Known for: Roman history Basilicas + cathedrals Foodie's paradise Ancient architecture Beautiful art
Push open the shutters, inhale the aroma of rich brewed coffee and look at row upon row of ancient buildings lining the cobble stone streets.
In New Zealand our oldest building, Kemp House, is nearly 200 years old, The Pantheon in Rome however was built in 117AD, and is still used as a Roman-Catholic church to this day.
During a bleak winter week in England, I booked a fly-out-tomorrow spontaneous getaway to Italy, and without hesitation (and a ticking time-out server pressing my deadline) I chose Rome.
WHAT TO DO
10pm Friday night, I checked into a gorgeous BnB called Salotto Monti. When I first arrived I thought I’d booked a dud as there was no signage to be seen and no signs of life.
After bumbling my way through broken Italian, a game of charades with some locals and doubtful thoughts that the streets would be my home for the night – the big wooden door opened and a little head popped over the bannister of a spiral staircase. “You are here!” cried a petite Italian woman. “Buonasera” I replied as I turned to thank the entourage of helpers peering through the doors behind me.
Two days in Rome was not going to make me an expert on the place by any means. However I was content with the amount of activities I fit into my schedule. If you’re only visiting for 2 days also, you might like to follow my itinerary.
1. Wake up and walk past the Quirinale en-route to the Vatican. This is the first time you’ll notice the Roman Soliders manning the iconic buildings.
2. Weave your way past Piazza Navona another incredible area with a beautiful fountain.
3. Check out the Pantheon. Take note of where it is and visit again at night (because everything is cooler at night).
4. It should only by 10am by the time you buy yourself your first gelato and reach the Vatican Museum. Get in early to avoid cues (travelling 101). Marvel at the architecture, read the placards (they will tell you a lot about what you’re actually looking at) and spend time in the sistine chapel (it’s so ornate it will probably overwhelm you so don’t race it).
5. While you’re in the area visit St Peter’s Basillica just next door.
6. Enjoy lunch at the famous Campo Di Fiori.
Travel tip: I didn’t find out until I left Italy that Campo Di Fiori is actually home to many ghosts according to history. Did have an eerie vibe!
7. Mentally prepare yourself for the bombardment of tourists at the stunning Trevi Fountain. Pretend you’re Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and toss a euro in the water. Don’t forget to make a wish.
8. Return to Campo Di Fiori for dinner because that little eatery you found at lunch was so darn good.
9. Party at Salotto 42, enjoy champagne, free snacks and chat to the locals. Who knows, if you’re lucky they might even show you round the city by night. Thanks to these suave gentlemen for the constant laughs and personal tour.
10. Listen to live jazz at Gregory’s. The famous bar draws in quirky crowds of Italians and foreigners who both share a passion for live music and fine wine.
1. If you’re staying in Monti, check out the Sunday morning markets. You’ll find a treasure trove of antiques, old biker jackets, vintage Dior, limited edition records and other exciting surprises. I found this super quirky Missoni skirt (pictured) and a beautiful Guess leather jacket but to my regret I didn’t buy (too sensible).
2. After the markets, swing by the Collisseum to be blown away by the incredible, breath-taking structure that it is. To say it’s overwhelming would be an understatement.
Travel tip: Please don’t take a selfie with the Collisseum.
3. Pop in to the famous cathedral Santi Giovanni e Paolo and light a candle for the people you love.
4. Also visit Palatine Hill / Circus Maximus
5. Forum Romanum (ancient ruins)
6. and Piazza Venezia Rome. I didn’t take any photos of these places because they were so majestic that I wanted to take them in with my eyes.
7. Dinner at Campo Di Fiori…again. By this point I really felt like a local.
8. One last trip to the Spanish Steps to watch the sunset over the beautiful city.
9. Run up to the top of the French Academy to catch the last bit of the sunset. Savour the moment, it’ll be one you remember for a long time. I know I will.
10. Race to the airport, don’t try taking the bus like I did (just get a cab). And that is how you have an incredible weekend in Rome!
WHERE TO STAY
Due to this trip being booked at the drop of a hat, I had to make a quick decision between a BnB overlooking the Trevi fountain or a little place a bit further away in the hip district of Monti. After umming and ahhing for far too long, I went with my gut and booked the latter. I couldn’t be more thankful when I checked into the most authentic, peaceful place with groovy animal wallpaper and a tasty complimentary breakfast. When I visited the Trevi fountian in the morning and saw the masses of selfie stick clad common folk, I thanked my lucky stars for my fleeting wise decision.
Salotto Monti: Trendy yet homely.
WHERE TO EAT
Ristorante Campo de Fiori: The best pasta I’ve eaten in my life – Carmelle with pistachio and pear ravioli. The pear cut through the sweet, creamy sauce and the pasta was cooked perfectly al dante with a crisp nut crumb for great texture. Staff were overly friendly too. 10/10.
Il Barroccio: Cheap + tasty pizza. Go for the marg w mushrooms. Buzzy vibe and great for people watching in this old family-run restaurant.
Travel tip: It’s okay to eat ice-cream for breakfast in Italy. It is also acceptable to eat multiple in one day. Embrace it and eat the damn ice-cream. No diets allowed.
WHAT TO WEAR
If you just go for the weekend, you have the luxury of packing light. I lived in a black wool polar neck and wool dress with a fluffy cream jacket.
Rome is the kind of place that you can easily develop a strong affinity for. I know in my heart I will return, and not just because of the fond memories, but because of the vast amount of history I am yet to explore, learn about and see. I think this trip has taught me rather than ticking cities off your bucket list, it’s okay to return time and time again because every time you visit a country you learn something new, meet new people and create new memories.
Next stop: Barbados.