Rome, October 2016.

Matt and I have a bit of a “thing” about spending our birthdays in a different country, the last time we were away for my birthday was 2 years ago when we went to Dublin and got engaged! So this year we had decided to visit Rome. We had such a great time so I’m going to try and summarise everything for you and share all my photos!

Day 1 – We flew from Manchester with Ryanair to Rome Fiumicino early in the morning so we were in Rome by 11.30am. I had done some research into how to get from the airport to our hotel and it seemed that booking a private transfer was the easiest and least stressful way to go. We used Welcome Pickups and they were great, we got text messages when the driver was waiting for us and they were friendly and professional.

Our hotel was just 5 minutes walk from the Trevi Fountain, really as “central” as you can get in Rome and was called Giuturna Boutique Hotel. I booked this through (and one of the main reasons, other than the location, was how clean and simple the rooms were. I trawled through so many hotels to find this one, this ticked off most of my hotel essentials: nice modern bathroom, white sheets on the bed, clean, minimalistic and a good location. Breakfast was also included in the room rate which was really handy for grabbing something before rushing off to see the sights.

After a quick check in we freshened up a bit and headed straight out to our first stop: the Trevi Fountain. As I mentioned, this was literally a few streets away from our hotel and we passed by it most days on the way to see other things. Such a beautiful piece of architecture, but very crowded with tourists and also many vendors trying to sell you selfie sticks, scarves, “free” roses, etc…

Next up was the Pantheon, again very beautiful and situated in a vibrant little square which was great to sit and people watch. We got some gelato here that was delicious!

We then headed up Via Del Corso towards the Spanish Steps and finally ended up at Piazza del Popolo which again was a lovely little square with lots of activity. We stopped off at a cocktail bar/restaurant for a few drinks, I got a very classically Italian Aperol spritz and Matt had a glass of white wine.

We came back to the hotel at dinner time and ate at the restaurant next door so we didn’t have far to walk before heading to bed ready for the next day.

Day 2 – We were up and out early for a 9am reservation at the Vatican Museums. I had gathered from my research that it was a case of the earlier the better for this particular attraction as it gets very busy later in the day. We were running a little late so grabbed a croissant to go from the hotel and bought some Metro tickets from a newsstand just outside before finding the right Metro station just a few minutes walk away. The Metro got us to the Vatican stop in about 5 minutes which was great and we had a walk of another few minutes to get to the Museums.

Again in this area there are lots of “tour guides” trying to get your attention and get you to join a tour but unless you’re really interested in specific things within the Museum then it isn’t necessary at all. We had our tickets in advance (โ‚ฌ20 each bought from the official Vatican website and printed at home) so we walked past the already huge line and straight into the door. In all Vatican buildings you have to go through airport style security but it doesn’t take very long and I think we were inside the museum before 9am. Lots of cool statues and art to be found inside, we’re really not museum people but you can only see the Sistine Chapel by buying tickets for the museum. To our surprise we actually did enjoy the museum itself, it was really well set out and easy to follow from one room to another even though it is huge. Of course, the Sistine Chapel alone was worth the price of the ticket.

After the museums, we filtered back out into St Peter’s square and straight into another queue for the Basilica. Again, more airport style security but we didn’t wait any longer than about 10-15 minutes. Once inside, we decided to climb to the “cupola” or dome of the Basilica which meant going up 551 steps. Pah, easy..! To say it was a cardio workout would be an understatement but the view from the top was worth it. There are two “levels” one of them allows you to see inside the Basilica from the top, which was amazing because there was some sort of service going on so we could see the whole thing from above. Then you ascend another couple of hundred steps to the very top of the dome and get a breath-taking view of Rome.

When we finally descended the steps again we came out into the Basilica itself and admired more beautiful artwork and sculptures. At this point we were getting very hungry so stopped off at a cafรฉ for a latte and a Panini before wandering slowly back in the direction of our hotel. This is where we crossed a bridge called Ponte Sant’Angelo which is a beautiful bridge topped with sculptures of angels. After all that walking we decided we deserved a drink and found a bar where I could enjoy a few glasses of prosecco and Matt had some Italian beer.

After stopping off at the hotel for an outfit change, it was time to head back out for our Twilight Trastevere food tour. This was one part of our trip that I was super excited for. Booked through Eating Italy Food Tours but found on TripAdvisor, this was a four hour tour of a neighbourhood in Rome called Trastevere (pronounced Tres-terv-reh) with at least 9 different foods to be sampled. Basically heaven for a big foodie like me! All in all we managed to eat:

  • Deep fried artichoke with “burrata” (mozzarella and cream)
  • Pork stew with a glass of red wine – in a wine cellar built in 2BC no less!
  • 3 different types of Italian biscuits
  • Porchetta (spit roasted pork shoulder) on pizza bread
  • Pecorino Romano and gorgonzola cheeses
  • Suppli (fried breadcrumb coated rice balls with mozzarella)
  • Pizza Marinara (cold pizza with a tomato and garlic sauce)
  • 3 different types of pasta – spinach and ricotta ravioli, basil pesto pasta and cacio e pepe (cheese and black pepper) tagliatelle
  • And finally… gelato!

The food tour has got to be one of my highlights of the trip and so informative and interesting as well as delicious!! I 100% recommend this tour if you find yourself with a free evening in Rome but you must book in advance. After eating all that food there was nothing to do but waddle slowly back to our hotel and sleep it off!

Day 3 – Since we had a very busy day previously, I had planned this day to be nice and relaxed. Which turned out to be a good thing as the weather forecast predicted rain after lunch for most of the day. We had a nice lie in and then headed out towards Piazza Navona and a market called Campo de’Fiori. At the market there were plenty of spices, herbs, oils, pasta etc that you could buy to bring home with you and also lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. We also managed to buy an umbrella just moments before it started to rain! 

Once it really started bucketing down we decided to walk back towards the hotel and find somewhere for drinks (again!). I had looked up a few places on TripAdvisor before leaving the hotel and we decided on a place called La Locanda del Proscuitto. As the name suggests, they serve huge sharing platters of meats and cheeses alongside a great range of wines, so we shared a lovely bottle of Pinot Grigio and had their signature meat and cheese platter. Yum!!

More wandering around with a full tummy led us back to the hotel for a rest. Our evening meal that night was to be at a restaurant called Poldo e Gianna Osteria (again, found on TripAdvisor) which didn’t open until 7:30pm so we just chilled out for an hour or so before slowly making our way towards the restaurant. On our way there we discovered that there was a film festival going on at the Spanish Steps with a black and white movie being projected onto a huge screen. There was also a red carpet running all the way down Via Del Corso which looked so good!

We were seated immediately at the restaurant even though we arrived at 7:20pm and the food was lovely, we shared a portion of carbonara and a dish of Saltimboca (veal with parma ham and sage) then had dessert. I had an extremely rich chocolate mousse which tasted like chocolate cake mix (omg) and Matt had tiramisu, both alongside more wine of course…

Day 4 – my birthday! Again we had no set plans for this day apart from a dinner reservation at 7:30pm. Luckily the rain had subsided and we could freely explore the city again. We hadn’t yet been to the Colosseum so we decided to do that first thing which was really cool. We followed that up by a wander around the Roman Forum. A quick stop off for a lunch of Panini and we were not far from another Basilica called Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano so decided to take a quick look. This is another Vatican owned church and is almost as grand as St Peter’s Basilica.

At this point we decided to jump back on the Metro and spend some time wandering around in Rome’s biggest park, Villa Borghese. The park was lovely, however our feet were really starting to ache after four days of walking so it wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been. We walked back towards the Spanish Steps in search of gelato and then back to the hotel, via a trip to the corner shop for a bottle of prosecco! We drank this in the hotel room from glass tumblers whilst getting ready for our evening meal (classy!).

My birthday meal was a reservation at Restaurant Life and it was the best booking of the whole trip. Found through TripAdvisor (can you tell that I use TripAdvisor for everything??), I can’t praise it highly enough. We chose the black truffle tasting menu which consisted of four courses and Matt had his with wine pairings, meaning he got a different wine matched to each course. I decided to stick to the prosecco! We sat outside the restaurant under a beautifully lit canopy and the service was amazing. I had mentioned my birthday when booking and we received a free glass of prosecco each on arrival which was lovely. The four courses consisted of; a starter of beef and duck carpaccio with cheeses, ravioli filled with mozzarella and cream in a cheese sauce, filet steak with fondant potato and a dessert of puff pastry and cream. Each of the savoury courses had grated black truffle over the top and they were outstanding! Honestly I’m salivating just typing it out for you!! If you go to Rome, you must go to Restaurant Life, you won’t regret it.

Not quite ready to end the night after our meal, we decided to swing by a cocktail bar we had spotted on our first day in Rome before calling it a night. The bar was called Salotto 42 and is just behind the Pantheon. Great atmosphere and a very interesting cocktail menu. We had two very tasty cocktails in here before finally retiring to our hotel (via the Trevi Fountain to say goodbye) and feeling very sad to be leaving Rome early the next day.


Rome Tips!

  • Ignore all of the men trying to sell you things, just say no or walk away.
  • Use TripAdvisor! If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m obsessed with TripAdvisor and some of our best finds, including the Trastevere food tour and Restaurant Life were found on there. Honestly, I use it for every trip; hotels, restaurants, activities etc you just can’t go wrong.
  • Buy tickets in advance where possible (especially for the Vatican).
  • Do your research on walking distances between different areas to help decide if its worth getting the Metro instead.
  • Plan at least one “relaxed” day in case of bad weather.
  • Use a credit card for as many things as possible (as long as it doesn’t charge for foreign transactions). This is my most valuable tip for travelling anywhere, the GBP to EUR rate took a total nose dive just before we left for Rome but we still managed to get a fairly decent exchange rate by using our credit card for most things. I never take cash out until we get to our destination and even then we only withdraw a small amount for little purchases like Metro tickets or a bottle of water.

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