Rome City Guide

ROME CITY GUIDE

So Rome definitely makes the cut for a City Profile because not only did Ashley and I live and work there but it is also just a fantastic place to visit.  We absolutely love Rome but totally understand that it can be overwhelming trying to cram it all in but hopefully with our City Profile you will get an idea of what you want to see in Rome.  We will keep adding more here as we write more articles so always check back!

For those of you who are visiting Rome for the first time be sure to check our our tips for visiting Rome, Part 1 and Part 2.  In Part 1 we cover transportation, how not to get ripped off by a taxi and the best way to get to Rome from the airport.  Also the best way to cross the street is just to walk; do not hesitate, do not stop, just go.  The drivers, generally, will not hit you, they are used to dodging mopeds; they can dodge a slower pedestrian.  In Part 2 we cover how to find a good restaurant in Rome (it can be more difficult than you think, especially after an exhausting day touring the Coliseum), how to prevent from being pick pocketed (no money belts required), and where to stay in Rome.

See

Some of the best places to visit in Rome are listed in 5 Reasons Why I Love Rome and include Galleria Borghese and the Pantheon.  A great out of the way place we love to visit is the Protestant Cemetery filled with the tombs of the expats that lived and died in Rome.

The Protestant Cemetary, RomeThe Galleria Borghese is our favorite museum in Rome.  It is filled with five Bernini statues that Bernini created especially for his patron Cardinal Scipione Borghese including the Rape of Persephone, Apollo and Daphne and David.  It also has works by Caravaggio, Raphael and Titan.  It is a fantastic museum and the Villa was built specifically to hold the ancient and modern art that Cardinal Scipione Borghese collected, sometimes not always legally (Scipione Borghese could pretty much do what he wanted since his uncle was Pope Paul V Borghese).  The great thing about the museum too is that they only let a certain number of people into the museum in two hour increments so you never have to worry about it being overcrowded.  The downside is you have to book your tickets in advance in order to get in.  It is not that difficult though since they have online booking which you can access here.

Apollo and Daphne by Bernini at the Galleria Borghese.  Daphne is turning into a laurel tree after asking her father to save her from Apollo's advances.  Not exactly what she probably had in mind when she asked for help....
Apollo and Daphne by Bernini at the Galleria Borghese. Daphne is turning into a laurel tree after asking her father to save her from Apollo’s advances. Not exactly what she probably had in mind when she asked for help….

Also remember there is no photography allowed in the Borghese Gallery.  I learned that after I took this slightly blurry iPhone photo and was yelled at.  They also do not allow you to bring in any bags either but there is a coat check where they keep everything.  I would suggest getting to the museum half an hour before your entrance to check your bags and pick up your tickets.

Neighborhoods

THE NEIGHBORHOODS

Rome has fantastic neighborhoods and we loved exploring them. They all had unique charm, great sites and fantastic restaurants. Click below to see our Guides for the different neighborhoods of Rome.

Trastevere

Campo dei Fiori

Piazza Navona and The Pantheon

Tours of the City

Rome is such a huge city and it is easy to get lost or miss something you want to see.  If you are worried about missing a site or want to make sure you learn all the interesting facts, like the fact that Hadrian had a lover (a boy by the name of Antinuous), we would suggest taking a tour.  Now tours are not for everyone but as Ashley used to be a tour guide we are a little partial to the tours in Rome and all of our fellow tour guide friends.

Ashley used to work for Dark Rome which gives a wide range of tours, from the Coliseum and the Vatican to the Underground Sites of Rome and Day Trips to Pompeii and Tuscany.  A lot of our friends work for the company and the are absolutely fantastic.  They are knowledge and most importantly entertaining.  We would never give a boring tour.

The Coliseum

Our good friend Massimo just started a new tour company as well and he offers tours on a topic you may not find anywhere else.  Massimo’s tours are all about the historic prostitutes and muses of artists who shaped Renaissance Rome.  Now that is definitely a history lesson I think everyone will enjoy.  Massimo’s tours offer a different perspective on the sites of Rome that are so famous today and cover the scandals of Medieval Rome.  If you are going to Rome I would not miss out on these tours!

Courtesans' Tour

Our other good friends Rachel and Ian started a tour company called Rogue Historians which offers an alternative style of tours with amazingly knowledgeable guides.  Check out their Facebook page to learn more about the tours they offer!

Eat

Italy is all about food and Rome is no different however countless people have told us that they have had terrible meals in Rome which saddens us to no end.  There are a lot of amazing restaurants in Rome but unfortunately there are some pretty terrible restaurants as well.  If you follow our suggestions though we promise we won’t lead you astray, we actively hunted down excellent restaurants after stumbling on a few awful ones (Located near Termini Station, where most of the awful “restaurants” are located).  If you need more tips check out our Tips for Visiting Rome-Part 2 where we cover where to find a great restaurant.

Osteria Del Pegno is one of our favorites and we would have recommended it to everyone when we were in Rome but we only shared our secret with a few special people so count yourself lucky.  It is a tiny little Osteria located just steps from Piazza Navona.  It specializes in new Italian Cooking.  You can find traditional Roman dishes here like Bucatini Amatriciana and Carbonara but you will also find Sea Bass Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Ravoli in a Zucchini Flower, Saffron and Orange Cream Sauce.  It is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a bit of a nicer restaurant to eat at without a huge price tag.

Cul De Sac is also a favorite restaurant of ours.  It is located in Piazza Pasquino and is an enoteca, a wine bar.  It has a fabulous selection of wines, they give you a giant book to make your selection from and the food is some of the best I have had in Italy, especially the Capri Ravioli with lemon and lime zest ricotta ravioli in a sage and butter sauce, so delectable.

For amazing pizza all you need to do is head to Trastevere where there is a wealth of amazing pizza places.  Dar Poeta is a famous pizza joint located just off Piazza Trilussa in central Trastevere.  It is known for its pizzas which are neither totally Roman or Napolitano (and there is a big difference I promise).  Another great pizza place is Pizzeria ai Marmi which is located on Viale di Trastevere.  It is always crowded with locals and tourists alike with communal tables filling up both the inside restaurant and the sidewalk outside.

One of my all time favorite pizza places is Pizzeria da Baffetto which is conveniently located just across the street from our favorite bar, Abbey Theater.  They have a wide range of pizzas and it is always crowded.  It is the only place I have seen people line up for before it is open.  It is all about the communal, tightly packed tables and the jugs of wine and the pizza of course.  They do pizza and that is it.  My favorite (Ashley) is the Pizza con fagioli or Pizza with Canolini Beans.  Sounds weird but it is awesome, I promise.  They also recently opened up a second one right out Campo dei’ Fiori called Baffetto 2.

Carlo Menta is a traditional Trastevere neighborhood restaurant. Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor
Carlo Menta is a traditional Trastevere neighborhood restaurant.
Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor

If you are looking for pizza and you are on a budget you cannot go wrong with locals’ favorite Carlo Menta.  Carlo Menta is also always packed and located on a typical cobblestone lined street in Trastevere.  The tables are close together, there are two levels inside and an outdoor patio and it is always crowded.  Perhaps it is because their pizzas start at 3euros and we are talking about getting the best whole Margherita pizza you have ever had in your life for 3euros.  That is all.  (and they also have a full menu of pastas and appetizers that are equally delicious)

If you are needing a break from pizza and pasta and need a little veggie break we would suggest Insalata Ricca.  It is a chain, in so far as Italy does chains, which means there are eleven locations all around the city of Rome but thats it.  You won’t find L’Isalata Ricca in Milan or Naples so get your salad fix now.  They have a huge menu of over 2 pages of salads which range from the “Why do they feel the need to put corn on every salad” salads to the “ah yes a simple Greek salad, this is just what I was looking for” salad.  To be fair they have some strange combinations but they are delicious so take a chance and take a break at L’Insalata Ricca.  Their house wine is also ridiculously cheap and they also have great pastas and pizzas as well for those who cannot fathom having a salad.  I am particularly fond of the Greek Salad and Pesto Pizza combination.  They have a location right next to Cul de Sac which is awesome on Via Governo Vecchio just off Piazza Navona.  We have been known to go to L’Insalta Ricca for lunch and then Cul de Sac for dinner and they also have a location right by the Vatican and one in Trastevere.

Piazza Pasquino
Piazza Pasquino

Drink

Another great staple of Italian cuisine is the Aperitivo hour, where you purchase a drink and then have access to a free buffet.  You can find bars all over Rome where you can have Aperitivo, and they range from just small snacks to a full on buffet with pasta dishes and dessert.  One of my favorite places for Aperitivo is Fluid located on Via Governo Vecchio near Piazza Navona.  It is a great centrally located Aperitivo Bar with a wonderful relaxing water vibe.

There are also several other great Aperitivo Bars all over the city.  Some favorites are Salotto 42 located in Piazza di Pietra near the Pantheon, Baccanale in Campo de’ Fiori, and the very popular Freni e Frizioni in Trastevere.  Freni e Frizioni is always packed with local Romans and you will find everyone drinking and chatting and hanging out in the square just outside the bar.

Aperitivo at Baccanale
Aperitivo at Baccanale

If you are looking for a place to rub shoulders with the Expat community or just need a break from trying to speak Italian our favorite bar is Abbey Theater.  It is a relaxed Irish bar and became our home away from home while we lived in Rome.

Also Gelato is a staple in Rome, feel free to eat it for breakfast (We have no shame when it comes to Gelato).  Check out some of our favorites and see for yourself.

Day Trips

Rome is a great city to use as a jumping off point, if you are spending a fair amount of time in Rome and need a break or have just visited the city several times day trips are always a nice option to see some more of Italy.  Some of our favorite day trips are to head out to the great beaches nearby or to swing down to Naples and see Pompeii.

5 Reasons Why I Love Pompeii The Men's Locker Room in the baths at Pompeii
5 Reasons Why I Love Pompeii
The Men’s Locker Room in the baths at Pompeii

We would also highly recommend taking the train a half hour outside of Rome to visit the town of Frascati.  Frascati is known for the white wine it produces and is a gorgeous little hillside town with a great market and wine bars.  It is easily accessible from Rome and its a great little place to escape for a half day or even a stay overnight.

Tivoli is another great option for a day trip out of Rome.  The charming town is easily reached from Rome’s Tiburtina train station and the journey is only half an hour away.  The charming town is famous for two things, Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este.  Hadrian’s Villa was built by Emperor Hadrian in the 2ndcCE and the term villa should be used loosely to describe this sprawling complex where Hadrian spent most of his time.  He actually hated living in Rome so he constructed his villa in Tivoli and coincidentally most of the politics of Rome moved with him making the villa less a home and more a thriving center of government.  The Villa d’Este is a traditional Renaissance villa which was actually inspired by Hadrian’s Villa.  The Villa d’Este however, is famous for its gardens and fountains.  The town of Tivoli is also a gorgeous medieval city and worth checking out.

More will come have no fear!  Always check back for fun events, like Primo Maggio, that are going on in Rome and more recommendations and ideas from us!

Also remember if you find yourself in Rome on April 21st do not forget to wish the city Happy Birthday!  It is traditionally held that this is the day in 753BC that Romulus drew his famous line in the sand marking out the boundaries of his new city.  No one was allowed to cross these sacred lines but unfortunately his brother did not agree with the founding of the city.  He walked over the sacred lines and Romulus was “forced” to kill him, thus the city of Rome was born!