31st March 2019 - 3rd April 2019
On 31st March 2019 we flew out to the Italian city of Rome for a European city break.
Taking it right back to the beginning George booked the flights for my Christmas gift. He booked on Christmas Eve (typical man) and the flights cost just £50pp return from Bristol with Easyjet. Whilst awaiting our flight at Bristol Airport we checked into The Aspire Plus Lounge and enjoyed comfort, delicious food and lots of prosecco. There are a couple of airports you can fly into when visiting Rome, we chose Fiumicino International Airportwhich was perfect at just a 30 minute drive into the city. A taxi cost €50. There are also public transport options; a train which cost €14pp or a bus service called ‘Sit Bus’ which I am assuming would be cheaper again. As we landed late and were tired after a busy working week, we hopped in a taxi which was super quick and easy.
We headed straight for the hotel where we were invited to stay called The Atlante Star. Upon arrival the hotel was very welcoming and seemed to be in a good location as the Vatican City walls were just across the road. We had a fabulous stay here with delicious breakfast each morning and breath-taking views. We could not have asked for a better located hotel and loved stepping out on to our balcony each morning and night to see the dome of St Peters Cathedral in Vatican City in the distance. We will reveal more on our stay in a future blog post on The Atlante Star.
We were both hungry and couldn’t wait to try a real Italian pizza so headed straight out in search of some food. For the first night we just ate in a little cobbled street along from the hotel. Our first taste of real Italian food did not disappoint. People had informed us before going how good their gluten free options were, but I didn’t think you would be able to just walk into any little restaurant and grab a gluten free pizza however it seemed you could! Both of our pizzas were amazing and were washed down nicely with some Italian red wine before heading back to bed.
One thing we did notice was that it was cold. We were expecting it to be a little warmer, not that we had checked the weather forecast, but we did pack quite light clothes so a tip when heading to Rome late March / early April would be to pack layers and a warm jacket or even a coat for the evening. The locals told us it only really heats up late April / Early May.
We were awoken by sirens outside. I jumped out of bed realising it was 9.55am and we ran off to catch the last bit of breakfast before heading out to explore. We never sleep in like that, especially me so the bed must have been very comfortable. Plus, we were so much in holiday mode we forgot to set alarms. As we had a couple of tours booked the following day our first day was all about exploring the city, getting a feel for it and seeing the sites that were not included in the tours we picked.
The Colosseum was one of the main attractions we did not have booked in on the tours so that was where we were going to head towards taking in the city and stopping along the way. It so happens that when you look on the map the main sites are all within walking distance and almost in a line, so you can walk and see them one by one. From our hotel The Colosseum was around a 30-40 minute walk. We were lazy and used Google Maps to find our way there. Along the way we crossed the river stumbling across The Spanish Steps and The Trevi Fountain. It was around midday by this point and both sites were completely jam packed with tourists. You couldn’t even see the steps or get near the fountain, so we decided to stay a few minutes at each taking in what we could and then we planned to return early one morning to really see them and shoot some content. Although busy it was a lovely bustling atmosphere. Also, along the way among many other pretty sites, we stopped by the buildings of Parliament which the locals call ‘the wedding cake’. It almost doesn’t fit in with the old and beautiful architecture of the city, this big shiny white building kind of represented The White House of Washington US.
Just behind here is where you enter the ancient city. You will know as soon as you hit it as you start to see the ruins with some sections surrounded by glass protection. From this point down to The Colosseum is around a 10 minute walk with lot’s to see along the way. You will pass The Roman Forum which we visited afterwards. Our first day was really warm and sunny around 25 degrees which was so lovely.
When we reached The Colosseum, it was again very busy with lots of people approaching us asking if we needed help, needed a guide etc. You will find many illegal guides here that will try and persuade you to invest in them talking of how you can skip the que etc. They are charging much more than the official office inside and although we were told by them the que was over an hour long, we actually queued in the shade for only 10 minutes and paid just €12pp. There is a slightly more expensive version where you can use an audio guide in your chosen language. If you want to go around with an official guide, I would recommend booking this online with a recommended tour company beforehand.
We spent around 30 minutes inside just wandering around and taking in the sights. We were just about ready for lunch so didn’t spend too long there but you could spend hours with all the information available to read and museum part to explore. After a quick tour around and lots of photos we wanted to get a good shot of The Colosseum outside. If you walk up the steps almost opposite from where you enter with your ticket you can get a good shot sat on the wall up there. You will see local men dressed as gladiators up there ready for your picture and lots of people taking the same one. It is a great shot.
Our stomachs were now telling us to find more pizza! Along the road leading up to the ancient city there are many little restaurants dotted around. We just picked the one we liked the look of and sat out on the street soaking up the atmosphere. I couldn’t resist yet more pizza when I found out this little restaurant did GF too. A margarita pizza around the city cost between €7-9 and with toppings around €10-12 which isn’t too bad for a capital city. They do add a few euros on for making it GF but that is the same as the UK and America.
Feeling refreshed we headed over to The Roman Forum where we fell more and more in love with each step we took further inside the entrance. This place is so beautiful and so underrated as we have never been told about it by anyone. We got in with our Colosseum ticket as they said we would. The Roman Forum is a rectangular forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the centre of the city of Rome. It was just the most beautiful thing to see Wisteria growing out of the ruins and to walk under the cherry blossoms with a view of The Colosseum in the background. As we walked further in and started to climb Palatine Hill which looks over the Forum the beauty and nature just got better. We walked past huge potted succulents, got a great view of the city through the blossoms, took in the scents of the peonies and admired the orange trees lining the paths, whilst listening to the sounds of the waterfall.
Once you reach the top there is a viewing platform where everyone stands and takes photographs. We found ourselves just standing there for at least 10 minutes in silence just taking in the amazing city view. It isn’t a hard walk up to the top just a slight incline and some steps. We spent a couple of hours looking around this part and taking it all in. We would recommend allowing at least an hour.
Our first night then saw us jumping in a taxi back to the hotel (we had walked miles), having a quick jacuzzi bath to ease the muscles and sore feet and then heading out to Martis Palace Hotel for some drinks and aperitifs on the rooftop. Another stunning view up here especially with the pink and purple tones of the sky just before dark. This is where we had our first taste of Italian pasta and wow the choice between pizza and pasta was now going to be very tough. Gluten free pasta was also widely available in Rome.
We then headed to a cocktail bar which was recommended to us by a friend called Salotto 42 close to The Pantheon.A busy bustling little bar with a cool edgy vibe, good music and great cocktails. You receive a small tapas board with your cocktails which is a lovely touch.
Alarms were definitely being set for the following morning as we had booked in for the early morning Vatican Tour with Through Eternity Tours starting at 7am. The meeting point for the tour was just a 5 minute walk away from the hotel. There we met the group, picked up our headphones and headed to The Vatican entrance where we were first in the que.
How it works is that some tour companies can get early entrance from 8am for their groups whereas the general public and other tours cannot enter until 9am so in theory it should be a lot quieter. It was but towards the end you could start to feel the spaces getting tighter and the tour guides getting louder. We would definitely recommend heading in early to avoid some of the crowds and ques. The tour was 7am-11am and our guide was a lovely, friendly and very informative local lady. The tour was fabulous we learnt so much and The Vatican was pretty breath taking. We were quite tired and hungry after the early start so headed off to a little Italian Restaurant where we had been invited for lunch.
Today was our ‘tour’ day. We had another tour booked in from 3-6.30pm again with Through Eternity Tours. This one we were particularly excited for as it was to discover the hidden spots of the city.
But first we needed to eat so we popped the restaurant; Osteria Barberiniinto Google maps and made our way there stopping to see interesting things along the way. There is beauty everywhere you look in the city of Rome.
We finally reached our destination and if you want to taste real authentic Italian food and wine whilst hanging out with the locals we quickly discovered this is the place to go. Situated up a little cobbled street behind a tiny door you really would not discover this place unless you researched it or were recommended. As soon as we walked in, we heard the gorgeous Italian accent being spoken across the tables and smelt the amazing Italian cooking scents that filled the air.
We were seated downstairs which was lovely and cool with the a/c on and just such a gorgeous quaint place exactly how you imagine an Italian restaurant to be. The owner is a lovely man who runs the front of house and his son is the chef and runs the Kitchen. Angelo recommended to us what we should have, taking in my dietary needs of gluten free and vegetarian. To start we shared an aubergine dish which was just beautiful. The flavours were amazing and we both did not want it to end. For mains I had a truffle lasagne which was so delicious I cannot even tell you. This was the best Italian food we have both ever eaten. And we have ate a lot of it. George had a mushroom and truffle spaghetti which was served in a parmesan crust. You can only imagine how good and indulgent this was. I don’t think we spoke through the main course where it was that good. Did you know the way we eat lasagne in the UK is nothing like the way the Italians eat it? There is no mincemeat involved. No time or room for desert we headed off to the next tour.
Way too full to walk and running a little late we jumped in a taxi to the tour meeting point which was behind the parliament building. We only used a couple of taxis, but they were really good. You can flag them down anywhere, they go on the metre and are generally quite friendly and English speaking.
The tour group was made up of the guide and another couple who were actually also on the morning tour, so it was nice to see them again and have an intimate group. Our guide was an art historian and was so passionate about her city of Rome and its history and it was actually really lovely to just spend the afternoon with her wandering around and listening to her tell the tales of Rome. There were so many gorgeous little spots we discovered with her that we would have never come across on our own. Our favourites were The Jewish Quarter, look at the floor when you visit the cobbled streets here and The Santa Maria Church. We finished the tour inside The Castel St Angelo which is one of the main tourist spots we hadn’t yet visited so it worked out really well.
It was sadly our last evening in Rome so we had a little rest at the hotel and freshened up before heading out around 7.30pm. We were invited up to The Terrazza Les Etoiles; the rooftop terrace bar of our hotel for a glass of bubbles, so we started off by popping up there and it was so beautiful and such a memorable moment sipping bubbles surrounded by flowers and fairy lights as we looked over at The Vatican all lit up. A very romantic and special spot in Rome.
We then headed out for dinner where we walked around for about 30 minutes just taking in the atmosphere and then stopped in Piazzo Navona which is an elegant little square with many restaurants, bars, live music, fountains and of course gorgeous Roman architecture. After some food and wine, we headed back to the hotel as tomorrow was going to bring another early start before we headed home.
As the main attractions were so busy during the day we decided to get up around sunrise and head to The Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps to get some shots with no one around. We jumped in a taxi from the hotel to the fountain which took around 10minutes and cost around €12. Believe it or not there were still quite a few people there. Mostly photoshoots for what looked like wedding dresses, fashion brands and of course bloggers. We do not miss a trick! It was so nice to just be there without the crowds to see it properly and make our wish of course.
We then walked back to The Spanish Steps which took around 15 minutes and again the same kind of things happening there but so much quieter. By the time we walked back past The Castel St Angelo where we also wanted to shoot it was 8am and the daily commute had started so it was already too busy. Plus, it was very cold, we were very hungry and we were more than happy with the shots we had.
After we had breakfast and packed up, we checked out of our room leaving our luggage there and headed back to our favourite church from the day before; Santa Maria to shoot some more as we didn’t get chance on the tour. We had an afternoon flight, so it was time to rush back to the hotel and on to the bus stop which was a 5 minute walk from the hotel. In typical ‘us’ style we were late for the bus and the next one would mean we would be running a little too late for the flight. We didn’t leave much time for playing around with in the first place. So, it was a taxi back to the airport for us which is a fixed fee of €57. A quick last pizza and off home we went.
We had such a magical time in Rome and just totally fell in love with the city. We now really want to go back and discover more of Italy hopefully this Summer or next on a road trip.
With love from the globe,
Isabelle & George x
Currently in England.