Ciao! On Thursday, I left Rome and headed to Naples. I arrived at the station 90 minutes early, but still managed to almost miss my train. There were two trains headed to Napoli leaving at exactly the same time, and two minutes before departure I found out I was on the wrong one.
Thankfully, my actual train was delayed by 10 minutes, so I sprinted with all my crap to the complete opposite side of the station and threw myself on to the train as the doors were literally closing. I had to stand in the entrance, dripping in sweat for 10 minutes (did I mention it was 37C/98F degrees?), before I could muster up the energy to find my seat. I’m enjoying Naples, but today it’s time to talk about Rome!
In total, I spent 30 days in Rome. I’m briefly deviating from my regular scheduled content to attempt to be a travel blogger. So, without further ado, here are my top tips for Rome – I hope this is helpful for anyone looking to visit the Eternal City!
I’m going to assume that most people won’t have 30 days to explore Rome, so most of my recommendations can be crossed off in a few days. Keep in mind that, if you are travelling in summer, it is as hot as hell and some of these sights simply aren’t worth making the effort for.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. Truth be told, I hate doing tourist crap but there were some sights I just couldn’t miss.
The Colosseum was probably my favourite tourist attraction in Rome. It took about 45 minutes to get in, so be prepared for a wait. I have seen some pretty beautiful historic sights in my life, but nothing has moved me to the point of tears before. It was just breathtaking.
The Forum is a group of ancient government building ruins. It is right next to the Colosseum, and your entrance fee covers admission to both. A lot of Italians told me to skip the Colosseum and just see the Forum, but I wouldn’t go that far.
I wasn’t expecting the grounds to be so big. I was in there for a couple of hours, but could have stayed all day if I had brought some food and a book with me.
The Pantheon was free to get into, but it was one of those places that was just ruined by too many tourists being allowed in at once. I got in and out pretty fast for that reason.
St Peter’s was just beautiful. It’s free to get into, but it’s best to get there early (before 10) to skip the line – which I’ve been told you can be stuck in for two to three hours. And, unlike the Colosseum, the queue is not undercover so you will be drowning in a pool of your own sweat before you even get in.
I would recommend skipping the Vatican museums. It is overpriced, disgustingly overcrowded, and I think there are frankly far better museums elsewhere in Europe. Most people I’ve met have agreed with me, bar one couple who absolutely loved it – each to their own.
I walked around the entire perimeter of the Vatican City, mainly so I could say I’ve walked around an entire country.
I went to so many churches in Rome that I can’t even remember all of them, but San Giovanni was my favourite by far. A few locals told me it was the best church in Rome, and it was only a 20 minute walk from my house so I had to check it out.
I actually went twice, because I loved it so much. There was hardly anyone in the church, and it was just stunning.
This was another one of my favourite places. The crypt contains the skeletons of 3,700 Capuchin friars. There were hardly any tourists here, and it was surprisingly very peaceful for being somewhat macabre. You’re not allowed to take any pictures, so here is a stock image.
Remember that you have to dress conservatively, both for the crypt and any churches. I thought this was a given, but I saw a lot of people bitching about the fact they weren’t being let in because they were in short shorts and crop tops. Wear something that covers your knees, and bring a shawl or cardigan for your shoulders.
Everyone told me to skip the steps, but I was walking right by them one day anyway. As one of my friends so eloquently put it, “it’s a literal staircase – I can see that at home”. I concur.
The fountain is currently being renovated until next year. Until the renovations are complete, I’d skip it. Right now, it’s a tourist trap with a makeshift area to make your wish and take a selfie – yes, the signs even say that. Cringe.
Piazza di Monti
One of the best nights I had in Rome was spent in this piazza. The area is full of trendy bars and restaurants, and it’s a hit with the younger local crowd. I went to a restaurant I cannot remember the name of, but my favourite part was actually just chilling with some friends and beers in the square.
This is the second-tallest hill in Rome, and it offers a great view of the city. I went here both during the day and night, and it was beautiful.
Now, on to the good stuff! Keep in mind that I am working/living as normally as possible, so I tried not to eat out every day. But even the food I cooked at home tasted amazing! While pretty much everything I ate was incredible, the places below were my absolute favourites.
Da Enzo Al 29
Hands down, this was the best restaurant I ate at. A local expat recommended it to me. It is in my favourite neighbourhood in Rome, Trastevere, and looks like a deceivingly simple and cosy restaurant from the outside.
I had a zucchini flower to start, and followed that with the best pasta I’ve had in my life. It doesn’t look like much, but it had oxtail, celery, tomatoes, pine nuts, raisins and dark chocolate. Doesn’t that just sound amazing?!
This restaurant is famous for this dessert: mousse al mascarpone con frutti di bosco. It was so simple yet so delicious. It didn’t stop me from having gelato immediately afterwards – it was my last chance to visit San Crispino (see below)!
My only regret is I didn’t try this restaurant sooner, so I could have gone more than once!
Primo al Pigneto
I was living in Pigneto, which is a totally hipster area of Rome. I ate out at a bunch of local restaurants, but none were anything special except Primo al Pigneto.
I eat dinner super late, so my pictures are terrible, but I had an amazing meatball dish here, as well as the first and only tiramisu of my trip so far.
One thing which is great about Italy is you can get some amazing food from places which are essentially “fast food”. In pizzerias, you simply walk in, point out the pizza you want, and they cut a slice off for you. You pay based on weight, and I never paid more than 3 euros for a slice (which, having now been in Naples, seems crazy expensive!).
The best pizza I probably had in Rome was from I Suppli, which is also in Trastevere. It didn’t even have meat on it, but it was that damn good!
The moment you’ve all been waiting for… my gelato recommendations! Il Gelato di San Crispino was the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life. It wasn’t until after I went here that I googled it, and found out it was the gelato she eats in Eat, Pray, Love. I’m such a cliche.
It is one of the proper, artisan places that churns the gelato on site and stores it in big metal tubs, so you can’t see what you’re ordering. It is expensive, even more so in the city centre. I paid €3.50 for three scoops in San Giovanni, but I only got two scoops for the same price at the branch near the Trevi fountain.
Their most famous flavour is honey, which was amazing. I can’t even remember the other flavours I had, but that dark chocolate-looking one was mind-blowing. It tasted like pure melted chocolate.
Giolitti, near the Pantheon, is probably the most famous gelato in Rome, but I thought it was a let-down.
I basically lived in Trastevere, and I had gelato at a few different places there, but my favourite was Fior di Luna.
A few different people had told me about Fatamorgana before I left for my travels and, I have to admit, it didn’t sound appealing. Why the heck would I want dairy-free, sugar-free gelato?! Isn’t that besides the whole point?
But, to my surprise, it was amazing and very unique. I tried some classic flavours but also some less common ones such as olive oil, baklava, ginger and pineapple, and pear and gorgonzola. My favourite was the blueberry cheesecake.
As I said, most Italian food is awesome so it’s kind of hard to go wrong. I am living on somewhat of a budget, so I tended to opt for pizza or pasta rather than meat or fish dishes, but it’s hardly a bad thing!
Avoid any restaurant which has an English picture menu or waiters standing outside the front begging you to come in, as they are tourist traps and will taste lousy. It’s kind of difficult to screw up gelato, so just avoid any fake-looking bright colours.
Because I am who I am, it would be remiss of me not to mention the gym I trained at during my time in Rome. I went to Mister Gym, near Tuscolana. It had all the equipment I needed and everyone was super friendly. I paid €55 for the month, which isn’t bad.
Phew, that’s enough! I hope one day I can visit Rome again and return to all of these places.
If you have been to Rome, what was your favourite experience? If you haven’t been, what would you want to see first?