I've always wanted to visit Italy, and last month I finally had chance to visit, for my birthday week. Rome didn't disappoint, although there were a few low points on our trip - the worst being the actual travel experience. It started with a very stressful rush at East Midlands Airport with crazy-long queuing for our RyanAir flight. We were left with only a few minutes to run to our gate before the place departed (literally with my shoes hanging off my feet as there wasn't time to put them on again after we got through the scanners!). And when we arrived in Rome, we were met with the heaviest downpour, and on a dark Sunday night our taxi dropped us off somewhere vaguely near our Airbnb which led to us getting VERY lost, wet and even more stressed (see portrait below that Tom drew when I'd had chance to recuperate!)
But Rome was a beautiful city, with amazing architecture every time you turned a corner so I wanted to share some of my favourite places - as well as a few tips on what to avoid if you're heading to the Italian capital.
1. The Best View in Rome?
One of my favourite experiences in Rome was when Tom and I walked to the Giardino Degli Aranci aka The Garden of Oranges. We wandered up a cobbled hill and at the top was a tranquil garden, from which you were given an astounding panoramic view of Rome (see top picture).
2. An ice cream in Trastevere
I really enjoyed walking around the Medieval streets of Trastevere. A don't think you can really go wrong with gelato when in Rome. Just try and taste as many flavours as you can!
3. Tourist Hotspots
Of course, you won't want to miss the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps, right? Hmm well... although all are definitely worth seeing, I found the Trevi Fountain especially busy and touristy, and when we finally got to the Spanish steps they were cordoned off. Booh.
Left: The Giardino Degli Aranci / Right: I actually got a pic of the Trevi Fountain with no tourists in it!!
4. Great pasta at La Carbonara, Monti
One night we decided to make a change from pizza and went for a nice pasta meal, and La Carbonara, in Monti which didn't disappoint! The walls are covered in graffiti which you can add to - if you can find the space! I had a pistachio pasta dish which was lovely (and filling). It's also a favourite haunt of Robert de Niro's and you can see a signed photo adorning the wall of Bobby himself.
5. Our favourite bar
We went to a bar called Ai Tre Scalini, also in the Monti area a couple of times as although it was small it was always buzzing with locals, which is a good sign! Also, if you've booked a table at another restaurant later in the evening and fancy a drink first, you get free bowls of snacks with your drinks at this bar, very handy for rumbly tums!
6. A scrummy buffet at Fafiuche
We weren't too sure to eat on the last night, and the restaurant we'd aimed to visit wasn't open until later but luckily we decided to take a chance on Fafiuche, which is a wine bar in Monti. They serve an amazing buffet which was also super cheap, you pay just 3 euros a plate for their Aperitvo buffet, and they had quite a lot of fresh and tasty veggie dishes to choose from as well! Yum.
7. The Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel
I'd heard about long queues for the Vatican Museums, and knew not to visit on a Monday or Wednesday (as the Pope is in residence meaning it's extra busy).. but we made the mistake of arriving around 11am, which was THE busiest time. We queued for around 2 hours in the sun, (with a very annoying British couple behind us and various ticket touts who kept asking us if we wanted to skip the queues for large amounts of Euros!), but when we got out of the Museums around mid-afternoon, the queue was much shorter so I'd advise anyone to visit around 3pm for an optimal visiting experience! That said, it was definitely worth the wait so I'd certainly recommend visiting, and booking ahead if you know in advance what day you'll be free. Also remember to take sun cream and a packed lunch - the cafe inside wasn't great! (In fact, it may have been the food low-light of our trip as the veggie choice was a cheese & tomato calzone which turned out to resemble a Pizza Pocket, bleh.)
The corridor of maps was quite a sight...
Beautiful tiles in the Vatican Museum
8. Escaping the crowds at the Non-Catholic Cemetery (aka Shelley & Keats' resting place)
If you want to escape the hordes of fellow tourists there's nowhere more peaceful than a cemetery! On our final day in Rome we grabbed a Metro to the non-Catholic cemetary a few stops from the centre. It was such a beautiful place to explore, and is also right next to a pyramid, which we did not expect!