Ciao! I’ve recently returned from a trip to Italy. It was our first time in the country and we explored the bustling capital Rome, before jumping the train to beautiful Bologna. Here’s a rundown of what we ate, drank and got up to in Roma!
Our first day in Rome was spent strolling around, eating possibly the best sandwich in my entire life, and taking full advantage of Italian Happy Hour.
After dropping our bags at the apartment (shout out to Lorenzo and Pop Art B&B), we immediately set out to eat and explore. Our apartment was literally around the corner from the Pantheon and walking distance from all the major sites. Strolling around Rome, taking in the history and sights was wonderful, and we only used the bus a few times to get about.
I loved how the entire city felt like it was built on and around history, mixing the old with the new. Piazza Venezia was such a stunning example of this: a huge embassy building in the middle of a busy intersection, with a backdrop of the Roman Forum and the Coliseum. It was a mix of metropolitan life and the past that is one of my favourite juxtapositions when exploring, especially in European cities.
We paid a visit to Antica Libreria Cascianelli, the bookshop used in John Wick 2, because of #KeanuClub reasons. It was such a treat to explore the antiques and oddities, and I purchased a vintage postcard with the neatest handwriting I’ve ever seen, that I plan on translating.
Another particular place we visited was Colonia Felina di Torre Argentina, a cat sanctuary in the Roman ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina. We initially thought this was just a place that local cats congregated and stumbled upon on the entrance to the sanctuary! They care for the stray cats of Rome, treating them with regular health checks and sterilisation, as well as offering visitors the chance to interact with the Italian kitties and adopt them. Not for everyone but great for cat lovers!
Our second day in Rome was our first full day. After breakfast we explored the area around our hotel, finding an ornately decorated courtyard and dog spotting – Italy has so many dogs!
Our first super touristy of spot of the day was the Trevi Fountain. It was very crowded but still a must-see. The Italians know how to do a fountain!
Afterwards we strolled to the Spanish Steps, marvelled at how close the Keats-Shelley House is. We didn’t go inside the house but enjoyed imagining how inspiring living in Rome would be for the writers.
I love a well-planned itinerary, with places saved on Google Maps, but in Rome I enjoyed how spontaneous a lot of our food choices where. There’s no shortage of excellent places to eat in both Rome and Bologna, and stumbling upon restaurants and bars that weren’t completely pre-planned was a welcome change. For our lunch we ate pasta and drank a beautiful red wine from Tuscany at a little restaurant on a random street. The waiter was super friendly and asked us if we knew Preston North-End, which was very funny and unexpected.
After lunch was the biggest event of the day: The Coliseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. We where offered a “fast track” guided tour outside but politely declined as we wanted to explore The Coliseum at our own pace.
Seeing the different levels and exploring the vastness of The Coliseum, imaging how full and rowdy it would have been back in Roman times, was amazing. It was so interesting learning about what bloodlust everyone would flock to see and how each level was divided by class.
Included in the ticket price for The Coliseum is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Such a soothing and lovely place to walk around, taking in the ruins and the gardens. It’s like the Roman gardens in Chester Zoo but a million times better.
We finished off our day with some life changing gelato. I was so pleased with the selection of dairy-free gelato on offer in Italy! I went for dairy-free dark chocolate, limoncello and orange.
For our third day in Rome we walked from our hotel to The Vatican. It took us around thirty minutes and we got to see the river and all of the stalls along it setting up for the day. However when we arrived at The Vatican we found out the Sistine Chapel was closed so we were unable to visit it.
We did do The Vatican Museum and found it boring. A lot of it felt like you where walking around the Pope’s dining room, and the attached exhibition about The Pope’s trip to the Amazon Rainforest was unclear and preachy.
However in parts of the museum you could see people restoring artwork and artefacts which was really interesting to watch. Overall we found our visit underwhelming and we didn’t leave feeling enlighten or more knowledgable about what goes on inside the city walls.
After a coffee and discovering you cannot re-enter The Vatican once you have left, we jumped the bus to the Trastevere neighbourhood of Rome. Trastevere is a bohemian area filled with winding streets, boutique, independent bars and places to eat. It was a delight to explore and we had some delicious pasta for lunch!
When our lunch had went down, we strolled up to the botanical gardens, Orto Botanico di Roma. These gardens are operated by the Sapienza University of Rome and are the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy Roman streets.
We didn’t quite make it to the Mouth of Truth to recreate the scene from Roman Holiday as waiting in the long queue of tourists outside seemed very counter productive. I indulged in a photoshoot outside and we returned to the hotel for a rest.
Our last stop in Rome was a pub in a bookshop! Altroquando wasn’t too far from our hotel and super chilled. The bar is located downstairs and has a great selection of local craft beers. I opted for an Aperol Spritz because when in Rome.
The few days we spent in Rome where wonderful, with so much to explore and discover. It’s a city I would love to return to and see different parts of the city that we didn’t get to visit. Maybe I’d give The Vatican a second chance to see it in it’s entirety but honestly, there’s so much to do in Rome I don’t think we’d be short of things to see and do when we return.