Deciding where to visit for the second instalment of our ‘Nights In…’ series was no easy feat. I’ve wanted to visit Italy for a while now. It’s the mixture of art, food and Mediterranean sun which gives it a certain edge in comparison to many other short-stay European breaks. Whilst deciding upon a country to visit was hard, deciding which part proved even more difficult. With many countries it is easy to identify one stand-out city or town which epitomises the country but with Italy it was not so simple.
We considered Naples with it’s bustling shops, historic sites and vibrant night-life. We considered Sicily, home to Mount Etna and an abundance of art and history. Milan, Venice and Tuscany also crossed our mind but as an introduction to Italy as a country and culture Rome felt like a natural starting point.
So we set of to the ‘The Eternal City’ with one aim; to return being able to share with our readers the best possible way to spend 3 nights in this historical location.
How To Get There
British Airways offer flights to Rome from as little as £44 each way for the 2 and a half hour flight. If travelling from London make use of BA’s Terminal 5 at Heathrow and start the weekend off as you mean to go on with great food and wine at Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Plane Food.‘ The departure lounge restaurant takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the airport and offers great food in a contemporary setting – ensuring you are completely relaxed and fed before your flight. This option also takes out the lottery that is on-board plane food. We tried it before setting off and was very impressed with the wide variety of menu options, attentive staff as well as a surprisingly low bill for a restaurant attributed to a celebrity chef.
Other slightly cheaper airlines which can be considered include the ever-impressive Norwegian Airlines, EasyJet, Monarch and Vueling.
Most visitors to Rome will arrive at Fiumicino Airport. It’s worth noting that the airport is approximately a 40 minute drive to the center of the city with various transfer options available. A taxi will cost you between €45-60 to anywhere within the city center depending on what type you get. The government taxis will charge you a set fee of €48 where as the airport taxis provided by the ‘Comune of Fiumicino’ will charge you the higher fee of around €60. To ensure you get the correct taxi the cheaper Government vehicles have the city councils crest with ‘SPQR’ painted on the doors.
If you have a hotel located in the city centre then a cheaper and just as convenient option is the Leonardo Express train to Rome’s main station Termini which is cheaper and faster.
Where To Stay
The key to choosing accommodation on a weekend-break is location. With time limited you want to be based conveniently for the major attractions. Fortunately in Rome there is a hotel which remains a favourite for tourists from all over the world; the Rome Times Hotel. This contemporary boutique hotel is a 10 minute walk to the Colosseum, Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain as well as ideally situated for the cities main station Termini. The rooms are pretty spacious with large HD televisions, coffee making facilities and contemporary decor. The staff are attentive and always available should you need anything whilst the mornings breakfast is comprehensive.
I wouldn’t stay anywhere else in Rome given it’s stylish rooms, reasonable prices and perfect location for allowing guests to explore Rome the possible way… on foot.
Where To Eat
It is no secret that Rome offers some of the best and most diverse cuisine in the world so when you only have a few nights in town picking the best of the bunch can be difficult. Fortunately deciding where to eat when time is limited has been taken care of as we have two of Rome’s best dining experiences.
Firstly there is no better introduction to Italy’s rich culinary history than an Italian Wine Journey. This fun and original way of dining gives you the opportunity to visit a local restaurant and enjoy a 6 course Italian meal, with each dish paired with the perfect wine. The evening is hosted by Marco, one of Italy’s few official sommeliers. The traditional food is only one aspect of the evening, as each local dish is explained to you in detail including how it is prepared and what region it comes from. Interestingly, you are not only shown the best wines to pair with each dish, you are also shown which wines wont work which emphasies the importance of the correct choice for each dish. There is no better way to spend your first night in Italy then with the locals learning about their food and culture.
On night two be sure to check out one of Rome’s most creative restaurants; the Michelin Starred Stazione di posta situated in the quirky Testaccio District. If you have Google Maps available I would advise using it to locate the site from the metro station as the former slaughterhouse is rather difficult to locate if you are not familiar with the area. Alternatively all taxi drivers will know where it is. The restaurant is modern and spacious and many of Rome’s hipster community congregate here. The service is faultless and the ever changing menu will ensure you have a great meal. Perfect for adventurous eaters and the style conscious.
What To Do
Rome boasts some of the world’s most famous and subsequently busiest attractions – deciding what to see and what to miss out is a difficult task. Guided tours are something I traditionally avoid in order to explore any new city at my own pace but as a Rome newbie and wanting to ensure I ticked off the essentials I unashamedly called upon the help of some local experts.
If you want to start with the big-hitters then Walks of Italy’s VIP Caesars Palace Tour is the perfect start. Beginning early you meet your guide under the shadow of the Colosseum where you skip the ques and are taken into the famous gladiatorial arena. Following an extensive tour before the major crowds arrive you then move on to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The tours unique selling point comes at its finale where you will be one of the first to explore the 1st century BC home of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus Caesar – an area previously only open to archaeologists and historians. With a knowledgeable and passionate tour guide, small intimate groups and VIP access to some of Rome’s best sites this 3.5 hour tour is the perfect way to kick-off a weekend in Rome. I certainly came away from the tour learning a lot more than if I had ambled around the sites on my own.
On the second day call in the experts from Italy With Us for a Vatican VIP Tour. This is a spectacular way to visit Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. On the excursion you meet your guide at 8am, an hour before the sites open and you get to explore the areas before the hordes descend. When we visited we were lucky enough to have a very passionate and knowledgeable guide who painted a vivid picture of the life of Michelangelo and the trials and tribulations he faced whilst creating the famous Sistine Chapel. Having our own personal guide made the tour more special and added a VIP feel to proceedings. After taking a wrong turning at one point I ended up by the entrance just as they were opening the gates to the general public. It was at that moment I appreciated having the opportunity to view the sites before the public as thousands of tourists waited eagerly at the door. A combination of its exclusive nature and the guides ability to vividly paint a picture of the history made this tour a blockbuster.
The above two excursions take no longer than 4 hours each meaning during both days you tick off the majority of Rome’s biggest hitters in half a day each leaving the other half to explore the beautiful city at your own pace. Slowly wander around, stop for coffee wherever takes your eye and you will stumble upon attraction after attraction. The Trevi Fountain is spectacular but extremely busy whilst the Spanish Steps underwhelmed.
If you follow the above guide you will ensure that your 2 nights spent in Rome are as spectacular as possible.
Words by Jack David