Tuesday, 13 September 2011

When in Rome…

St. Peter's Basilica
Rome is a beautiful, vibrant city where the sacred meets the secular and the ancient rubs shoulders with the classical and the modern. It’s an eclectic mix that gives the city a unique buzz all of its own. Occupying just a few square kilometres central Rome is compact and easily navigable on foot or via the city’s public transport network. Hop on one of the intercity buses and buy your ticket from the coin operated machine on board, a single journey costs a euro or for 4 you can buy unlimited travel for an entire day. The buses run every few minutes but are usually hugely overcrowded with standing room only, I found the newly modernised (not to mention air conditioned) metro system much quieter and easier to use. There are stations all over the city and all of the major tourist attractions have a metro stop nearby. 

Rome's Metro network
Because there is so much to see in Rome –I once heard it referred to as ‘the world’s largest open air museum’- it’s essential to plan carefully if you want to see everything. The big attractions can get incredibly busy so you can save time as well as money by buying multi-tickets in advance. The Roma Pass for example gives you free admission to two museums or archaeological sites of your choice plus reduced priced tickets to any of the others in the city. It lasts for three days and comes in at 25, it also entitles you to use the public transport network free of charge for each of the three days. Best of all –and worth the price on its own in my opinion- you don’t have to wait in line at any of the attractions. 

For many people the ruins of the Coloseum, the Vatican, the great works of art speak for themselves, however I really recommend paying a little extra and hiring a good English-speaking guide to give you the background information necessary to understand and situate Rome’s great monuments in context.

A Roman street
As well as sightseeing, Rome is renowned for its shopping. At the heart of the shopping district there are several streets of high-end luxury and designer stores –all of which were showcasing their autumn collections, I cannot describe how weird it is to be looking at fur coats in the middle of August when the temperature is in excess of 35 degrees! If you find designer boutiques a little intimidating Rome boasts a wealth of more middle-of-the-road chain stores that have either virtually disappeared from Britain’s high streets or else aren’t well established in the UK yet like Benetton, Sisley and my personal fave, shoe heaven Aldo. There’s also the ever popular Zara and H&M along with some Italian chains like Stefanel and Le Group. The fashion may be very grown-up and serious but the Italians do have a taste for the kitsch and the retro, the city is crammed with amazing quirky boutiques selling unusual homewares –think Alessi but on a grander scale.

After the hustle and bustle of central Rome, visiting one of Rome’s parks is the perfect way to relax. I went to the Villa Borghese Gardens, Rome’s second largest park encompassing 148 acres of winding footpaths, statues, fountains, a lake and several museums. If you’re feeling adventurous it also has a zoo and places to hire roller blades, segways and bikes. 

A fountain in the Villa Borghese Gardens
Having failed to persuade my traveling companion to hire a Vespa in Rome, she did eventually relent and agree to rent bikes to explore the park. Prices start from around 5 per hour for basic bike hire increasing to 12 for an entire day. You usually need to leave photo ID as a deposit, I didn’t have any with me, fortunately I managed to convince the man running the rentals to accept a credit card instead but if you don’t feel like risking your passport or your bank account(!), I recommend carrying some form of photo ID with you, even if it’s just a library card.


After a day in Rome you’re sure to work up an appetite and luckily the food is delicious. As well as the traditional pizza and pasta dishes you would expect, there are lots of meat and seafood options. There are so many restaurants, cafes and bistros in central Rome you’re spoiled for choice, although prices are expensive and portions are usually quite small.  This holds true even if you buy food from street vendors, where a soft drink will set you back €3 or €4 and a slice of pizza around 5. I found the best way to eat well on a budget was to have a light lunch, perhaps half of a shared pizza or a panini, and to eat dinner early as many restaurants introduce more expensive dinner menus at evening. Rome is famous for its gelato, a delicious Italian ice-cream, and true to form there are gelaterias on virtually every corner. Prices usually start from €2 or €3 for a single scoop going up to €10 or more for a really lavish multi-flavour sundae. You pay more to sit and eat in gelaterias so you can save by enjoying your gelato standing up! Nearly as delicious as gelato are the flavoured crushed ice drinks. I particularly liked the lemon, which was so refreshing after a hard day sight-seeing.

We stayed at the well-appointed Hotel Capannelle, which is approximately three kilometres from central Rome. Although this meant a 25-30min bus journey into the city each day, thanks to the out-of-town location the hotel is a lot more spacious than its city centre equivalents and even boasts its own pool –a rare luxury for a Rome hotel. Ultimately wherever you stay Rome is an amazing city unlike any other, and one you definitely cannot afford to miss. 

Keep scrolling for more photos...

The Hotel Capannelle
Hotel Room
The Trevi Fountain
The Roman Forum

The Vatican Museum
One of the ornate ceilings in the Vatican Museum
View over the city
Bernini's 'Sinking Ship' Fountain
Jelly Babies in the Park
The Colosseum
The Colosseum
The Spanish Steps
A street performer
Fountain of the Naiads
Lemon Slush


  1. I really enjoyed reading this post, especially because I have also planned a trip to Rome this July. I personnaly love traveling and Rome has been on my list for quite some time. I'm so glad I'll finally be able to visit it. So thanks for the tips!

  2. Thank you for your comment, Rome was absolutely amazing! Definately one of my favourite places I've visited.

  3. I can't wait to go and visit all the amazing places that Rome has to offer! If you don't mind me asking, what was your favourite place or museum in Rome? Anything you can recommend me in particular? :)

  4. I think my favourite was probably the Colloseum and the Roman Forum, I've wanted to visit since I studied Roman history at college and it definately didn't disappoint. What I liked in particular was the fact you could explore and walk around practically all of it, there weren't vast sections cordoned off so you could only look from a distance like there are at some historical sites. I also really liked visiting the Villa Borghese park which was the perfect place to relax and just chill out after the hubbub of central Rome. If you have time, it's definately worth taking a day or an afternoon to go and explore one of the parks.

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  6. Thank you for your reply! The Villa Borghese park will definitely be on my visiting list since I've read that is one of the most beautiful gardens in Rome. I think that the Colloseum and the Roman Forum are the attractions I'm most keen on visiting olso, due to their rich historical background. I wish I had studied history in college but I opted instead for foreign languages. But I've compensated through lots and lots of history related books and documentaries. Anyway, thanks again for your tips.


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