“All cities are unforgettable in their own way. Rome - I will cherish for as long as I live.” To paraphrase Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
Put your phone away
Do not look at Rome through the lens of a camera. She is a city that needs to be experienced with all your senses. Whilst you are concentrating on framing the picture-perfect Coliseum, you are missing the sounds, smells, touch and taste that makes Rome unforgettable.
At the Trevi Fountain, you should trail your hand through the water, toss a coin, hear it splash and make your wish. The Trevi Fountain is always busy, go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and collect your Cornetti breakfast on route. Then relax, enjoy the sweet tasting pastry and watch the hustle and bustle of Rome waking in the sunshine.
Take your walking shoes
Yes, there are hop on, hop off, open top buses and a Metro system, but if you take these you will miss all the tiny back streets that lead to surprising discoveries. Along paved alleyways are secret courtyards and access to ancient hidden crypts. Behind small church doors lie the most magnificent paintings on ceilings, alters and floors. Be brave, take a peak, you might find a Cavallini, a Michelangelo or a Stefano.
Trastevere – trendy and boho, Trastevere is car free, no buses either, and the cobbled streets are filled with trattorias, pizzerias and bars to tempt your tastebuds. An Aperol or Prosecco are just what we suggest after a day of rambling.
Heading anywhere in Rome on foot can be dangerous, the Italians are notorious for their driving skills, or lack thereof! Cross carefully, even if the green man is flashing – it doesn’t mean the pedestrian has the right of way. If you can, follow a Nun! Our experience shows all drivers stop for these hallowed ladies.
Perch yourself in a Piazza
Coffee is part of the culture in Rome.
What you need to know is, Italians only have milk in their coffee, be it latte, cappuccino or macchiato, in the morning. If ordering an espresso, and you want a single order you say “un caffe,” if it’s a double you want order “caffe doppio." You may need to shout over the hiss of the coffee machine and the spluttering of the frothing milk but it will be worth it.
Italians stand for their caffeine hit and down it in one if they can. We recommend that you sit back, enjoy the view and ‘smell the coffee.’ Choose a bar overlooking a fountain – the Piazza Campo De’Fiori hosts a noisy market in the mornings, Piazza Navona is home to Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers and is often teeming with artists and painters selling their works.
Go with a guide
Rome is full of guides and you can join a tour at all major tourist attractions; in most cases, without booking.
There are many, many ruins in Rome and The Forum is where you may need a guide the most. Working out your Ides of March from your Vestal Virgin locations are easier with an expert to show you the sights. Listen as they regale you with stories of ancient times and provide a little humour to a barbaric, back stabbing roman life. Guides also jump the queues – what is not to love. Speaking of queues, the Vatican must be visited early to avoid un-necessary standing in line.
Look to the sky
There are many glorious sights in Rome that require you to stretch your neck back and set your eyes skyward.
The Vatican is just one such sight. The fresco of The Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo is overwhelming, as are the accompanying Last Judgement and many scenes depicting stories from the bible. A guide here is also a great idea as they can enlighten you on the paintings, sculptures and treasures without you having to read the guide book, allowing you to see everything.
Other incredible ceiling murals are dotted throughout Rome, in the Vatican Museum; churches including Santa Maria, which houses a ceiling by Domenichino and galleries like the Palazzo Altemps.
At the Pantheon, considered to be the best preserved of the Roman monuments, the ceiling is an architectural wonder. A dome with an eye, occulus, providing the only form of light. Touch the stone and follow the perfect cyndrical construction full circle. Sit for a moment and enjoy the silence. Outside trail the circle and you will come upon the often-missed Bernini’s Elephant and Obelisk.
At ground floor level Rome has Restaurants and shops but look a little higher and you will see domes, arches, columns and porticos that never cease to impress the eyes.
Eat, Eat, Eat
In the mornings, Italians enjoy a sweet treat from the Pasticerria. For a snack mid-morning a Tramezzini, a triangular sandwich with a variety of fillings which can be found in bars and cafes.
Lunch is normally a main meal and time is taken to enjoy every sumptuous flavour. Dinner normally includes a hearty soup and something lighter, but it depends on the diner. Always ask about the specials of the day. There are five sections to a menu. Antipasto, Primo, Secondo, Cortono and Dolce – either side of this can be Aperitivo and Digestivo, small drinks to help your appetite and digestion. Pasta is served as a ‘Secondo’ and is delicious even when served just with olive oil and herbs.
There are also Pizzerias to enjoy, but never mention Naples as there is a battle between the two cities about the origin and quality of their beloved pizzas. In Rome pizza is not a fast food, this is the time to listen to the sound of waiters and diners communicating in the language of ‘amore’, although the French would disagree.
All Day Gelato
At any time of day you can enjoy Gelato (ice cream). You will be overwhelmed by the choice of flavours, so read the outside menu because, once you get to the counter, you will not have time to contemplate the offerings before the next customer is ushered in. Flavours for your delectation are Pampelino Rosa, Meringa al Pistacchio, Riso al Miele and so on. Our favourite is Stracciatella.
It is a compulsory part of the Rome experience to eat your ice cream outside, hopefully in some sunshine, or in the evening after dinner, at one of the famous sites. I suggest the Spanish Steps where you can watch the chicest of Romans as they promenade. Here you can also contemplate the romance of Byron, he lived here, and described Rome as the “City of the soul.”