If in a hurry, make sure to do and visit the following places:
- Pastifico – at €4 a bowl of pasta, you can’t go wrong: http://www.spottedbylocals.com/rome/pastificio-guerra/
- A taste of Rome with Luca: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/experiences/91620
- Pasta Chef in Monti: http://www.pastachefroma.it/it/home/
- We didn’t make it into this gorgeous restaurant due to a booking mix up but we have it on VERY good authority from James Thompson @FoodFeels that this is the place to eat in Rome: http://www.daenzoal29.com/en/
- Fatamorgana for gelato – multiple sites
Being able to jet off to Europe for a long weekend is something we’ll forever be grateful for. As a country, we are incredibly lucky to have such a wealth of history, incredible architecture, inspiring art and culinary delights on our doorstep, which is why when we spend a long weekend abroad in a new city, such as Rome; we really want to make the most of our time.
We feel in love with Rome on the way to our Air B&B apartment, soon after landing. In fact it was Piazza Venezia that first took our breath away. Known as the central hub of Rome (and where several thoroughfares meet), Piazza Venezia is an elaborate Victoria monument known at ‘the typewriter’ by locals. Its scale and grandeur made it impossible to do much other than stare in ore as we whizzed past.
We’d booked to stay in the north of the city in the bizarre and elaborate district of Coppedè. Coppedè, brainchild of architect Gino Coppedè (built 1913-1927), the district is a jumble of historic styles such as Art Nouveau, medieval, Baroque and ancient Greek all whipped together in a dramatic frenzy. Nature is the principal inspiration; daring and eccentric curved lines seek freedom from tradition, coexisting with modern sensuous ironwork. Coppedè is Rome’s answer to the Gaudì structures of Barcelona.
Close enough to walk, our first adventure away from our accommodation was to the Villa Borghese gardens. Rome’s third largest park (after Villa Doria Pamphili and Villa Ada), landscaped in a naturalistic English manor the park contains a number of buildings and attractions. Walking the length, we eventually came out to be greeted by the infamous Spanish Steps and more importantly, a gelateria, which of course felt like the perfect moment to enjoy ones first gelato in Rome. Bellies full of Rome finest gelato from Venchi (which we later discovered you can also find on the Kings Road back in Chelsea), we took a stroll stopping for aperol spritz and Birra Moretti along the way before hitting the Trevi Fountain and throwing three coins in for good luck. An average meal later, we head home to Coppedè district.
The following day, we’d booked (via Air B&B experiences) to join Luca for a foodie bike tour of the city. Once a chef in Rome, Luca now owns a vintage bike shop and takes small groups, of up to ten people, out to explore the city its untapped foodie hotspots. The thought of cycling through a busy city could strike up fear in some, but Luca reassured me before booking that the route he takes is incredibly safe and that drivers are considerate. He was right on all accounts. Our group consisted of seven American’s (from varying states), three Brits and an Italia, Luca – as you’d imagine, conversations quickly turned to Trump but then thankfully back to food. Our first stop was in the Porta Portese district at an old bakery, where we enjoyed a delicious “cornetto and cappuccino” combo, prepared using a recipe dating back to 1951. A few hours later, spent cycling through Tiberina Island and the Roman Jewish district (ghetto) we arrived at xxx where we enjoyed some of the finest Roman pizza. It wasn’t until after our pizza snack that we first lay our eyes on the Colosseum, described by Matthew Kneale in the book ‘Rome: A History in Seven Sackings’ as the site which holds the record for the largest number of people murdered within the smallest area. Naturally it was rammed with tourists so we were glad to be able to glide by on our bikes.
Finishing our tour at the Testaccio market we enjoyed a bowl of cacio e pepe, and nibbled on chunks of Parmiggiano and Pecorino cheese, washed down with white wine and beer. Our final stop was at a gelateria that opened in 1914 and 104 years later is still using the original furniture, fixtures and fittings. This was hands down our favorite day in Rome, Luca was the most incredible host and ensured that we were safe, well fed, well informed and smiling at all times. Rome, being a rather large city, full of so many wonderful sites, walking can really take it’s toll but cycling – now that’s the way to see Rome!
Home to The Pope, the Vatican City is a trove of iconic art and architecture. Its Vatican Museums house ancient Roman sculptures such as the famed “Laocoön and His Sons” as well as Renaissance frescoes in the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling. Visiting on a Saturday at midday in the heat of the sunshine is ill advised. The experience was unpleasant due to the number of people being herded through like cattle. Once inside the iconic Sistine Chapel, it was almost impossible to take in, or enjoy the art in-between children tripping over you or a knock to the head from a tour guides umbrella. I shouldn’t imagine that this is what Michelangelo had in mind when he was thinking of how his art should be consumed. Nonetheless, the site did retain some element of magic, which we thought back to and appreciated later with a Fatamorgana gelato in hand. The depth of flavour here was far superior- hands down the best gelato I tasted in Rome. Choose the pistachio and you’ll be in very good hands.
On our third and final day, we enjoyed a trip to the Pantheon, a former Roman temple, now a church on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. In need of some refreshments, from the Pantheon, we took a short walk over to Pasta Chef in Monti, a gourmet street food vender cooking up steaming bowls of perfectly cooked pasta in a no frills setting. Enjoying mine on the street, I got my barings and decided that following this we should take once final walk past the colosseum and finish at Piazza Venezia, The short distance between these two sites is, to me, the most incredible. Full of ancient ruins, grand statues, towering obelisk – this is where the history lies.
Rome stole our hearts almost immediately; as such leaving was laced with sorrow. With Europe only a stones throw away, we’ve always felt it important to visit new places but Rome I’ll most certainly be returning to, and hopefully very soon!