After all that Florence talk I feel I owe something to my other great love…ROME! Here are just a few tips, some of my favorite spots to eat, and some must-see sites in this glorious city.
Ok my inner-mom requires that I say, just for the record, that the buses are a little more dangerous in Rome. So just in general BE AWARE. Watch each other. If someone is getting too close and looks sketchy take note. If they are up to no good and see that you see them, they will usually back off.
—> Ok. THINGS TO DO!!!:
There are so many things to do in Rome it is pathetic. I also think it is one of the best walking cities so you could just roam the streets of Rome (hardy har har) for days and do nothing, per se, and be ridiculously content. My absolute favorite thing to do is wander around at night (in safe areas, obviously, and never alone!) The city is a golden color during the day and at night it seems to somehow absorb that glow and use it to light itself from the inside at night. It is just beyond magical. But there are some places you just have to go inside to experience.
This is totally worth it if you ask me but you need to make the effort to go early or be prepared to wait. Ask your hotel to help you with the Metro or buses. The entrance is technically BEHIND where you would enter for St. Peter’s. You can walk pretty easily from the front of the church but it might be easier to take the metro to a closer stop past the crowds heading to St. Peter’s square.
If you can’t make it early and the line is long, just remember, it will move fast. Afterward you can go into St. Peters (a must!), climb the dome (amazing!) and just wander over the gorgeous bridges and through Bernini’s breathtaking colonnade.
This is a big oval shaped piazza slightly more inside the city from the Vatican. I think it is nice but I don’t quite get what all the fuss is about (other than the gorgeous Bernini fountains, obviously). Unless you plan to sit at one of the bars, people watch or order a very pricey gelato, just walk through and enjoy. In the summer when it is entirely too hot to move this is a good place to catch many different street performers that could entertain you while you try not to melt. My particular favorite is a finger puppet master who even does Michael Jackson’s moonwalk with his fingers. That deserves a blog post of its own…
A MUST MUST MUST see. Hands down the most awe-inspiring structure known to man and, best of all, FREE. Go during the day and go again at night and then if it is raining go again to see the rain falling through the oculus (huge hole) at the top of the dome. So gorgeous. (P.s. The artist Raphael is buried inside!)
Worth a photo and one coin toss but that’s really it, if you ask me. Though the area does boat some of the better gelato spots in Rome.
Spanish Steps – Skip ‘em. I mean…go up and down them if you like but really…they are just pretty stairs.
Borghese Museum, in the Borghese Gardens north of the Vatican.
This is one of the best museums in Italy and it requires a timed reservation, easily made online. If you can swing it, it is worth it. Some of Bernini’s most famous and beautiful sculptures are inside, including the breath-taking Apollo and Daphne.
SO COOL. Used to be cooler when it was free but still pretty freakin’ cool. I think they make you pay for both the forum and the colosseum together now, but if you can just do one, I say skip the colosseum. It looks like what you expect it to on the inside and the outside is more beautiful. The Forum is HUGE and you could spend several hours there. They also just opened up a whole new section with the old ruins of Hadrian’s villa so just set a time limit and leave so you can get to the next amazing thing.
I only know a few places in Rome as I tended to just wing it and was usually on a budget. Sometimes a cheap slice of pizza can do the trick. When it can’t there is always:
La Carbonara, Piazza Campo dei Fiori,23
This is at one end of the lovely Campo dei Fiori, a piazza famous for its farmers market, among other things. I have only been here for lunch and I highly recommend it. It has this lovely feature (typical in Roman restaurants) of a kind of veggie buffet. You can order a meal or what have you, but in addition you can order the “antipasti” and go to town. You will never taste vegetables this good in your life. I usually ONLY have this, which Italians think is a little odd, but I think is glorious.
Pizzeria da Baffetto, Via del Governo Vecchio, 114
A Roman institution and very good! A rule of thumb in Italy is the more south you go, the better the pizza. Also, at this place, the earlier you can get there, the better. After 8pm or 9pm you will wait. As with everything involving food in Italy, totally worth it.
Also, the area around this place is my favorite area in Rome to wander. There are lots of cute places to get drinks before and after dinner and lots of mysterious alley-ways to follow.
Armondo al Pantheon, Salita dei Crescenzi, 31, 066.880.3034
This great little restaurant is right by the pantheon. It is pricey but also delicious. I had an amazing pasta with asparagus and pomegranate seeds and the best desert! Ask right when you sit down to set aside at least one piece of the Torta antica Roma, an old fashioned kind of Roman cake. So delicious. Note: you will need to make a reservation…even for lunch!
And if you are even the most casual of coffee drinkers you MUST go here:
Sant’Eustachio Caffe, Piazza Sant’Eustachio, 82 (Right near the pantheon).
Once a hidden treasure, this amazing coffee bar is now a major stop on tourist routes. Many Italians still brave the lines for the pleasure of the best coffee in Italy…really, the WORLD. This is not my opnion people, check out this New York Times review. Again, order first then head to the bar. You may have to fight your way to the front, but be patient, your time will come. There will be no sugar on the counter because THEY decide what does and doesn’t need sugar. I can quite honestly say that it changed my life. Buy a bag or two…or ten of the coffee to bring back!
So go and eat like royalty (I highly recommend anything involving mozzarella, especially if it is mozzarella di Buffala. You can’t get it here and it will make you want to stay in Italy forever, which, really, is not a bad thing.)