Rome is undoubtedly a city that needs no introduction. The heart of the once mighty Roman Empire, the centre of Catholicism, a foodie’s dream and the capital city of Italy. Rome is quite simply a city you have to visit once in your life. After just 12 hours it captivates you and you think “how in the hell did I put off coming here for so long?”
Things to See and Do
There’s absolutely no shortage of stuff to see in Rome. Ruins of the Empire, the Vatican and remnants of medieval Italy are all on show around every corner. Rome definitely makes for a packed 2 or 3 day trip full of history, culture and fantastic food.
Probably one of the most iconic sights in Rome, the Colosseum really makes you go “whoa” when you see it for the first time. And once you make your way through the labyrinth like insides and out into the expansive open space in the middle, you get a real feel for how epic this place is.
Completed in 80 AD, it was used for gladiatorial battles, animal hunts and all other kinds of civic entertainment. Primarily, it was there to keep the Roman public happy. Happy people = no revolt against the Emperor. During it’s heyday in the second century, it could seat 50,000 people.
The outer wall stands partially and was rebuilt somewhat, but the inner wall is all that remains because of earthquakes and stone pillaging to build some of the churches in Rome.
Make sure you buy your tickets in advance online and book the guided tour also, it’s totally worth it. Your ticket also includes entrance to the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum.
Palatine and Roman Forum
Step foot into what was once the civic and political beating heart of the Roman Empire. From here the Romans plotted their domination of Britain, the expansion into the Middle East and stepping foot onto Africa.
There’s unfortunately not that much left of what would have been a beautifully decorated site of imperial grandeur, but walking around you can kind of still get a feel for it all. Situated right next to the Colosseum, combining these three attractions into half a day or so makes sense.
Another example of epic ancient Roman architecture, this time smack-bang in the heart of central Rome. The Pantheon dominates the Piazza della Rotonda and was built back in the 2nd century by Marcus Agrippa to honour a load of mythical gods.
It’s one of the best preserved Roman buildings still around and today is used as a Roman Catholic church (big surprise really). Entry is free, so just waltz on in, take a seat in the pews and get a feel for the tremendous history this place encompasses.
One of the draw cards of Rome, Vatican City is the home of the Roman Catholic Church and essentially its own country (even though there’s no border or anything). It’s very touristy (read: expensive) around the Vatican, so don’t go signing up for any tours or buying any food around here.
St Peter’s Basilica
The centrepiece of the church, St Peter’s is an enormous space that sums up everything Catholicism is about. The ceiling is bloody massive and so high that you feel about 2 feet tall when you’re walking around inside. The whole joint is made of marble and gold and is filled with incredible works of art. Really, this is one of the most beautiful churches in the world.
Make sure you take the lift and the stairs to the top of the dome, as the view over Rome is incredible as seen below.
Make no mistake, this museum is HUGE. There is tons to see, like old Roman and Greek statues, paintings, maps and other works of art. Basically everything the Vatican has collected over the past 1500 years or so is in this museum. It’ll take loads of time to cover and it’ll be very crowded, so take the express route once you’re inside to just see the cool stuff.
It’s also here where you’ll find the Sistine Chapel. It’s RIGHT at the end of the museum, so they make you trundle through the rest of the joint just to see the famous bit. It isn’t very jaw-dropping once you get in there, but the mural by Michelangelo on the ceiling is quite impressive and depicts a lot of scenes from the bible.
And finally, the double spiral staircase at the end is quite cool.
Food and Drink
Rome is all about the food really, and who doesn’t LOVE Italian food? Pizza, pasta, wine, beer – you could gorge yourself all weekend on so many different amazing foods that they’d have to roll your ass back to your home city.
Pizza places are dotted all over the city and it’s not hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. More authentic places won’t have loads of tacky advertising trying to get you inside, so just exercise some street smarts when choosing your pizzeria.
Ristorante AL 34 was recommended to me by a mate and it surely didn’t disappoint. We waltzed in on our first night and were met by friendly waiters, a heated outdoor frontage and an extensive menu of reasonably priced Italian favourites.
This should be your first port of call on the night you get into Rome as it gives you a great introduction into what Roman dining is all about, without the cheesy sales tactics and laminated menus being thrown at you as you walk by.
Trattoria Der Pallaro
Tucked away down a side street, this trattoria is the only place with lights on in what looks like a car park once you find the joint. It’s special because of a few reasons:
- You get greeted by an old Italian lady when you first walk in that doesn’t speak a lick of English and just guides you to a table.
- You have to walk through the massive kitchen to get to said tables.
- It’s 5 courses, set menu, and you just get what the chef is cooking that night (usually antipasti, a pasta dish, meat dish, dessert and a digestif).
- It’s a flat rate €20 per head.
This my friends, is the authentic Roman restaurant experience.
The old, traditionally less favourable south part of Rome, this is the place to go to sample a few more diverse, less touristy restaurants and bars. Narrow, long and windy streets are filled with cafes and bars, and chances are you’ll come across locals out for a meal in this part of town.
Venture down the main drag of Trastevere to take your pick of one of many restaurants, a lot of which now do not serve pizza in order to focus on what they do best – meat and pasta.
How to get there
The usual suspects fly to Rome as it is the largest hub for aviation in Italy. easyJet will be your cheapest followed by British Airways, Alitalia etc. Don’t go Ryanair unless you like torturing yourself to save a few euros.
Once you’ve landed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, take the Leonardo Express into the city. It’s not really “express” because it does stop along the way and it’s also not very fast, but it’s the only real direct way into the city without forking out loads for a taxi.
A bit of orientation
Here’s a handy map laying out all the sights mentioned above to give you an idea of where things are in Rome. Click on the markers to see the sight listed and zoom and pan around to see more of the map.
View 48 hours in Rome in a larger map
Get around in Rome
Rome is easily traversed on foot as the old medieval centre is quite compact and it’s great to just meander in the laneways discovering churches, pizza joints and large picturesque piazzas. The only thing that isn’t immediately central is the Colosseum, but it’s still walkable in 30 minutes or so from downtown. Otherwise if you need to get across town, take the metro.
Where to stay
We got a great deal on an easyJet holiday to Rome, which set us back about £200 each for 3 nights including flights, pretty decent value. As part of the package, we stayed at the Twentyone Hotel in the north part of the city within walking distance of the Vatican. It’s a bit of boutique joint, with arty looking headboards above the beds and black finishing all around.
The wifi was free and fast and we were treated to some great views over the streets below from our balcony. Showers were of the power variety and the staff were friendly and spoke great English. Breakfast wasn’t a lavish affair, but got the job done with pastries, cereal and some sliced meat. If you’re after something a little more substantial there are a few cafes opposite the hotel.
easyJet holidays make these kind of city breaks super easy to book and crack on with, It’s definitely worth checking out their deals to Rome, have a look at their packages here.
Rome isn’t too bad in terms of cash. Considering Italy is completely boned for money, they’re not trying to totally destroy you financially here. A meal will be under €20 and a beer will be about €5-€6 each. Typical European capital city prices really.
Really, if you haven’t hit Rome yet, you’re doing yourself a massive disservice. Leading up to the trip, I was like “yeah, Rome should be cool, it’s really old and there’s tons of history and the food is good”, but this was so far off the mark once I arrived. The city just captivates you with the architecture, the history around EVERY corner and the food. Oh man THE FOOD.
Seriously, get your arse to Rome to see what is truly one of the greatest cities in the world.