Travel Destination: Rome, Italy
From its ancient roots as an empire to the beauty of the Renaissance, this is a magnificent city.
You’ve heard the expression, “Rome wasn’t built in a day?” I’m here to tell you that you can’t even begin to take in all that Rome has to offer in just one day. Or even a week. This city offers something for everyone, no matter your interest: Ancient ruins; Renaissance art; Religious history; Architectural wonders; Gourmet foods; Regional wines; Parks and gardens; and myths and legends.
I’ve found the people throughout Italy to be friendly – though sometimes abrupt – to visitors. Within the city itself the shopkeepers, restaurant staff, and hoteliers speak enough English if your Italian is rusty (or, like mine, nonexistent) to make your visit easier.
Romans, and Italians in general, operate on a different schedule than we Americans. Dinners are usually later in the evening than we’re used to, often followed by La Passeggiata – a stroll around the neighborhood. It’s a ritual that helps friends and family connect with their neighbors, friends, and family and perhaps do a little shopping at their favorite stores or on a warm night get some gelato or fresh fruit for dessert. It’s also a great digestive after a late evening (sometimes heavy) meal!
Rome is a must-see city, filled with surprising, beautiful, colorful sights. Plan to spend as much time as possible there when you visit. You won’t be disappointed.
Top Attractions Rome:
Here are a few of my picks for a visit to Rome.
• The Vatican – Always at the top of my list, you don’t have to be Catholic to be awed by the treasures on display: Painting, murals, frescoes, statues, sculptures, maps, tapestries – the list goes on. Most famous of course is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo.
• St. Peter’s Basilica – There’s no way to describe the size, beauty, or grandeur of this architectural wonder without being there. The double dome is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. The Basilica is filled with relics, art, and statuary, and something new greets visitors at every turn.
• The Colosseum – Able to seat 70,000, the Colosseum is the largest and most imposing structure built by the ancient Romans. Gladitorial contests, celebrations, even recreations of famous sea battles (yes, with real boats and water!) were some of its uses, although many spectacles of the day would be considered cruel to our modern eyes. Begun by the Emperor Vespasian, it was finished and opened in 80 A.D. by his son Titus. Although today all that’s left is the skeleton of the structure, it’s still one of the most impressive sights in the world.
• Trevi Fountain – Yep. This is the basis of the film “Three Coins in the Fountain.” Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain and wish to return to Rome, you will. That aside, the fountain is more a work of art than a place to draw water, comprised of spectacular baroque statuary of fabulous creatures and mythical beings.
• The Pantheon – The first temple built for the common people, the Pantheon is the “temple of all Gods.” Meant to awe the people of the day, it still accomplishes its purpose in our modern age.
• Spanish Steps – During the Renaissance, the Steps were the city’s most popular tourist attraction. Writers and artist filled them, basking in the beauty of their design. At the bottom of the stairs is the famous Baraccia Fountain, by Pietro Bernini and his son, Gian Lorenzo. Try to visit in Spring, when the ramps and stairs are covered in colorful flowers that flow down the steps.
Italy is synonymous with fine dining as well as everyday food such as pizza and pasta. Want to eat well? Follow the aromas and stop in anyplace your nose tempts you. But here’s a few places you’ll definitely love.
Emma – Located on the via Monte della Farina, it’s a pizzeria like no other. While it’s traditional and modern pizza menu is vast, Emma will tempt you with appetizers, first and second course, wines, beers, liquors, fruits, salads, cheeses, and breads. For a treat, get a pizza with bufala (buffalo mozzarella cheese), hard to get in the U.S.
First courses include a number of fine pasta dishes, from simple tomato and basil sauces to flavorful carbonaras. Second courses are meat dishes, and even if it’s just meatballs you love, Emma’s are a must.
Half portions are available if you don’t want to fill up too much.
Da Enzo – Small in size but big in flavor. This is Roman cuisine at its best. Classic pasta dishes can be complemented with a fine house wine.
Taverna Dei Fori Imperiali - This small, family-run restaurant is a short walk from the Colosseum. Choose from a selection of Sicilian, Roman, and Umbrian dishes, not to mention the chef's own recipes.
La Pergola – If money is no object, dining here is truly a magnificent experience. Located on the roof of the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Hotel atop the Monte Mario hill, the view is spectacular. La Pergola has three Michelin stars and is ranked in the top 50 restaurants in the world. Be sure to make reservations well in advance, though.
Prefer good food at bargain prices? Rome has that, too.
200 Gradi – Near the Vatican, you’ll find gourmet sandwiches with fresh Italian ingredients made with bread baked right on the premises.
Pastificio – There will probably be a line outside this small ristorante, but the wait is worth it. Freshly cooked pasta is a great value here, simply prepared and value priced.
Trapizzino – The format is street food, packed into crispy bread filled to the edges with classic Italian sauce-based dishes.
Here you’ll find some of the best hotels in the world, but also rooms that are real bargains. There are many booking sites where you can find deals, and I suggest starting with one or more of those. However, my choices for the full Italian, luxury experience are below.
The St. Regis Rome – The St. Regis name is synonymous with luxury, not matter what city it’s in. The St. Regis Rome was built as a grand palace in 1894 and features Italian frescoes, gilded mirrors, chandeliers, rooms with wooden inlaid furniture, and other amenities. Suites come with the St. Regis Butler Service, for those willing to go even more upscale.
Hassler Roma – Located in the heart of Rome, Hassler Roma sits at the top of the Spanish Steps. That means it’s close to a number of other attractions. There are shops and restaurants nearby, the service is impeccable, and they serve a delicious breakfast buffet. Rooms are a bit small, but very comfortable.
Hotel Artemide – Rated 4-star, sightseeing is easy from it’s central location. Features include great Italian food at the Ambrosia Restaurant, complimentary Wi-Fi, breakfast buffet, 24-hour fitness center, spa, Turkish bath, Finnish sauna, and complimentary bathrobes, slippers, and towels.
Centrally located on Via Nazionale about a half-mile east of the Trevi Fountain, the Hotel Artemide acts as a good (and luxurious) home base for sightseeing in Rome. Recent guests said they were pleased with everything from the Italian fare at the Ambrosia Restaurant to the attentive staff to the comfortable accommodations. The guest rooms feature neutral tones and white linens, as well as flat-screen TVs, soundproof windows, work desks, complimentary Wi-Fi access and free minibars that are restocked daily (a traveler favorite). Guests can also enjoy the hotel's breakfast buffet, take advantage of the 24-hour fitness center or get treatments at the Artemís Spa, which previous visitors said offers services at affordable prices. Plus, the spa is equipped with a Turkish bath, a large whirlpool, a Finnish sauna, an ice room and complimentary bathrobes, towels and slippers for use.
Other choices include Hotel Eden, The Inn at the Roman Forum, and the Hotel Raphael. For those on a budget, there’s Casa di Santa Francesca Romana, Daphne Trevi, Hotel Alpi, and Hotel Alexandra.
Check out their websites for pricing, amenities, and availability.
As always, safe travels, and buon viaggio!