Stop, Drop and Rome

Pasta, Pizza, Vespas, and Vino.  What more could you want from a trip to Italy?  Rome is attractive to travelers no matter what they are seeking and is high on anyone's bucket list.  Whether you want to revel in ancient culture, find the best bucatini in the city, grasp and indulge in the origins of art history while nibbling on gelato, or learn how to sing the Italian language as locals do.  Whatever you're looking for, Rome has it all. The romantic European charm, the history lesson, the delicious wine, or the authentic Italian meal we all crave.  

If only one reason to visit Rome, it's for the history.  The city can be overwhelming since there is so much to see and do. Shopping is obviously on every woman's list when they visit Rome, Italian leather goods, beautiful shoes and scarves, silk dresses. Along with squeezing in all the major historical sites from ancient civilization to the Renaissance, finding great restaurants, and searching for the strongest cappuccinos - it can be a daunting task planning a trip to Rome.  But at the same time exhilarating.  I lived in Rome for four months and I still didn't get around to see everything on my list.  Here's a starting point of "can't miss" historical sites.

DSC00060.jpg

MUST SEE SITES

Trevi Fountain & Piazza Navona:  Both are magical places during the day and even better at night.  If you're in Rome with a partner make sure to grab a glass of wine and a tartfuo in the Piazza Navona or bring your own bottle of wine to the steps of the Trevi Fountain. It's the perfect place for a nightcap in front of an art historical masterpiece.  

Colosseum & Roman Forum & Arch of Constantine:  All three of these ancient sites are in close vicinity. Obviously a must-see for any visitor in Rome is the Colosseum, one of the city's iconic images.  Walk by the Arch of Constantine on your way to the Roman Forum next door. 

DSC00128.jpg

Pantheon:  One of my personal favorite ancient sites in Rome.  In Greek, Pantheon means "The Temple of Every God".  It was dedicated to emperor Hadrian around 126 AD and was created in perfect symmetry.  It is still the world's largest non-reinforced concrete Dome.  Even more magical than the symmetrical shape is the Oculus that provides natural light, creating a magical essence of constant change on the marble interiors.  While living in Rome I would visit the Pantheon once a week, and no matter how many times I had been, it still gave me all the feels.  

Spanish Steps:  A beautiful spot for photos, either at the top in front of the church or at the bottom.  If you walk up the stairs and turn right in front of the church, there's a cute little area to wander that most tourists overlook.

Palatine Hill:  The palace on Palatine hills sits behind one of Rome's main traffic circles.  It looks like a huge wedding cake so if you ever take a taxi through Rome you can't miss it. 

Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel:  This is a must see and will take a good chunk of a day.  If you're an art lover the Vatican museum is an incredible space that houses some of the most famous paintings that are at the foundation of art history. The hero being Michelangelo's "Creation of Man" in the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms in the apartments.  Make sure you leave enough time to sit in the chapel and really take in all of the scenes that Michelangelo painted.  I recommend purchasing tickets in advance here. 

Piazza del Popolo: Located at one end of the Via Del Corso, there are two churches located in this piazza that contain amazing examples of Baroque painting and are both worth taking a peak into. The piazza itself is interesting as it sits lower in the earth and posses other sculptural monuments. 

DSC00020.jpg

FOOD

Obviously Rome has the amazing Italian food.  While in this gorgeous city I experienced the unbelievable tastes and aromas of great Roman food which complement the city’s history and vibrance.  I recommend you try everything you can, calories don't count on vacation right?!  Revel in the delicious home made pastas and fresh produce. Below are some traditional Roman favorites:

  • Carciofi alla Giudia

  • Cacio e Pepe

  • Carbonara

  • Bucatini all'Amatriciana

  • Saltimbocca

  • Roman Steak

Trastevere and Monteverde are amazing parts of the city located just over the Tiber river and away from the historic city center.  It's a great area to sneak away from the crowds and experience Rome as the locals do. Both parts of the city are riddled with great restaurants of all price levels.  I remember having an amazing meal at a hole in the wall, and paid 6 Euros for a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta. Great food for a reasonable price is definitely available for travelers on a budget in this area.

Some of the best pizza I’ve veer had is at Pizzeria la Gianicolense in Monteverde.  It has all the authentic Italian charm you would want and their staff is attentive. I used to live down the street from this spot and let me tell you it’s irresistible! The tiramisu is a must for dessert.

The best Bucatini all'amatriciana that I found was at the chic Mo Mo Republic in Trastevere.  Located in a large white mansion, the building has been converted into a swanky, cool restaurant with tables on the first and second floor as well as in the garden outside, underneath large white circular lights that hang from the trees.  

The best chocolate shop to make a pit stop at is Cioccolata e Vino in trastevere and make sure to have their "blow job" shot.  I know it sounds unappealing but the shot glass is edible dark chocolate. YUM.  

The best tartufo can be found at the Ristorante Tre Scalini.  A great place to spend a few hours people watching after the sun goes down. Order the chocolate tartufo, a delicious Italian dessert. 

The best gelato in the city is at Giolitti and is famous among Italians. It's a must try when wandering around the historic city center. 

The best romantic restaurant is CasaCoppelle.  The baroque, decorative interior, patterned chairs, painting lined walls and an old wooden ceiling provide a unique and modern vibe while still keeping Italian authenticity. 

The best leather shop is near the Piazza Navona, called La Sella.  You can have anything you purchase monogrammed for no extra cost. Their designs are classic and a bag you will forever use. 

DSC00055.jpg

MEG’S GEMS

The best view of the city is from the Piazza dei Cavalleri di Malta in the gardens of the Villa del Priorato di Malta.  It is located on a hill above the city and you must find the gardens on the property in order to get the best view from above. There is also a keyhole that frames St. Peter's Basilica perfectly if you can find it!  On the other side of town, head to Janiculum hill in Trastevere for a less popular and more expansive view of Rome.

The best way to get your sweat on like a local is running around Villa Doria Pamphili in Monteverde, or along the Tiber river.  

Basilica San Clemente is a true gem because it holds three tiers of history within one complex.  Standing there today is a Roman Catholic Basilica built during the Middle Ages, beneath it is a fourth century basilica, and the third tier consists of a republican era villa built before 64 AD.  It's a fascinating site that most visitors to Rome don't have high on their must-see lists but is definitely worth the visit.    

Villa Farnesina is probably one of my favorite places Rome.  Obviously the main attractions are spectacular, but there was something about this beautiful private home, on the other side of the Tiber that instilled a new love of the Renaissance period for me. It contains some lesser known Raphael paintings as well as superb examples of Renaissance aesthetic.  For more information or to book your tickets find their site here. 

Hilltop town of Ariccia is a great place to go if you want to get out of Rome for the night.  Taxis drive out there, it's only 45 minutes, and many locals come here to have a quiet night away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  

DSC00248.jpg

TIPS & TRICKS

Rome has seven hills, so unlike Florence it's hard to bike around.  I suggest renting a vespa or taking the bus. Public transport is sporadic and not extremely efficient, bus strikes happen often so always check before you head for the day.  There is also an overground and underground metro, make sure to check out a map before taking these, they tend to go to various parts of the city and don't necessarily interconnect with each other. 

I highly suggest staying away from restaurants near popular squares or sites for your main meals.  They tend to be very touristy and overpriced for the quality of food they serve.  If your staying in a hotel, I always ask the concierge where they would eat for the closest thing to a home cooked meal.  

Another activity recommended is getting lost!  Wandering around the narrow spaghetti-like streets of Rome and stumbling upon beautifully lit piazzas you've never heard of is the thrill of Rome.  I've personally had the experience of finding small beautiful baroque churches, lovely outside cafes and cute little shops while drifting along.