How To Spend: One Day In Rome

28 June 2018

Two days in Rome: one down (spent in the Travestere district, guide here) and one to go.

With a limited amount of time in one of the most ancient and beautiful cities on the planet, Will and I knew we wanted to tick a few of the 'bigguns' off our list. First up was the Colosseum, and our host Angelo at the B&B we stayed (called Il Boom, full review here) explained that it'd take 45 minutes to walk there or 15 via bus. If your day in Rome is looking like an early morning to late evening affair like ours was, it's probably best to go for the public transport option. Head to any local tobacco shop to purchase a day travel-card - these are valid for 24 hours, cost just €7 each and cover buses, trams and the metro. You can find lots of helpful information on Rome transport here.

We bought our Colosseum tickets online from Coop Culture and would highly recommend this as it's literally the difference between waiting in extremely long queues or nipping into the pre-booked lane. These tickets are valid for two consecutive days and also offer entrance to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. Various discounted rates are available, for example our tickets were €7,50 rather than €12 as we're EU residents under 25 years old - just make sure you take your passport or driving license etc with you as the person who checks your ticket will ask for ID. 

Whilst booking our tickets on Coop Culture we also booked a guided tour which was an absolute bargain at only €5 extra - click here to order. It only lasted for 45 minutes (you're guaranteed to walk around for this length of time anyway) and was incredibly engaging and informative. If you've studied the history of the Flavian Amphitheatre in detail then you might enjoy soaking it all in by yourself, but if there are gaps in your knowledge then it's really beneficial as you really do learn so much in a short space of time.

As for getting to the Colosseum, we were told to get the number 75 bus which is meant to come every 20 minutes - it didn't however, and we actually ended up missing our slot for the guided tour because we waited for almost an hour with no sign of the 75! Rome's bus routes are amongst some of the most complex in Europe and timetables can be confusing, so an app like Citymapper is well worth downloading. It makes your life a lot easier if you don't speak Italian, and when a 75 eventually came it took us directly to the Colosseum. 

In all honesty, arriving is rather confusing - there are crowds everywhere and it's not entirely clear where you're meant to go, but your best bet is to tell someone selling tickets outside that you've pre-booked yours and need to pick them up. They'll point you in the right direction, there's a short queue for the kiosk then you show your reference and ID to get them printed which takes all of five minutes. We explained that we missed our slot because of the buses and were told that we could just jump on the next tour, wahey!

There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, and we went for the snack bar next to the Metro entrance - it's a little pricey, but they do a good range (pizzas, salads, sandwiches etc) and for table service literally right next to the Colosseum, you can't complain.

For such a popular and famous tourist destination the organisation of the Colosseum could definitely do with a rethink - we had no idea where we meant to go for our tour (no staff member we asked seemed to know either!) and it seemed like a few helpful signs would've cleared up a whole lot of confusion. The one person who gave us a proper answer sent us to a Japanese meeting point, we spent ages rushing around trying to find the English one and when we eventually got there we still weren't 100% sure if it was the right place. There was then a delay of at least 30 minutes whilst the audio equipment was handed out in the most inefficient way ever (being from the UK aka The Land Of The Queue the whole thing seemed mega longwinded) but as previously mentioned, once we actually got going the tour was faultless and one of our highlights of the entire trip. 

After our fabulous guided tour and a spot of roaming around (love a Dad pun) by ourselves for an hour, we left in search of lunch. As it's so busy, the crowds of humans turn into crowds of sheep and everyone seems to walk the same way in the same direction. We followed the hoards before wondering "where are we actually going?" and instead, we took a route off the beaten track (the beaten track being the Piazza del Colosseo) through a brick arc. No less than five minutes later we found a charming little ristorante called Iari The Vino which couldn't have been more perfect. We shared a jug of beer (which came with chilled glasses, much to Will's delight), a Four Seasons pizza and the mixed salad. The pizza was the best we had in Italy and came with chilli flakes (much to my delight!) and I'd love to taste more of their menu. The service and atmosphere was very sweet and it was a pleasure to find such a cosy spot in a busy capital city centre.

The Palatine Hill, our next destination, is one of the Seven Hills and was the home of aristocrats and emperors during Ancient Rome. I knew next to little about it so was pleased to find that it's a real 'learn as you go' place - there are placards everywhere so it's easy to pick up snippets of history as you walk around, and we spotted lots of groups with tour guides that you can book here. We spent an hour there before the heavens opened, and without an umbrella or any cash to buy one we thought we'd get the 75 bus home.

Back in the haven that is Il Boom, we showered and had a glass of red wine on the rooftop terrace (this became quite the mini tradition during our trip!) before deciding on a dinner location. I asked for recommendations on Instagram and got an overwhelming amount of people saying "you must go to Piazza Navona!", so we put on our gladrags and figured out which tram we needed to get.

I'm going to echo my lovely Instagram followers here - you must go to Piazza Navona! Built in the first century AD, it's the most beautiful square (especially in the evening when the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi is all lit up) which has a plethora of lovely places to eat and drink. The amount of choice is actually rather overwhelming and the smell of wood-fired pizza, creamy carbonara and general homemade Italian goodness floats out of every eatery which makes walking around the wide cobbled streets a pretty mouthwatering experience.

Wanting to enjoy sitting in pretty Piazza Navona (and with the luxury of restaurants serving food much later than they do in England) we nipped into a restaurant on the right hand side of the square for a cocktail. I had a variation of my usual Negroni, a Negroni Sbagliato, which I have no idea how to pronounce but will definitely order again - they replace the gin with Prosecco which makes for a lighter drink and it was de-lish!

A quick look on Trip Advisor at Il Boom gave us the invaluable information that Cantina e Cucina is one of the best restaurants in Rome, and after being told on the phone that they didn't take bookings we decided to walk there and suss out the situation. Upon arrival there was a queue that snaked all the way around the back of the building (the most positive of signs that the food is gonna be amazing) and we were told it'd be around twenty minutes for a table. The weather was gorgeous and we didn't mind waiting - even less so when an extremely cheerful man came out, popped a bottle of sparkling wine and gave everyone a glass! He must've returned to refill the entire queue's cups at least three times. It was such a personal gesture and made the difference between potentially walking away to find somewhere without a wait and being more than happy to.

Once inside, you're immediately hit with the most welcoming of vibes - the servers (ours was called Gianluca) are endlessly helpful and smiley, and the ancient decor has been given a modern twist. It's rather 'busy' in the sense that there's not much free space (even on the ceiling which is filled with hanging plants and bottles) which gives it a snug tavern-style feel. The tables are closely spaced and quickly turned around - we had three different dining 'neighbours' during our meal - but if you'd like to take your time like we did, there's no hurry and you never feel rushed. The menu is extensive with antipasti, tasting plates, pizza, pasta and salads etc, and the rosé wine was so divine that I took a photo so we'd be able to find it again - de Tarczal by the way, you're welcome!

Will had the meatballs and I had the porcini mushroom risotto, and both made us do that "oh, you HAVE to taste this" thing, and we also shared a side of garlic and chilli chicory. We could see why Cantina e Cucina is so popular and the dining experience (from the first free glass of sparkling wine to the last free shot of limoncello) was thoroughly enjoyed. 

The good thing about the Citymapper app is that you can easily see when public transport runs to, and after paying our bill we saw that we had about an hour before we needed to get on the last bus home to our B&B - just enough time to see the Trevi Fountain! It's a 15 minute walk from Cantina e Cucina (we use Google Maps on our phones to get everywhere) so we set off, and I wasn't quite prepared for the beauty! It's absolutely huge and looks so stunning in the evening, making the ideal spot to sit and bask in Rome's glory for our final few hours there before moving on to another part of Italy called Cassino. 

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