Tuesday, 16 June 2015

An Adventurer's Guide to: Rome

''Wear sunscreen.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.
The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proven by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience...
I will dispense this advice now.''

1. I've only ever visited Rome during the summer so on each occasion that I've been there it has been upward of 30 degrees. My first piece of advice is to adhere to the words of Baz Luhrman, quoted above. My second, sensible piece of advice is to take a hat. Sometimes, when you're exploring little side streets in Rome, you'll be shaded but a lot of the main tourist attractions (the Roman Forum in particular) are really open or you'll have to queue outside in the blistering sun so you'll definitely get a little burn going on your scalp. That stuff is not tasty.

Outside most attractions there are people selling hats for about eight euros. They see you coming with your little red scalp. Those hats are overpriced and also really not that fashionable. If you don't bother taking a hat, you'll end up like me with a tasty straw one that will set you back the price of lunch.

A view of the river Tiber with Castel Sant Angelo in the background. And a photo of my tasty hat. Obviously

2. If you're fairly mobile then don't bother getting the tourist buses. I usually really rate these and the ones we used in Berlin and Barcelona were fantastic. However, a lot of the main sights in Rome are tucked away down tiny little, cobbled streets. The type of streets that are filled with Italian moped drivers cursing pedestrians who are blocking their path. Not a chance of the buses getting down here. Most of the sites are fairly close together, aside from maybe the Vatican which is a little further out but still easily walkable.

That said, if you're really not that keen on walking then I'd definitely recommend getting the tourist buses because there are some great sites, slightly out of the main tourist centre which are worth visiting while you're in the city. I'll come back to those later.

3. On the subject of tourist sites I have two points to make. Firstly, in my opinion, skip the line tickets are a waste of money. The normal entrance fees to the Coloseum (12 Euros including entrance to the Forum and Palatine Hill) and the Vatican (16 Euros) are fairly reasonable but the skip the line tickets are at least double that. We arrived at about 8am for each of these attractions and had to wait only about an hour which wasn't bad. The moral of this story is; lay off the wine one night and get up early. Save your pennies to spend on more wine the following night when you can smugly afford a lie in.

The second point is probably an obvious one, but judging by the number of people I saw in the same boat as me, maybe it isn't. If you're going to the Vatican, St Peter's Basilica or really any religious building, then you'll need to cover up. That means a top which covers your shoulders and trousers or a skirt which cover your knees.

Incidentally, that's the second time I've had a run in at St Peter's so it's safe to say that it isn't my favourite place in Rome. 

The Colosseum (clearly).

4. The first time I stayed in Rome, my hostel was miles outside of the centre. That meant that every day I had to cram myself onto a sweatbox of a bus for twenty-five minutes to reach the centre. There was also a strange man in the bushes who liked to wear red pants and waggle his bum at people waiting at the bus stop. It was a fairly traumatic experience all round.

This time, we stayed in Campo de Fuori which I found to be a great location for our adventures. We were within a twenty minute walk of all the sights, right across the river from Trastavere which was a great area for food and drink. The atmosphere in Campo de Fuori at night-time was great, with musicians playing in the square and lots of people milling about. Perhaps it's a tad touristy for some people but I was happy with it.

5. Try to do some research on restaurants before you go. There's a lot of tourist traps in Rome which will serve you frozen, reheated food and try to pass it off as Italian quisine. On occasions we ate in these places because, the food isn't all that bad really and sometimes you just want a table where you can watch the goings on in the square and soak up the atmosphere while drinking wine. No judgement here.

However, we found a few places which were head and shoulders above the rest and usually, for a better price too. For those interested, some of our favourite places to eat were;

Forno - Campo de Fuori. This little place sells pizza slices during the day. There's a variety of Pizza Bianco (basically Foccacia I think) and Pizza Rossa (which has the red sauce on). This was by a mile the best pizza we ate all week and we like to think of ourselves as pizza connoisseurs. It cost us about six Euros for two decent slices of pizza and two bottles of water. This was cheaper than making our own lunch in the apartment so we ended up visiting here almost every day.

Taverna Trilussa - This was a great restaurant with some really authentic Roman dishes, although it was a little more expensive than anywhere else we visited. We bought two pasta dishes and a bottle of water for the table and the total bill was about 40 Euros. The pasta came to us in huge, metal pots so it was a little different from anything I'd seen before and also the portion size was perfect (read: HUGE).

Bacco in Trastavere - We ate at this restaurant the night that Ryan proposed so maybe my judgement was a little clouded by that but certainly, both of us were convinced that this was the best meal we ate all week. It was really reasonably priced too. We paid 55 Euros for a three course meal for two people, with a beer, a glass of wine and a bottle of water for the table included in that price.

6. Aside from visiting the usual sights and eating all the food, there are plenty of other, more quirky things to do in Rome which I'd highly recommend.

One of my favourite things to do is to look down on cities. There are plenty of places to do this in Rome. The best view of the centre is from the top of the Altare della Patria, close to the Coloseum. It costs 7 Euros to go up here and it is worth every penny. You'll see all of the famous landmarks from this vantage point.

Other great views of the city include from Gianicolo Hill and the Aventine Hill. If you take a wander up the Aventine Hill look out for people peering through a keyhole. If you look through too, you'll see the majestic shape of St Peter's Basilica perfectly aligned with the hedges of a garden framing it. It really is quite a special thing to see. Moving along from the keyhole, there are wonderful orange gardens where you can gaze down at the city with the smell of sweet citrus clinging to the air.

Looking out from Gianicolo Hill

Finally, if you're tired of all the beauty and romance of Rome and you're looking for something a little more edgy then I really recommend taking a little wander up to the Capuchin Crypt which is situated not far from Piazza Barberini. This is a small space containing the remains of approximately 3700 bodies (thought to be Capuchin Monks). The bones are arranged in intricate patterns across a number of chapels. The effect is pretty eerie and it's one of the strangest things that I've ever gazed upon. Again, this is a religious site so cover up, or pay an extra Euro for a Kimono from the ticket desk.


  1. There's that gorgeous hot pink dress again! It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I've never been to Rome but a few friends have and they all rave about it. It definitely doesn't look short of beautiful attractions and architecture. It must be wonderful to see something as iconic as the Colosseum in real life.


    p.s. is it weird then that before I read this post and just saw your hat in the preview I thought it was really cute and was going to ask where you bought it?!

    1. Ha, it's a good old holiday fave that dress! Rome is so good. The architecture is incredible, none of the photos can really do it justice. I've been twice but I'd managed to forget most of it (although I was 19 the first time and probably drunk all the time).

      No it's not weird! I actually quite liked the hat, although I was a bit annoyed at having to spend my dinner money on it ha.

      Ps - you always leave the best comments! I love when I get a wee email saying you've written on the blog.

  2. Thanks for these amazing pictures. The Italian architecture and the Italian food are my favorite. People who love travelling like me must visit Italy for once in there life time. Your pictures are making me crazy to visit that lovely place.
    Australia Road Map