A city reminiscent of Gladiator, Julius Caesar and the Pope (obvs), there’s so much to see/do/eat in Rome, I don’t know where to begin. The history? The fountains? The relaxed lifestyle? The food?! As my Dad was working there I was lucky enough to go for a week so I really did try to squeeze in as much as possible! My photo diary is below and a list of my top 10 must-do things in Rome that you, well… ‘must-do’!
1. Go to an Italian Garden
If you’re a keen reader of my blog you will know that I bloody love going to gardens. My mum had heard of this wonderful garden just outside of Rome called Ninfa and as it’s only open a few days a year, she quickly booked tickets! The garden has been cultivated around a ruin of a Medieval village. As it has a microclimate, roses climb up columns and wisteria grows like a weed over church towers, even in April! It was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been and SO worth the dusty shuttle bus and train trek.
2. Eat an ice cream
How can you go to Rome and not have an ice cream? Every other shop is a gelataria so it’s impossible not to be tempted. My favourite flavours are pink grapefruit, pistachio and cream. Avoid the tourist areas when it comes to gelatarias though, they’re usually a rip-off and nowhere near as good as places slightly off the beaten track. Head to Giolittis, it’s the best!
3. See all the main attractions
It can be a little overwhelming going to Rome especially if you’re only going for a few days as there is SO MUCH to see. The Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Forum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps – it makes me tired just thinking about it. They’re all walkable from each other and getting up early to avoid the crowds is so worth it!
4. Retreat to a cloister
There are so many hidden cloisters in Rome. They’re places of tranquillity away from the crowds and the traffic. Often abundant with orange trees, palm trees and fountains, you can easily pass a few hours with a good book, or just sit and soak up the atmosphere. The cloister in Pallazzetto Venezia was beautiful (pictured above).
5. Enjoy a cappuccino
One of my favourite things about Rome was that I never paid more than £1.50 for a coffee, which is pretty great when you’re used to paying £3.50 in the UK! It’s such a part of the Italian lifestyle and culture, the government have kept the prices low so you can grab a caffeine fix without worrying about the price. You will have to pay more to sit down though – just be aware of that!
6. Go to a market
I LOVE a market. However, walking in the rain to the famous Campo de’Fiori to find that it had packed up for the day was not quite what we had planned. We did make it back the next day though to a display of beautiful peonies and dahlias. Because of its reputation, the market is now stocked with a lot of ‘tourist’ products (penis-shaped pasta, fake Dior handbags, jars of pesto for £6…) so be careful you don’t get caught out!
7. Have some Italian street food
I mean, obviously. Sometimes the street food is just as good as the restaurant food. The pasta, the focaccia, the pizza by the metre, the SUPPLI. Suppli are fried risotto balls and they are to DIE for. The classic one is a tomato rice with a big, melty lump of mozzarella in the middle, but Supplizio has a whole range of different options which are served up on a paper plate with a glass of wine. Ahhh #life.
8. Visit a church
Ok so just for a bit of background: my dad is a lecturer and specialises in Italian Architecture. This meant that I spent my childhood measuring churches. Yes, measuring. While you were in Disneyland getting a pic with Mickey Mouse I was stood for an hour in a dusty Tuscan church holding a tape measure against a marble plinth. However, now I’m older I’m able to appreciate them so much more. The great thing is, he knows all the best churches: Santa Maria della Pace has a Raphael fresco which you can admire from the café in the beautiful courtyard next door, and Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini has bones of monks covering the walls!
9. Take a train ride
I took the train to Tivoli to see the famous water gardens of the Villa d’Este and my word, I have never been on such a train ride. The views of the rolling hills dotted with olive trees are just beautiful and as you approach Tivoli you can see a viaduct that goes from the town to the hills, as well as a waterfall that gushes down from the mountains. The trains are SO cheap and SO quiet, it’s such a serene journey.
10. Make time for shopping
If you like shopping for any of the following Rome is for you: bags, wallets, purses, leather in general, shoes, clothes, glass, jewellery, glass jewellery, pasta. One of my fave purchases was a box of popular Italian chocolates, Baci (meaning ‘kisses’ in Italian) which makes a great present for friends/family/loved ones as there’s a little love note enclosed in each individually wrapped chocolate. Make sure you buy your souvenirs in Rome and NOT at the airport as they’re double the price!