Our Rome adventure started at 1am on a Wednesday morning, half asleep and majorly confused.
I say ‘confused’ because when our taxi dropped us off in front of Bologna Coach Station (Autostazione di Bologna), it was deserted… and closed. *cue panic*
Travel Tip: If you ever find yourself catching a night bus in Bologna and have no idea where to go, head to the road on the left of the coach station (if looking directly at the main entrance) called Viale Angelo Masini, turn right and walk along. You will probably find your coach parked further down on the opposite side of the road.
The journey itself was as comfortable as you’d expect a night bus journey to be with a kid blaring techno through his headphones in front of you… i.e. not very. It was cheap yeah, but never again.
We arrived in Rome ridiculously early (about 7am) and caught a taxi to Roma Termini (the main railway station) to leave our bags in left luggage till we could check in to our Airbnb flat.
Travel Tip: If a random taxi driver makes the effort of actually walking up to you to offer you a taxi ride, it IS too good to be true. They will overcharge you with their evil ‘€1 for every 5 seconds’ meters. Always find the signposted taxi rank.
Luggage successfully left, we freshened up and rolled out ready to explore the sights. We got ourselves daily public transport tickets costing €7 from one of the ticket machines at the Termini Metro station. These were ideal as they were valid for unlimited travel by metro or bus during the day. Again, any tickets must be validated for any bus journey using the machines on board.
Travel Tip: The Metro is split into two lines, A and B, which intersect at Termini. It doesn’t have the greatest reputation, being quite messy (hello graffiti!) and generally overcrowded (don’t expect to get a seat), but it’s definitely the fastest way to get around the city… and as a Londoner who usually travels by Underground, it wasn’t the worst thing. Though, you will find that the metro’s coverage of the city is slightly lacking, but most of the landmarks will be walking distance from metro stations so not to worry! Ottaviano (Line A) for the Vatican, Spagna (Line A) for the Spanish Steps, Barberini (Line A) for the Trevi Fountain, Colosseo (Line B) for the Colosseum/The Forum.
We were so glad we decided to get in to Rome early because everywhere was so empty! I mean, even the Spanish Steps were empty! That’s saying something. Trust me.
The Trevi Fountain…
…was being refurbished. *sad face*
Column of the Immaculate Conception.
The Spanish Steps. See, EMPTY!
View of the Palace of Justice from the across.
Piazza Navona. Before it got invaded by fellow tourists.
The Fountain of the Four Rivers.
Egyptian Obelisk of Domitian.
After having a massive tourist sesh we realised we should probably grab some lunch, so we stopped off at a cute little restaurant we’d walked past on Via del Governo Vecchio (just a few minutes away from Piazza Navona) called ‘Cantina e Cucina‘. The place was adorable, inside and out, and our waiter was super smiley and friendly. Having walked around in the heat for ages, we opted for light salad type meals… and freshly baked rosemary focaccia. Gah! For such a simple meal, it was served so beautifully… and bloody delicious! Why is the cantaloupe so much sweeter in Italy??! Not fair.
Fried Artichokes. Roman stylee.
Rosemary Focaccia, served warm.
Oh, and prosciutto and melon. Again. Sorry not sorry.
Oh, and a complimentary limoncello.
We then made our way to our Airbnb flat, via Termini to collect our bags. Upon arrival, we realised we definitely lucked out. We’d picked the place because it was a decent price and looked nice enough to house us for a couple days… but the pictures definitely didn’t do it justice. The place was huge!! It had a spacious living/dining room, 2 bathrooms, and 2 bedrooms each with 2 single beds. It slept 4 people?!?! So yeah, given the steal of a price, we weren’t expecting how large it was! It was roughly a 15 minute walk from the San Giovanni metro station (Line A) and located in the suburbs, far enough from the busy city centre to get a quiet nights sleep. Would definitely recommend it to anyone!
Once we’d settled in and got changed, we head out again to find a place to eat dinner… and to just roam around the streets of Rome at night when it got much cooler. We found a place called ‘No.au‘ tucked away in a quiet piazza (Piazza di Montevecchio), just a few blocks from Piazza Navona. The atmosphere was so relaxed and peaceful, had great music (Mumford & Sons’ ‘Wilder Mind’ album), the food was all organic and local, and it had a massive wine and beer selection!
Aperol Spritz and Cedrata.
Basically a pile of meats. Standard.
Before heading back to our flat, we stopped by ‘Giolitti‘ (Rome’s oldest ice cream parlour) on Via degli Uffici del Vicario for a late night gelato fix. Now, it may have been almost 10pm at night, but the place was teeming with people! It’s definitely a popular tourist destination, but well worth the visit. The number of flavours is insane, and so delicious! Oh, and if you do go, you HAVE to get your gelato topped with cream. It would be a crime not to.
Issy’s Bacio (a brand of chocolate) & Blackberry, topped with cream. We kind of expected the blackberry to be more tart :(.
Ang’s Pear & Mixed Fruits, topped with cream.
The next day we decided to visit the Vatican. We hadn’t booked tickets, so we were hoping that heading out really early would help us beat the queues. We soon realised that everyone obviously had the same idea because the metro was paaaacked with people all trying to make it for the 9am opening. Fail. Though, as we were walking down to the Vatican we were constantly being approached by tourist information people, trying to offer us free information or to join a guided tour. At first we were just walking on by, but then one lady managed to get our attention so we decided to hear her out. She then said if we joined a guided tour we would be able to jump the queue’s, as well as obviously having an informed tour of the museums and churches. She even said because we looked young she’d give it to us at the student price of €45. How could we refuse?
Now, that may seem like a lot, but for a 3hr+ tour that managed to beat the queues and with a tour guide that clearly knew her shiz, we couldn’t complain! Don’t get me wrong, a normal ticket would cost you just €12, but when we saw the massive lines of people waiting in the glaring sun as we were leaving, we were happy with our decision. The tour took us through the museums, into the Sistine Chapel, and finally to St. Peter’s Basilica where we were left to spend as much time as we’d like before having to leave.
St. Peter’s Basilica.
The struggle is real.
St. Peter’s Square.
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Peter’s tomb.
If you don’t fancy going inside, St. Peter’s Square is actually free to walk to.
Travel Tip: We’d definitely recommend booking yourselves onto a guided tour, whether beforehand online, or from one of the tour companies dotted around the Vatican entrance. We would never have learned half the stuff we did if we hadn’t! The strict dress code for the Vatican requires females to cover their shoulders and knees, and men to wear long trousers… but don’t worry that’s only for when you’re in the churches.
After our tour we were both STARVING so we dropped into a restaurant not too far from the Vatican, called ‘Amalfi’ on Via dei Gracchi. Here we had pasta, arancini, supplì, focaccia, and the most decadent chocolate almond torte. *drools*
Pork arancini, and supplì (Roman arancini but with added tomatoes).
Spaghetti alla Vongole (clams) & spaghetti Carbonara.
Torta caprese – rich chocolate and almond cake… and gluten-free. Guaranteed to make you go wobbly at the knees.
Not having had quite enough dessert, we then made our way to Fatamorgana, on Via Leona IV (about 10 minutes walk away from Via dei Gracchi), for our daily gelato fix. Oh. My. Gosh. This place was amazing! Not only did they have so many flavours to choose from, but some of their flavours were so unusual and inventive! Baklava gelato? Yes please. Everyday.
Issy’s Pink Grapefruit (with ginger root, caramelised lemon, and horseradish. Yes. HORSERADISH!), Ricotta with Citrus & Rice and Vanilla. Ang’s Baklava, Pineapple and Ginger & Strawberry (with white wine and lemon).
We then hit the Colosseum, just before the last admission time of 18:15. This cost us €12 and would have also included entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, unfortunately we didn’t have time to see everything so we just stuck to the Colosseum. Though, at this time of day the queue’s weren’t too bad so we got in pretty sharpish.
When you’re debating whether to get up on the broken column for a cool ‘statue’ photo, and then a cute guy with tattoo’s walks past and tells you to do it.
When a Roman local tells you to get down. *guilty face*
We then rounded off our day with a little stroll to the impressively grand Piazza Venezia.