Rome – to do

I fell in love with Rome from the moment we arrived from the beautiful cobbled streets, old fashioned buildings and little delis to cafes and gelaterias on every corner. We’d chosen a hotel just outside of the city centre, as we wanted to spend some time relaxing too, and hotels in city centres tend to be pretty cramped or overpriced. Our hotel was about 10/15 minutes by car or 30 minutes by tram and the hotel provides a shuttle service both to the Vatican City and to Trastevere, which is just minutes walk from many amazing restaurants!

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The hotel itself is beautiful – it’s big and spacious, has two bars and a big restaurant which serves buffet meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast was included with our room.. We usually always make sure it is as we (particularly me!) wake up hungry and it’s nice to wander down and be able to help yourself to a breakfast buffet! There are two sides to the buffet – one with tea, coffee, juices, cereals, waffles, pancakes and all the breads, cakes and pastries you could hope for! The other has cooked stuff – the usual eggs, beans, hashbrowns, sausages, bacon, etc as well as a guy making fresh omelettes (which are HUGE!), a salad bar (with a big slab of smoked salmon!) and a small area serving up random Asian breakfast dishes (which was a bit random but I think the hotel chain is owned by an Asian family.. I didn’t touch them obviously :P).

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There’s a beautiful outdoor pool and an incredible spa which features a sauna, bio sauna, steam rooms, indoor salt pool and Turkish baths. We preferred the bio sauna as it was slightly cooler than the actual sauna so we didn’t feel like we were melting!! We got upgraded to an executive room which came with free spa access and a complimentary mini bar!

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We actually ended up using the spa a lot sooner than planned as despite the weather forecast being bright and sunny for the whole week there was a random freak thunderstorm on the first morning. We’d planned to go to the Colloseum but given that there was torrential rain after breakfast, we decided to spend a few hours in the spa and came out feeling so relaxed.

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The rain had cleared up so we got the tram to the centre of Rome to eat and explore! We stopped at a coffee shop and got gelato before walking to the Pantheon. It’s free to enter the pantheon, and although the outside is probably one of the most iconic landmarks in Rome I wasn’t expecting the inside to be so grand and beautiful!

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After that we walked to the Trevi fountains which were probably my favourite part of the city. I know that they’ve recently been restored, as they were closed when I came to Rome a year ago with work and they’re so beautiful! When I visited briefly a year ago I also went to the Spanish Steps which I loved and so I was excited to go back – but this time when we went they were under reconstruction and they were painted an ugly white colour, nothing like how I remembered them to be 😦

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Although we’re not religious, I think most people would say that visiting the Vatican City is a must if you’re in Rome! We woke up early on the day we went to the Vatican City, and took the hotel shuttle bus which dropped us off right outside. We were lucky enough not to have to queue as I’d pre-booked tickets online which I would definitely recommend doing. I’d selected 9am entry online and we turned up at 8.45 and walked straight in, past hoards of people queueing to buy tickets.

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We hired audio guides, though parts of it are quite long so we only really listened to the parts which we were interested in. Obviously there are plenty of options when it comes to guided tours but for me personally I prefer to just get an audio guide. It’s a fraction of the price but most importantly it means that I can walk around in my own time, spend longer in the parts that I’m more interested in and skip the less interesting parts. Going round in a group can be quite restrictive, and I would also get bored of listening to someone talk for hours!

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The Sistine chapel was absolutely beautiful as expected, but so many of the rooms there were – the ceilings in particular were incredibly ornate and detailed. They’re quite relaxed around most of the Vatican museum but in the Sistine Chapel you have to cover your shoulders and shorts have to be at least knee-length. There’s also no photography allowed in there and you have to stay quiet, but I prefer it like that – it’s a lovely place to sit, relax and take in the beautiful artwork. We only stayed for a couple of hours, which was more than long enough for us, before going for pizza! We took a lovely scenic walk back to the centre of Rome, passing Castel Sant’Angelo along the way and stopping plenty of times for gelato and coffee before having a lovely dinner in Trastevere that evening.

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The Colosseum is obviously a must-see if you come to Rome. It’s possibly the most iconic landmark and it’s breath-taking! I’ll admit that it didn’t look as old as I thought it would – I know that sounds ridiculous but far more of it was restored than I was expecting, despite how little of it is left.

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It’s situated right next to the Roman forum and Palantine Hill where there are loads of fragments and other ruins, both restored and original. We didn’t get a guided tour (though there were so many running that I’m sure that we could’ve joined a group unnoticed if we wanted) but we enjoyed just walking round and taking in the sheer size of it, plus there are a few boards around inside which tell you a few facts.

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Most tickets for the Colosseum should get you into the Roman Forum too, and although it’s not as iconic, it’s definitely worth a visit. If you climb up the steps to get to the highest viewing point, it’s absolutely incredible! We spent quite a while up there, just relaxing, chatting and people-watching. It was strangely peaceful up there, watching people walking around below and because it was so hot we didn’t bother as the view from the top meant that you could see the whole place in all of its beauty anyway.

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Although there are other sights and famous churches to see in Rome, our main priority was food as always, so we only really visited the main landmarks while we were there. There are plenty of beautiful piazzas that we walked through whilst finding food too though – including Piazza Navona, Piazza Venezia and Piazza del Popolo, where you’ll find plenty of cafes and coffee shops amongst the crowds of people and beautiful architecture.

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Even just walking around the squares and the little alleyways there’s so much to see. Make sure you stop and watch some of the amazing street artists who are so passionate about their art 🙂 In London I’d usually rush past the buskers and street performers but some of the street artists in Rome are so talented and some of them put on a real performance too. As well as traditional paintings of the most iconic landmarks in Rome, there also seems to be a common theme of spray painting, where they sit cross legged on the floor creating some incredible pictures using just cans of spray paint and a few templates.

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And finally most importantly when in Rome, EAT GOOD FOOD! In my opinion Rome is one of the best cities I’ve ever been to for food! Apart from McDonalds, I didn’t see a single unwelcome chain restaurant or coffee shop, and the beautiful cobbled streets are packed full of independent restaurants, delis and cafes, many of them family run and so many of them with food and service that could only be dreamed of in other cities!

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As well as restaurants, cafes and coffee shops, you can’t miss the Lindt Store and the Venchi Store which sell gelato, chocolate spreads and an incredible array of truffles, individual chocolates and slabs! They make perfect presents.. or (more realistically!) are perfect as a pick and mix bag for you to try all the flavours!

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I’m going to do a whole separate blog posts on all of the amazing food places we ate at but my personal favourites which I’d go back to in a heartbeat were:

Lunch: Est Artigiani del gusto 
Dinner: La taverna dei fori imperiali 
Coffee: Caffe Sant’Eustachio 
Gelato: Frigidarium

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