In the last installment of our Summer in the City Guides, Surfdome’s Jess Tye spills her passion for the Italian capital that is a melting pot of history, culture and style in this jam-packed Rome Guide.
With a history spanning more than two and a half thousand years, it’s little wonder why Rome (Roma) is referred to as the eternal city. As the ancient hub of western civilisation, we have a lot to thank those mighty Romans for. They invented the first sports arena, plumbing, town planning, voting, the welfare system, concrete, holidays and sewerage!
At their peak, they conquered a land that spread across Scotland, Egypt, Iraq and Spain, with a population of 54 million. How then, did this Empire of greatness fade into rubble to be built upon? It’s a fate hard to believe and still to this day excavation work continues, so more of this city’s history can be pieced back together.
Today, Rome is a bustling city where ancient meets modern and beauty merges with engineering to create moments that will simply take your breath away. From the grandeur of the Colosseum, to the proud centre of the Catholic Church – Vatican City, the sense of mightiness continues.
Culturally there is much to admire too, as the Popes took a vested interest in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, commissioning the beautiful facades and fountains seen scattered throughout the city’s cobble stone streets.
It’s the perfect city to get lost in, the perfect city to wander the streets of, soak up the atmosphere and indulge in the food, the wine and the people. It’s magical and inspiring, which is why many visitors continue to return.
Where to stay
You want to be central, so best to stay near the Colosseum or near the Trevi Fountain so you can walk to all the main sites. It’s also good to have a base close to the centre in case you need a break from the city’s heat.
Sights to see
These are the best of central Rome, in suggested order of priority:
- Trevi Fountain
- Victor Emmanuel II Monument (aka The Typewriter, Wedding Cake)
- St Peters Basilica
- Piazza Navona
- The Forum – only if you’re into your history, otherwise check it out from the viewing platforms surrounding. If you head in you’ll need either an audio guide or a free guided tour as the ruins aren’t that well preserved.
- Spanish Steps
- Vatican Museums – if you do them it’s best to go with a guide as you get to skip the massive queues (in peak season this can take up to four hours in the sweltering heat), and get told a little about the most important parts of the attraction. Definitely well worth it.
- Villa Borghese Gardens – the perfect spot to chill after a long day’s walking.
Where to shop
For high end luxury (or tasteful window shopping) head to Via Condotti, Via Frattina, and Via Borgognona just off just off Piazza di Spagna, where the Spanish Steps are.
For fast fashion, head to the markets at Via Sanni. It’s close to the San Giovanni subway station on Rome’s A line. The best time to head is on weekday mornings.
Where to eat
- Piazza Novona – has quite a few restaurants surrounding the square. Be romanced by the sights and sounds of this beautiful piazza while you sip on Prossecco and admire the Fountain of Four Rivers.
- For something a little more authentic, but still within walking distance of main attractions, head to Trattoria da Gino on Vicolo Rosini 4, close to the Pantheon. Their pastas are amazing, so simple yet bursting with flavour and you can never go wrong with a caprese salad! It can get very popular with the locals though, so plan ahead!
- For something quick and easy Super Pizza on Via Giustiniani is right by the Pantheon, near the Despar market. They sell slices by weight and it’s really reasonable and delish! Their Zucchini pizza is pretty special.
- Head to the Gelatti store next door for after pizza treats – try the Pistachio!
- For coffee, make sure you stop by Sant’Eustachio on Piazza di Sant’Eustachio. It’s also just around the corner from the Pantheon.
Al Vino al Vino, Via dei Serpenti 19 – as the name suggests is a cute wine bar. Head there for an after dinner tipple or for an aperitif with tapas.
If you’re up for a bit of clubbing action, head to Goa Via di Libetta 13. But dress well as, in true Italian style, they can be fussy about who they let in
Top 10 tips for visiting Rome
- The water is fresh and pure so fill up your water bottles at various springs around the city.
- Guard your possessions, especially around crowded attractions and restaurants.
- The cars and scooters will only stop when you walk out onto the road. So stride with confidence (and style)!
- Use your first day to get a feel of the city… walk from the Spanish Steps across to the Trevi Fountain, along to the Pantheon, up to Piazza Novona, onto Vicotor Emmaunelle and past the Forum and you’ll spot the Colosseum.
- On your second day, use the metro (there are only two lines – A&B) to hit the Colosseum early and then onto St Peters in the afternoon. A day pass is less than a fiver…
- Check out the maps of the Roman Empire on the wall past the Forum, before you hit the Colosseum – they were a gift to Mussolini from Hitler and they show how big the Roman Empire grew over three maps.
- If you’re keen to visit the Forum, visit it first and purchase your ticket to the Colosseum at the same time as the Forum’s queues are shorter and it’ll mean you can skip the queues at the Colosseum ‘cause you’ll already have a ticket
- Follow the Roman way – cappuccino with a croissant in the morning and espresso in the afternoon.
- Wear comfy shoes as you’ll be doing a lot of walking and queuing at key attractions.
- Try a new flavour of gelato each day – when in Rome!
Don’t leave town without…
Seeing the Trevi Fountain at night and throwing in a coin or two…
Ritual goes: take a coin in your right hand and throw it over your left shoulder with your back to the fountain. Throw one to return to Rome, a second to fall in love (with an Italian) and a third to marry or divorce!