I’ve been to a fair amount of Italy in my time – Lake Como, Tuscany, Milan – but never Rome. It’s always been high up on the list as truth be told I’m a huge history nerd. There is nothing I like more than a museum or historical site. Rome surpassed all of my expectations in that sense.
In the space of a week we had found it, booked it and began purchasing sun tan lotion for it. I want to make it clear that everything from the trip was paid for by myself, the only piece of paid/gifted content that involved the holiday was with Made.com who I worked with to promote their latest range of luggage. I labelled that up as an Ad over on Instagram and the image that repeats here is too from that campaign. Other than that, there’s no paid or sponsored content ahead. I wasn’t planning on writing a blog about the trip originally, so please forgive the rather sketchy imagery…
We flew from Newcastle Airport direct to Rome’s Fiumicino airport as part of a package deal with Jet2 City Breaks. The four night package included the four star hotel and flights but no transfers, coming in at £883 for the two of us, so a very reasonable £441.50 each considering we went in the height of August.
I took €250 spending money with me and spent every last cent. That included evening meals, drinks, entry into museums and sites and my haul of Italian treats to bring back.
What was included in the package:
4 nights in a twin room
Breakfast each day
Use of the pool and gym facilities
Return flights from Newcastle Airport
22kg Hold luggage allowance
10kg Hand luggage allowance
The hotel we opted for as part of the package was the H10 Roma Citta, situated out of the city centre. We picked it because it came with a rooftop pool and spa facilities and because to be honest, it was the most modern, comfortable looking option here.
Location wise there is no denying this isn’t a central hotel, it’s around a 20 minute walk to a Metro station and from there it would take you around 15 minutes to be at The Colosseum for example.
We’re more than happy walking places in order to stumble across things, so we were very happy with the location. On Day 1 we walked to The Colosseum and it took us just over an hour, stopping on the route to see some different sites.
As a hotel I couldn’t fault it. It thoroughly deserves its four star rating. The room was lovely and modern with amazing air con and bathroom facilities. Bathrooms are very, very important to me, I require a good shower.
Had this hotel been closer to the centre and key tourist attractions the price would have definitely been outside of our budget. Those in the centre are often more traditional, this was modern and sleek. As part of our package breakfast was included, something we were just considering a small bonus due to the fact multiple reviews on the site labelled the hotel’s breakfast as ‘basic’. We were very, very surprised. I don’t know what these people would consider ‘luxury’, but the breakfast was a huge self-serve affair with eggs four ways, pancake making facilities, the lot. We ate breakfast at the hotel each morning and grabbed some fruit for our bags during the day. The staff were really friendly and helpful also.
We were lucky enough to be given a lift from the airport on the way there but on the way back we got a taxi back to the airport. It took around 20 minutes and came in at €45, which considering the other way of doing it (short taxi, Metro and a train) would have been €32.50.
Location wise, the hotel is in an industrial part of the city, not far from the river bank. There’s a lot of amazing street art in this part of town that sits in contrast to the historical elements of the city.
There are some restaurants and small supermarkets around along with a main high street just five minutes away. There’s a Sephora here. Enough said. We made the 35 minute walk up to bustling river banks most nights to eat, getting a taxi back just the once which worked out as €12.
There’s a nice seating area outside of the hotel (as well as one upstairs with the pool that’s open until 9pm) where we sat and had drinks and some bar food. It’s lovely and never too busy.
Where We Ate:
Luckily my travel buddy has some family friends living in Rome so we sought their advice on where to eat. Wherever possible stay away from places near the big tourist spots – they over charge and the food is sub-standard. Instead drift into the side streets and find the smaller places, or better yet, plan your days so you can venture to Trastevere for your food on an evening.
Trastevere is a district filled with amazing restaurants, there’s hundreds. It’s where the locals go to eat rather than being filled with tourists. As a result the prices are incredibly reasonable and the food is beautiful. If possible I really would try and get to here for your evening meals, there is so much choice.
It’s situated just beside the river banks which are bustling with bars and restaurants too. You can find a drink and aperitif here for around 10Euros per person. It’s what I’d say is the ‘cool’ part of the city, where most of the younger locals head out to for a drink on an evening, I’d say The Southbank is our UK equivalent. Head for The Garibaldi Bridge and you’ll soon spot the river side bars, with Trastevere just at the other side.
Just as you enter the district, coming off the Garibaldi Bridge. Lovely friendly place with a small but perfectly formed menu. I thoroughly recommend the Parmigiana Pizza.
This small restaurant sits overlooking the Piazza di Santa Maria, with the Basilica di Santa Maria sitting at the far side. The church is open late and houses mosaics dating back to the 12th Century, so worth a look in. It’s free to visit.
Here we had Cacio e Pepe and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s the simplest pasta dish, comprised of linguine, pecorino cheese and lashing of pepper.
We went for the house white too. In the UK the ‘house’ wine is often something fairly cheap, in Italy it’s a bit different. Generally it’s much cheaper than the others simply because they buy it in bulk and sell a lot of it! Don’t be put off by ordering a House wine I’d say.
One thing to note; you’ll automatically be given some bread and breadsticks and probably also a bottle of water. You’ll be charged €3 for each without really being told, so if you don’t want either, be sure to say so as it arrives at the table!
I had ice cream from a few different places during my stay and this one was by far the best. There are a few dotted around the city. For under €3 you can get a cone filled with two big servings of ice cream. I went for pistachio and tiramisu.
If they ask you if you want cream on top? DO IT. It isn’t some awful whipped cream but the most amazing churned cream you’ll ever have. Say yes, it’s free.
Okay guys, this is the most important food recommendation of them all. Two Sizes sells various types of tiramisu in, funnily enough, two sizes. It’s all they say and it’s all they need to sell because it is incredible. We had the peanut butter and pistachio versions and I can confirm they are amazing. I think the peanut butter one might have changed my life.
Two Sizes is not too far from the Piazza Navona, a large rectangular piazza that’s edged in a lot of tourist-aimed restaurants. If you avoid these and head into the side streets you’ll not only find Two Sizes but also a lovely little restaurant called Mimi e Coco which I also recommend.
Whilst you’re in this part of the city (it’s on the way to The Spanish Steps and Villa Borghese) you can also visit San Luigi dei Francesi, a church famous for the three Caravaggio paintings it houses.
Two Sizes was recommended by my good friend Tom. He said if he didn’t get credit in the blog post he wouldn’t be happy. So here it is. You changed my life. With dessert.
This place is heaven. The largest of these stores was not too far from our hotel but if you’re staying elsewhere I recommend a pilgrimage here. Apparently they have these in the US also, with one heading to London soon. The main store is a four-floor shrine to olive oil, cheese, fresh produce and essentially all Italian-produced food goods. It’s incredible. Inside you’ll also find big seating areas and street trader style stalls so you can eat in, along with a full blown restaurant on the top floor. We collected fresh bread and tapas-style dishes to take with us one day for our dinner.
This is also the place where I purchased pretty much all of the things I brought back with me. Pistachio Spread, biscotti, olive oil – it has everything. Definitely try and seek out this place if you.
It also very randomly has an IKEA in it. I don’t know why, but it does. Should you need any towels or cutlery…
The chocolate is incredible. Try the bars if Pistachio Crema, perfect to take home as presents. We had the ice cream here one day and whilst good, it was definitely beaten Gelateria La Romana.
There’s a store not far from The Trevi Fountain where the walls are literally running with chocolate.
What We Saw:
For €16 you can buy a Super Ticket that grants you access to all three of the major historical sites in the city centre, including The Colosseum where you’ll be given a timed entry as part of the ticket. Buy the tickets from Palatine Hill or The Forum rather than The Colosseum however as you’ll queue for hours. The Super Ticket also allows you to visit the three sites over a 2 day period.
We purchased our tickets at around 10am at Palatine Hill and were given timed entry to The Colosseum of 2.30pm. We arrived at 2.10pm but still didn’t get in until around 3.20pm. Be prepared to wait in the full sun – bring a hat! There is no shade at all.
Palatine Hill is a colossal site that will easily take you a few hours to walk around. It’s all in full sun so be prepared. The Villas you can visit as part of your Super Ticket are undercover however and have a timed entry of quarter past every hour. There’s a museum on site you can visit which is amazingly well air conditioned if you need some cold.
This building is incredible and one of the most popular places in Rome, so the earlier the better if you want to be able to view it in relative peace. It’s free to visit and worth a venture inside to see the incredible ceiling.
We visited the gardens having collected some lunch supplies from CarreFour on the way. If you’re visiting The Spanish Steps (which I have to say, I can’t really recommend. They are literally just some steps) you can continuing walking up to the gardens.
You’ll walk through the Piazza del Popolo on the way, a huge piazza that is linked to the Children’s Hospital. Every time a child is born all the lights in the piazza blink. I don’t know why but we loved that idea. If you visit at dusk and see the lights blinking, you know why.
The walk up to the gardens is fairly steep but once you’re up it’s filled with benches and places to site, as well as some places to eat. The garden itself is free but you can visit the Gallery and Villa for a price also.
Once up in the gardens you get a view of the entire city, it’s really beautiful. You can hire a bike here for €13 If you’re planning on visiting any of the churches or religious sites you’ll not be allowed in if you’re wearing anything particular strappy or low cut. Carry a scarf if you are going to be so you can wrap it round. for an hour and tour the gardens.
For 10E you can take the glass lift up to the top of this amazing white building and get a view of the entire city, including an almost bird’s eye view of The Coliseum. The building itself is free to visit and worth a wander, the steps up to it are incredible. Apparently the locals greatly dislike it and have nicknamed it everything from ‘the wedding cake’ to ‘the typewriter’. It’s true it does stick out, but there’s still beauty in it.
We woke up extra early to walk to The Fountain and see it before the huge crowds descended on it. We arrived not too long after 8.30am and there was already quite a lot of people around. Between the hours of 8am and 10am they clean the fountain, so a barrier goes up and the fountain is turned off. It doesn’t detract from it in any way and actually means you can see it all properly. When the crowds descend it’s just chaos. I would recommend going early if you want to see it in daylight, with 10am being your time to see it turned on ready for the day.
Rome is actually really close to the beach, it took us just 25 minutes on a Metro from Pyramid Station to get to Ostia Lido Central. From there it’s a 10 minute walk (past a large CarreFour to stock up on snacks) to the beach. There is a free beach somewhere along the coast but for ease we paid €12 for a sun lounger and an umbrella for the day at the first place we came to.
I’m sure there are some far more beautiful beaches not too far from where we visited, but honestly with it being so hot we just wanted somewhere to sit and swim in the Mediterranean!
Potentially Handy Tips:
- The week we visited Rome – week commencing 12th August – turned out to be a holiday in Italy where most Italians close up shop and head away for the week. It didn’t cause too much of an issue for us as generally anything tourist-related stayed open, but in the city’s outskirts some cafes and bars were shut, with a few of the designer shops also being closed in the city centre.
- Fresh Spring water is pumped around the city and available for all, for free. You’ll find the pumps all over the city. It’s beautifully fresh and cold, so take a reusable water bottle to keep topping up. You’ll save a fortune and also won’t be sailing through plastic bottles.
Unfortunately single-use plastic seems to be plentiful in Rome.
- Disabled access isn’t really a thing in Rome unfortunately. I imagine Palatine Hill would be almost entirely inaccessible, with only the initial first level of The Coliseum being partially accessible.
- The Metro is only €1.50 a ticket, with each ticket being valid for as many journeys as you can fit into its 100 minute validity period. That’s a very good deal if you ask me.
- Uber is illegal in Italy so if you do open your app and see cars available, don’t book. Users of the cars can be charged up to 6000E. I had no idea until I saw the warning signs everywhere. Glad I never hit Confirm.
- If you can, walk places. We stumbled across some beautiful piazzas and historical sites simply by walking from one place to another. The Metro is really handy but take some comfortable shoes and do some wandering I say.
- If you’re planning on visiting any of the churches or religious sites you’ll not be allowed in if you’re wearing anything particular strappy or low cut. Carry a scarf if you are going to be so you can wrap it round.
Packing wise; if you’re going in summer it will be hot. You won’t need a jacket, you won’t need a cardigan. Don’t pack it. I had something to wear for every day and something for every night, I couldn’t have re-worn any tops – it was just too hot. I took two pairs of sandals (in case one hurt) and travelled in my Vans. I think where most people go wrong with packing is by applying the ‘What If’ rule. ‘What if we go out?’, ‘What if we go to a really nice bar?’, ‘What if one of the restaurants is really fancy?’.
Don’t what if. It’s what makes you over pack.
Be sensible. Italians are not that formal and unless you’ve pre-planned it you won’t be visiting somewhere that’s likely to refuse you entry based on your sandals. Work out what tops can double up with bottoms, or which dresses pack down to nothing and will keep you cool.
I deliberately under packed my 22kg allowance (it came in at 15k on the way out) so I could buy plenty of Italian treats to bring back with me. The luggage I took with me was Made.com’s Galli Suitcase in medium, £59. It was brilliant – as light as a feather and wheels like a dream. The suitcase was kindly gifted by the team at Made.