I have just had the pleasure of returning from Rome, the eternal city (a short press trip courtesy of the Hoxton Hotel). After a few years of very limited travel I must admit it really sparked my creativity and added a spring to my step. The weather, obviously, helped.
I realised that the last city guide of Rome was back in 2017 but a lot of my recommendations from then still stood the test of time (we even followed some of @thefrugality‘s tips on this trip!) so thought I’d update it with a few new suggestions here.
WHERE TO STAY
Last time we stayed, we used Air BnB and stayed near the Vatican. It was nice but perhaps a little far away, plus I always find the 4pm check-in and 10am departure tough (especially when travelling with kids).
This time, we were lucky enough to stay at the newly opened Hoxton Hotel (as part of a press stay). It was gorgeous, and a small (but perfectly formed) ‘shoebox’ room will set you back roughly £149 a night. Situated near Villa Borghese, it is a wonderfully relaxing spot (and those pillows – I slept like a log!), but if you have not visited Rome before it might not be your best option.
I see it more as a spot to visit with girlfriends where you are also likely to make use of the cocktail bar rather than let it go to waste. It’s a good 40 minute (scenic!) walk to the main attractions like the Trevi Fountain and the Forum, but it’s very easy to grab a taxi if that’s your preferred way of travel (it’s a little out of the metro station’s remit).
When researching, I found Rome’s hotels quite ‘fancy’, but there is a nice list of affordable boutique stays via The Telegraph here. I always think the Campo de’ Fiori or Trastevere areas would be great to stay – close to major sights and tons of good restaurants.
WHAT TO DO
The best way to do Rome is to compile your own list, as everyone’s Rome is different! I love ancient Rome but some might prefer scenes from movies (Trevi fountain from ‘La Dolce Vita’ or Bocca Della Verità from ‘Roman Holiday’). The most important thing to remember is not to attempt to do everything, especially on a short city break.
As I had seen the main attractions last time (I mention my favourite church and sights here), I was much more relaxed on this trip and enjoyed the city for its culture and food. As part of our trip, we did a vespa tour (gifted experience with no expectation to post) and I have to say, as nervous as I was, it was incredible!
The drivers were wonderful, and talked us through the history, and then Annie (who runs the tours – Scooteroma) stopped at spots and gave us wonderful insights, as well as filming us on the bikes (she was VERY respectful of our Instagram shots!). They offer a few different tours and we stopped in places I’d never heard of, such as Testaccio food market, the local food market where Romans eat and source for restaurants. Riding round the Colosseum, I felt like I was having a real Roman experience which will stay with me forever.
I don’t usually recommend shopping on a city break but it is so hard to find splattered pottery for a reasonable price in the UK and my Instagram pics of bowls and plates got a lot of traction! We saw this stall at Campo de Fiori on our last visit but I regretted not buying anything. Small bowls ranged from 5-9 Euros and they wrapped them all very carefully (they made it home safe and sound and are now proudly on display in our cabinet!).
Trastevere is a beautiful, often described as a more ‘local’ part of Rome (apparently there’s a north/south divide to Rome similar to that of London) – but don’t let this fool you, as it can still be very touristy. It is beautiful and definitely not as busy as Monti or the main sights, so it’s a perfect place to meander and eat outside if you can.
WHERE TO EAT
Now we get to the real tips! Pizza and pasta were the only thing on my menu this trip and they didn’t disappoint. Pizza in Rome is traditionally very thin, so don’t expect fluffy sourdough! Cacio e pepe is the traditional pasta dish (and you can’t go wrong) but I would argue that the ‘gricia’ is my favourite Roman dish.
Pizza by the slice (and weight!) with deliciously different flavours – a great informal lunch spot. We visited one in the Testaccio food market but they also have a branch in Trastevere.
We didn’t visit this time but it still lingers as a favourite spot for us, there are a few and I would argue that the Salumeria behind Campo de Fiori is the most relaxed – try and book or go early and nab a spot at the bar and see everything carved in front of you.
Osteria da Fortunata
Great prices, fantastic food and even better atmosphere, it can get a little touristy (like most great places that become ‘known’) but it still has a traditional feel. All the pasta is hand-made on site and I love how minimal the decor is.
A few other recommendations are Taverna Trilussa (delicious food and wonderful staff – a bit more formal so maybe not one with young kids) and Armando al Pantheon; book a table and don’t be put off by the table cloths – it’s traditional! But after your pasta you step out onto the Pantheon and reeeeeally feel like you’re in Rome.
At time of writing, Covid testing was not necessary to travel to Italy. However, you needed to fill out a Passenger Locator form, masks were mandatory inside any building (they could be removed to eat), an FFP2 mask was essential to fly to Italy (you could purchase at the airport) and our vaccination passport was asked at every venue/restaurant.
I also love Rome – and your article has made me think about going again. Along with the recent Stanley Tucci programmes.
The Vespa experience would be terrifying to me – but I wonder if I would be brave enough, so I could pay homage to Audrey Hepburn. Will think about that.
My daughter has a friend who was involved with the new London Hoxton (and who unfortunately lost her job as the first lockdown started), so interested to see that. It does look nice.
Loved seeing your travel wardrobe.
We loved The Hoxton, it’d be perfect if you’ve been to Rome before as it’s a different area totally to where we’ve stayed before. We’ve booked to stay in the Paris one in August with kids – we’ll see how that goes! The Vespa was not as scary as I imagined, they go pretty slow and feel very sturdy x