A weekend in Rome. Sounds pretty perfect, right? But what about a weekend in Rome with girlfriends? Woop woop!
All my travel posts are about travelling with kids. Because I have two kids and I love to travel with them. Also leaving them home alone isn’t really an option… So I jumped at the chance to have a little Roman Holiday with my friends – and of course the kids got to spend some quality time with their Dad at home. Win-win!
A weekend in Rome
Rome is vast in terms of architecture, history, culture and art. But in reality the city is fairly compact and very walkable. And that is exactly what you should do on a trip to Rome – walk. Around every corner is an amazing building, ancient ruins, a beautiful piazza. As Henry James wrote about Rome “…here was history in the stones of the street and the atoms of the sunshine.”
Sunshine. There was sunshine – and lots of it. We visited Rome the week after new year and the weather was perfect; blue skies and sunshine. The perfect antidote to the cold and grey of a German January…and a great way to beat the crowds. Of course, Rome is going to be busy all year round, but during the summer months it can be pretty exhausting.
As we were on a relaxing break I enjoyed wandering aimlessly around and then getting all excited when we would bump into things…like the Coliseum and the Pantheon. I also liked to be able to stop for a coffee and do some people watching…the kind of thing that is not so easy when you have kids in tow!
Rome is a city where you can see and do a lot for free – throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon and of course the Vatican City, not to mention all the other beautiful churches.
If you like a bit more structure, there are free guided walking tours of Rome.
If you are only in Rome for a short time, it’s best to decide in advance what you want to see and book tickets online.
The Vatican and the Sistine Chapel
We did a tour of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel with Angel Tours. The tour took about 3 hours and I would really recommend it. Our guide was so knowledgeable and made sure we didn’t end up in long queues. It cost 79 euro (easy to pay via Paypal) and we were in a group of 14.
This was the first time I had managed to see the Sistine Chapel. It is magnificent, but it was incredibly crowded.
St Peter’s Basilica – the world’s largest church in the world smallest country – is home to my favourite statue, Michelangelo’s Pietà. It’s incredible to think that he was only 23 when he created this work of art.
We paid extra to walk up the many hundred steps to the top of the basilica, which was worth it for the fabulous sunset views over the city. Definitely not for those with vertigo or claustrophobia though!
This is one of my must-sees. There is something about this space which really inspires awe. The word Pantheon is derived from Greek and means ‘to honour all gods’. It was built over 2000 years ago and is one of the only building in Rome to have survived the barbarian raids. It is an incredible feat of engineering; the dome remains the largest unsupported dome in the world.
The Walks of Italy Colosseum tour is highly recommended, and it also takes in Palatine Hill and the Roman forum. There is also a night tour which I think would be very atmospheric.
A friend recently went to Rome with her her two kids and the highlight for them was Gladiator School – the kids really enjoyed it and learned a lot too.
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are on the same site. This is somewhere that a guided tour would really be of benefit. I went years ago in the height of summer with no guide and, to be honest, got completely overwhelmed (and way too hot!).
The forum was a central point in ancient Rome for political and social activity and the ruins are of some of the most important buildings in Ancient Rome – it is a truly incredible place to visit.
Set in orange groves in the hills above Rome, this is a great spot to take in some views, rest your feet and enjoy a picnic. And it’s free.
Eating and drinking
Of course this is always my favourite part of any trip, especially in Italy.
We were a group of ten and getting food options to suit all of us – including vegan and vegetarian – was never a problem.
Dinner…and some recommended dishes
We had a really great meal at Nonna Betta which is a kosher restaurant in the Il ghetto area, the Jewish quarter (which is a worth a wander). Artichokes are a big deal here, and we were lucky to be there in prime artichoke season. The Carciofo alla gouda – Jewish style artichokes – were delicious. Other restaurants in Il ghetto worth checking out are Piperno and Ba’ghetto.
Carciofo all romana – or Roman style artichokes – are also worth seeking out. Here, the artichoke isn’t fried but cooked in a pot with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Cacio e Pepe is a Roman speciality. It is pasta with pecorino and pepper…one of those dishes that is so simple and yet so good. Da Felice is one of the top choices for this dish – the waiter prepares it at your table.
Rosciolo is another restaurant recommended by a friend – the staff here are great and their recommendations spot on. And the buratta is delicious…
Trastevere is a lovely area to wander around with lots of great bars and restaurants – if you want to eat like a local, this is the place to go.
Breakfast and cafés
Panella is a fabulous bakery/ patisserie/ café and we headed there for a coffee and pastry in the mornings.
I don’t think you can really go wrong with coffee in Italy. Unless you are ordering a cappuccino in the afternoon of course, which is not the done thing. I love getting my espresso hit at the counter of the café and pretending I am Italian (which anyone could tell I am not just by looking at me, never mind when I open my mouth to speak!)
Caffe Greco is fabulous, and right near the Spanish Steps. It is the oldest coffee house in Rome, and the likes of Goethe and Byron have sipped their coffees here (this used to be known as an expat area). Touristy yes, but locals also enjoy stopping for coffee here too.
For a pre-dinner drink Salotto 42 is a good choice. Great cocktails, good music…we could have stayed here all evening!
Zuma, in the Fendi building, is another great place for a drink and it has a beautiful terrace with great views. Chic…and priced accordingly!
A weekend in Rome – the details
We stayed at a fabulous apartment which had 5 bedrooms each with their own bathroom. Our host was super helpful and also arranged our airport transfers.
Hotels in Rome tend to be fancy and a bit…erm…bling. So apartments or pensions are a good option. As you will probably be doing a lot of walking, it’s a good idea to stay in a centrally located area. East of the Tiber is a good bet, and the Camp De’ Fioro area is close to the main tourist sites and there are lots of good restaurants nearby
A taxi from the airport to the city will cost around 48 euro and takes approximately 45 minutes.
As in any big, touristy city keep your wits about you. There are lots of pickpockets and scam artists. Keep your bag towards the front of your body and avoid keeping mobiles and wallets in your back pockets. We had no problems (thankfully) but our appartment host put the fear of god into us! The streets directly around the train station are not recommend for aimless rambling – again, like in most big cities, the area around the station is not so desirable.