Rome is a place that has inspired millions – especially the Colosseum, which most of us will have first seen photographed when we were just children. When you arrive at such an iconic place, it can be quite overwhelming. Not only are you faced with something you’ve always wanted to see or do, but there are plenty of other landmarks on the way there that you barely have time to fit it all in! This post will be all about the best attractions to discover or have a bite to eat, but if you’re looking for a breakdown of the best foods then see Travel For A While‘s Taste the World series.
How we got there
Although our nearest airport is East Midlands Airport, we are accustomed to travelling to Birmingham Airport for overseas travel as it remains better connected to the rest of the world. This meant we had to get a train from Derby to Birmingham Central, a connection to Birmingham International, a mono-rail to the hotel, and an overnight stay. It sounds like a lot, but we don’t mind – we know that when we get to Birmingham, the holiday truly begins! The next morning we flew out to Leonardo Da Vinci airport where Jet2 looked after us quite well (they even sent me a map of the airport which is great for us anxious travellers!).
Train cost: £14.12 each | Hotel cost: £29.50 each | Flight cost: £190.40 each
Where to stay in Rome
The decision of where to stay in Rome will probably be the biggest point of contention. Josh and I opted to stay in a very swish B&B right opposite the Colosseum – we simply fell in love with the pictures online and loved knowing that we’d eat our breakfast looking at the most beautiful building in the world for four days straight. Was it the most convenient or inexpensive? Probably not, as although we were located one street away from the Colosseum… this meant we were quite far away from everything else. So, it was a lot of walking, and a few taxis – when we could find one!
Rome hotel cost: £76pppn | COLOSSEUM PALACE STAR
Must-see attraction: The Colosseum
When thinking of Rome, the Colosseo is going to be the first attraction on everybody’s minds. Lovely and historical as it is, it’s worth mentioning that you’ll never be alone in there, and so if you suffer from claustrophobia or anxiety it isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Visiting the Colosseum was something that I had dreamt about for years, but found that I had to grin and bear skirting around all the other tourists. Almost everyone is reaching for their camera or selfie stick looking for their golden photo opportunity – but I found that you can take some real gems down the side streets, where you are less likely to be interrupted by fellow travellers and holiday-makers. Also, come prepared to say ‘No’ many times to the sellers outside – they genuinely will try to sell you an umbrella even if you’re holding one!
Lesser-known attraction: Castel Sant’Angelo
Our trip to Castel Sant’Angelo (the intended mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian) was planned by Josh, who found it on a list of local attractions near Vatican City. It was not somewhere we had our eyes on before we flew out to Italy, but ended up being one of our most stand-out experiences. If you’re an EU citizen, we recommend paying a small amount for admission as it will work out better to save your Roma Pass for a more expensive ticket. We found that you will walk a lot around the building if you want to make it to the top, but once you’ve made it, the rooftop offers exclusive and beautiful views of the entire Vatican area – and a quaint restaurant featured in the cover image of my Top Restaurants of 2019. If you need any other reasons to visit Castel Sant’Angelo, it was also heavily featured in the epic final season of Medici: The Magnificent on Netflix.
Hidden attraction: Villa Doria Pamphili
Free entry. | You may not have heard of Villa Doria Pamphili, but it is Rome’s answer to Wollaton Hall or Chatsworth House. To get there, I would recommend a walk; but take care as it is uphill and quite long. The largest public park in Rome offers breathing space from the tourists below in Metropolitan Rome, and feels more like somewhere the locals would spend their time. We certainly saw a fair few going for their daily jogs. If you are travelling in Summer, this would be the perfect place to go and get your photo ops, with the maze and flowers in full bloom. Definitely return via taxi if you can, as although it’s relatively close to a bus stop, we ended up getting quite lost! (If this happens, don’t panic, remember to pop into a nearby hotel and ask them to call you a taxi.)
Obscure attraction: Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary
Free viewing. | Unless you are very clued up on your memes, this attraction might not immediately mean anything to you. However, it is the location of the legendary Google Maps cat – and something in me just needed to see it! There are a lot of attractions nearby, such as the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and many museums – so it’s not hard to fit in while you’re on your way to something else. Trust me, it will make you smile to see all the little kitties running around!
Drink at Caffe Propaganda
Caffe Propaganda is a lovely bar and restaurant not too far from the Colosseum, but away from the tourist-y areas. We heard online that they did some of the best personalised cocktails in the city, and found that they were very close to our hotel – so there was no excuse not to try. We absolutely loved what we found, and with no entrance fee to be paid, we would definitely have become holiday regulars if we hadn’t discovered it at the very last minute. At the time, the bar-tender informed us that they were in the middle of re-working their cocktail menu, but that he would make us something personalised based on a few of our favourite ingredients. Everything was perfect and I recommend it to everyone.
Drink in a speakeasy: Race Club Roma
Entry to the Race Club is an adventure in itself. It’s a little bit further out than the Colosseum, down a long street that’s lined with beautiful Banksy-esque graffiti. Once you have located the entrance, you will be asked to pay quite a steep membership fee which is a bit of a downside but if you’re looking for some luxury and exclusivity in your night then this is really the place to be. I mean, I’ve been to one speakeasy ever and this is it! The Race Club is ran by two brothers and they are there most nights to take your orders. I ordered one drink that he wasn’t sure I’d be fond of, and as they are quite expensive he insisted that if I didn’t like it, he would make me another without charging. It didn’t matter anyway as I loved it. The drink and the atmosphere were perfect, and combined, made one of the most romantic nights I ever had.
Thus concludes my highlights of our four-night trip to Rome! Other honourable mentions include: The Pantheon, The Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, Museo di Roma, Altare della Patria (also known as the Typewriter building), and Circus Maximus, which we only really appreciated after we watched a documentary in the UK. I hope you found something new for your Rome itineraries – go and have the time of your lives!
*Please note this post first appeared on my previous blog, and has been heavily adapted to suit its new purpose.