In September, I travelled to Rome with my boyfriend for the first time, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most beautiful and eye-opening experiences that I’ve had so far.
Rome is a city that has always stood out to me for many reasons. For one, it’s always looked so so beautiful (turns out, it’s even more so in real life!), and secondly, it’s a city that is full of culture and history, and I knew that I would come away feeling breathless and enlightened.
I can confirm that I did leave the country feeling both of those things and more. I was undoubtedly tired – if you ever go to Rome, be prepared for a lot of walking! But I would happily suffer from aching feet all my life is it means I get to explore the beautiful cobbled streets and small neighbourhoods again.
So here’s what we saw on our trip to Rome.
Our First Evening
So we landed in Rome Fiumicino airport – also known as the Leonardo Da Vinci airport – and it took us just under an hour to get to our Airbnb, located in Roma Nomentana, which was pretty good going. We selected our BnB because it was in a local area away from the bustle of the city centre so that we could experience true Rome without so much of the tourist traps. The first thing that captivated us was the clusters of pastel-coloured flats, each window accompanied by a pair of dark green shutters, some with small balconies, a few of which shelving potted plants, some buildings even had ivy twisting up the walls. It looked quaint, and the streets were quiet as it was a Thursday evening.
Admittedly, we did get lost. But when we finally found our BnB – a basement apartment tucked away on a small street – we dumped our bags and listened to our host Luigi’s restaurant recommendations as we were both starving (we almost missed our flight so did a runner and missed our chance to grab some food!).
He suggested The Trap, a small restaurant that was cheap yet so so good. As it was not a tourist place, there were no English translations, so the waitress had to help us work out what some of the dishes were, but she was lovely and willing to answer all of our questions. However, I misheard her at some point, because I ended up ordering a pizza that had streaks of ham adorning it – and I hate red meat! Whoops. I tried it anyway as I felt bad but still wasn’t a fan. So my boyfriend picked the ham, while I ate the rest, which was one of the best I had on our holiday. My boyfriend thought the same about his pizza too.
Once we were stuffed, we headed back to our BnB for the night.
The Colosseum, Palatine Hill & The Forum
We woke early the next day and got the metro into the centre of Rome. Our first stop was Castel Saint’ Angelo as we needed to collect our Roma Passes from the tourist info point just outside (highly recommend getting one of these if you’re going to Rome). This was easy to find, and the Castel itself looked so intriguing that we visited a few days later.
So, once we collected our passes, we were off to the Colosseum.
The only thing is, it takes 40 mins approx to get from Castel Sant’Angelo to the Colosseum, which usually is fine for my boyfriend and I as we don’t mind walking long distances. But, Rome’s streets are quite uneven, we weren’t 100% sure of the route, and it was 27 degrees. So it actually took us longer to get there than we anticipated.
However, this walk also presented us with its advantages, as we got to see more of Rome than we would have if we got a bus or taxi. It was so beautiful, diverse, and the architecture was breathtaking. You could see snippets of Rome’s history on every street, the remains of the buildings and constructions that showcase the city, spanning across centuries.
We spotted the Colosseum a few miles out, the top of the curved infrastructure peered out to us over the central courtyard and the herds of huge tourist groups wearing walkie talkies attached by a green cotton string, all blocking the way. After a long walk, it sure was a delight to see the Colosseum at last.
After an hour’s wait in the skip the line queue and navigating through security, we were finally walking inside the Colosseum. And I’m struggling to find the words that explain how incredible and insightful it was, so I’m just going to leave you with some photos.
Palatine Hill was a refreshing place to visit, as, other than the remains of Ancient Roman palaces and houses, there were old vineyards, gardens, and fields stretching around the marble and stone buildings, a nice break after the bustle of the Colosseum. It also gives you the chance to take in some of the most beautiful views of Rome itself.
The Forum was high on my list of places to visit, but I can safely say that we spent more time there than I imagines as it is bloody massive. It’s one of the few sites where you can feel history coming alive as you walk through the ancient remains of temples and palaces, including Nero’s. Our feet were screaming by this point, but it was so extraordinary that we had to explore every corner here.
After an incredibly long day (35,000 steps on a scorching day!), my boyfriend and I got a train back to our BnB for a quick nap before getting dinner at a local restaurant nearby.
The Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel
Seeing how busy the queues were for the Colosseum, we knew we had to get to the Vatican early. We had booked tickets for 11.30, so we initially set our alarms for 7 (shower, food, train into town, queues) but didn’t get up until eight something whoops. Where our BnB was a basement flat, the lights were dim, and it was dark and cosy inside, making getting up early quite a challenge throughout this holiday!
When we were back into the Roman centre, the first thing we did was hunt for a coffee shop (we lived off coffee during our time there). We found a small one on a little cobbled street slightly out of the central piazzas that were quiet that morning. After conversing with the charismatic host, we sat down outside with a cappuccino and pastry each.
This is one of my favourite memories of Rome, as the warming sun was still fresh and slightly crisp, and sitting there observing the daily life of Italy was just so charming. In a way, I didn’t want to leave for the Vatican!
But I’m so glad that we did, though. The Vatican Museums are breathtaking, full of a wide variety of art collected from around the world across centuries. My favourite was the tapestry room, where intricate religious scenes were sewn and hung from one end of the dark room to the other.
And let’s not forget about the Sistine Chapel. Standing underneath Michaelangelo’s infamous ceiling was undoubtedly an unforgettable experience.
The only negative thing I have to say is that the Vatican is so overcrowded – we were all huddling along like eccentric penguins, stretching their necks to see the architecture and artwork. I will admit that it did take away from the experience for me as it made the tour more tiring, and, as a very impatient person, I did get frustrated at the tour groups who kept stopping in the middle of the walkways!
Castel Saint’ Angelo
After the Vatican, we were both starving, so gave in and stopped at a tourist trap restaurant (we promised ourselves we’d try and avoid as many of these as possible!) located around the corner which the worst moment of the holiday in all honesty. The coffee wasn’t right, and our sandwich fillings only covered half the bread.
We wandered around the city, which was becoming insanely busy as it was a Saturday. The sky started to turn burnt orange, and the buildings lit up. We noticed more tourists emerging and being targeted by the salespeople on the streets and felt excited by how busy it was. After discovering a few small areas that we hadn’t seen before, we found ourselves by Castel Saint’ Angelo and decided to use our Roma passes and explore.
This is by far one of my favourite moments of our holiday. After walking through the labyrinth of winding staircases, stately rooms, and ancient structures, we reached the top of the building. We discovered that there was a small cocktail bar – ten tables at most – that provided views overlooking the city. The river curved underneath the bridges, places that we hadn’t seen illuminated by the setting sun, and St Peter’s Basicillia towered over it all. It was breathtaking. We ended up staying there for hours (it was European Heritage Day, so sites remained open until 9/10 pm), drinking an Aperol Spritz while watching the sun fade into the river while the moon slowly took its place. It was beautiful, and it allowed us to see Rome in its full vibrancy – many shops were still open, the toys that salespeople were selling flashed neon lights, the sounds of conversations merging into the air. I teared up at the sight!
After finally tearing ourselves away from the view, we headed down to the ground on the hunt for food.
The Pantheon & The Trevi Fountain
Sunday had a bit of a lazy feel, as we hadn’t planned anything for this day – we were going to explore the things we’ve noticed but hadn’t had a chance to look at yet. We had our first lie-in, drank our 34738th cups of coffee for our time here, then headed out to grab lunch (pizzaaaa) and see the Pantheon.
If you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan, I’m sure you can remember climbing this temple and purchasing it in the game – I did, and I didn’t know much about the Pantheon other than the game, so I was looking forward to learning more about it. We had attempted to visit this monument the night before as it was open later for European Heritage Day, but we got there just as it closed, so it became our priority this morning.
Now, if you go to ever go to Rome, make sure the Pantheon is at the top of your to-do list. Because wow.
When we turned the corner, the ancient temple loomed over Piazza Della Rotonda, so the square was a hub of activity as touristy restaurants lined the square and an incredibly long queue made its way around, all waiting for to see the Pantheon. The building itself is an architectural marvel – constructed in 120AD after the original burnt down, it’s survived wars and earthquakes, and so the unique structure stands.
The Trevi Fountain
After wandering around, buying gifts for family, and stopping in the Lindt cafe, we headed off to the Trevi Fountain.
Like the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain made my boyfriend, and I gasp as we turned the corner. Its fantastic marble depictions of sea horses, mermen, and the water crashing into the base of the fountain come together to personify the sea itself. I thought we’d only spend a few minutes there, but we ended up staying for around half-hour as there were so many intricate details to marvel at.
Our BnB Date
When planning out this trip, my boyfriend and I decided that one night we wanted to stay in and cook our own food using fresh Italian ingredients – we cook pasta a lot, so we wanted to do so but in the most authentic way possible. So we purchased fresh pasta, parmesan, ingredients for a tomato sauce, and even a loaf of bread to make garlic bread (I also popped into a bookshop!). I just wanted to share a few photos of this because it tasted so good, a vast difference compared to what we make at home. We even styled up the table with a rose we’d purchased the day before and prosecco (Italian prosecco tastes 1000x better than the stuff we get back in the UK, FYI).
An Italian Picnic In Villa Borghese
My boyfriend’s friend’s girlfriend is Italian, so we arranged to meet her in Rome (there were a lot of ‘friends’ in that sentence :L ). She took us to Villa Borghese, armed with a suitcase of food (not exaggerating), we laid out a picnic mat and tucked into the food and drink that she and her family had prepared for us – Italians certainly love to please!
We had cannelloni, tiramisu (the best out of our holiday), small almond parcels (never found out what they were!), and wine. It tasted amazing, some of the best food we had during our entire trip. She explained some of the things that we had noticed throughout our stay, such as a few cultural differences that took us by surprise, the constant harassment of salespeople, public transport, and just caught up with what was going on with our lives.
Afterward, we walked around the park – a refreshing break from the bustle of the city – and my boyfriend and I rented a boat on the enchanting artificial lake.
Once we said goodbye, we wandered around the surrounding high streets and then headed back to our BnB to get ready for dinner.
Our Final Night In Rome
Again, I wanted to take a moment to share our meal this night as it was our final night in Rome, and we went all out with our food.
We dressed up – as in he wore a suit and I wore a dress – and went to a more expensive restaurant in the city. We originally wanted a three-course meal, but as it was a Monday evening, everything closed earlier (10 pm), so we had a bottle of prosecco, calamari and pasta course each. One of our best meals out of our holiday. Then, after the restaurant closed, we wandered the uneven back streets, taking in the quietness of it all, and bought gelato at one of the 478394732 gelato places in Rome. I had tiramisu and Nutella! We ate in front of the Pantheon, then got a bus back to our BnB.
The morning after, we packed and stopped at a coffee shop near where we stayed, our wheelie cases announcing our entrance. It was nice to end in Nomantana as we got to savour calm, quaint Italy with its sunset-coloured flats, motorcyclists weaving their way through the school traffic while drinking cappuccinos that tasted better than what we had in the centre. Feeling tired and slightly blue about leaving, we got on the train to the airport and started our journey home.