96 hours in Rome
Rome, the land of incredible food & culture. This was my first time in the city, and I was so excited to visit. I gathered up a whole host of recommendations, so here's what we did with 96 hours in Rome, including plenty of food, wine, gelato & culture.
We booked Rome by accident. Yes, people say ‘oh, it was on a whim’, or ‘it just happened’, but this my friends, was an actual not-supposed-to-happen-like-this accident.
You see, Walsh & I were thinking of going to Rome this Summer, but time was passing and prices a-rising and we hadn’t booked anything. We had a hotels.com voucher to use and 24 hours left before it expired, so we set to work and started looking for cheap packages to well, just about anywhere really.
It was then that Walsh found a pretty good deal on a hotel, including flights and went through to checkout to put the voucher in Except, he couldn’t find the promo code box, and clicked what he thought was ‘Next’. At which point we realised it was loading the confirmation page. After desperately clicking back and thinking we’d got away with it, ding went his emails. We were going to Rome, without discount. Oops. But there are worse things than an accidental holiday!
Anyway, without further ado - my highlights of Rome...
Getting from Ciampino
First thing's first. We arrived in Rome having googled the way to the hotel beforehand, but no idea exactly where to get our transport (or tickets) from.
So - when you come out of arrivals, there are several desks opposite the gates to help you. You can get a bus or train to Termini, and then use the local buses from there. The train is quicker and tickets are cheap, but you'll have to catch the shuttle bus to the train (for a small extra price). We opted for a bus which took us directly from the airport to Termini (it was too early to think about changing and finding platforms). It only takes ten minutes longer than the train - about 35 minutes in total and is perfectly comfortable.
Being dropped off at Termini poses the biggest challenge. Where are the local buses, and how on earth do I buy a ticket? Well my friends, let me save you the trouble. From being dropped off at the airport bus bays, head along the outside of Termini to the far corner and turn right. Here you'll find all the buses waiting to take you to the city centre. You can't board the bus without a pre-purchased tickets and they are sold (not very obviously) just inside Termini from a newspaper stand. A one way ticket valid for 100 minutes is €1,50. We only used the bus to get to and from Termini during our trip as we walked everywhere else, but multi-day tickets are available.
Where we stayed | Terrace Pantheon Relais
I have to admit, I’d read a few tripadvisor reviews after Walsh pressed ‘buy’ and become a little concerned in the run up to our hotel. But luckily for us, we had absolutely no problems with our stay whatsoever. Judging by the reviews, I think we were very lucky with our room choice (which was room #5 for anyone looking to stay!). The reception is a little hidden (I’d learnt this from the reviews) and 3 floors up - but there is a lift at the back, which we didn’t find until later on, after we'd lugged our luggage up all 3 flights...
Our room was towards the back (I think?), with a big window, sash curtains and high ceilings, and was perfect as a base for our stay. Breakfast was a selection of cheese, meat, eggs and other bits and pieces, including cake - yep, there was oreo cheesecake served up for breakfast one morning. My kinda place.
One thing we didn’t know about before we arrived was the hotel has a roof terrace. Up on the fifth floor, it has sofas, sun beds and bar tables amongst greenery and a view across the city. There is a bar, but this wasn’t open when we stayed. Since it was so hot in the afternoon, Walsh and I spent quite a bit of time lounging up here post-culture, pre-dinner, and caught the sunset over the Vatican on our last night.
The food (and the wine)
Before we headed off on our adventures, I was recommended this paper map by a friend, and boy did it come in useful. It gives you a few things to wander past and gain a little knowledge about - interesting fountains and things you’ll probably be passing at some point anyway, but it also provides a few very good suggestions for food.
There is almost so much pressure to have great food in Rome that choosing a place to eat becomes a little overwhelming. But we loved Pizza Zaza; a small ‘hole in the wall’ cafe which serves pizza with incredible toppings by the slice, Bar Toto for a glass of wine after a long wander through to the Jewish Quarter and Mimi e Coco for an aperol spritz and lasagne lunch (this also had queues come night time).
Almost everywhere is incredibly cheap compared to London, especially for wine. The more expensive places tend to be in the squares, where you’re paying for the view - though that said, the food is still good as far we found. Thanks to Sophia Rosemary’s Rome post, we often hunted around Piazza Di Pasquino, which had plenty of restaurants to choose from, and was a five minute walk from our hotel.
Another favourite area we had dinner in was Travestere, just across the river in the south west corner of the city were restaurant after restaurant filled with dozens of people dressed up for dinner in Rome. These were the kind you see in the films, with gingham clothed tables on uneven cobbles, wine in vases and perfect pizzas.
As for the gelato, well there's a whole other post coming up on that!
Soaking up the culture
Despite some advice from friends, we took a pretty relaxed approach to organising our days - choosing what to do when we arrived rather than booking anything in advance. This worked out quite well in the summer heat, but if I was to do it again, the one thing I’d book is the Vatican.
The Vatican City
Before our holiday, I was so confused with prices online for the Chapel that we didn’t book, and we should have. We chose to try our luck on the Saturday. I'd done a little research and knew to stay away from the street touts, but had no idea how many there would be. From walking over the bridge to the steps of St Peter’s Basilica, we were constantly asked if we had tickets and told we had no chance of getting in otherwise. They promised us discounts, queue jumps, excellent tours, and while I’m sure some of these may be genuine, many more are not as official as they appear.
We stayed away from the touts and headed to admire St Peter’s Basilica. It took 45-60 minutes for us to get inside - don't be put off by the queue, it moves quicker than you think! By the time we’d queued and thoroughly investigated the inside of St Peter’s Basilica, I was starving. The Sistine Chapel queue was out of the question for me until food was provided. We headed away from the tourist buzz and into the side streets for lunch.
Having finally found the solution to ticket booking - this is what I’d do next time: start early, and book your tickets in advance. The official tickets for the Sistine Chapel can be booked with a time slot and queue jump here. Head to the Sistine Chapel first - it’s a 20 minute walk from St Peter’s, enjoy your tour and have lunch, then if you’d like, head back to St Peter’s Basilica and queue here, where it's free to enter.
Side note - women, you'll need to cover up to get in!
Wandering through Rome
Of course, you can just walk round the buildings and admire the Vatican City without queuing to get into anywhere. The whole of Rome itself is a sight to behold. You can wander through the smallest street and come out by an incredible landmark, all of which are so incredibly beautiful. We spent a fair amount of time just winding our way around the city, seeing major tourist spots like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, but all the buildings are so neatly put together and styled.
The Colosseum & Roman Forum
One piece of advice we picked up in the queue to St Peter’s, was to get up early and head to the Roman Forum first for tickets. A ticket here gets you into both the Roman Forum & Colosseum, but most people head straight to the colosseum, and endure much longer queues. We got there around 10:30 on the Sunday, and queued for less than ten minutes to get our tickets.
There will most definitely be a next time - there are so many places I’d love to go back and try including...
Anywhere I've missed?! Let me know!
*This post is 100% not sponsored, though if anyone fancies sending me somewhere I can be made available!
**Thank you to everyone who recommended places for us to go, including Laura, Nora & Grant.