When I first travelled to Rome, I was about three years old with questionable hair.
It was a holiday with my parents to visit family. I still look at the old photos of little me standing in front of the Colosseum, looking up at the tall, buff, Roman guy dressed as a gladiator. That was perhaps the exact moment I fell in love with the city. Little did I know that fast forward 20 years and my love affair with Italy would continue. After living in Venice for a year, which was great, I realised it was time that I returned to the place where it all started: Rome, 'The Eternal City'.
Sadly, Italy is in lockdown due to the awful pandemic. However, Italy isn't going anyway. When you're planning your future trip for Rome – whether you're wanting to visit ancient ruins, museums, or bars that tickle your fancy – I feel pretty darn sure that I’ve got you covered, as I feel I'm somewhat an expert now!
I can't believe I went fifteen years of my life without knowing about Villa Borghese. I couldn't imagine my life without it now; all the Sunday walks dodging people on bikes (the Italians don't just drive cars in a crazy fashion!) or hiring a boat for a ride on the ponds.
I was introduced to Pincio Prominade by a friend only a few months ago, and I instantly fell in love. It's a small section of the park filled with carnival games, cafes and a restaurant. Just as the sun starts to set, Romans of all ages appear, grabbing a beer or wine from one of the vendors in the park to watch the sunset over the city.
– travel writer
This experience is truly unmissable for anyone that finds themselves near Piazza Del Popolo (The People's Square) at sunset. If watching sunsets aren't your thing – and if that’s true, then you’re crazier than an Italian driver – there are cafes where you can grab a gelato or a spritz while relaxing and people-watching, channelling your inner-Italian in the best of ways.
There is no doubt that Rome is home to some of the most famous ancient and historic sites in the world. Every ancient world lover on a budget must go to the Museum of Via Ostiense (Museo della via Ostiense), in – you guessed it – Ostiense, tucked away in south of the city centre, right next to metro stop Piramide.
The museum is inside part of one of the oldest walls of the ancient city and is the only part of the city wall you can go inside. The museum is in the middle of a busy roundabout, which makes it a little difficult to reach. It is easy when using the pedestrian crossings, but try not to get beeped at for taking too long! You need to move along quickly, as if you’re in NYC.
The museum is full of medieval maps of Rome and ancient stonework, showing the timeline of the southern entrance to the city, and boasting its importance as it is the closest part of the ancient city to the sea.
From the top of the wall, you get a view of the surrounding area and the Pyramid of Caius Cestius (Piramide di Caio Cestio), the perfect place to take 360-degree pictures of Rome. Sadly, nowadays the sea is many kilometres further away than it once was. When standing on top of the wall you can imagine what it was like all those years ago for the guards patrolling the great city.
If food is the only thing you have on your mind – like me – Rome is home to many of our favourite foods like pasta carbonara and panini with roast meats. One of the most challenging tasks when on holidays is to distinguish the tourist traps that serve frozen pizzas. Asking the taxi driver where to eat is a bad idea… trust me, you might end up at the worst restaurant in Rome just because his friend is the owner.
A family favourite of ours is Il Matriciano: a local eatery found in one of the back streets a few hundred meters from the Vatican City. The regular order for us is two types of artichokes to start, one boiled and one fried (Alla Romana e Alla Giudia), followed by the famous Bucatini Amatriciana. If pasta isn't your style or you are trying to cut down on the amount of carbs you've had so far on the trip, the roast meats with vegetables are amazing. Be sure to try the local favourite Cicoria, a type of bitter spinach, cooked with garlic, oil and chilli.
For those who are having lunch on the go, Mercato Testaccio is perfect for exactly that. The market has everything from homeware and clothes to bowls of fresh pasta and prosciutto cut to order. My favourite of all places is Mordi e Vai (Bite and Go), a sandwich shop with over 20 types of meat and sauces to choose from.
My recommendation is the number 1, the Alessio with chicory (cicoria) and chilli, order a cold Peroni beer on the side - thank me later - for less than €6. A classic Roman lunch that can be eaten inside the markets alongside all the locals. Just make sure you have time to see the other stalls before heading off.
Getting in and amongst the Italian aperitivo scene can sometimes lead you to touristy places that serve overpriced cocktails and yesterday's leftover food… not ideal. Hidden in a backstreet in the zone of Monti – just a few minutes walk from the Colosseum – is Black Market Hall. Based off of an old American prohibition bar, Black Market Hall spans over two floors.
The first, a bar with big leather armchairs perfect for late-night drinks, and the other one is below where you can have an aperitif or just order food. The aperitifs here are quite unique as each person orders an aperitivo plate from the menu with an array of food, and a drink to accompany. A favourite of mine is the vegetarian aperitivo, but when in Italy, it is best to try the selection of cold meats and cheese Black Market Hall has to offer.