Travel Guide: Rome
The Eternal City attracts a LOT of tourists, and to beat the crowds and see it in style, you’ll need to know what’s what, so here’s our guide to the best bits
Published: Tuesday 21st February 2017
Katie Parla neighbourhoods
For a tourist-free look at Roma, take a walking tour with Katie Parla, an American expat who’s called the city home for several years. There’s Trastevere – a maze of medieval streets located over the River Tiber – or you could try her Pigneto, Prenestina and the Periphery walk. You’ll start at the imperial gate of Porta Maggiore, before wandering through some of Rome’s hippest neighbourhoods, taking in street art and urban gardens. The tour ends in Madrione, home to some aqueduct ruins. katieparla.com
See the sights from a Fiat 500
Sure, you could check out the city from a double-decker bus, or you could fold yourself into a vintage flamingo-pink Fiat 500 and razz around the city in a convoy of craziness. Accompanied by Alvise, the city’s best tour guide, you’ll be talked through the sites over a walkie talkie. You’ll stop off at lesser-known Roman ruins and Alvise will fill your brain with fascinating facts delivered in the most spirited way. There’s only one way to circle the Colosseum, and this is it. Paparazzi potential high. rome500exp.com
You’re doing Italy wrong if you don’t embrace the Italian aperitivo sessions. Early each evening locals will gather at pavement-side cafés and drink beers, spritzes and wine while the café lays on some (free) snacks – think mini sandwiches, bits of pastry and parma ham, and the like. It’s a big part of the city’s culture and a good way to feel in tune with the local way of living, and after a day of sightseeing you can’t really go wrong with an al fresco drink or ten. Head to the backstreets of Trastevere or the banks of the River Tiber for a view.
For super-swish suites with impressive Colosseum views, stay at Palazzo Manfredi, a restored luxury villa that doesn’t skimp on all things mauve and shiny. Within just a few minutes’ walk from the hotel you’ll be able reach some of the city’s biggest ancient sites. And when you’re not wandering around those, you should be churning through the spritz menu – it goes far beyond good-old Aperol – at the top-floor bar with a view. palazzomanfredi.com
For an old and young combo, this cute little guest house, located on Piazza di Porta Maggiore is a steal. It’s run by Stefano and Maria and is a conversion of Maria’s grandmother’s apartment – so expect mega-high ceilings and antique furniture in the six bedrooms. Breakfast is taken Roman style – that’s standing at the counter downstairs with a pastry in a napkin and coffee in your hands – also, there’s a handy late-night pizza joint just below. sawdays.co.uk
Villa Spalletti Trivelli
Red velvet chaises, giant wall hangings and gold gold gold? It has to be the very grand Villa Spalletti Trivelli, a converted mansion which now functions as a 15-bedroom boutique hotel. Expect huge windows, views of the Quirinal Palace, antique furniture and a staggering private art collection (there’s even a Rubens). When you’re not lounging around in the room (or checking out the city), the roof terrace, and its hot tubs, are where it’s at. villaspalletti.it
For straight-up cheap Italian dishes served in huge portions, try Baffetto (the one located on Via del Governo Vecchio with outdoor seating). The service is brusque, bordering on unfriendly, but that’s not really what this place is about. Instead, it’s about dining with the locals, feasting on super-thin-and-crispy, topping-laden pizzas and our pick, the bucatini amatriciana – a slightly spicy bacon and tomato sauce that’s served with a chunkier version of spaghetti. Saucy face 100% guaranteed.
Italian fine dining doesn’t get much more sophisticated than the Rome Cavalieri hotel’s La Pergola restaurant. The three-Michelin-star, ludicrously swank restaurant, complete with frescoes, plump leather chairs and statues, is the baby of chef Heinz Beck, who brings his crazy inventions (exploding carbonara, anyone?) to an exquisite tasting menu. Stick it on the credit card, it’s worth it. When you’re not gawping at the food, you’ll be ogling Rome’s glittering skyline. romecavalieri.com/la-pergola
You won’t be short of gelato choices – try Il Gelato di Claudio Torce or Al Settimo Gelo for the best pistachio cream in town – but pastries are a big deal here too. Combine the old with the new by checking out century-old Regoli (one of the city’s most celebrated cake shops) along with the new Risciolli Caffe, with its steel-grey walls, modern vibe and inventive two-mouthful-size sweet treats. If you prefer wine with your cakes over coffee (yep, us too), this is the place. pasticceriaregoli.com; rosciolicaffe.com
Norwegian operates six weekly direct flights between London Gatwick and Rome, with free Wi-Fi connectivity on flights. Fares start from £34.90 one way. Visit norwegian.com/uk or call 0330 828 0854.