Intro to Rome
Rome has enough world-class sights to keep even the most ambitious tourist occupied for days. Once capital of the greatest empire of all time today Rome is the capital of Italy and Catholicism. Few large cities anywhere in the world feel like a living museum the way Rome does. There are renaissance masterpieces carved into public spaces in the shadow of 2000 year old Roman monuments that dot the city and serve as an awesome reminder of the power of that civilization. It’s no wonder Rome is a top travel destination of not just Americans but tourists from around the world.
Today Rome is still a vibrant city with a reputation for good living and delicious eating. For all the monuments, tour buses, and ticket lines there are still charming cobbled back ally lanes of modern Rome, which make for a great respite from busy sightseeing.
When we went to Rome it was the first European city we had both seperately been to before. We’d already done the biggies and just wanted to enjoy the city. We did take in a few museums but generally we ate, explored, drink wine, and ate more.
Come to Rome with an interest in history and a empty stomach and you’ll go home more than satisfied.
It takes about 8.5 hrs to get to Rome from NYC and there are only a couple direct flight options. Considering the flight time and the amount of things to see, Rome needs at least a long weekend with three nights, preferably four. Of course, it’s also great at the beginning or end of a longer Italian vacation. If that’s the case try for at least three nights but no less than two.
When we went
A long weekend for President’s Day, February 2012
What we did
We based ourselves for 4 days in Piazza Farnese at the Casa Santa di Birgitta. Throughout Rome there are many nunneries that rent out room to travelers. Staying at one of these places often provides great value and an even better location. Piazza Farnese is a quiet floodlit square just steps from Campo di Fiori and a few blocks from Piazza Navona.
Day 1: After a mid day arrival the first thing we did was have a cappuccino and a big lunch in our new backyard, Piazza Farnese. This afternoon we decided to explore the medieval neighborhood of Trastevere, which is just a short walk across the Tiber River. Low on sights but high on atmosphere, Trastevere is made up twisting cobbled alleys and neighborhood squares. No Bernini’s or Di Vinci’s here, just real Romans going about they’re daily lives. And okay, there are still a couple Bernini’s and Di Vinci’s….this is Rome after all.
Day 2: We were with friends of ours who had never been to Rome. On day 2, we decided to join them for some sight-seeing.
Vatican City is technically its own country within the city of Rome. The Pope is its political ruler as well as its spiritual one. The Vatican Museum holds one of the most impressive collections of art on Earth. Between St. Peter’s Basilica and this museum you could spend all day sight-seeing the world’s tiniest country.
Word to the wise — ticket lines will be long — BUY YOUR TICKET IN ADVANCE.
Rome’s Colosseum conjures up images of gladiatorial fights and toga-clad emperors giving the thumbs down. This building, perhaps more than any other, is a testament to the greatness (and great engineering) of the Roman Empire. Expect long lines and strict security. Buy your ticket in advance or better yet, buy the Roma Pass. The long lines outside of the Colosseum are for the ticket line, with the Roma Pass you can bypass the line and scoot to the front for the security line.
The Roma Pass covers your sight-seeing and public transportation in Rome. It’s valid for three days which makes it perfect for a long weekend. You can buy it at a participating museum, at a tabacaria, or even at the airport or a few metro stations. Don’t buy it at a place you know will be crowded (i.e. the Colosseum). Even if you’re seeing just a couple of sights, chances are this pass will be worth while.
However, not all sights are free, some are just discounted and for some places like the Villa Borghese, you’ll still have to reserve your time online or by phone.
Day 3: While our friends battled the lines at the Vatican Museum, we took a short train ride to Ostia Antica, the port city of ancient Rome. While not as well-known as Pompeii, the ruins of this old city are very well preserved and offer you an amazing first-hand look at life in the Roman empire. The light crowds are a big plus.
Strolling is a common nighttime activity for tourists and locals alike. There is even a well-warn route that links together sights including the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain.
Before our midday flight home, we had a late breakfast outside next to the market in Campo di Fiori. Bustling with locals, the market was filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables.
What we ate
It’s easy to find great food in Rome; however, it’s also easy to find bad food. Try to avoid places with plastic English menus and too good to be true locations. Here are few suggestions of places that we went and really enjoyed.
Osteria da Giovanni ar Galletto; Piazza Farnese. Great restaurant for a pasta lunch or dinner in the quiet piazza square. Try the cacio e pepe or the carbonara and be sure to pair with a chianti.
Camponeschi; Piazza Farnese. A wine bar great for a pre or post dinner drink. You’ll find locals, artists, and in-the-know travelers sipping delicious Italian wine and snacking on olives and cheese.
Roma Sparita; Trastevere. Cacio e Pepe served in a parmesan shell bowl was an excellent choice for lunch.
Sora Lella; Tiber River. We had fried artichokes, puntarelle with anchovy dressing, braised oxtail over pappardelle and lamb shanks.
Gelateria Caffe Pasticceria Giolitti; near the Pantheon. A great place to grab some world-class gelato in a cup or homemade waffle cone.
Enoteca Cavour; near Roman Forum on Cavour St. Conveniently located near the Roman Forum, it was a great place to grab lunch. Snag a place in the back in one of the dark wood booths.
Pizzeria da Baffetto 2; near Campo di Fiori. We had a fabulous meal here with thin crust Roman style pizza, jugs of house wine and long conversations.
In Campo di Fiori you’ll find Obica, a great place for a morning cappuccino and chocolate pastry.