· What to do in Rome, Italy ·
Trying to imagine a world in which Rome is not a desirable, romantic and enriching getaway is truly impossible. The ancient city has captured hearts for well over 2,500 years and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It is humbling in its history and inspiring in its beauty. It is truly the Eternal City.
From the Roman Empire to the Pope, Rome was the epitome of power for hundreds of years. Today, while the remnants of this time remain as architectural reminders, it’s hard to reconcile the modern city with its ancient equivalents. In some places rundown, in others contemporary and unexpected, the famous monuments stand as the only reminder of those years of incredible influence.
While it’s now a relatively small city and no longer enjoys quite the same amount of power it once held over the world, there are many ways Rome continues to play a part in contemporary Western culture. From films like La Dolce Vita which not only gave us that incredible scene with Anita Ekberg in the Trevi Fountain but also the term paparazzi, to fashion houses such as Valentino and Fendi, Rome still has a hold on daily life.
Whether you’ve been there before or you’re a first-timer, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the Eternal City. Start your planning now!
Where to go: Parco Regionale dell’Appia
Escaping the confines of the city, this ancient but picturesque park gives you a little breathing room while continuing the ancient Roman theme. The Parco Regionale dell’Appia, or Appian Way Regional Park in English, features ten miles of one of the oldest roads in the world, the Appian Way, which connected Rome to Brindisi. Sights include the Aurelian Wall (Rome’s city wall from 275 AD) and picturesque views of Aqua Claudia, one of Rome’s four “great aqueducts.”
Following almost ten miles of the Via Appia Antica, cycling through the picturesque park is a popular pastime. The park encompasses several smaller parks and in addition to views of aqueducts, walls and ancient Roman roads, you’ll encounter catacombs, 13th Century watchtowers, and even the ruins of an ancient Roman villa. With all that’s packed into the centre of the city, spending a day exploring this park is not something to miss.
What to do: Wander – by day and by night
Okay, this sounds like a copout. But it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been, there is always something new to find wandering the streets of Rome. Native Roman Delfina Delettrez Fendi told Suitcase magazine of wandering Rome, “It’s like time travelling, it’s a surprise every time you walk the streets, you can always find something you’ve never seen before, even if you’re in the same place for millennia.” We’ll take her word for it and continue to explore Rome by foot.
For first timers, there are the necessities: the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican. Once you’ve seen all those sights you’ve read about, it’s time for the real exploring to start and you can find less known but equally amazing things. Stumbling upon squares like Piazza Navona with its lively, modern vibe or Piazza di Pietra that merges ancient with new architecture that you start to really appreciate Rome’s layers of culture and history. A top tip is to get up early – the Spanish Steps are still nearly empty at 8 am, so you can enjoy the beauty without all the tourists – and indulge in a much needed Italian coffee!
Importantly, be sure to wander and sightsee both by day and night. As darkness descends and lights illuminate, Rome takes on a whole new identity. The monuments, by day impressive and awe-inspiring, by night become even more imposing and beautiful than you could have imagined in the sunlight. Colors change and you see things in a completely new light – literally. Set aside your need for sleep or to go out and instead grab some gelato (or imbibe in a “juice box” of wine – they’re only a few Euros) and channel your best Marcello and Sylvia. Instead of going to a club, wander the streets and enjoy the beauty of Rome at night.
Where to drink: Salotto 42
While you’re wandering, however, do allow yourself a drink (or two) at Salotto 42 across from the Temple of Hadrian in Piazza di Pietra. Frequently rated among the best bars in Rome, this trendy bar is perfect for apertivos. While the front foliage is reason enough to try it out (especially in spring), you’ll stay for the cocktails.
Delicious drinks ✔
Trendy bar ✔
Ancient temple across the street ✔
Where to eat: Somewhere with a terrace, somewhere with a sandwich and somewhere with gelato
It’s really hard to go wrong eating in Italy. While we could list the top-rated restaurants in Rome, we’d argue the best food is stumbled upon while you’re wandering the streets. While the specific restaurant doesn’t necessarily matter, there are a few experiences you can’t leave Rome without having.
The first is a delicious dinner on an outdoor terrace. This won’t be hard to find. In fact, you’ll probably do this every night. Do it the Italian way and don’t rush. Allow yourself several hours for a lingering meal with several courses and always complemented with several bottles of wine. Don’t worry about the calories or the minutes and indulge in a relaxing, filling (literally) spread. Pasta dishes not to miss are the traditional Roman carbonara and cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper). You won’t be disappointed.
For lunch, regress to your grade school self and order a ham and cheese sandwich. What are they going on about? you might be wondering. Trust us, the sandwich you receive in return will be further from your idea of a ham and cheese sandwich than you ever thought possible. You’ll see the sandwiches at cafes and “bars” (Italian lunch bars), often made on thick focaccia bread. You’ll have the choice between prosciutto cotto and prosciutto crudo – cotto is cooked ham while crudo is dry-cured. The fresh, soft cheese complements the salty ham and the panino (panini is the plural of the Italian word for sandwich, panino) could be toasted or not. Both are equally good. Trust us, you’ll never be the same.
Of course, no trip to Rome is complete without gelato. After every meal. And as a snack in the afternoon. And while you’re wandering the streets after dark. And in the morning on your last day. Gelato is a gift from God and should be eaten as much as possible during your stay.
Gelato, ancient ruins, pasta, wine and beautiful Italian vistas… the Eternal City keeps calling us back.
Or maybe it’s just the penny we threw in the Trevi Fountain on our last trip.
Look out for what to pack and check out Rome and Florence as seen through a disposable camera.