This three part series covers my time in Rome during my 9-day trip to Italy back in March.
Ah, Rome. Writing my first post on Rome brings a smile to my face as I remember all the history, beauty, and wine. I think it’s a bit unfair that a city has so much to offer. I mean, how are you supposed to see it all? Well, you can’t, but you can have a perfect first day in this amazing city.
Getting to Rome
Let’s face it, it’s really tough to put a trip together. You have to find flights, take days off from work, and create a massive itinerary. One of the most difficult tasks before this particular trip was finding accommodation! Though Italy is on the cheaper side compared to most other European destinations, Rome is a whole different story. Sure, $100 a night may not seem that bad, but 5 days adds up quickly! So, we tried to find some more affordable options. One option is always a hostel, but we couldn’t find a nice enough hostel for us to stay in. Rome has some pretty dodgy options. A tip from Victor’s mom was that many convents rent rooms to tourists for a reasonable price, and most include breakfast. We couldn’t find one cheap enough, but I definitely recommend this route for those want something more affordable than a hotel.
We ended up staying at a hybrid hostel/hotel called Ostello Des Artistes. They offer private suites, but most of the hotel is like a dorm. There are multiple bathrooms in the hallways and the room is private. This ended up being a perfect compromise for us. The hotel is less than a 10 minute walk from the station Termini, which was also useful for us because we knew we might need the metro from time to time.
Our arrival into Rome was less than ideal, as our flight was extremely delayed. We arrived past midnight so could not use public transportation to get to our hotel. We had to use taxis. Now, if anyone has been to Rome, then you’ll know that taxi drivers here are notoriously scheme-y. Just FYI, to get from Fiumicino Airport to the city centre it is a FLAT RATE of €48. This includes up to four people including luggage. Do not let any taxi driver tell you otherwise. It is posted on their taxi cars as well as at the taxi stand. Victor and I stood our ground and said no to a couple drivers before one decent driver said yes to the flat rate. From that point on, everything was a breeze. We got to our hotel in 30 minutes (keep in mind it’s past midnight so there’s no traffic) and check-in was easy peasy.
NOTE: There are two airports serving Rome. Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (more commonly known as Fiumicino, FCO) is the largest airport in Italy but is not that close to the city centre of Rome. Cab rides are expensive (flat rate of €48) but you can take a train directly to Termini from the airport, costing €11. The other airport is G.B. Pastine Rome Ciampino Airport (CIA), located much closer to the city centre. However, there is no public transportation. You will have to take a cab or use a coach service.
Though the next morning we were feeling pretty tired from the evening before, we made the effort to do a full day of sightseeing. For breakfast we ate at a little cafe around the corner called Bar Fondi. Their cappuccinos are perfect! The staff is also quite friendly.
Attractions in the Centre of Rome
After a nice breakfast, it is time to start exploring! Our first stop is the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. It’s a big, massive cathedral. In fact, it’s the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome (Marian meaning religious buildings dedicated to the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary). When living in Europe you see a heck of a lot of cathedrals and basilicas, but there’s something about Italian churches that just blow you away. I mean, look at all that gold!
Name: Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
Address: Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore, 42, 00100 Roma RM, Italy
Opening Hours: Every day, 7am – 6:30pm
Up next is one of my favourite spots in all of Rome: the Capuchin Crypt. The Ordo Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum (Order of Friars Minor Capuchin) is an order of friars within the Catholic Church, among the chief offshoots of the Franciscans. Before entering the Crypt itself, there’s a modest museum documenting the history of the Capuchin Friars. They were established in sixteenth-century Italy by Matteo Bassi. Believing that the the Franciscan order had fell away from its original principles and practices, Bassi created his own reformist movement dedicated to solitude and penance. The museum contains a wide range of artefacts including vestments, manuscripts, and reliquaries.
The Crypt contains the skeletal remains of 3,700 bodies believed to be Capuchin friars. The reason the Crypt is so neat is because those skeletal remains are arranged in the most interesting way. The bones are divided amongst six small chapels under a church and are arranged in a sort of decorative fashion. It is both creepy and fascinating, and definitely more exciting than any catacomb!
Name: Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars
Address: Via Vittorio Veneto, 27, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Opening Hours: Every day, 9am – 7pm (last admission 6:30pm)
Admission: €8,50; €5 (reduced)
Website: www.cappucciniviaveneto.it (only in Italian)
A little less than a 10-minute walk away is the famous Trevi Fountain. Though the fountain is bound to be crowded, the rain actually scared some people off! It is a magnificent place. We also stopped at Piazza Colonna to see the Column of Marcus Aurelius.
By now it is time for some lunch. I researched heavily before our trip to Rome because I wanted to have the best of the best. I mean, this is my first time to Italy, so the food needs to be great! For a great cheap eat, Pastificio is your destination. Pastificio offers two types of 4 euro pasta dishes from 1pm until 9:30pm. Typically, one of the pasta dishes of the day is vegetarian. Served on plastic plates, you have to order at the counter, and then squeeze into a spot on the slim ledges along either wall. You can also ask for it to go and eat outside (but not in Piazza di Spagna). If eating indoors, the meal includes a small cup of wine and water — just ask for it! The pasta is delicious and such a good deal.
Afternoon in the North
Pastificio is just a couple minutes away from the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti (Spanish Steps). These steps are some of the most famous in Europe. Ever seen the movie Roman Holiday? Well, that movie made these steps extremely famous in a more modern context. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, they are called the Spanish Steps because they originally connected the Spanish Embassy to Trinità dei Monti (a church). Once you’re at the top of the staircase you can also reach the Pincian Hill, but we saved that for later. From here we walked to Piazza del Popolo.
The Piazza is a glorious square. From here you can look up a large hill and see the Pincio Hill Gardens. It’s a bit of a climb but takes no more than 10 minutes to reach the top.
The Pincio Hill Gardens connect to the Villa Borghese Gardens. As indicated by the name, these enormous gardens as well as the villa were owned by the Borghese family. The House of Borghese originates from Siena. At one point, the head of the family Marcantonio moved to Rome in the 16th century. His son became Pope Paul V, so consequently the family rose in power and of course wealth.
The star attraction of this massive green space is the Borghese Gallery. It is housed in the former Villa Borghese Pinciana, but now is solely an art gallery featuring the Borghese collection of paintings, sculptures, and antiquities.
Scipione Borghese, a cardinal, was the one responsible for this amazing collection of art. He was the patron of the painter Caravaggio and the artist Bernini. Indeed, there are sculptures by Bernini, and paintings by Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael. It is an impressive collection.
I’m not a sculpture person myself, but I have to say the ones featured in the Borghese Gallery are nothing less than gorgeous. For example, Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini is one of the most beautiful sculptures I have ever seen.
Name: Galleria Borghese
Address: Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 2 hour slots — 09.00-11.00 / 11.00-13.00 / 13.00-15.00 / 15.00-17.00 / 17.00-19.00
Admission: €13 + €2 booking fee; €6,50 + €2 booking fee (reduced)
Website: http://galleriaborghese.beniculturali.it (Italian only)
After a wonderful couple hours at the Gallery, we had some time to kill before dinner so we walked from the park back to the old part of the city. For dinner we went to Cantina e Cucina, starting off with fried artichokes and having some delicious pasta. Victor had carbonara and I had the ravioli — a perfect first meal!
And so ends a perfect first day in Rome. Up next is a bike trip just outside the city!