It’s official. Rome is my new favourite European city. I always knew I was going to love Rome – just say the word ‘pasta’ to me and I’ll jump up and down in excitement. But I didn’t realise quite how much I would love it. The history, the sights, the food, the weather, the wine, and of course, the people.
I travelled to Rome with my bestie in July 2019 and we stayed for three nights. In my Rome travel guide, I’ll show you where we stayed, what we saw, where we ate, and share as many tips as I can along the way. This city stole a little pizza my heart and I think it’ll have the same effect on you too.
Where to stay
We stayed in a boutique hotel called Hotel Monte Cenci, booked through Secret Escapes. I can whole-heartedly recommend this hotel as the perfect base for Rome. On arrival, we were greeted with the friendliest hotel team, along with two glasses of Prosecco and some nibbles.
After checking in, hotel manager Paolo drew out a handy route onto a map for us to follow the next day. He explained in passionate detail the different sights and areas along the route, as well as a bit of history too. Armed with some helpful advice and with a renewed sense of excitement for our city adventure, we headed up to our room.
The room was comfortably furnished, with all the usual amenities as well as some fancy mod-cons thrown in for good measure. There was an elegant bathroom too, which was a good size – plenty of room for two young women to spread their toiletries, makeup and clothes literally everywhere.
I honestly think the bed was one of the comfiest hotel beds I’ve ever slept in. I usually struggle with the hard mattresses that you tend to find in hotels, but these felt super luxe. I’m terrible at sleeping in any bed that isn’t my own but I slept like a baby every night I was there.
The hotel was also the perfect location. A lot of the main attractions and restaurants are walkable from the hotel – or if you’re feeling like a princess, a short taxi ride.
Where to eat
We only booked one restaurant ahead of time. Mainly because we were too disorganised but also because we wanted to stumble upon some hidden gems while we were there. As a general point, Trastevere is a good area for dinner, as there are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from. Below are the places we ate in:
We ate at Gino 51 on the first night, on recommendation from Paolo at our hotel. We’d arrived from the airport quite late and got to the restaurant at about 10:15pm.
We sat on a table outside on the cobbled streets and were greeted by some very friendly waiters. By friendly I mean outrageously flirty, but it’s all part of the Italian charm! We weren’t complaining and were more than happy with a few compliments after that post-flying feeling of an undead sack of potatoes.
We enjoyed a delicious meal here, with arancini to start and then cacio de pepe for main. All accompanied by a bottle of crisp white wine. All very reasonably priced too. Just dreamy.
What. A. Find. This was my favourite restaurant of our entire trip and if you ever find yourself in Rome, you must visit! This is a place for the atmosphere above anything else. We stumbled upon Caramella while looking for somewhere to eat and were enticed in by free samples of wine they were handing out. Yes, we’re easily persuaded.
We were also tempted in by the promise of live music, and it did not disappoint. We enjoyed a delicious meal (and far too much alcohol) while singing and clapping to the most feel-good live music you’ve ever heard. I don’t think I stopped grinning all night. I wound up with killer indigestion but it was so worth it.
This was the only restaurant we pre-booked, as we’d heard good things about it online. It had the advantage of being just down the road from our hotel too. We sat in the outside garden, which is adorned with flowers and fairy lights (always a winner in my books). The food is pretty fancy and looks absolutely incredible.
It tasted as good as the other restaurants we visited, although was significantly more expensive. Pianostrada is definitely worth a visit, but just bear in mind that it’s a pricey option. A good choice for your final night.
Another gem that we stumbled on while rome-ing the streets on our final day. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Enoteca, starting with some complimentary bread and oil, then a good helping of pasta. A cacio de pepe for Francesca and a carbonara for me.
The waiter was super friendly and kept bringing us little freebies – from more nibbles to fruity alcoholic shots and limoncello. Unfortunately I was driving later that evening so couldn’t fully take advantage of it, but I appreciated the gesture! Another reasonably priced meal, and a great lunch spot.
What to see
There are plenty of stunning tourist attractions to see in Rome and they are genuinely all beautiful and worth seeing. There are just two points to bear in mind:
- Pre-book any bookable attractions. You will be horrified by the queues to get in, so do yourself a favour and pre-book either a guided tour or a ‘skip the queue’ ticket. You won’t regret it. We used Headout to pre-book tickets.
- You will probably be shocked by the sheer volume of tourists all vying to see the sights and snap a few pictures. The only way to get around this is to set an early alarm and visit the unbookable attractions (e.g. Trevi Fountain & Spanish Steps) early doors. We did this to get some tourist-free Insta snaps (the dedication is real). But even if you’re not interested in a picture, it’s so nice to see these attractions people-free.
A breath-taking structure and an absolute must-visit. The size and scale is extremely impressive, and a lot of interesting background to read up about.
Just beware of heavy volumes of tourists, as well as an irritating amount of building work and scaffolding.
Vatican City, St Peter’s Square & Sistine Chapel
The Vatican City is a spectacular place to wander around, with truly mind-blowing architecture.
Be sure to visit the Sistine Chapel (part of the Vatican museums) for its famous interiors and artwork by Michelangelo. Just remember – no talking or pictures inside the chapel itself.
St Peter’s Basilica
Situated inside the Vatican City, St Peter’s Basilica is one of the biggest churches ever built. It is one of the holiest sites in Christendom, so remember to dress appropriately – no shoulders or knees on show, for both men and women.
If you’re feeling bold, I’d highly recommend walking to the top of the dome for some pretty spectacular views across Rome.
But be warned: you have to conquer 551 steps, some of which are in extremely tight, closed-in spiral staircases. Not one for the claustrophobics, unfit, or hungover.
The Pantheon is a former Roman temple and very impressive building. We didn’t venture inside, but it’s certainly worth walking past to take in the scale and architecture.
Next on the list is the highly Instagrammable Trevi Fountain – the most famous fountain in the world. We were both shocked at how big it actually is. Photos don’t really do it justice.
The downside is that you have to push your way through hundreds of tourists to get close (unless you go at 7am in the morning, as per the photo above!). And avoid sitting on the edge, or you’ll get a man in a strange uniform aggressively blow a whistle at you.
The Spanish Steps are a stunning site, comprising 174 steps and backed by a beautiful church at the top.
As with the Trevi Fountain, you’ll have to battle your way through all the tourists unless you go between 6:30-8:00am. You don’t need much time at either of these attractions, as it’s a case of seeing it, snapping a picture, doing a spot of people watching, and then moving on.
If you walk along the river in the Trastevere area, you’ll find some cute markets to explore. There are also a number of restaurants and bars along the river in the summer. Although note that these are only temporary pop-up places, so the food isn’t amazing and if you need a wee, you have to use a portaloo.
I’d recommend taking a stroll along the river at night, as Rome is beautiful in the dark.
When to visit
We visited in July, so peak summer season. Temperatures were low to mid 30s, which is pretty toasty when you’re doing a lot of walking and exploring. You do eventually get used to being a permanent sweaty mess, but you have also got to put up with a very high number of tourists.
It’s one of those places you can visit all year round. October and November are the wettest months, while June, July and August are the hottest and busiest months. Spring and Autumn are good times to visit, as they sit in a happy medium of warm weather and not too many tourists from the summer holiday season.
How to get around
We got around on foot and by taxi. You can get most places relatively easy by walking, but if you’re wearing sandals then you may want to save your feet some trouble with an alternative mode of transport. Note that Uber is in operation across the city, although they weren’t as efficient as London Ubers. We actually missed one of our tours because several drivers didn’t turn up. The upside is that all Ubers are swanky cars and the drivers are all very smartly dressed. Feels like you have a personal chauffeur!
The main forms of public transport are the metro, bus and tram. You can get a 3 Day Tourist Pass (BTI) for 16,50€, which gives visitors unlimited use of public transport for three days.
What did I not love?
As I mentioned above, the sheer volume of tourists was frustrating. But that’s inevitable with any European city in peak summer season. Another frustration was the street sellers. Actually, frustration is a polite way of putting it.
At every tourist attraction you get hassled – actually, harassed – by street sellers. Selling you tickets, water, umbrellas (this one was actually helpful when we got caught in a downpour), selfie sticks, bracelets, staplers (yeah, what), and more. It really takes the edge off the beauty and culture of the surroundings. Be warned that some of them will literally force stuff on you.
What did I love?
There was a lot to love about Rome. As a foodie with a special place in my heart for Italian food, I was in my element with all the pizza and pasta I could squeeze in. I was also pleasantly surprised by how friendly everyone was, mainly in terms of the waiting and hotel staff. We always felt welcomed and looked after.
The city is absolutely beautiful and brimming with history and culture. You can just wander around for hours, taking in all there is to see. You’ll be walking down a street and suddenly stumble upon a huge Roman ruin. There’s something impressive to see at every turn.
In short, if you haven’t already visited Rome, you absolutely must add it to the top of your list. I really fell in love with this city and will certainly be returning.
If you have any tips or advice for travelling to Rome, please do share in the comments!