Rome: A Quick Guide

When we arrived in Rome with very little prior planning, we were bamboozled by food choices and things to see. With only 5 days there, we struggled to make my mind up! But fear not, with a bit of planning, you’ll have a great time in Rome, no matter how long or short your stay is. Here is my Quick Guide to Rome to get you started:

Where to eat

You don’t need me to tell you how full of irresistibly tasty treats Rome is. Instead, your main concern should be ‘where do I start?!’. We also quickly learnt that some of the most unassuming looking places serve the best food. Be prepared to literally dine on the streets and have mopeds drive past your table! But that all adds to the great authentic Rome experience. Below are my top few favourite eats from Rome’s food staples:

  • Gelato – the Italian go-to summer snack. To be honest, we found great gelato wherever we were in Rome so just grab it whenever it calls to you. There are a crazy amount of different flavours so try as many as you can! (Snapshots from my many gelato comas below).
  • Pizza – hands-down the best pizza I have ever eaten (inside or outside Italy) was from Pinsere. I literally don’t have the right words to describe just how perfectly cooked, full of flavour and more-ish it was. (We went back as soon as we could.) And at 4 Euros a pizza, freshly made in front of you and dozens of flavours to choose from, how can you say no?! The staff are funny and enthusiastic too and give the place a great hectic atmosphere. When we were in Rome, Pinsere was ranked #1 restaurant on TripAdvisor so it’s a no-brainer really. Beware though – Pinsere is more of a takeaway place so there isn’t anywhere to sit down but plenty of people happily stand on the street eating their pizza. And to be honest, you’ll eat it so quick that you won’t need a seat.

 

  • Pasta – The best pasta I had in Rome was from La Fontana di Venere. This is a small restaurant which prides itself on its family atmosphere and home cooking. I had the greatest seafood and basil pesto tagliatelle here. Unfortunately I didn’t come away with photos. We found the service a little slow but it was peak dinner time and they were packed. The staff were also friendly and apologetic plus the food was so worth it when it arrived so can’t complain.

TIP stating the obvious here but beware of eating at restaurants that are right next to tourist attractions. They’re likely to be overpriced and maybe not the best quality. You’ll also see a LOT of restaurant staff standing on the streets, trying to convince you to eat at their place. (We got talked into eating at a place opposite the Spanish Steps which although was ok, all the food was cooked from frozen and pretty pricey for its lack of quality. We should have known better!). Just use the general travel rule – if a place looks busy and they’re not trying to pull diners off the street, it’s probably because the food is really good.

What to see

Hopefully you won’t be as unlucky as us and end up visiting Rome when so many of the best attractions were covered in scaffolding! (I know, Rome is an old city but really!)

  • Trevi Fountain – The classic Roman site (minus scaffolding). Visit both day and night and throw in coins!
trevi fountain
Your visit is sure to be better than ours. As of November 2015, the restoration is complete and the scaffolding off!
  • Colosseum – Take at least a half-day to explore this colossal piece of history. I’m not usually an audio tour fan but I recommend the one they offer there. It’ll help you make a lot more sense of everything!
colosseum
Again, I wasn’t joking about the scaffolding… But as of June 2016, it seems the restoration works are now complete.
  • Spanish Steps – Another Rome classic. Visit and stay for a little while and watch the sunset. (Beware the crowds, especially in the summer. And the annoying souvenir touts and scaffolding…)

spanish steps

  • The Pantheon – A beautiful 2,000 year-old temple, now church, with a stunning dome and plenty to learn about inside.

pantheon

  • Capitoline Hill/Altare della Patria (‘Alter of the Fatherland’) We actually came across this accidently, after we had left the Roman Forum and were meandering the streets late afternoon. Compared to the rest of Rome, it’s brand new and garishly white (which has brought it some criticism) but it’s a mammoth piece of architecture.
Alter of the Fatherland
Altare della Patria
  • Palatine Hill/Palatino – This is one of the most ancient parts of Rome and stands 40 metres above the Roman Forum. Be sure to visit it for some really amazing views.
view from Palatine Hill
View of the Roman Forum from Palatine Hill
  • Roman Forum – Next to Palatine Hill, this plaza of ruins was once the buzzing centre of ancient Rome. Make sure you take at least half a day to explore here.
roman forum
Arch in the Roman Forum
  • Wander the streets – You don’t have to be going anywhere in particular to enjoy Rome. Take all its charming architecture and history in, leisurely roam the streets and stop along the way for coffee and tasty pick-me-ups, like a true Roman. I promise you will never be bored walking around Rome. Plus it helps burn off all that pasta and pizza you should be eating! (I even found a man taking his pet pig for a walk. Because why not).
  • The Vatican – This tiny country, full of grand architecture and mysterious history, was my favourite place to visit while we were in Rome. There was so much to say about it (and lots of photos too) that I wrote a separate post on it last year. Make sure you go!
St Peter's Basilica
St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

When to go

We went at the beginning of July, which is peak season and quite hot. If you’re wanting to do a lot of outdoors activities and sight seeing in the summer, come prepared with plenty of sunscreen and a hat. Also be ready to do a fair amount of queuing outside, especially for the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums. If you’re not bothered about missing the hot weather, visiting in autumn would be the way to go. You’ll miss the crowds, hotels will be cheaper and you’ll probably miss the annoying souvenir touts who lurk everywhere.

How to get around

Like many of the big cities, Rome is easy to get around but my favoured mode of transport was walking. This way, you get to see more beautiful nooks and crannies of the city; Rome is the perfect place to endlessly wander unique backstreets. We also got around by train to the further away places, like Vatican City, which was easy and reliable enough but rather packed!

What I wish we did

Unfortunately our stay in Rome was only 5 days but we packed a lot in. If we could have stayed longer, I definitely would have liked to do the following. I can’t give specific recommendations but there’s definitely plenty of options for each!

  • Walking food tour
  • Cooking class
  • Vespa/bike tour
  • Segway tour

This was my first (and so far only) visit to Rome and I really loved it. I definitely plan on coming back soon! Hopefully as part of a long France/Spain/Portugal/Switzerland/Italy road trip… Watch this space!

Have you been to Rome before? What was your favourite thing to do there? Let me know in the comments below plus any places I should visit next time!


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