Thursday 8 December 2016 / London, UK

A Weekend In Rome

 What do you do when it's cheaper to go abroad for the weekend than it is to have a weekend in Manchester? Why you go to Rome of course. A couple of low budget flights and an Airbnb apartment later and myself and my 3 best pals were good to go. Logistics out the way, the next question was can we actually see Rome in 2 days? Is it possible to do all of such a historical city in such a short space of time? The answer is absolutely yes, you just have to be prepared for early starts, lots of coffee, a hell of a lot of walking and the ability to understand the oh so confusing app that is google maps. So here's my rather hefty photo diary of my weekend in Rome, complete with all my little tips and tricks on cramming it all in in just 2 days. Here goes...

Day 1: Trevi Fountain | Spanish Steps | The Colosseum

Rise & Shine: Trevi Fountain 

 The greatest piece of advice I can give anybody intending to visit Rome, is to set your alarm for 6am,  knock back a very strong Italian espresso and head straight to the Trevi Fountain. I know to some, the idea of setting a 6am alarm whilst you're on holiday is your idea of absolute hell (and believe me, it was for me too), but it is honestly so, so worth it. Rome is a beautiful city, bursting with history and a culture adored by so many, so consequentially is a massive tourist trap. People come from all over the World to see Rome's sights and the Trevi Fountain is arguably the most popular sight to see in Rome after the Colosseum. This makes it incredibly difficult to actually see the fountain in all it's glory without a sea of selfie sticks and crowds of people obstructing your view. By waking up early and heading to the fountain at sunrise, it meant we were the only people at the fountain apart from 3 others. Yes, 3 people! It truly was spectacular to see the Trevi Fountain when it was free of people and it was an incredibly peaceful and special start to the morning. We set up camp there for about an hour and took all of our pictures without a soul in the background. Just to put things into perspective, we walked back to our apartment via the Trevi Fountain later on that day at around 5pm and we couldn't even see the fountain, there were that many hundreds of people obstructing the view, so I can't stress enough how worth it it is getting up early and being the first to get there.
Location: Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Roma, Italy 

Museo Sacrario delle Bandiere

Once we'd snapped away at the Trevi Fountain, it was time for another coffee and a wander. Having already ticked one of the biggest sights off our list and all before 8am, we were in no rush to see the rest of the Rome, knowing that we still had at least another 9 hours of daylight ahead of us to sightsee. So on the walk to the Colosseum, we stopped off at Museo Sacraria delle Bandier. The Museo Sacraria delle Bandier is a great little place to stop off if you have a spare hour. It's free to enter and as you climb the steps and circle the outside of the museum, you get the most stunning views of Rome and even get to spy on the Colosseum from afar. It's a great little spot to hunt out the ruins and to take in the scenery from above ground level.
Location: Viai dei Fori Imperiali, 00187 Roma, Italy 

The Colosseum

After a short walk from the Museo Sacraria delle Bandier, we arrived at the Colosseum. It was certainly as grand and as stunning as expected, however for me, sadly the thousands of tourists and tour guides swarming the outside ruined it for me. All we wanted to do was to admire the Colosseum from the outside and to take our photos without being disturbed, yet every step we took we were approached and hassled, which is a great shame as it takes away from how spectacular the Colosseum really is if you are constantly being pestered to buy a selfie stick or to buy tickets for the tours. We decided not to go inside and pay for one of the tours, as the queues were too long and the crowds too big, so walked around the outside of the Colosseum instead, which for us, was enough.
Location: Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma, Italy 

Pizza Break

If you honestly thought I was going to go to Rome without tracking down the best pizza beforehand, then you thought wrong. Pizza is without a doubt my favourite food, so the excitement to sample a proper Italian style pizza was undeniably huge. I did a little read-around before I went and one pizzeria that came up time and time again, was Pizza Ré. Located literally a stones throw away from one of Rome's most popular plazas; Piazza del Popolo, it's centrally located, so therefore incredibly easy to find. We had to queue for about 20 minutes for a table as the place was heaving with locals, which is always a tell-tale sign when dining in a foreign city. If a restaurant is bursting with English tourists and has laminated menus with pictures of their food on offering" the best pizza in Rome" then you know that there's a 99% chance that it's gonna be a microwaved pizza and further from a true Italian dining experience than Iceland's "Italian" range. It's a nope from me. If a restaurant however is filled with locals and doesn't have a menu in English to offer, then you know you've hit the jackpot. So hey, if this pizza was good enough for the Italians, then it was certainly good enough for me! We shared the antipasti board to start, which was a heavenly spread of prosciutto hams, mozzarella, smoked cheese and artichokes, all washed down with some Italian wine before the grand arrival of my pizza...a ham, mozzarella and ricotta beauty. I don't throw this statement around often, but it honestly was the best pizza I've ever had and was so reasonably priced at a modest €10. I can't recommend the pizza enough and Pizza Ré is the perfect little lunch spot.
Location: Via de Ripetta, 14, 00186 Roma, Italy. 

Spanish Steps

After the Colosseum, it was time for a little visit to The Spanish Steps. Located near the shopping district with designer stores to envy those of London's Bond Street, it's the perfect little spot to rest your feet after all that window shopping. Climb all the way to the top and you're rewarded with a beautiful view of the sun setting between the cobbled streets...a pretty beautiful sight I must say, t's just a shame my camera decided not to want to capture it, thanks for that hon.
Location: Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Roma, Italy 

Gelato Pit-Stop

 If you can't stuff your face with ice cream in Itay, the home of heavenly gelato, then where can you? The Italians pride themselves on their ice cream and although gelato is just the Italian word for ice cream, there's no denying that there is a huge difference between the ice cream you're used to in England or the rest of Europe and good ol' proper Italian gelato. The Italians are passionate about their gelato and this is evident throughout Rome. You can barely turn a corner without passing yet another gelato store. So how do you pick out the best when there's so many gelato spots to choose from, all promising the best gelato in Rome? Well, after a lot of research (and taste testing), these are without a doubt the best spots for gelato:
  • Venchi: Via degli Orfani, 87, 00186 Roma, Italy /  Via della Croce, 25/26, Roma, Italy  
  • Giolitti: Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40, 00186, Roma, Italy 

Day 2: The Pantheon | Vatican City | St. Peter's Basilica

The Pantheon 

After a jam-packed first day, a hideously early start and 13 miles of walking, we gave up on sightseeing at around 6pm and had to head back to our apartment for a little power nap to regain some energy for dinner, so had to skip The Pantheon and decided to head there on Sunday morning instead. The best preserved Ancient Roman Monument which was once a Temple is now used as a Church and it's beauty both inside and out is honestly breathtaking You simply can't visit Rome without a stop-off at The Pantheon and I'm so blimmin' glad we didn't skip it off the itinerary.

Location: Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Roma, Italy  

The Vatican City: St. Peter's Square 

Vatican City....the country within a country? I gotta admit it took my little brain a while to understand that I could get in an uber in one country and after just a 10 minute drive I could get out the uber and be in another. What the absolute heck? As a firm atheist, although I couldn't be any less religious if I tried, the Vatican as a whole impressed me greatly and as an avid lover and appreciator of architecture, I was in my absolute element wandering around the beautiful city. I was blown away by the beauty of it all. The Sistine Chapel was unfortunately closed as it was the last Sunday of the month (apparently that's a thing?), so sadly we couldn't explore the chapel, so we wandered around the square and visited St Peter's Basilica instead, which you will see by the photos below was a blimmin' good consolation!
Location: Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City 

St. Peter's Basilica 

Pictures honestly cannot depict the sheer beauty of the inside of St. Peter's Basilica. I've visited a fair few European Cathedrals and Churches, but St. Peter's Basilica was without a doubt the most beautiful European church I have ever stepped foot in. I honestly had no idea what to expect of the Vatican and had shamefully never actually heard of the Basilica. I just knew that if it was good enough for the Pope, then it had to be pretty dam spectacular. Considering I had no expectations and we were debating if it would be worth the €15 queue jump entrance fee, we ended up wandering around the Church for hours as we were just so mesmerised by the grandeure and beauty of the building. Standing at 452 feet high, your eyes honestly don't know where to look first, there is just such an overwhelming amount to take in from the moment you step inside. The architecture is like something I have honestly never seen before in my life. Every single wall, arch and ceiling of the church offers an entirely different perspective and the work of Michelangelo and the other numerous architects and artists who helped construct the Basilica over the astonishing period of 120 years is truly genius. There was actually a Sunday service taking place whilst we were wandering around and I cannot deny that although not religious myself, it felt pretty spectacular to be standing in such a powerful, honoured building, with such a prominent Catholic presence. We felt so overwhelmed in fact that we had to go and seek refuge in an Italian restaurant and spend the rest of the afternoon chugging back wine and gorging on ravioli and carbonara before catching our flight back to London that evening.
So as you can see, it was a rather full-on weekend with a hell of a lot of sightseeing, walking, carb consuming, wine chugging and photo snapping done, but that's just why I adore weekends away and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's fair to say I struggled with that 6am alarm on Monday morning after landing incredibly late on Sunday evening and yes I did consume an inhumane amount of coffee on Monday, so much so that I had the shakes, but hey-ho, Rome you were worth every bloody minute!

P.S. Yes, you can do Rome in a weekend!  


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