best hotels, things to do, and places to eat

Name a more iconic capital city than Rome. I’ll wait. From jaw-dropping historical sites to some of the best food and drink, I challenge you not to fall in love with this place. Whether you’ve seen it in retro classics like Roman Holiday and Three Coins in the Fountainor modern classics like The Lizzie McGuire Movie (lolz), this is the place to come if you want to feel like the leading lady of your own movie.

where we stayed

Your ideal base? IMO, the W Rome. Located on Via Liguria, it’s within easy walking distance of Piazza di Spagna, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Piazza Navona, as well as Villa Borghese.

I love this chain of hotels as they feel fun, modern and super luxe, without being stuffy or overly exclusive. But my favorite thing about W Rome? Its amazing roof terrace. It not only has phenomenal views over the city for a sundowner to remember, but a swimming pool with sun loungers. A bit of a rarity in the center of town.

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Trust me, Rome can get hella hot and sticky and after a long day of walking, being able to kick off your shoes and take a dip in a rooftop pool is the definition of living the life.

We stayed in a ‘Fabulous’ room which has everything you could possibly want for a 5-star vacay. There’s a living area, massive marble bathroom with rain shower, fluffy bath robes and slippers, 24-hr room service, complimentary bottled water, coffee machine, Dyson hair dryer, steamer for de-creasing your scrunched-up clothes, flat-screen TV. that you can easily cast the likes of Netflix to, and the list goes on. Rooms start at £510 per night, book here.

Also shout out to the breakfast which is first class. From parmesan scrambled eggs and bacon, to pancakes and a continental buffet – expect a peak ‘hotel breakfast’ experience.

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If you can’t afford to spend your whole stay living the A-List life, try a two-part trip with Generator Rome. Yes, it’s a hostel, but it’s about as slick as a hostel can get. There are the usual shared dorms if you want to keep costs mega budget but there’s also a range of private room option. We went for a private room and it was perfectly fine! The design is modern and clean, and there’s a café, bar and rooftop, as well as free Wi-Fi and luggage storage. There are food facilities here, but you’re probably better hunting down a local coffee shop for breakfast.

Much like the W, Generator is also in a fantastic location. Just a short walk from Rome Termini station (which has frequent, cheap and easy trains from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport), it’s also in easy walking distance from the Colosseum, Forum, Circus Maximus and Paletine, all via a lovely stroll through Parco. Celio.

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What we did and where we ate

I strongly advise making a rough plan for what you want to do in Rome, taking into account some ‘cannot miss, absolutely must-see’ sites, as well as some free time for just exploring the city and wandering round any less busy, un. -ticketed landmarks. A lot of the beautiful churches are just free to enter, and you can turn up any time, ditto the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon.

However, more popular ticketed venues like Parco archeologico del Colosseo (Colosseum, Forum, Paletine, etc) are worth booking ahead for. When we went, you couldn’t buy tickets at the venue, you had to pre-book online – and while there were some left for same-day visits, it was worth booking at least a day ahead if you wanted a skip-the-line ticket, particularly at a peak time. Ditto with any visits to the Vatican Museum (which includes the Sistine Chapel) – we booked two days in advance and were a bit tight on times available if we wanted a skip-the-line ticket.

The Colosseum, Rome

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If you’re a free spirit and friend of spontaneity, try your luck and you’ll still most likely be fine – especially if you’re happy to queue for a while to enter these places. But if you’re a fan of the stress-free security of knowing tickets are booked, we used tiqets.com via the app and found this a super easy way to book and access tickets. You can also add very easy-to-use (albeit fairly basic) in-app audio guides that you can just sync up to your headphones and listen at your own pace. They’re not quite as comprehensive as the ‘official’ audio guides you get, but they do the job and save queuing to pick up and drop off headphones etc.

Day 1: We started off our trip at Generator and so our first day was dedicated to the Colosseum, Forum and Paletine. The Colosseum was just a 15-minute walk away, so we grabbed a coffee and wandered around the Forum, before doing the Colosseum. We didn’t pay extra for the arena floor, kinda wish we did – but depends on your budget. You still get to see it all regardless, but paying a bit extra means you can go right down to arena floor level and explore some extra areas.

the forum rome

The Forum

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After a late lunch, we headed back to the hostel to freshen up and rest our legs, before heading north to Monti. I recommend walking via Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore, which has some amazing mosaics, paintings and gold ceilings, as well as Salus Populi Romani. Get an ice cream at Fatamorgana Monti and wander around the area and explore the independent shops, or stop for an aperitif at Antigallery or Libreria Caffè Bohémien. There are loads of cute places to eat along Via Urbana – Ristorante Broccoletti, Trieste Pizza, Zia Rosetta, Sciuè Sciuè Cucina.

trevi fountain rome

Trevi Fountain

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Day 2: Morning 2 was spent checking out from Generator and moving to W Rome, and a mouthwatering brunch in the hotel. Then we walked over to the Pantheon (around 15-20 minutes through a shopping district) and on to my personal favorite destination in Rome (and one of my favorites in the world) the Trevi Fountain. DO NOT SKIP THIS. Take a coin to toss over your shoulder, a significant other to kiss is ideal, and following with an ice cream from the nearby Il Gelato di San Crispino is non-negotiable. It’s less than a ten-minute walk back to the hotel.

Head out late afternoon and grab an Uber to Buco della serratura dell’Ordine di Malta. Peep through this random tiny keyhole for a mind-blowing view directly to the dome of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, on the other side of the city. Sounds weird, but is very cool.

saint peter's basilica through the keyhole at the villa malta giardino degli aranci orange garden aventine hill rome buco della serratura dell'ordine di malta

Buco della serratura dell’Ordine di Malta

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giardino degli aranci rome

Giardino degli Aranci

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You can then walk on over to Giardino degli Aranci next door, which is a beautiful area of ​​gardens that gives stunning views over the city. Time it right for golden hour for maximum impact. If you get time to head via Bocca della Veritado it.

After that, you absolutely must head to Trastevere. It’s a walk of around 15-20 minutes along the river and is just the coolest, most buzzing, picturesque area. Spots like the Open Door Bookshop and Dust of Time are just fun to wander around and there are so many bars and restaurants you’ll be spoiled for choice. We ate at L’Elementare – the deep-fried lasagne and cacio e pepe bites were so damn good and the pizza was delish.

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Day 3: On our last full day, we did the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. St Peter’s Basilica you can walk in for free, but you’ll need a Vatican Museum ticket to see the Sistine Chapel. Warning: this place is BIG. You’ll go intending to see the ‘highlights’ in a 2-3 hours but end up wanting to see it all. So, if you don’t want to feel rushed, prepare to spend most of your day here, eat lunch here and then head back to the hotel mid-afternoon and collapse. By this time, you will have basically walked a marathon over the last three days and want to lie very still while a cloud of angels massage your feet back to life.

For our last evening, we grabbed Aperols on the hotel’s. Otto Rooftop and watched the sun set, before having dinner in W’s Giano Restaurant. The restaurant is worth a visit even if you’re not staying at the hotel – delicious pasta, fish and desserts. Try the tiramisu, complete with chocolate glasses (fun and tasty).

FYI

– Unless you want to spend a fortune on Ubers and miss falling into some of the most beautiful little alleyways when you get lost, you will walk a LOT. You’ll walk to places, around places, from places… so take comfy shoes. My Birkenstocks and Tevas never fail me, but I walked so much my feet started to niggle even in those. So consider taking some supportive trainers as well as comfy day-to-night walking sandals.

– It gets HOT. Like any big city, Rome gets stuffy, clammy and sweaty. If you’re visiting over summer, take a hand-held fan, a reusable water bottle, a baseball cap and sun lotion – and make sure you’ve got outfit options that are comfy for lots of walking in the heat (billowy dresses with anti-chafe shorts were my vibe).

– The train from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport was super easy to navigate and air conditioned. A direct and easy way to get from the airport into town, tickets are €14 per person and the journey takes around 30 minutes (departing roughly every 15 minutes).

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