I was 16 the first time I went to Rome, but it wasn’t until I went back at 23 (in 2012) that I was able to fully appreciate the Eternal City for all that it is and has been throughout history. Italy is one of my top three favorite countries for so many reasons, and Rome epitomizes each and every one of those reasons: the culture, beautiful people, history, gorgeous landscapes and architecture, and of course…the food. As a Croatian girl who loves herself some lamb and potatoes, I have no qualms about saying Italian food is my absolute favorite cuisine in the entire world. And where else to get your favorite food than where it all began?
One of my favorite things about Rome is that you can walk into any random restaurant and have one of the best meals of your life without even planning it. I pride myself on eating healthy and taking good care of myself, but all bets are off when I’m in this magical city. The cheese, the bread, the prosciutto, and GELATO…it’s what dreams are made of. And if you’re the type that needs any sort of justification, just remember that the amount of walking you’ll be doing while exploring Rome practically requires you to carb load…so you might as well enjoy it!
Alfredo Alla Scrofa – World famous for their Fettuccine Alfredo. The first time I ate here was for dinner in 2006 while on a family vacation. We were at the restaurant in the middle of the World Cup final match between Italy and France, and the entire city erupted as soon as the Italians won. One of the coolest nights of my life. I returned to Alfredos on my most recent trip to Rome and it was just as good as I remembered. I can’t vouch for anything on the menu other than the Fettuccine Alfredo (and tiramisu!), but I imagine everything else is just as fantastic.
Roma Sparita – If you’re a No Reservations fan like me, you might be familiar with this little gem located in the heart of the city. Anthony Bourdain is pretty much always right, so if I were you I’d trust his advice and make this spot a must.
***More often than not I see people (especially Americans) complain about poor service in European restaurants. The service industry is not the same in Europe (and the rest of the world for that matter) because they don’t work for tips, so if you equate your entire experience to the service you receive you’re going to have a bad time. My advice is to enjoy the food and don’t take anything personally!
Navona Palace – There’s nothing particularly special about this hotel, but the location is perfect, the rooms were super clean and fairly updated, and the included breakfast was pretty darn good. Most importantly, the price is hard to beat. I’m not into breaking the bank on hotels I’m hardly ever in while I travel, so if you’re the same you just might find Navona Palace perfect for you.
Like I said earlier, you will be doing a LOT of walking, so get yourself a map and a good pair of shoes and get ready to rack up the mileage! You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the public transportation system in the city as not everything is within walking distance. If you’re a history nerd like me, you’ll definitely appreciate the following list of my favorite spots to hit:
–Vatican City – You’ll want to give yourself AT LEAST a few hours, if not half a day, to explore both the Vatican and its museum. I took a guided tour on my first trip to the holy city, and I’m so glad I did because there is sooo much to learn and absorb. *Quick tip for the ladies: If you visit in summer you’ll want to bring along a scarf to cover up your shoulders and lower body. The heat is brutal so you can’t be expected to walk around Rome in long sleeves, but you won’t be allowed into the Vatican unless you’re covered. One last thing…if you’re petty like I am and are on a quest to visit as many countries as you can in your lifetime, you’ll be excited to know that the Holy See is technically its own country! Kinda feels like cheating, but whatever!
–Colosseum – Audio tours recommended! Give yourself at least an hour or two here.
–Piazza de Spagna – Great for shopping, especially for high end designers if you’re into that. If not, take a gelato break on the Spanish Steps instead.
–Trevi Fountain – Especially beautiful at night. Bring some coins and make a wish!
–Pantheon – Rome’s best preserved monument. Definitely worth a visit.
–Piazza Navona – One of the most beautiful squares in the city. It’s the perfect place to stop for lunch (and gelato obviously) or people watch by the Fountain of Neptune.
–Roman Forum – Home to a plethora of ancient ruins. Give yourself enough time to wander around and take it all in.
In all reality you probably need a month to experience all that the Città Eterna has to offer, but if you only have a few days you’ll have a solid itinerary with the above list. Some of the best advice I can give you is to make sure you don’t rush through your time here. At any given moment you could be standing in the same spot where some of the most significant events in our world’s history took place. We’re not talking hundreds of years ago…we’re talking thousands. Take a seat, order some prosciutto and mozzarella, and let that all soak in.