I landed in Rome back in 2013 for my first solo trip and hit the ground running. It was 48 hours of scrambling around the city trying to hit all the tourist landmarks. Although it was one of my favorite trips, I prefer slower travel. Recently, I was able to visit this beautiful city again and take my time. I sat a little longer, walked a little farther, and relaxed a little deeper. Rome has a LOT to offer and I am thankful that I got to visit it again.
See below a Rome Travel Guide on where to stay, eat (and drink!) and play.
Where to Stay
The Westin Excelsior is a luxurious 5-star resort on one of the most celebrated streets in Rome, Via Vittorio Veneto. It’s central location is appealing to those who want to explore the city by foot. The lobby and rooms are beautiful and provide all the creature comforts of home (lets be real…it’s way nicer than my little apartment) including extravagant bedrooms decked out with chandeliers and marble bathrooms with large soaking tubs. (Rooms start at $285 a night – off season)
Hotel Majestic Rome is another 5-star property (also on Via Vittorio Veneto) that boasts amazing common areas including a massive restaurant, multiple parlors with bars and an expansive terrace to enjoy food and drink. The building itself was built in the late 1800s and they have done a beautiful job restoring the original elements throughout the property while upgrading the rooms with comfortable clean white furniture and immaculate marble bathrooms. (Rooms start at $250 a night- off season)
Legend R.G. Hostel is a good option for that are traveling on a budget. It’s walking distance to many attractions and Termini Metro Station. The rooms are very basic with complimentary WIFI. The best part about this hostel is that they offer free dinner each night- pizza and wine! It is a great way to meet other travelers and save some dollars.
Hostelworld is a great resource if you are traveling on a budget. Rome is littered with trendy, comfortable hostels and B&Bs.
Where to Eat & Drink
Tavernaccia di Bruno was listed on Eaters “38 Musts” in Rome so I decided to check it out. Be sure to make a reservation in advance because the place was full all night! The restaurant is tucked away in the Trastevere neighborhood and isn’t much to look at but the food was fantastic. We enjoyed eggplant parmesan (best I’ve ever had), veal brisket (which Eater describes as “otherworldly”- and it was close), and the pappardelle and white boar ragu. The food was exceptionally good. If they just dimmed the lights a little this place would be perfect.
Freni e Frizioni is located right off the Tiber River in Trastevere. It has a funky vibe with dark walls, street art and glittery chandeliers and features awesome cocktails. The bartenders put on a bit of show while they craft each drink. You can also pay a small fee and enjoy a buffet of food. I suggest the Mad Men cocktail with whiskey, agave, and mole bitters. Yum!
Venchi is everything that is delicious about Italian Gelato. And in my honest opinion? One of the best things about Italy is that it is acceptable to eat Gelato at any time of day and as often as you’d like. Venchi has the best!
Harry’s Bar Roma is a must see. Their motto is “Experience the Atmosphere of “La Dolce Vitta””. When you step in to Harry’s you are taken back to a time where Frank Sinatra would play the piano and the who’s who of Hollywood would be seen. With live music, tasty cocktails, and well-dressed bartenders, Harry’s is a treat.
Where to Play
Trevi Fountain– As I mentioned before Rome is full of tourist attractions but unlike other cities where you buy tickets and wait in line to get a good peak, Rome’s wonders are dispersed throughout the city and you can’t turn a corner without seeing an amazing ancient ruin or spitting fountain. The Trevi fountain is located in the heart of Rome and truly is impressive. I suggest visiting it at night when it is lit up with hundreds of lights. Make a wish while throwing a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder!
Vatican- First of all, did you know that Vatican City is actually a COUNTRY located inside the city of Rome? Pretty crazy, right? 110 acres that houses gardens and buildings, including the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican Museum is extensive and houses one of the most impressive art collections in the world. You can spend hours strolling through different rooms filled with sculptures, ancient carvings and famous paintings. The crown jewel of the Vatican however is the Sistine Chapel. With hand painted frescos and soaring ceilings it is remarkable. You’re supposed to get the best view by standing in the middle of the room but after hours of wondering the Vatican, I suggest snagging a seat on the surrounding benches and taking it all in. Don’t forget, no pictures allowed and the guards take their job seriously.
Pantheon- I will admit that I have out-churched myself. I am happier sitting at a little cafe outside of a church (with an Aperol Spritz, of course) and looking at the exterior architecture than I am wondering around inside. Plus, there are no lines at the cafe. The Pantheon, although it’s supposed to be very impressive inside, is worth a stroll by to see it. It’s located in a vibrant plaza in the city center and boasts massive stone columns and Latin phrases.
Piazza Navona– Okay, I know I just said I had out-churched myself but it was a cold night in December and I wanted to sneak off the streets for a minute so I popped in to Sant’Agnese in Agone and it was one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. I paused as I walked in and was in shock. The entire church including the cupola were covered in frescos, marble carvings, and gold details. Outside in the Piazza is another incredible statue called the Fountain of Four Rivers. Between the other two statues at either end of the piazza you’ll find great restaurants, old Italian men performing for the passerby and fire throwers entertaining. In the winter time you’ll find the holiday market here.
Colleseum and Roman Forum are must-do’s. The Colleseum is one of those attractions that I thought was actually cooler than the hype. Of course it’s impressive from the outside but as soon as I stepped in the cool stone building on a hot summer day, I was in awe. It’s the world’s largest amphitheater ever built and use to house everything from gladiator fights and animal hunts, to mock battles and drama shows. As always it’s good to go during the shoulder seasons to avoid crowds. They offer a night tour that I imagine would be pretty awesome. Adjacent to the Colleseum you can wander through the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill which give you a glimpse in to the founding of the Rome empire.
Spanish Steps– These are one of Rome’s most famous attractions and I hate to be a buzz kill, but they are just steps. They are generally overcrowded and unfortunately you’re not even allowed to eat on them, so forget the picnic. That being said, at sunset, this is the perfect place to be. Climb to the top to get the best view of the sun casting an orange glow over the entire city.
Trastevere is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Rome. Just on the other side of the Tiber River these cobble stoned streets are filled with small restaurants and shops, colorful street art, and vendors with fresh cut flowers. The Porto Portese flea market is held here every Sunday and is a great place to treasure hunt for Italian Antiques. Be patient…half the market is filled with trashy Chinese-made goods that come out of plastic wrapping but if you can make it through to the other side you will find stall after stall of awesome Italian furniture, architectural salvage, and vintage art.
Wear comfortable shoes! Rome is a huge city but is easily walkable if you are up for some exercise.
If you take the buses, you have to validate your ticket once you get on.
Like any country, when getting off the plane, head straight to the designated taxi line. Don’t get sucked in by the men telling you they have a cheaper shuttle. It’s a scam.
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