„Tutte le strade portano a roma“ - „All roads lead to Rome“ is an old saying which had its origin in the medieval. Well, my roads in past 37 years didn‘t take me to the Italian capital. Unfortunately! Cause I really enjoyed every minute in this fantastic city.
Being from the southern part of Austria, Italy is pretty much always the first place you go on vacation when you are young. The Italian border is only 200 kilometers from my hometown so the northern part was a very popular destination when I was a kid. During the pandemic I finally made it to Tuscany, Pisa and Cinque Terre. After all those years traveling all over the world, I really appreciated Italy again and fell in love with the "La dolce vita".
where to stay and how to get around
I took the nighttrain from Graz to Rome. Super comfy and a really nice way to travel down there. The AirBnB apartment I checked in was close to "Termini" which is the name of the train station. The neighborhood is not a typical station area neighborhood - of course as in every bigger city - the streets right next to the train station are a kind of creepy but if you look a few streets further you find a wonderful little neighborhood with lots of nice little stores, antipasti and wine bars and some really great restaurants.
When in Rome, you will be walking a lot - I mean, really a lot! The subway system is not the best and Uber is quite expensive. Still the neighborhood around Termini might be a good place for you to stay since all the public transports will pass this area.
If you are more into exploring the city by walking, you better bring good walking shoes. As pretty much everything in this city, the streets are really old and bumpy.
sightseeing in the inner city
Depending on how long your stay in Rome will be, here are a few things you might want to do.
I really recommend to stay at least 3-5 days to explore the whole city, have some great food, go shopping and see all the great architecture and buildings that were build 2,000 years ago.
On every first Sunday of the month, all museums in Rome are free of charge. Lucky bastard I'm, I didn't pay for any of the big attractions - so if you are in the city around the first Sunday try to organize clever so you can safe up some good money. You'll need your money anyway for all the good and expensive wine you are about to drink.
the colosseo & forum romanum
First things first...when it comes to sights in Rome there might be one particular building coming to everyones mind immediately. The Colosseo. Build in the year 72 this massive stone colossus gave me goosebumps the second I first saw it. After seeing ruins of the Incas at Machu Picchu in Peru and the pyramids of the Mayas in Chichen Itza - Mexico, I was really stocked to get to know the remainings of the European high culture as well.
This place is impressive! Just to imagine how people back then build this crazy big thing left me speechless. Unfortunately the ground floor was closed due to construction work. Still the two upper floors are currently open you get the chance to see the whole building from every angel. On the north side you get the chance to take a audio guided tour which we skipped but maybe (if you have enough time) might be really interesting.
All in all the the Colosseo has to be on you bucket list when in Rome, even if it is a pain in the ass to wait in line for a really long time.
Pretty much right next to the Amphitheatre you find the Forum Romanum. This place used to be the center of politics and economics back in the days. Unfortunately only ruins are whats left. Still you can get some really nice pictures up from the hill with the Victor Emmanuel II Monument in the back. You get your Forum Romanum ticket combined with the entrance fee for the Colosseo - even if it is not the most exciting place in the world you should give it a try.
monuments, churches, fountains and stairs
We where now heading forward into the main district - called Municipio I. Here we are about to find some more really famous attractions. Right next to the Forum Romanum you'll find the already mentioned Victor Emmanuell II Monument also known as "Altare della Patria" - "The Altar of the Fatherland" which is the national Monument. This building is so big - you might want to go all the way to Piazza Venezia to get it on one picture. The stairways up the monument and the gigantic sculptures all around the building will leave you speechless. I highly recommend to take your time to go into the monument as well. No expense was spared during construction. A must see when you are in the capital of Italy!
Next stop: Pantheon. The name stands for "Temple of all gods" In fact it is a church - quite a special one I would say - the whole building is just one huge round room. The dome on top of the building is, after the Cathedral of Florance, the biggest dome on a building in the world. Get your chance to go inside - the waiting in the line is not that bad - just watch out for pick pockets - all around the building. Unfortunately this is a real problem in Rome. A bit annoying, so make sure to have all your belongings where the need to be.
Not far from the Pantheon you will find Fontana di Travi - The Trevi fountain - you might skip it during the day and come back at night or really early in the morning. This place is next to the Spanish steps the most crowded spot in the whole city. I really loved the fountain - especially at night - but I have to say the Spanish steps are probably the most overrated thing I saw on all my travels so far. Check it out and decide for you self. I don't really recommend spending time at the steps.
One place I really do recommend to go is the Castello di St. Angelo. Really impressive, especially at night - the spotlights from the Tiber river really make this building look really mystical. The waiting to get in is around 1 - 2 hours but like I said I really recommend doing it. You'll get a wonderful view over Rome and the Vatican City.
This independent state is located north of the center of Rome and it is even if you are not interested in the catholic church definitely a place you want visit. The St. Peter's Basilica is next to The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona probably the most impressive building I ever saw.
Make sure to check out the opening hours and days. Sundays closed and the pope audience is on every Wednesday. So if you're not into seeing and praying with the pope - Wednesday might not be the best day for you cause there will always be tons of people on St. Peter's Square. Before entering the Vatican you have to go through some security checks - no big of a deal but don't bring unnecessary stuff.
I booked a german guided tour on getyourguide.com. Of course you can do all the stuff on your own but still this tour was worth the money because you really get to know some interesting facts about the whole history of this place and the catholic church itself.
Man they really got some old stuff there. I'm not gonna get into too much detail, cause the tour was quite long but still interesting. Make sure to have the entrance to the Sistine Chapel and the the entrance to the Basilica on your tour as well. Some tours only show you around in the Museum, there you will miss the really impressive stuff like all the historic paintings Michelangelo did back in the 16th century.
Conclusio: Take some money and at least half a day to see this place. You'll not regret it.
trastevere - on the other side of the tiber river
If you want to get away from the hectic city, hop on a bus, the tram no.8 or take a walk over to the west bank of the Tiber river to find the district called Trastevere (XIII. Rione). We loved this area so much, we spent 2 whole days there.
This neighborhood has everything I love. Laid back people chilling in little restaurants and bars, urban street art, cool shops and small cafes.
The place is welcoming you with a this gorgeous "Piazza" at the Basilica di Santa Maria which is kind of the main square of this districts. From there you can get lost in every direction. Small Alleyways lead into a kind of maze where it is hard to find your way out again. The streets are full of cool stores where you can buy handmade craft or urban cloth. Go see for yourself, I'm sure you will love this neighborhood.
pasta e vino
I have to say, I guess I never ate more on a vacation, than I did in Rome. The Italian food is just too good.
To start the day right you have a fast espresso while standing at the counter of a cafe. That‘s what a lot of Romans and Italians do - they hammer down the coffee within 2 minutes, put some money on the table and just leave again.
While walking around in town, I fell in love with the so called „Supplis“. Fried rice balls filled with cheese and tomatoes, became addicted immediately.
Don't even want to start talking about Antipasti Platters you get pretty much everywhere - for me this is pure Italy. Having a glass of good wine and enjoying some cheese, mortadella, salami, olives, marinated or pickled vegetables, and the best bread you'll ever eat. You don't really need anything more - damn I'm getting hungry right now!
Another thing you have to taste are the "Spaghetti carbonara roman style" - Be warned! You might easily get at addicted.
Here are some of my favorite places I ate and had a drink:
Ristorante Pinseria Da Massi - located in Trastevere - really good pizza and some good house wine.
Enoteca Giansanti - I small wine bar in Via Ostiense close to Cestius-Pyramide. A small family business with wines from all over the world and a gigantic wine cellar. For really good Spaghetti carbonara roman style you might want to try Ristorante Amedeo close to Termini. Looking for some sweets? One of the Pasticcerias in Trastevere will help you out on that! I guess the best Supplis I also had in Trastevere - check out Suppli Roma in Via di San Francesco a Ripa. A place I couldn't resist any time I walked by was Amodei. Close to Termini this Antipasti Bar offers wonderful wine from every Italian region and really nice Antipasti platters. I'm getting hungry again...
There are tons of places in Rome where you can get really good food - I'm sure you'll find something to remember.
5 things you don't wanna miss
- Tasting Spaghetti carbonara roman style
- A day in Trastevere
- Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Pantheon and Fontana di Trevi
- A day in Vatican state