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Rome Recommendations

We went to Rome several times when we previously lived in Italy (2012-16), but have not been more recently. These are my opinions based on what we did and enjoyed then. I've check to make sure the restaurants didn't stay closed after COVID, but things do change. I'd say these recommendations could be a nice jumping off point for planning. 
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EAT
 

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SLEEP

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EXPLORE

Where to eat!

What to do!

Where to sleep!

Da Armando al Pantheon 
Excellent traditional Roman food and a favorite among many of our friends. You usually do need a reservation and I’ve been able to do it online. It's very small, so they don't do large groups. Location is also ideal, right across from the Pantheon, hence the name.

Sparita 
I saw this place on one of Anthony Bourdain's shows (RIP). And wow! It did not disappoint. They're known for their Cacio e Pepe, a Roman dish, cheese and pepper pasta! They serve it in a bowl made from crispy parmesan cheese!! It is to die for! Make a reservation to be safe. You should be able to do it online.

Nonna Betta

A much recommended place by every travel publication, but it lives up to the hype! Get the zucchini flower and the artichoke. In addition to pasta dishes they also offer mediterranean options like falafel, babaganoush, and humus. Again, a reservation is probably a good idea and can be made from their website. 

Ristorante Maccheroni

We have somehow never made it here, but it has been recommended by multiple friends who have been several times. Everyone says to get the Carbonara. 

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We've stayed at Locanda al Viminale every time we've stayed in central Rome. Clean, nicest family running it, budget-friendly pricing, decent location, good typical Italian-style breakfast. More of a B&B than hotel and it only has a few rooms. But it's always been just fine for us. And the owners are so nice, it's hard to pick somewhere else to stay! 

Transportation

Rome is a VERY walkable city. It's a lot of fun to just wander and get lost if you have the time. If not, their public transportation has always worked well when we've used it. I used Google Maps to check bus and metro schedules and it was very easy and correct. 

Uber also exists in Rome (and Milan, but no where else in Italy). It's only Uber Black though, so prices will be higher. 

Taxis in Rome are white with the Taxi sign in lights on top. You don't hail them though, but find a Taxi Stand (near airports, train stations, and most major sites) and wait there. They should all have a way to pay by card, but I'd ask to make sure before entering if you don't have cash. You don't need to tip the driver. 

More tour than transportation, but I found this business that does Vespa tours, Scooteroma, on Instagram several years ago. They are very well reviewed and recommended by lots of legit publications. 

Other Tips

I've always found Rick Steves' travel guides to be extremely useful for European travel. Not everyone loves him, but I think he has great, very specific, practical tips, and some solid guides for museums, sites and walking tours. You can also download his app ahead of time and use his audio guides.

Try to prioritize what you really want to see and then leave some time for just wandering and/or sitting around. There’s very little that’s better than sitting at a café, drinking wine or coffee, and people watching in a foreign city! Dolce far niente - the sweetness of doing nothing - is an Italian way of life! 

Rome, and Italy in general, are safe. The biggest thing to look out for is petty crime, like theft. Use your common sense and don't put your purse or backpack down in a store or on a chair that you can't easily reach. Don't keep anything - wallet, phone, keys, tickets, in your back pocket; always use the front pocket. Stay aware of what's going on with the people around you. Use the safe in your hotel room for passports and other important documents or electronics. 

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any business or website mentioned here.

ColosseumPalatine Hill and the Forum

Must do for first timers, of course. We were with friends on our first visit to Rome and decided to do a tour. We didn’t book in advance, we just went with one of the people who were out there the day of (and there are plenty of them), offering tours. We got to skip the lines, did a tour of the Colosseum with a guide plus time to walk around by ourselves, then we met a different guide outside, who took us over to Palatine Hill and showed us around there, then we were on our own to do the Forum. We felt it was worth it, although I don’t remember what we paid. A guide book would’ve definitely been useful for the Forum part. So, if you don’t book ahead and want a tour guide while you’re there, no problem. It may be cheaper to book ahead though. 

I did the same thing a couple of years later when I went with my sister. Totally worked out great again! However, things may be different since COVID. 

**We have used viator.com a couple of times on other trips and they have been very good and reasonable, price-wise, so maybe check their site beforehand.

Vatican City
Also a must do, in my opinion. There is SO much art and history, it’s unbelievable, plus the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica are absolutely awe inspiring. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the beauty here. We did the same thing as with the Colosseum and just went with a tour guide off the street. It ended up being great because it was just us, our two friends and another couple, so it felt like a private tour. We got lucky because I know they aren’t all that good or small. But a guide will again, help you bypass lines and get you in the back door to the Sistine Chapel, bypassing even more lines. It included St Peter's Square, the Vatican Museum (which is insanely full of all kinds of art and treasures), the Sistine Chapel, and entrance in to St Peter's Basilica (which is where Michelangelo's Pieta sculpture is, and it's stunning).

I think it is a separate cost to take the stairs to the top of the Basilica. We didn't do it, but some friends have, and the views look amazing. 

Pantheon
This is also on the must see list. It's so impressive but doesn't have to take long if you are in a hurry. You don't necessarily need a guided tour. Just read up on it in a guide book and you'll be fine. It’s currently (spring 2023) free to enter! They have announced that there will be a fee to enter in the future, but the date has not been announced. 

See the Trevi Fountain. Will it be crowded? Yes. Is it still impressive and iconic? Yes. If you are a super early bird then you may get lucky and miss the biggest crowds. Also, lovely at night. Tip - don't let anyone take your photo with a polaroid and charge you for it! It WILL be blurry and they WILL run off before it develops! LOL

Wander the Trastevere neighborhood. One of the most photographed non-ancient-ruins-areas of Rome, for a reason. We've wandered into the cutest shops and coolest bars in this area. Unfortunately I didn't save them to my phone! But just trust me. This is also where my recommended restaurant Sparita is located, as well as highly popular gelato spot - Otaleg.

San Pietro in Vincoli (St Peter in Chains)
This church has a huge (unfinished but still fantastic) sculpture of Moses by Michelangelo. And supposedly houses the chains that bound St. Peter when he was in prison. We had a hard time finding our way there (maybe that was just us!), but if you have time, it's impressive.

Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesci (St Louis the French)

This is a small, but stunning church between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona with three extraordinary Caravaggio paintings. Bring a few Euro coins to pay to turn the lights on the painting or wait for someone else to do it. :-)

Interesting facts about Caravaggio (Quite the life he lived!)

Piazza Navona is an always busy spot. Full of street artists and musicians. But still definitely a place worth seeing. I've sat and had over-priced spritz at one of the many restaurants that ring it. And I enjoyed every moment. Great people watching and it's just a whole vibe. 

Also right off of Piazza Navona is a great bookshop that we've gotten several fun coffee table books from. 

Slightly off the most beaten path is the Borghese Gallery
Book tickets ahead to be certain you can get in to see the unbelievable sculptures by Bernini and more Caravaggio works. The museum is located in the lush, beautifully landscaped gardens of Villa Borghese. It's worth a wander through these too. 

 

Something to note is that Villa Borghese in a ritzier area - nice to walk around in - however, the restaurants in that area are WAY overpriced. We payed significantly too much for some pizza and wine nearby. So I don't recommend this area to eat in unless it's for something specific.

Even more off of the beaten path is Cimitero Acattolico per Stranieri. You can take a bus or the metro to get there. It's a lovely, old Cemetery for non-Catholics; quiet and peaceful after the bustle of central Rome. Poets, John Keats and Percy Shelley are buried there.

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