Rome has been high on my priority list for as long as I can remember, so when Ryanair posted yet another seat sale, we decided now was as good a time as any. For everything that is wrong with Ryanair – it’s hard to deny their ridiculously low prices. Including 10kg of onboard luggage each, it cost us a grand total of £160 return for two people direct from Manchester to Rome Ciampino. Bargain.
Where to stay
Rome’s accommodation is EXPENSIVE. After scouring Booking.com for hours, and consulting a few friends who had been before, we settled on the neighbourhood of San Giovanni. Close to the Colosseum, and extremely close to transport links including the metro, buses and the tram, we chose to book four nights at SottosopraSannio. It turned out to be the perfect pick. The accommodation was clean and consisted only of two rooms so was really quiet too. Breakfast was included and was set up each night for guests to help themselves each morning. Tea/coffee making facilities were available in the kitchen, and there was the opportunity to cook your own food.
The B&B was located a five minute walk from the metro station, and about a seven minute walk to the tram and bus stops. The Colosseum was about 15 minutes away by foot, and the entire neighbourhood was clean and felt safe. There was even a gorgeous little café at the end of the street which served the most delicious pastries. We may have called in on a few occasions at 1am for a drunk croissant or two to take home…
Rome is extremely easy to navigate – we didn’t have a problem once. From all metro stations and several destinations across the city, its possible to buy single tickets, 24, 48 or 72-hour passes. We opted for the Roma 72 hour pass which cost a grand total of 18 Euros per person, which entitled us to travel on all metros, buses and trams – I’m yet to find a city with a system this sleek.
We also walked a hell of a lot. Most days we walked a minimum of 18,000 steps, so comfortable shoes are an absolute must.
What to do
Rome certainly isn’t short of things to see and do, and I think we barely scratched the surface within our four-day period. My first piece of advice would be to book tickets for the busy tourist attractions in advance online.
We managed to snag tickets online for the Colosseum and the Vatican City a few weeks in advance (and even then, available time slots were sparse), and this saved us stress, time and (more) queueing when we were there.
The Colosseum was at the top of my priorities, I’ve been fascinated by it since I was a kid. Rather than a physical guide, we paid for an audio guide as we like to take things at our own pace. It came in the form of a smartphone and was available to pick up on entry. It gave a good overview of the Colosseum and its purpose, as well as explanations for what each part of the Colosseum was used for.
Aside from the Colosseum, we spent time at the Vatican as mentioned above. I’ll be brutally honest, the Sistine Chapel for me was underwhelming, but St Peter’s Basilica was out of this world. The problem at the Vatican City and much of Rome is the crowds. I have never seen so many people crammed into one space as I have in the Vatican City. It’s insane.
We also visited the Trevi Fountain in the day, but as beautiful as it was, it was impossible to get anywhere near it for the crowds. Returning to Trevi Fountain one night at midnight however was amazing. Much less people, and an incredibly beautiful sight lit up at night-time.
Other than the main sights, we found the best thing to do in Rome was walk. Walk everywhere. We discovered hidden side streets with tiny cafes and bars, and people relaxing in the shade. We found ice cream shops selling some of the most delicious ‘gelato’ we’d ever tasted. Rome has so much to offer, it’s hard to specify things you ‘must do’ and ‘must see’. Apart from the main attractions, my only advice is to wander and discover your Rome.
Eat and drink
I’d be lying if I said we had any bad food whilst in Rome. Absolutely everything we ate was divine. Obviously, pasta and pizza is the speciality, and you absolutely must try as much of it as you can. Even for coeliac’s, there are several restaurants and cafes we saw that offer gluten free pizza and beer.
We spent a few evenings in the Trastevere neighbourhood for dinner and drinks off the back off a recommendation from Joelle’s Italian colleague. She was bang on the money. There are so many bars and restaurants here, you’ll be spoilt for choice. We headed down on the Friday night, and the streets were packed with people drinking, chatting and dancing. Bir & Fud and the bars and restaurants that surround it were lively and reasonably priced, and the food and drinks were great.
Joelle’s colleague, Guilia also recommended we pay a visit to her parent’s café in the area, so after spending hours in the Vatican, we walked down to Caffe Settimiano. The building and its surroundings are immaculate and historic. The Trastevere area was my favourite in Rome, and this beautiful café a highlight. And I promise that’s not just a shameless plug 😉
Pizza and pasta dishes in Rome were consistently under 10 Euros each, and a beer or glass of wine were often no more than 5 Euros. Despite a number of people telling us to prepare ourselves for the price of Rome, we were pleasantly surprised. Granted, it’s no Thailand or Bolivia in terms of costs, but for a major European city, it is reasonably priced in many ways. Or maybe that’s just a consequence of living on this small yet extortionate island we live on. The UK makes everywhere seem cheap.
Rome is stunning. There’s a reason it’s so popular with travellers – it’s full of history, character, good food and style. I would return in a heartbeat. For budget travellers, there are ways to see this wonderful city on a budget, and for those with extra cash to splash – there’s lots of opportunity to do that too. I’d avoid visiting in peak summer times (June – August) not only for the crowds but for the heat too. Rome is not a city you want to explore in 30 degree heat, trust me.
Don’t forget to download some of my favourite apps for travel, to make your trip that little bit easier.