When in Rome…

It’s fair to say that Rome is one of Europe’s most in-demand cities right now, making the headlines for the new Pope, Francis. There’s no better time to visit the Eternal City and see it all for yourself on a short break to Rome.

St Peter's Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica

Iconic Ruins and Historical Sites

Grab yourself a Roma Pass (€30) to make the most of your time here and help your money to go further – it gives you free entry to two historical sites, museums or galleries, and discounted entry to many others. Start by using it at the Colosseum, where your pass will give you fast-track entry and you can admire the amazing architecture at your own pace. If you want to get your photo taken with a costumed ‘Roman Centurion’ outside, bear in mind that they tend to charge €5 for the privilege! Afterwards, head across the road to the Roman Forum and see the former centre of business and politics in the city, consisting of several different temples and spectacular arches.

For those of you really short on time, the best way to cover all the basics is to take a Vespa tour around the streets, ticking off key landmarks as you go, with a company such as Scooteroma. You’ll be able to stop off at regular intervals for photo opportunities and have the chance to quiz your drivers about their insider knowledge of the city, so be prepared to learn as you travel! An easy three hour tour gives you an excellent grounding of where the main sights are in relation to each other, as well as allowing you to access some of the neighbourhoods that the tour buses miss out altogether, such as Trastevere, which is full of rustic charm and has Rome’s only medieval piazza.

Some of the busier highlights should really be saved for early mornings or after dark, when the crowds will disperse and you can get a much better view. The Trevi Fountain is a perfect example; during the day you’ll struggle to get past school groups and other tourists, but it’s much quieter at night and you can get right to the front to throw a coin into the fountain for luck. Other places to try outside of peak time are the Mouth of Truth (or Bocca Della Verita) and the Spanish Steps.

The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps

Museums and Galleries

Again, you can use your Roma Pass in many of the most popular sites, including the Borghese Gallery, which sits in the Villa Borghese Gardens, and the four branches of Rome’s National Museum, which are scattered around the city. Meanwhile the Vatican Museums are a firm favourite with visitors, due to the breath-taking artworks in the collections.

Of course, St. Peter’s Basilica is a must-see for culture lovers, who can marvel at the huge dome and climb the steps to see a stunning view, before moving onto the Sistine Chapel to admire Michelangelo’s legendary ceiling frescoes. For something more modern, try the MAXXI Museum, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, which is full of 21st century art, from the likes of Gilbert & George, to keep kids and teenagers interested.

Scooteroma Vespa Tour

Scooteroma Vespa Tour

Restaurants and Cafes

The best way to discover more authentic Roman food, and to avoid paying high tourist prices, is to step away from the restaurants closest to major monuments. Instead, be a bit more adventurous and head to the smaller streets to get a real taste of the city, with traditional and filling dishes such as wild boar ravioli, pasta with grilled artichokes and rustic pizza.

The former Jewish ghetto, which is right on the banks of the Tiber, is the perfect place to find cheap and hearty meals in family-run restaurants. Alternatively, over the river you’ll find that Trastevere is full of reasonably priced, independent trattorias and cafes. There’s also a lively food market here where you can pick up essentials.

Meanwhile, for food on the go, head to a café that serves pizza al taglio, which is pizza by the slice, measured in size or weight. It’s very cheap and easy to enjoy if you don’t have enough time for a sit-down meal. If you’re popping in for a coffee then this is also best enjoyed standing up, as you’ll pay much less for the privilege – typically around €1. Italians tend to enjoy cappuccinos and espressos early on, followed by a macchiato in the afternoons. Those of you who try and order a cappuccino after lunch may get a few strange looks, as it’s regarded as a morning-only drink here.

If you miss a good old-fashioned British cup of tea then head to Babington’s Tea Rooms, right beneath the Spanish Steps, to enjoy a bit of Blighty in an unlikely location. A convenient hotel close to the area is the Domus Romana, which is within easy reach of Babington’s and also the Trevi Fountain and the Forum – perfect for maximising your sightseeing potential.

Whatever you choose to do in Rome, you’re never far away from a slice of culture in the Eternal City. The hardest part will be narrowing down your wish list of places to see!

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