“A fool is one who admires other cities without visiting Rome”, Francesco Petrarca, Italian Poet.
Certainly too straightforward and a little bit offensive but Italian poet Francesco Petrarca does manage to give you a hint of what to expect of Rome.
Rome is the Eternal City of our world. Since ancient times Romans believed that no matter what would happen to the world, how many empires would rise or fall, Rome would always stand. And I dare you to visit Rome and don’t go in awe at every church, temple or beautiful trattoria you come across.
We visited Rome for 4 days in November 2021 and apart from an evening when it was pouring we actually had pleasant weather. Not too hot, not too cold, ideal for sightseeing. Although this was my third time in this magnificent city, for my travel buddy it was his first, so we did and taste everything one should when in Rome.
Do it as the Romans do, when in Rome, they say.
So let’s see a day-by-day guide for 4 full days in Rome to cover all the important and extraordinary sites and also the budget you will need for all this.
Travel Period: 4-7/11/2021
Expenses: 456 euro
Plan of Trip
- Fiumicino Airport
- Rome Free Walking Tour
- Hotel Check-in
- Dinner at Trastevere
- Ancient Rome (Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Colosseum)
- Circus Maximus
- Parc del Arancia
- Testaccio Market
- Il Corallo Dinner
- Vatican Museum
- St. Peter’s Basilica
- Guilietta Dinner
- Fontana di Trevi
- Spanish Steps
- Parc Villa Borgehese
- Salumeria, Tiramisu & Pizza
- Fiumicino Airport
We walked around 80km in total, meaning each day we did 20km by foot. Pretty impressive.
Arriving at Fiumicino Airport
There are 2 airports close to Rome, in Ciampino and Fiumicino. Usually Ciampino Airport serves low-cost airlines like Ryanair. If you are interested in how to reach fast and cheap Rome from Ciampino Airport go to my previous post http://travelpaedics.com/how-many-days-for-cinque-terre/
Fiumicino or Leonardo Da Vinci Airport connects Rome in 5 ways:
Leonardo Express Train to Roma Termini Station without intermediate stops.
The trip lasts 32 minutes and the cost is 14euro. It leaves every 15-30 minutes and you can buy your ticket for a specific time slot through https://www.trenitalia.com/en/purchase.html The first train leaves the airport at 6.38 am and the last at 11.38 am.
Regional Train. FL1.
It connects Fiumicino Airport to Trastevere, Ostiense, Tuscolana and Tiburtina Stations in Rome, but NOT Termini. So check the map if one of these stations is closer to your accommodation. It costs 8euro, runs every 15 minutes and the journey lasts around 30minutes, You can also book this on the spot or through https://www.trenitalia.com/en/purchase.html
If you purchase your ticket on the spot without a specific time slot it’s important to remember to validate them before boarding there are small ticket machines at the entrance to the train
Terravision. That was our choice the ticket price was €7 each and it runs every 30 minutes. As we arrived at 7:00 a.m. at Fiumicino, there was only this company running the first and most convenient bus at 7:45 a.m. Keep in mind that the duration of the bus journey depends heavily on traffic. On our way to Rome as it was early on a working day it took us one hour to reach Termini station. On the other hand on our way back (Sunday 7:20 p.m.) we only needed about 40 minutes. You can book your tickets online through their site and also the time slot is flexible you can use your ticket for an earlier or later bus. Also, you can buy them on spot for the same price.
TAM Shuttle Bus. tambus.it/en/rome-fiumicino. Unfortunately, the site informs that the service is temporarily suspended. It was most convenient during the night since it had a 24-hour service. SIT shuttle bus with a price tag at €7 in the bus leaving around every 30 to 50 minutes this is another convention option to administration the first bus lives from Fiumicino airport at 8:30 a.m. and the last at 11:00 p.m.
Taxi to Rome from Fiumicino airport.
This is certainly the most comfortable way. However, it is also the most expensive. If you do choose to take a taxi keep in mind that there are fixed rates for different routes to Rome and confirm this with your driver. Indicatively to Rome center within Aurelian Walls is 48€, to Ostiense station is 45€, Tiburtina station 55€.
Rent a car
That would be a great option if you are not planning to stay in Rome. Rome is extremely difficult to get around by car especially in the city center where you most likely are not allowed to enter and even worse is finding parking
Covid-19 Travel Restrictions.
As in November 2021 to entry in Italy, you had to show your green pass (Certificazione Verde) that you are either vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from covid-19. Moreover you need to feel the Plf form (digital passenger locator form) before flying. The green pass is mandatory and will be checked in every indoor facility such as restaurants, cafes, bars, or museums (Vatican museums, Pantheon, St Peter’s Basilica and Colosseum).
Back to our first day and as we just arrive at Termini station we need to store our luggage to continue carelessly. If your hotel is accepting to store your luggage before your check-in, lucky you. We chose the hotel Agora Deposito Bagagli Termini which is conveniently situated next to Termini Station. It’s open 24 hours. It’s actually the reception of the hotel agora and the cost is fixed 5€ per bag for a day. The other options near the main station which were either closed at 8:00 a.m. or more expensive are Stow Your Bags (check their website) and Capital Luggage Deposit.
Free walking tour
Have a quick breakfast Italians do with a croissant or a panini and a coffee. We had ours at Bar San Marcello with two delicious pizzetis but the mediocre coffee for 6.80€ in total.
Free walking tours are all over the world and they are provided by different companies. The idea behind them is to provide a detailed city tour of about 2-3 hours, a cultural introduction to a city and in the end, it’s tourist gives (or not) a tip.
We started our first day in Rome with Rome’s Ultimate Free Walking tour from Piazza del Popolo at 11:00 a.m. it also runs at 4:00 p.m. We really enjoyed our guide and the small size of the group as we were only 7 tourists.
Passing by Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Mausoleum of Augustus and Castel Sant Angelo, you get to familiarize yourself with the city’s great history and even learn to navigate yourself through Rome.
I do strongly recommend doing a free walking tour on your first day in each city. Moreover in Rome apart from this company, there are also others providing free tours with equally good reviews such as freetourrome.com, romefreewalkingtour.com, newromefreetour.com.
You can check on their website the type and time of each tour. They also offer tours about Ancient Rome or at Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere neighborhood.
Too much history and no food…
Time for ice cream at Giolitti which is probably the most popular gelateria in Rome. With such reputation, it’s no surprise to find long queues of tourists waiting to be served a cone of ice cream with panna (whipped cream). You have dozens of flavors to choose from which can be overwhelming with all the crowds. If you want a quieter time just go before noon. For 3€ you get your cono (cone) or coppetta (cup) with two flavors.
Tiramisu at Two Sizes
Too cold for ice cream? Or room for a second dessert? In search of the perfect tiramisu in Rome, we concluded that Two Sizes is the place.
With a small (2.5€) and big size (3.5 €) and different flavors to choose from original, pistachio, strawberry, peanut butter and caramel, you will certainly find your match. We absolutely loved the caramel tiramisu and thankfully this place was close to our hotel and we could have tiramisu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Obviously there is a huge huge variety of hotels, hostels, Airbnb etc when in Rome.
What are the key points for choosing your accommodation.
Your budget obviously.
You can find a bed in a shared dorm for 13€/night but you can also straight to 970€. (Rocco Forte Hotel De Russie and add +45€ for breakfast).
Piazza di Spagna will offer more luxurious options and high-end shopping.
Rome is best seen on foot, so choose to stay someplace near all the great attractions. Staying near Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo de Fiori is ideal for first-time visitors. You will get to beat the crowd early in the morning. Trastevere neighborhood is another great option, cheaper and with the best, most authentic restaurants you could get so close to the city center.
Vatican/ Prati and Colosseum/Monti, although home to many and beautiful hotels, their distance from other sites make them unattractive.
Lastly Roma Termini/Esquilino neighborhood is best for budget travelers. The quality of the hotels is lower but so is the cost. Also Esquilino is considered the least safe neighborhood of the city by Romans. Although I had no problem when I stayed there in June 2021.
Roam in the city and explore it at your own pace now. Having done an introduction with the walking tour now you have the time to wait in line for the Pantheon. Visit Piazza Venezia, throw your coin into Fontana di Trevi and take your photo at the stairs of Piazza di Spagna.
Dinner at Trastevere
Trastevere is a surprise neighborhood so close to the city center but feels like a small village. It’s one of the most pictureless neighborhoods of Rome and one should certainly pay a visit. Visit Trastevere during the day to get lost in the narrow alleys and admire the wonderful churches. Then in the evening trust ever transforms into an enchanting life place full of bars and restaurants. Skip the tourist traps in the city center and indulge in authentic Italian cuisine here.
Some of the best choices are
Trattoria Da Enzo al 29 (opens at 7 pm, without reservation, arrive early and wait for your turn to be sit patiently)
Tratttoria Da Teo (you can reseve your table online)
Seu Pizza Illuminati
Ristorante le Mani in Pasta
Get your ice cream at Fiordiluna
Seat for a glass of wine at Enoteca La vite Roma Trastevere, Bar San Calisto, Bar del Cinque.
We opted for Trattoria Da Enzo al 29 but due to its long line we left for La Gattabuia. There we had an excellent rigatoni carbonara and spaghetti gricia. These two dishes with two glasses of wine water and the fried stuffed zucchini blossom with burrata cheese cost 46€.
Do it as Romans. Grab a panini or croissant and sip your espresso at the bar.
We chose Sant Eustachio Il Caffe but we would actually advise you against it. The coffee there was one of the worst we had. Probably this place is too touristic for its own good.
Kid better to a bakery like Antico Forno Roscioli, Forno Campo de Fiori or Forno del Ghetto and keep an eye where the locals drink their coffee.
Roman Forum and Palatine hill
Roman Forum is a must-visit. Actually your ticket includes the Roman Forum. Before arriving in Rome many discouraged me from visiting Colosseum inside. But even without the Colisseum, listen to my advice and do visit the Roman Forum.
And please take a guided tour or even better do it free as we did while listening to Rick Steve’s audio guide. You can find the link here. https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/italy/rome
It’s super informative and funny and we really appreciated it and enjoyed it at Roman Forum, Colosseum, Vatican museums and St Peter’s Basilica. It’s so much better to understand the history behind what you see when roaming around cluelessly.
So back to the Roman Forum
This vast, ruin-filled area reveals the glory days of the Roman Empire. Prepare to dedicate several hours admiring temples, courts of law, government halls and public assembly areas. This was one of my favorite places to visit in Rome.
As you walk along the ancient streets in the shadow of Roman monuments while listening to the audio guide, it’s like the ancient life of Rome unravels in front of you. It’s truly inspiring how well everything was constructed and preserved for thousands of years.
Proceed to Palatine hill the centermost of the seven hills of Rome. This place offers a stunning view of the Roman Forum and across to the Colosseum where thousands of people and animals lost their lives in the name of entertainment.
Let’s do something cliché now.
The Coliseum is a synonym with Rome and if you don’t have a photo posing in front of it, then you haven’t been to Rome.
This impressive amphitheater used to hold brutal spectacles for 80,000 spectators who were cheerfully deciding the faint of the poor men.
Rome will exist as long as the Coliseum does; when the Coliseum falls so will Rome; when Rome falls, so will the world. Saint Venerable Bede
Since the Coliseum still stands proud and mighty, we can assume that shows that the rest of the world.
Although 25% of the Coliseum is destroyed and missing, you still have so much to learn and admire.
Because of the covid-19 pandemic tickets are only sold online. Book them from the original site for a specific date and time No need to pay the extra Euros for skip-the-line tickets. https://parccolosseo.it
1st Option: 16€. For Coliseum, Roman Forum and Palatine but with NO access to the arena at the Coliseum.
2nd Option: 22€ Full experience with Coliseum Arena, Palatine Museum (1st level), Temple of Romulus, Exterior of the House of Augustus.
TIP: There is the same ticket for 22 Euros under the name full experience Underground and Arena. That is the most interesting part because you get to explore with a guide the cells under the Arena. You have to book it well in advance because the groups are limited to a small number.
3rd Option: The Moon over the Coliseum 2021-Underground level on Friday and Saturday evenings for 25€.
TIP: Even if you have Roma Pass, you need to book online the time you wish you visit Coliseum. You can’t just show up there.
Just on the back of Palatine hill walk to Circus Maximus, the largest stadium in ancient Rome. Here the chariot races were entertaining 300,000 spectators, such a huge number of people even for nowadays.
Currently there is not much to see just an enormous terrace where concerts are held in the summer.
Giardino Degli Aranci
Climb up one more hill. Aventine hill. Come on, you can do this and discover the idyllic Orange Garden. Probably at its best during spring when the trees blossom and the aroma will drive you in here. Nevertheless, in November when we visited it was a peaceful oasis with only a musician playing his guitar in the background.
Stand at the viewpoint and before flashing your phone for a photo just admire the pure beauty of this city. Let your eyes wander to send St Peter’s Basilica, Victor Emmanuel II Monument and Trastevere.
TIP: if you have time and strength and if the churches are open visit the Basilica of St. Sabina and St. Boniface of Tarsus which are nearby.
TIP: one of the best kept, not-so-secret-anymore secrets. The keyhole at the Villa of the Sovereign Order of Malta. You may see a couple of people just waiting in line to pock through a keyhole. You may think they are crazy and you may be right.
Trophies we also stand there waiting patiently to check through the hole this perfect oval that frames a view of the Dome of St Peter’s Basilica. Was it worth it? Totally not but we didn’t regret it either.
Are you hungry yet after so much history and walking? Exhausted mentally and physically you end up in the Testaccio market. Open Monday-Saturday 7 am – 3.30 pm.
This is one of the best markets in Rome offering delicious ready-to-eat food side by side with the best local products Italy can offer.
Also there is a sitting area in the center of the market so that you can grab your food from different stalls and sit here to enjoy it.
Some of my recommendations are:
Le Mani in Pasta for their freshly made and cooked pasta.
Zoe is just opposite Le Mani in Pasta known for pasta but also for a more healthy meal, salad-based.
Food Box for suppli, they are like arancini from Sicily, stuffed and fried rice balls.
Mordi e Vai, famous for its meat sandwiches with tripe, tongue with salsa verde and intestines simmered in tomato sauce.
Unfortunately since we arrived well after 3:30 p.m. we ended up hungrily looking for the next place which it would be open to sit and eat.
TIP: Most restaurants in Rome (not the touristy ones)close in the afternoon and open again around 6- 7 p.m.
We headed for Masto Testaccio which is a tiny yet adorable wine bar. The owner was really friendly and seemed knowledgeable of his products and wines. You get a huge variety of wines to choose from. We also had a dish of lasagne ragu (10€) and ravioli burvo e salvia (10,5€) which were delicious. Exactly what we needed.
Panna & Co- Gelato Naturale
There is always room for dessert and especially for Italian gelato so fresh and tasty. Absolutely of great quality and with a reasonable price (2€ for the small cup with two flavors). Try the pistachio grezzo, salted caramel and mango con jengibre.
Pyramid of Cestius
Now fuelled up with excellent food you can keep going. Next stop a pyramid. Yes, it’s a real one. I couldn’t believe either but I would find everything and even this in Rome.
The pyramid of Celsius was built as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, a Roman magistrate and member of the religious corporation Septemvin Epulorum. This powerful man wanted a pyramid and he got one.
The ticket cost 5.5€ but admission is possible only with prior reservation.
From there we took the metro from Pyramide station to Laurentina metro station and bus to Maximo shopping center and Primark.
But if that’s not your priority (good for you!) you can visit Terme di Caracalla and find your way up and back while visiting Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio and Basilica de San Clemente.
OR you can work your way through Trastevere neighborhood, the absolutely unique cozy alternative neighborhood.
Dinner at Il Carollo
As in every trip, my goal is to taste the local cuisine. Of course, Rome as every other capital has excellent Chinese, Vietnamese, French cuisine but why not indulge in pasta and pizza when here is their home.
For dinner, we chose Il Corallo and it did not disappoint. Tucked in an alley just 100 m from Piazza Navona, it offers genuinely authentic Italian cuisine. The prices are as everywhere. Best make a reservation or rely on your luck as we did. The pizza with red sauce, burrata and prosciutto was thin crispy and perfect. Their tagliata was perfectly cooked. We even try a dish of artichokes actually (one artichoke?!). Overall for this and the bottle of wine 0,5lt we paid 46€. We tried the house red wine which was not really good, too tart and sour.
Argot Mixology Bar
Gather up your strengths to continue the night for a cocktail at one of the city’s best bars. This speakeasy bar near Campo de Fiori is perfectly hidden away from the crowds. The only downside is you need to pay 5€/person as a membership fee, even if you don’t intend to come back.
But after that you descend to this underground world of cool bear-brick walls, exposed pipes and your grandmother’s floral armchair. Every corner can serve as a table. It’s a small place and the night we were there they even had an awesome live concert. The service is attentive and kind and the cocktails were prepared to perfection. Come here to impress your travel buddies. Cocktails cost around 12€.
Breakfast at Antico Forno Roscioli
Wash your face, dress up and head straight to Via Dei Chiavari. Stand patiently in line with tourists and locals for one of the delicacies of this bakery. Try their unique pizza, bianco or rossa, with mushrooms, prosciutto or chicken. With 10€ we were full of savory and sweet choices.
This is certainly a not-to-miss attraction and is more often combined with St. Peter’s Basilica.
You have two choices from my point and what I have read about.
Either visit St Peter’s early in the morning first thing, around the opening hours and then go to Vatican Museums or vice versa spend your morning at Vatican Museums and visit St Peter’s Basilica in the afternoon (around 2-3 pm) when most groups leave for lunch.
Your visit to the smallest state in the world, the Vatican should be booked in advance (not too early). https://m.museivaticani.va
Note: Sundays and on holy days Vatican Museums are closed
The admission ticket is 17€ (reduced 8€) and the audio guide costs 7€. The guide is charged an extra 270€ for a group of 1 to 10 people. Mask is mandatory and also they will check your Green Pass.
The treasure you will admire in Vatican Museums is priceless. Listen to the free audio guide of Steve Rick to better understand and navigate between the collections and allow around 3 hours.
The Vatican Museums consist actually of 54 museums with art produced in a span of 800 years. From mummies and sarcophagi in Ancient Egypt to sculptures from Ancient Greece and of course the famous Sistine Chapel. You will be overwhelmed to such extent that you won’t know what to admire; the museum pieces, the ceiling, the walls.
Dress Code: Knees and shoulders must be covered. Shorts for men and short skirts for women are not allowed.
There will be many trying to approach you for skip-the-line tickets here in the Vatican. Stick to booking through the official website, where you nevertheless have to book a specific time slot.
St. Peter’s Basilica
One of the most magnificent churches you will visit and certainly the biggest in the world. You can take that by walking down the nave and paying attention to the nave markers. They show where other important churches end. A bit arrogant, right?
First of all the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is FREE. There is almost always a crowd waiting at pizza to pass the security check and get inside. If you get a clear sky when you visit it’s a great idea to pay the €8 entrance to the top of St Peter’s Basilica Dome. At the top you will be rewarded with impressive views of Rome and the Vatican.
The inside of the church is simply stunning. You feel so small compared to all this beauty; huge pillars, oversized statues, the giant baldachin by Bernini in the center. It feels as if the Catholic church wanted people inside St Peter’s to feel unworthy of the greatness of Catholics. It scares you and leaves you in wonderment.
Castel Sant’ Angelo
On your way back to the city center pass by Castel Sant Angelo and its bridge. You can actually visit the interior as it’s now a national museum but not on my top 10 list. In the past it’s served as a prison, fortress and even a residence for the Pope. There is for that a secret passageway connecting the Vatican to Castel Sant’ Angelo.
As we hardly could walk any further due to hunger, we sat down for a glass of wine and a cheese and charcuterie platter at La Salumeria. Wouldn’t recommend it though. Didn’t find the service, the price (12€ the platter, 12€ the wine) or the taste worth it.
For this kind of dinner for a taste of local cheese and salami my top suggestion is Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina but it’s usually packed and you will need a reservation.
Dinner at Giulietta Vino e Cucina
On the other hand, this is something to recommend. And although I tried to book online and failed, they politely welcome us to the restaurant. The system of service may seem a little tricky. You note down your order, give it to the waiter and wait to be noticed to go and pick the food yourself.
We had tartare (18€)and parmigiana de melanzane (12€, eggplants baked in tomato sauce and cheese) and also pasta cacio e pepe (12€)and amatriciana con pomodoro fresco (13€). Everything tasted great. For dessert we couldn’t resist a unique tiramisu with saffron.
Breakfast from Pasticceria Boccione
Unfortunately all good things come to an end and this was our last day. Don’t worry though we have plenty of things to do and miles to walk (but less than yesterday).
The hotel owner was kind enough to let us store our luggage in the lobby which absolutely saved us money and energy. So after checking out we headed to Jewish Ghetto and the famous Pasticceria Boccione.
The Roman Jewish neighborhood is a small hidden treasure to visit. Apart from the Synagogue and the Jewish Museum, this area will offer you many culinary experiences also. The history of this place is long and most of it is dark. We actually had a free tour booked for 3:30 p.m. that day to visit Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere but got caught up with all the rest and didn’t make it. It’s a good idea and alternative to keep in mind.
Pasticceria Boccione is a historic Jewish bakery tucked under scaffolds. Its popularity with locals will be explained once you taste the burnt cheesecake with ricotta and cherry. It’s actually meant to be burnt as Jews were not allowed to sell dairy products and the bakers found this way to hide ricotta. The service may be a little brusque but it’s worth trying this delicacy and the biscuits at Pasticceria Boccione.
Fontana di Trevi
Shouldn’t you have a photo with this dramatic baroque masterpiece? Don’t expect to find a spot on your own or the perfect time. Everyone passes by the most famous fountain in the world.
Throw your coin or not, admire the statue of Oceanus and Tritons surrounding him and of course with so many people watch your belongings!
Piazza di Spagna
Walk north, pass Via dei Condotti for high-end shopping and find yourself at Piazza di Spagna. Piazza di Spagna was always the center of both cultural and tourist life. Once on the long stairway of Trinita dei Monti, women used to sell flowers. Now some azaleas are surrounding the Fontana della Barcaccia, offering a beautiful background to the tourists’ photo shootings. Actually the Spanish Steps were built to link the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican to the French church of La Trinita dei Monti after peace was achieved between these two countries in 1713.
Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo or People’s heart is the beating heart of Rome with many great events held here. You will definitely notice the Flaminio Obelisk at the center of the square and the two twin churches, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto. Actually centuries ago Piazza del Popolo was the main entrance to the city, the first thing that someone saw and that is why the Catholic Church wanted this square to depict the power of the Church.
Visiting Rome’s green lung. This huge park is where Romans escape from the hectic traffic and relax. Villa Borghese includes monuments, gardens, statues, a lake and the Borghese Gallery. The terrace of Pincio, just above Piazza del Popolo offers a spectacular view of Rome. The Borghese Gallery is actually worth visiting. Located in an old palace of the XVII century it exhibits real masterpieces of the world. Visit the official site Borghese.beniculturali.it for tickets (13€ and an obligatory reservation fee of 2€).
Although located near Coliseum it proved its worth. Under scaffolds, you can easily walk by it. It’s more of a snack bar preparing paninis and servicing cheese and salami platters. We sat down for a platter and some wine and we were really delighted in the end. The staff was friendly and super-attentive with the food. The platter we ordered of medium size did certainly fill us up and for 41€.
Just before heading to the airport, we had to more stops to eat. One was at our favorite Two Sizes for a couple more tiramisu. And another stop at Emma Pizzeria for a Diablo Pizza takeaway (13€) to have something with us while waiting for the departure. Excellent both!
For our way back to the airport we took again the Terravision Shuttle bus from Termini Station. It was a comfortable and quick ride to the Fiumicino Airport.
Rome is able even in a few days to fill you up with so much beauty, history, and energy. It’s a city worth admiring every corner, every fountain, every statue. The locals were passing by magnificent churches without looking, and I was like “Hey, there is something beautiful there!” But for them, it’s something common. They are used to beauty. Despite traveling to many parts of this world, Rome always holds a part in my heart and it’s one of my top 10 answers when asked where I should travel. You can not get used to Rome!