Now, I’m not Richard Ayoade, but I thought I would do by best to give you some awesome ideas for how to spend a week in Rome. As an ode to Mr A, lets start off with some facts about the Eternal City…
It was founded in 753 BC by Romulus, known for killing his twin brother and to go on to become the first ruler of Rome.
Their love for pasta is so intense that they have a museum dedicated entirely to pasta!
Modern Rome has 280 fountains and more than 900 churches
With a population of 2,869,461, there’s a hell of a lot of people watching to be done, whilst you drink coffee and wish you were half as cool as the Romans.
Despite spending many a summer tootling around Italy with my parents, I’ve never been to Rome, so when I realised I had a week that wasn’t stacked to the heavens with work in January I decided to seize the opportunity and head off to explore.
As soon as I touched down at Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino airport I was already giddy at the prospect of hitting the ground running and getting my explore on. A 30 minute coach transfer, tickets for which can be bought on the day from the ticket office on the outside of the airport, landed me in the heart of the city at Termini train station, after a short walk, metro trip and a few more steps I was at the apartment, bags dropped off and to the colosseum I headed!
There are so many tours for the Colosseum and Roman Forum, it can feel a little overwhelming and hard to choose, but any of them in the 30-45 Euro mark are all much of a much, usually a group of 20 people and a good level of info given. You can head in for 12 Euros and wander round alone but you’ll be missing out on loads of local tit bits. There are guided tours available one on one, which would be amazing but you’re looking at 100 Euro each!
Most of the Colosseum tours also include the Roman Forum so make sure you ask to make sure as you don’t want to miss out on the forum, it’s heaped with amazing stories and really beautiful too! If like me you’re going in the winter months then it’s worth noting that the last entry is 4pm so you need to get in at 3pm at the latest to make the most of your visit.
I’m a super nerd when it comes to culture in a new city, and that means getting on one of the open top bus tours. They are the perfect way to get your bearings as you can hop on and off as you please, the 48 hour ones are great as only a little more expensive than the 24 hour ones.
You also get an audio guide which I love, you can sit back and take it all in.
Surely one the the most outstanding parts of Rome is the architecture, seriously there wasn’t a corner of the city that didn’t make me swoon. One of the best things about heading to touristy cities out of season means less queues, less people in general and with that a lot more space to roam around at your own pace.
From the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain, there are so many places you must lay your eyes on.
Not to mention the randomness of a pyramid in Rome…
Of all the places I knew I wanted to see, the Vatican was top of the list, despite being an atheist, the whole prospect of a city within a city created solely for religion fascinated me. Let me tell you it did not disappoint.
I highly recommend, in peak seasons, getting your ticket online (be careful where you are buying it from as there are scammers who make it crazy expensive) head to the official Vatican site and you can be sure you’re getting the best option.
To get to the Vatican, you have to walk over a statue lined bridge in the shadow of Castel De SAntangelo, but more about that place later!
The museums within the Vatican are breathtaking to say the least, they are filled with masterpieces, most gold and marble than I’ve ever seen and the most awe inspiring ceilings *who knew ceilings were my jam*
If you’re main point of interest is the Sistine Chapel, I can tell you now, don’t skip all the other museums just to get to it as hands down the most incredible artwork can be found before you ever reach the Sistine Chapel *which is highly overrated if you ask me!*
The grounds of the Vatican are equally beautiful, not to mention they have branded coffee cups, who says the church isn’t modernising!
If I could give you one snippet of advice, it would be to climb St Paul’s Basilica, the views are breathtaking and if you do as I did and check the sunset time and ensure you are in the heavens as the sun sets you will forever be indebted to me. I mean just look at it!
In fact the whole area around the Vatican and St Paul’s Basilica is really spiritual in the evening, the light is ethereal and even just a few quiet moments there makes you feel as though your soul has been calmed. As amazing as the natural light is in the city, the floodlights are just as spectacular, they sure know how to accentuate their best bits!
When you’re not filling up on culture, I can highly recommend you fill up on carbs! Pizza, pasta, bread, the Italians know how it’s done!
Much like when I’m at home the last place that I want to head when I explore somewhere new is a chain or well known joint, instead I want the places where the locals go, where there are queues up the street, where there isn’t a word of english spoken. Rome is filled with such places, including but not limited at all to…
Bonci, thought of by some as the modern master of pizza, you’ll not find triangular slices, instead rectangles ordered in weight and topped with the best god dam ingredients going.
Seriously though LOOK at them! As well as moorish slices, they also sell really quirky drinks including this Watermelon beer which was like holiday in a bottle.
You can eat in standing up at the tables outside, or take away, or like me eat as much as you can there and then head home with the rest safe in the knowledge they will taste just as awesome hours later.
After pizza comes pasta and as an avid carbonara fan I knew I had to indulge, so after a 20,000 step day I headed to a trattoria walking distance from where I was staying and boy was I glad it was only a few minutes walk as I basically waddled home after dinner.
Artichoke is at the heart of all good Roman menus, they love it, sliced on pizza, as a sauce or in the case of my starter fried. What a sensation eating fried artichoke was, doused in garlic oil and seasoned to perfection it was as crunchy as it was moist.
Carbonara followed, swirled like art on the plate all accompanied by a bottle of red wine the same price as a glass of the same at home. So when you ask me why I love Italy & France so much, find me another place in the world where wine is as cheap yet incredible as that and i’ll happily move there!
One of my favourite ways to eat is on shared tables, a chance to meet new people, chat about your day and share great food. Which is exactly what you do at Pizzeria Loffredo, a family run joint where there’s a queue from 6.30 even though it doesn’t open until 7!
You share tables, there are pages and pages of pizzas to choose from and the old boy who runs it is the most italian man I think I have ever met.
I went for a half folded pizza, like a cross between calzone and regular pizza. I don’t tend to have to take photos with my hand next to my food to show size, however it was entirely required in this case.
Lofreddo was well worth the walk to find it and the queue, it’s the epitome of what I love, little places tucked away unsullied by tourists, frequented by the family and locals. When I go back to Rome, i’ll go back there for sure!
Coffee, as expected, is a huge part of Rome culture and it would be rude of me not to fully embrace that element of their culture so at every stop possible I treated myself to a coffee.
My dad used to love his little Italian coffees, in fact he would make a noise to say he fancied one, a noise mum and I both still make to this day and when I gestured to a Rome native in a coffee shop with the said same noise, he knew exactly when I wanted and an espresso was promptly parked in front of me.
When you’re not eating all the food, I highly suggest you visit all the markets you can! They are stacked to the max with the freshest, tastiest ingredients and the best characters you’re likely to meet, it seems market traders the world over are all cheeky chappies!
It’s not just food, the flea markets are the perfect way to while away the hours, furniture, vintage jewellery, art work and trinkets all line the streets whilst locals mill around drinking coffee and passionately haggling. Even if you didn’t want to walk the markets you could just find a little cafe and sit and watch the world go by for hours on end.
There are heaps of markets all open different times and days so if you’re after a particular one, be sure to check times and dates to make sure you don’t haul across the city only to find empty streets!
As I promised some 500 words ago, I’m back talking about architecture. In this case it’s Castel Sant’Angelo, found on the walk to the Vatican, it was built between 123–139 AD, it was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. No cemetery for him!
Now it houses a museum, vast works of art and right at the very top a beautiful terrace to admire the whole city from.
Like every corner of Rome, the light here is incredible, it’s almost like it’s under it’s own sun. In reality its the swathes of pale almost pink stone that reflects warm light all across the city.
If you like getting to know a new place with the help of locals, I highly recommend Airbnb Experiences, I have done a few and they have always impressed and Luigi’s Photography Tour of the city was no exception. Not only did he share insights into the city he also schooled me on using my camera in manual rather an relying on automatic, for which I am eternally grateful!
He even took some awesome photos of me, which when you travel alone is always a bonus.
I could honestly go on for another 2,000 words easily, but instead i’ll end with one of the most colourful aspects, graffiti. They LOVE graffiti, not tags and nonsense, instead pieces of art there to be admired. They are on the shutters of shops, the corner of walkways and even the fanciest of buildings!
Not only is Rome a super easy city to visit, it’s incredibly easy to get to, thanks to Jet2 who fly from all over the UK to Rome, they not only do flights there they also do whole holidays so you have no excuse not to add Rome to your 2018 must-visit list!
*huge thank you to Jet2 who flew me out to Rome and helped make this trip as magical as it was!