A few weeks ago, I treated the Boy to a couple of nights in one of my favourite cities in the whole world – Rome. Last time I visited was around 12 years ago – myself and a friend from Uni decided instead of spending our student loan on something sensible like… food – we’d instead get a last minute flight to Rome for about £40 – headed straight to a hostel and spent the whole day walking the sights. The place (and food memories obvs) has stuck in my mind ever since, but this time I was excited to go around and not be on a student budget… or so I thought.
We woke up with the usual early morning flight buzz, finished our packing & last minute ‘passport, tickets, money check’ and headed for the train. Halfway to the station, I realised I’d forgotten my beloved camera! Noooo! A shame as I’d wanted to get some beautiful pics but at least I hadn’t forgotten anything TOO important. There’s a running joke with my friends and the Boy, I’m pretty terrible at losing things (I lost our passports in Barcelona once… it was not cute.) so now I’m super paranoid, checking my bag and purse every 2 minutes like a mad woman, just to make sure I have everything. Anyway, grabbed a coffee and onto the train. Gatwick Airport had a super quick e-check-in desk and off we went to grab the obligatory pre-flight fizzy beverage from the bar… except the boy looked at me with massive eyes and literally no colour in his face. After initially no words except ‘no, no, no, no!’ it soon became clear he’d left his bag on the train… with ALL our money in it. Well as you can imagine, the next hour was spent trying not to flap around like headless chickens and sort out the situation (but at least it wasn’t me this time) Gatwick Train staff were amazing – they tracked down the train, got in touch with London Bridge station and found the bag – we couldn’t go get it because we’d miss our flight – but at least we knew it was safe and hopefully all the contents still intact!
Anyway, the holiday hadn’t got off to the smoothest of starts (we also almost missed the flight because of let’s say a toilet incident, they were literally closing the doors of the aeroplane) but as soon as we touched down in Rome we got our travelling mojo back. So tip number 1 from me if you’re heading to the city from Fiumicino Airport is grab the Leonardo Express Train – it’s non-stop, pretty cheap and gets you straight to Rome Termini Train Station.
We walked from there to our hotel (I love to walk in any city). We stayed in one of the oldest neighbourhoods; Rione Monti – a really cool urban village and a real hidden gem. It has such an amazing choice of stylish alfresco cafes and bars, but also maintains a local boho vibe. I loved it. We stayed in Relais Monti, a kind of boutique hotel on Via Urbana with a 24hr help-yourself breakfast room. It was charming really, there were photos from Roman Holiday everywhere (ahhh Audrey…) and it had everything you needed for a quick city break. The staff were great too – not only did they print off our lost tickets, when we were kept waiting for about 10 minutes at Reception, the receptionist upgraded our room – nice touch.
Monti is also walking distance to all the sights, the Colosseum and Forum were literally round the corner from us.
We, of course, did the normal touristy things but kept returning to Monti for something to eat or drink as we were literally spoilt for choice. Tip #2 is one not just for Rome and most of you will know already – NEVER eat at the tourist spots. Living in Brighton you learn this quickly, you’ve got to head off the beaten track for the good stuff. Urbana 47 was one such awesome place – from the outside, it looks like a small street food counter, but head inside and you have a warren full of tables and an amazing atmosphere. Our front of house guy led us to the back where a jazz band were playing whilst we drank wine and ate delicious food.
The second day we jumped on the Metro to head to Vatican City. Tip #3 is get your tickets to attractions BEFORE you get to Rome. The line for the Vatican Museum went round the block and we got there at 9am – luckily we had our tickets already so we headed straight inside and felt a little smug (poor queuing sods)
After taking in the beautiful art we went to grab a coffee – a Roman must. Tip #4 – know how to order coffee in Rome! I felt like a complete numpty the first time I did it and scuttled out pronto with the wrong bloody drink. So step one, find the till and pay for your coffee first – step 2, keep your receipt (scontrino) and then order your coffee from the barista – step 4, know what you want – it’s all pretty fast paced so get your order in quickly. Most Romans stand at the bar to drink their coffee then head out to tackle the day so if you’re going to sit in, let them know.
With our system fully re-caffeinated we walked and walked and walked some more. We headed south of the Vatican to Trastevere. This was my favourite part of the city. Across the river from the bustling tourist traps, lies a labyrinth of plant and mosaic-filled streets. We found Basilica di Santa Maria (stunning) and sat drinking beers in the sun in Piazza Santa Maria with street performers playing beautiful music. Heaven. Tip #5 – abandon the healthy eating for a few days and go carb heavy – the food is spectacular in Rome so make the most of it whilst your there. Plus they give you snacks (aperitvo) whilst you drink – who can resist?
Whilst in Trastevere we grabbed an early dinner at arguably the best little restaurant in Rome. I’ve never had pasta as perfect. Le Mani in Pasta is unpretentious, small and full of locals -always a good sign. If you go, book ahead – it gets pretty busy at night.
After stuffing our faces (again) we headed back across the bridge for more sightseeing. Tip #6 – pick your time of day to see the sights. The Pantheon is pretty quiet early morning whilst Trevi Fountain is less busy at night. Head up to Villa Borghese for fantastic views and green spaces.
We walked and saw so much more – shopping near theSpanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Aventine Hill – the list goes on. Led mainly by my stomach though, our final stop was to get Gelato from Fatamorgana in Monti – homemade organic gelato with incredible and imaginative flavourings. Mint choc chip is always my choice but I’d never had it with fresh mint before. Incredible.
What a place. Rome is quite literally stunning – my stomach didn’t thank me (I didn’t poop for like 2 days) but it was totally worth it. Oh and the lost bag? Some absolute gents at London Bridge handed it all back to me (dosh too) and re-affirmed my faith in humanity. Beautiful world, beautiful people.