HWW laughed at the money-belt I first went for…) 😉

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    1. I’m trying to find enough ways of making money to not have to get a full time job. I’ve signed up to a VA site, am Ebaying all our belongings and am reading every ’50 ways to monitize your blog’ post I can find on Pinterest… Any advice very gratefully received! X

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  3. I can vouch for the fact that your tips were very useful! Finding the cheap cappuccino and the fabulous view nearby was such a thrill. Trastavere turned out to be a great find – restaurants, crafts, bars and churches galore. The Trevi fountain was a slight disappointment but only because the scaffolding was still up – but I still threw coins in anyway! I’m glad I didn’t amuse the locals by trying to speak Italian. 🙂 Everything about Rome was great, and we felt very safe.

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  4. Oh, I didn’t even realise you’d left Rome! Shame on me! Hope you’re adjusting to life back in the UK! I made the stupid mistake of visiting Rome in July. Jesus. Needed around 5 showers a day. And that still wasn’t enough!

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  5. Oh I loved ‘Roman Holiday’! Lovely blog post too. We can’t wait to visit Rome! I’m just researching places to stay as we speak 🙂 Any advice on where to stay with good rail/bus links to stadio olimpico gratefully received! Hope the job search is progressing well!
    Jane xx

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    1. We lived near Stadio Olimpico! Buses are a nightmare! Best way into the centre is via the No. 2 tram which goes from the bus/tram station at Piazza Mancini (about 5 min walk across the bridge from the stadium) to Piazzale Flaminio (across the road from Piazza del Popolo, which then leads to the Spanish Steps). Takes about a 10 min tram journey. You need a ticket which costs 1.50 euros and lasts for 100 mins from when you activate it on the bus/tram, which you must do when the journey starts. You can usually buy the tickets on the tram, otherwise you need to find a newspaper kiosk and buy the tickets (biglietto d’autobus). You can buy a few at once.

      Best hotel is Hotel de Russie just off Piazza del Popolo…5 stars but slightly pricey! Lovely place to go for a cappuccino though as it has gorgeous gardens. I can’t really recommend any hotels I’m afraid as didn’t use them. Sorry.

      Job hunting is NOT progressing! xx

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      1. Really? Wow, thats coincidental! Thank you so much for the advice! Really appreciated, it’s super useful to get information from someone who lived in the area. We can’t wait to visit Rome!
        Good luck with the job hunting, in the meantime, keep writing 🙂
        Love, Jane xx

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        1. Let me know if you have any specific questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. About to sign up for NaNoWriMo so will try to have a good writing month (job hunting not so much…) xx

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  6. Wow. You should be writing for the Guide Du Routard, that was excellent. I’m now dreaming of swishing down that staircase in a red gown, à la Scarlet O’Hara… Rugby-boy and Little My both visited Rome with school, and loved it. Maybe I’ll get a turn one day too.
    Waitrose, huh? Classy bird 🙂

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  7. Great tips! I’ve not been to Rome, but it seems like an overwhelming place to visit.

    I would be one of those foreigners who get sniggered at due to my very poor Italiano! I sound like a five year old. 🙂

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  8. I long forgot about my blog but randomly opened my WordPress app and saw you left Rome. I am leaving to move to Zagreb and I am heartbroken. It’s my own choice. I could stay. I’m kind of wondering now why I did it. I am going to miss rome so much.

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          1. My slump came after I resigned from my job in Rome. Haha. But yes I am thinking about posting again! I have learned so much. I feel like a totally different person than I was two years ago. !!

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