Don’t sleep on Rome.
Paris, London and Amsterdam seem to get all the love, but Rome is a treasure, bringing together the perfect travel trifecta of good eats, beautiful sites and history.
It’s also old as hell.
Nothing puts your own existence into perspective, than walking around ruins dating back to 800 BC. Rome is not a modern city. Besides the ruins, almost every building looks to be from a past time. But that’s part of its charm.
My family and I stayed at an Airbnb in the Trastevere neighborhood, which is known for a variety of restaurants and bars – it’s also near Vatican City. Rome is very walkable, albeit watch your step when on the cobblestone streets, and look out for motorists on mopeds, who have their own rules for the road.
Because this was my first visit, I spent five days playing a basic tourist. The following list is for first-timers to Rome, and includes the restaurants and sites I enjoyed while visiting.
The Colosseum and the Roman Forum
These three sites are covered under one ticket which can be bought online. Unless you like waiting in line, you should definitely pre-purchase tickets. If you don’t, get to the Colosseum or the Roman Forum entrance – which has a shorter line – before opening time. If a “guide” approaches to entice you with a tour and a no-wait entry for 30 euros, keep it moving. These men and women are not affiliated with the Colosseum and Roman Forum, and our wait time ( we didn’t pre-purchase tickets) was only 30 minutes. After you’re finishing touring, walk along the street, Via dei Fori Imperiali, for about 10 minutes, until you see the Altar of the Fatherland monument. Adjacent is the Campidoglio, a square designed by Michelangelo and offers additional views of the Roman Forum.
Vatican City: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museums line is real. REAL. You need to buy your tickets in advance if you have any desire to see the Sistine Chapel in this lifetime. To be honest, I found the Sistine Chapel to be underwhelming. However, I really enjoyed walking around St. Peter’s Basilica, which is free, but has it’s own separate and lengthy line.
Ticket price: € 16.00 for entry into the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps
These three sites are in walking distance, so hit them on the same day. Don’t forget to climb the Spanish Steps to see the church at the top. If you’re inclined to shop, this is the area where you’ll find high-end labels like Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and Dolce & Gabbana.
Ticket price: FREE
A beautiful park that houses the Galleria Borghese, which tickets are a requirement, a zoo and a beautiful view of the city from Pincio Terrace.
Colle del Gianicolo
One of the best views in Rome. See it at sunset…or sunrise.
Ticket price: FREE
To Eat and Drink:
Roscioli is a group of dining establishments: a bakery, a pizzeria and a full-service restaurant that you could go to every day to fulfill breakfast, lunch and dinner needs. A couple of doors down from the restaurant, is where you’ll find their pastry shop. If you’re in a morning rush, grab a standing spot at the counter and order a baked good and espresso like a local. Have a little more time? Head to the back, where you’ll find table service and a more expansive menu.
Try the: cacio e pepe
Address: Via dei Giubbonari 21
Roscioli Caffè Pasticceria (bakery)
Try the: cornetto and an espresso
Address: Piazza Benedetto Cairoli, 16
My last meal in Rome, was neither pizza or pasta, but steak, endless bread, generous pours of red wine and complimentary limoncello. It was one of the best meals I had in Rome, and the service was impeccable. It was also affordable. Make reservations for this spot.
Try the: tempura mixed vegetables, the Danish sliced beef with balsamic vinegar reduction and the cockrel (chicken)
Address: Via Giuseppe Giulietti, 5
The best pizza I had in Rome. This is a tiny spot where you take a number, wait for it to be called, and then order pizza by weight, not by slice. Attendants will make scoring motions with their scissors to inquire how much you’d like, and then they snip. This is not a traditional pizzeria, you’ll find toppings you never knew could work on a pizza, but do. Also, wine is €1.50 a glass. So there’s that.
Try the: potato or the onion and sun-dried tomato slices
Address: Via Della Meloria, 43
A fun and lively restaurant that brings out Prosecco for guests waiting for a table. A nice mix of locals and tourists alike.
Try the: carbonara
Address: Via del Governo Vecchio, 87
My go-to gelato spot near the Airbnb I was staying at.
Try the: pistachio or chocolate hazelnut gelatos
Address: Via della Lungaretta 96
Start your day with a couple of cookies. Because why not? They make great dunkers in your morning cappuccino.
the: everything. You can’t go wrong with cookies.
Address: Via della Luce, 21
If you need a break from wine – or Rome’s craft beers, head to this trendy watering hole in Trastevere and order one of their speciality cocktails. Drink sizes are “yuuuuge” and the pours are generous.
Try the: London Collins
Address: Via del Politeama, 4/6, 00153
Have you been to Rome? What were some of your favorite spots? Comment below.