Rome is an iconic city with a long and storied history. Once the centre of the known world with an influence across finance, governance, politics and architecture. It a city with charm as you wander through cobblestone streets, taste beautiful pizza and gelato, people watch from the Spanish Steps, muscle through the crowds around the Trevi fountain.
When one visits Rome, it’s important to remember the old saying “non basta una vita” which means “a lifetime is not enough”. There is so much from ancient monuments, casual trattorias and pizzerias, the grandeur of the Renaissance and many museums. You will be disappointed if you try to do it all. So have a plan, prioritise what interests you the most and remember the old adage; “Ci vediamo di nuovo a Roma”.
The Trevi Fountain
A visit to Rome requires a pilgrimage to the Trevi Fountain. It’s an 18th-century fountain designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and was built in in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini. The structure is 26.3 metres high and is the largest Baroque fountain in the city.
The backdrop of the fountain is the Palazzo Poli (a palace built in the late 1500s). The theme of the fountain is the taming of the waters quite fitting given the aqueducts of Rome with the centre being Tritons guide Oceanus’s shell chariot subduing the hippocamps.
The Spanish Steps
These steps go from the base (Piazza di Spagna) to Piazza Trinità dei Monti. The staircase of 135 steps was built with French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s to link the Trinità dei Monti church at the top of the steps and the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See (Vatican) in the Palazzo Monaldeschi at the bottom of the steps.
My tip is to get there early and do a quick run up and down to wake-up ahead of the day.
The Pantheon is former Roman temple. The temple was converted to a Catholic church in 609 AD. The temple was built by emperor Hadrian in around c. 126 AD.
It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it was converted to the church unlike the other Ancient Roman buildings which were destroyed. The building’s facade is beautiful, and I would say it’s probably not worth a visit inside unless you wish to see the tombs and the internal architecture.
The Altar to the Nation
The Victor Emmanuel II National Monument also known as the Altar of the Fatherland is a large national monument built between 1885 and 1935 to honour Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy. The monument has great symbolic value to Italy as nation and represents the grandeur of Victor Emmanuel II conquests and achievement in delivering Italian unification.
The River Tiber
A walk across the various bridges to Rome and a view of the River Tiber is a must. My advice is that you can pair this with a walk to the Vatican.
We did a Colosseum tour (which is good for historical context) and you’ll see it the second picture below in this section, the whole building is in ruins a paltry version to its former grandeur. I recommend visiting a bar at a distance from the Colosseum and admiring it from afar as its far more beautiful to view the facade than the interior.
The Roman Forum
The excavations of the centre of the Roman empire at the base of the Capitol only occurred recently in the 19th century. The Forum Romanum was the political, legal and religious centre of the Roman Empire and it gives you the taste of what Ancient Rome was like. Given the ruins and the need for a historical understanding, I would highly recommend a tour.
Where is the best pizza in Rome?
Piccolo Buco is a small restaurant with a 100-year-old wood fired oven and team committed to finding the best produce to make amazing Neapolitan-style pizzas.
They don’t accept reservations; it’s first come first serve and expect long queues (average wait time of 2 hours) for a taste of this beautiful pizza.
A family that dined at the table across from us made three prior unsuccessful attempts to get in and in total waited 7-8 hours for the pizza. We went around 8 pm and were lucky as a number of those ahead of us left the queue out. We ended up dining at 9pm. The restaurant is small, so the line moves at a snail’s pace but it’s worth it.
The crust is this beautiful pillowy airy – almost like tasting a cloud, the middle is a melt in your mouth experience with a harmonious medley of sweet, salinity of a marriage of Bufalo and tomato. Let me reassure you, the memories of taste live longer than the memory of the wait.
A few tips for your visit (and you must visit when in Rome):
- A bar nearby sells €5 takeaway cocktails which makes the wait easier, but don’t go too hard, this place has a solid wine list that’s good value
- Order the Bufalo Margherita for a pure experience but do order something different like the Pomodorini Arrosto pesto e ricotta or the Diavola Gialla
- Take the time to enjoy the pizza – they won’t rush you. Eat slowly and savour every bite and have a friendly chat to Chef Luca
- Tuesday and Wednesdays at 4pm are best for the shortest wait or if you don’t mind a long wait, try to do after 6pm as the sun is a scorcher in the middle of the day in the European summer.
The best gelato we had was actually near the Trevi Fountain, so not all touristy spots are taboo.
There are plenty of beautiful restaurants we tried, and the pizza and pasta were good at most of them. I know a lot of people go on about the restaurants being too touristy, but you can tell where there’s good authentic Italian food just by observing the clientele and discern the right spots to dine even if it’s near a tourist attraction. Where possible, dine al fresco and people watch.
There are plenty of great breakfast spots too… just find one with a view.
On our final night in Rome we went to the Bar at Oro Bistrot. On the terrace we sipped their signature cocktails with sweeping views of Ancient Rome with tapas to match. A beautiful way to say goodbye to the eternal city.