Last weekend I had the pleasure of being whisked off
on a city break for 4 days as an early anniversary present from Joe.
To celebrate 5 years together, we went to Rome for a long weekend of food,
laughter and culture! The only time it is humanly acceptable to be woken by an alarm at 4.30am is when you’re going on holiday.
So waking up with a smile on my face and the Plebs theme tune stuck in my head,
our holiday had started.
Full TripAdvisor Reviews on:
WorldHotel Ripa Roma
Cajo and Gajo
City Lights Tours
Day 1 – Friday 24th April
We caught an early flight from Stanstead so that we didn’t spend the whole day travelling. It was around 1.30pm that we checked in at The World Ripa Roma Hotel (http://www.worldhotelriparoma.com) a very modern hotel located in the hustle and bustle of the Trastervere town, before changing into some lighter clothes and heading out for our first taste of Roman pizza! The restaurant we chose was Cajo and Gajo, located on a side street just before you hit the centre of Trastevere. I had a written a rough itinerary for our 4 days so after lunch we decided to hit the spots I’d planned for on our first day. As everything is a lot closer to each other than it seems on the map, we managed to see quite a lot in the 6 hours of walking before dinner:
1. Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
2. Piazza Trilussa
3. Ponte Sisto Bridge
4. Piazza Navona
5. Piazza dei Tribunali
7. Templo de Adriano
8. Trevi Fountain
9. Palazzo del Quirinal
10. Piazza de Spagna (Spanish Steps)
11. Trinata dei Monti
After I’d finally gotten over the fact that the Trevi Fountain was undergoing refurbishment and was surrounded in scaffolding without any water, we headed back to the Pantheon square and had dinner in one of the surrounding restaurants with a stunning view of the Pantheon lit up as our backdrop. Napoletano’s was a very busy restaurant but were quite happy to move some tables in order to accommodate us. Initial service was slow but once we’d ordered it was super quick – no complaints there as so much walking had certainly worked up an appetite. After our first taste of authentic Italian bruschetta, Joe tucked into a mixed grill while I had some grilled chicken with mushrooms, vegetables and baby roast potatoes. It was delicious! Happy that we could walk off our dinner with a 30 minute stroll back to the hotel, we both zonked out as soon as we got back to the hotel, ready to do it all again the following day!
Day 2 – Saturday 25th April
I woke up before Joe and hit the gym for a quick session before breakfast; I made up a 4 set BBG-style circuit and repeated for 30 mins and finished off with a 10 minute bike ride. Our first experience of the buffet breakfast included at the hotel was lovely. A long length table full of all sorts of hot and cold delights; pain au chocolat, various flavours of yoghurts, scrambled eggs and fresh fruit, to name a few. I had a selection of high bran, a croissant and some melon and pineapple slices while Joe tucked into what was a good attempt at a ham and cheese toastie and a yoghurt. Both satisfied, we set off to the Vatican City for our self-guided tour. NOTE: we bought our tickets online, the night before, through a private company. While it’s fine booking through other tour operators, I wouldn’t leave it so late to book them as someone needs to manually send the tickets to you and if, like us, you don’t allow enough time for someone to do so, you’ll be left without the tickets and in a bit of a predicament. Luckily a couple of phone calls later, and only a little bit of stress (okay, quite a lot of stress – sorry Joe!) on my part, we were booked onto the next tour. We killed some time people watching before starting a 4 hour self-guided tour of the Vatican City. This included:
1. The Vatican Museums
2. Sistine Chapel
3. St. Peter’s Basilica
In search of a spot of lunch we headed down towards Castel St Angelo. NOTE: some restaurants are closed between 3pm and 7pm, we weren’t aware of this so looking for a restaurant to have lunch in at 3.30pm proved frustrating. The restaurant we found, il Mozzicone, was lovely however, and the food was just what we needed to refuel ourselves. Joe ordered a spicy tomato spaghetti dish, while I opted for a classic spaghetti carbonara. We topped this off with some authentic gelato as we walked to get a better view of the castle and then down the river during a beautiful sunset. We spotted a Piazza on the map that we hadn’t seen yet so wondered over in that direction and eventually stumbled upon the Pizza del Popolo. Another stunning open square surrounded by white pillared monuments, complete with a Michael Jackson impersonator; the square was full of people enjoying the sunshine and atmosphere. We walked down via del Corso – the Oxford Street of Rome – and done a bit of window shopping, deciding we’d return Monday when we had some money leftover.
We headed back to St Maria’s square for dinner with another stunning backdrop of Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore at a restaurant called Galeassi. I had smoked salmon to start, with roast lamb for mains; Joe ordered a vegetable soup and a fillet steak with green pepper sauce (more commonly known as peppercorn sauce). This square was really near the hotel and only took 10 minutes to walk back.
Day 3 – Sunday 26th April
Another early start. Filling up on the hotel breakfast and taking a couple of sandwiches to have as a snack later on, we headed towards the Colosseum, the part of the trip I was most excited about! On the way we stumbled upon Palestine Hill which gave beautiful views of what remains of the Roman Forum. While we intended to do another self guided tour of the Roman Forum and Colosseum following the Lonely Planet guidebook a friend had kindly lent us, we were approached by a man named Sean from City Light Tours. As these types of people are everywhere, we tend to say no and continue walking. This time was no exception for Joe and he did exactly that. I, however, surprised by Sean’s charming Irish accent, decided to have a chat with him and he offered a semi-private tour around the Roman Forum and Colosseum for 35 euros each. SOLD. We were a group of 10 and the tour lasted approximately 2 hours, and was lead by an Italian lady who has been giving tours for 20 years – it’s safe to say she knew her stuff! Friendly and answering any question asked, she was a delight and I was so thankful that we had chosen to do this tour with her. The Roman Forum was mind blowing, it really took you back to how people would have lived their lives all those years ago.
Once we’d finished at The Forum, with our brains jammed with historical knowledge, we were taken to the Colosseum; as we were with a tour guide we didn’t have to queue for either attraction. The feeling of walking into the Colosseum was breathtaking – the only feeling I can equate it to is the one I got walking into the Emirates and Wembley for the first time. Just a split moment when nothing else matters apart from what you’re looking at, at that particular moment. Our tour guide explained everything about the Colosseum’s history, the different types of ‘show’ it would host as well as where everyone was likely to sit. We were then allowed to stay in the Colosseum for as long as we wanted to; Joe and I headed up to the higher level and got trigger happy with the camera trying our best to capture the atmosphere of this breathtaking piece of history.
Once I’d stopped ‘oh my God‘-ing and repeating the phrase ‘oh wow, Joe, look at that!‘ we went for a spot of luncheon at Barrique. I opted for a prosciutto and mushroom pizza while Joe had some very Italian pasta bolognese with meatballs.
At the beginning of our tour, our guide briefly mentioned the Piazza Venezia which is the square that hosts the balcony Mussolini used to give his speeches from, talking to the thousands of people that filled the square. The Altare fella Patria, a huge white monument that greeted us, was astounding! The most notable part is the guarded ‘tomb of the unknown soldier‘ with an eternal flame. We took a walk to the top which provided stunning views of the Roman Forum and Colosseum. We had some time to kill before dinner as we’d had a later than usual lunch so we decided to head back to the hotel to freshen up before grabbing some dinner.
We began our last evening in Rome with some cocktails in the hotel bar before taking a walk down to St Maria square and tucking into our best meal of the holiday at a restaurant called Sabatini. We shared a mixed bruschetta starter before Joe enjoyed another fillet steak with green pepper sauce and I had slow cooked chicken in white wine sauce with herbs and olives. With sides of chips and roasted vegetables, it was all washed down with obligatory glasses of wine. We were out late, busy chatting and people watching; there was also a woman performing a fire act. After listening to the same piece of music 5 times we called it a night and strolled back to the hotel.
Day 4 – Monday 27th April
The weather up until that morning had been beautiful, averaging 25 degrees during the day we were spoilt with sunshine! Waking up on our last day we were met with overcast skies and cooler temperatures which prompted long sleeve tops and jeans. We had a later breakfast and checked out at 10.30am; we left our cabin bags in the hotel which were kept in a locked room; Joe wanted to buy some things from the Nike store so we headed back down via del Corso and done some shopping! For our last meal in Rome we went back to the restraurant we had lunch at on our first day – Cajo and Gajo – ordering the same meal too; we loved the atmosphere and the staff are lovely so didn’t question returning there for a second time. Sat outside once again, we enjoyed the last of the Roman atmosphere as we tucked in to delicious pizzas and sipped on wine. Over the road was a gelato bar called Blue Ice so we bought a little tub each and enjoyed it as we walked back to the hotel to check out and made our way to the airport.
Rome Travel Tips!
1. You can afford to be picky: there are so many restaurantes and pizzarias everywhere, you can be really fussy. If you don’t like the look of a menu or the overall appearance of a restaurant, move on – there will be another restaurant within two feet, so go and check that one out. Be aware of tourist traps though – obviously food and drinks will be much more expensive if they’re right near a big attraction so just be aware of prices. Obviously if you don’t fancy a sit down restaurant meal at lunch, or just want to grab a quick snack, there are plenty of shops and supermarkets where you can pick up a bite to eat. NOTE: some restaurant are closed between the hours of 3pm and 7pm. We weren’t aware of this before we went, but finding food will never be a hard task in Rome.
2 . Say ‘no’ to insistent salesmen: The biggest pet peeve of our trip to Rome was being constantly offered things to buy as you’re walking around. The biggest annoyance was people trying to ‘give’ you roses. Men and women alike will be offered a ‘gift’ of a ‘free’ rose. The salesman will place it in your hand or sit it across your lap insisting it is a gift. They will then demand money for it. Just avoid eye contact, be persistent in saying no and keep walking.
3. If you can, walk everywhere! Joe and I didn’t get on any buses or trams while we were there and only used a cab to get to and from the airport. This way, you can really take everything in. You can walk down little cobbed backstreets and see buildings and architecture that you wouldn’t have seen if you’re on a bus only driving up and down the main streets.
4. There is a lot of talk about the dress code in Rome: Really the only thing that needs to be noted is that knees and shoulders must be covered when going into churches/basilicas. Obviously if you’re going in colder temperatures dressing appropriately for this will be a given, but in the warmer months women can just carry around a light scarf or blazer to cover their shoulders while wearing long skirts or trousers. Men can get away with long shorts and t-shirts in all places. We managed to go to the places that required us to follow a strict dress code all on the same day, so on the other days we weren’t as restricted with clothes as the weather was really warm.
5. ‘Servizio‘: The ‘posher’ restaurants will include this as a seperate item on the bill which is essentially the cost of the table; other restaurants may just include this in the price of the meal. Either way tipping is as standard; a tip between 5-10% is sufficient and perfectly acceptable.
Usually only ever opting for a beach holiday, it’s safe to say my eyes have been opened to how amazing city breaks can be too. They’re tiring, but so worth it. I’d recommend Rome to anyone that wants to experience real Italian culture and true historical attractions.
So Italy, until next time… Ciao, Bella!