Italy is undoubtedly my favorite country in the world. And Rome is the center of it all. Charming cobblestone streets, decandent gelato shops, endless piazzas, pasta and pizza and many of the most impressive works of art in Europe. Heaven! The eternal city is the perfect juxtaposition of history and modern life. And you'll find Italians and tourist alike savoring it around every corner. You'll be mesmerized from the moment you step foot into this city that was founded in 27 BC. I know, mind blown.
Rome is a relatively small city which makes it easy to navigate. You can cover a lot of ground in one day and the entire city is (mostly) walkable.
Recommended stay: 3-4 days
My favorite hotel is Hotel Delle Nazioni located in the heart of the city and steps from Trevi Fountain. Pros: LOCATION, clean, the front desk was very helpful and a free breakfast is included. Cons: rooms are tiny and showers are even smaller. My 6 foot 2 husband could barely close the door. But alas, location trumps all and watching him try provided free entertainment! The hotel also rents bikes for 5 euro per hour. The location is smack in the middle of all major sights. For reference, Spanish Steps is about a 10 minute walk and the Colosseum 25 minutes. Rooms are affordable, around 180 euros per night (which includes breakfast).
Another great option is the Hotel Fontana also near the Trevi Fountain and the only hotel to actually overlook it. The reception area, rooms and bathroom are all very small. However, the location and adorable rooftop lounge make up for the other tiny spots.
On the high-end is the Rome Cavalieri an unforgettable luxury hotel located on a hilltop overlooking Rome. The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to the center of the city. If you prefer to escape the rush of the city after sightseeing all day, this is the spot. The grounds are stunning with an incredible pool, spa and grand reception and bar area. The Cavalieri is pricy! Rooms range from 400-700 euros per night and can be even higher in peak months. This is a great options for couples.
With tens of thousands of restaurants to choose from, I'm going to refrain from offering specific recommendations and suggest you pick spots that speak to you as you explore. However, I'll provide some insights into our favorite piazzas and neighborhoods. From there, you're sure to find something delicious.
My preference is to eat in a bustling piazza (yes, touristy and I love it!) and there are so many to choose from! Piazza Navona is probably the most famous. Piazza della Rotonda is my favorite - the square that encircles The Pantheon. There are several restaurants to choose from and you can't go wrong with any of them. Scusate Il Ritardo has terrible Yelp reviews, but we loved our lunch here. I enjoyed the linguini and clams and my husband said their pizza was one of the best thin crusts he'd had on the trip. Piazza de Fiori is an other great option with dozen of restaurants to choose from.
Trastevere, one of my favorite neighborhoods is located on the west bank of the Tiber. It's just outside of all the main attractions and offers a more laid back vibe with endless narrow streets to explore and a bustling restaurant and nightlife scene. It's known for it's bars and is deemed the area with the best seafood in town. There are tons of dining options here. I'd recommend heading to this area of town in the late afternoon and exploring (bar hopping) until you find a dinner spot.
The Colosseum was our favorite. It's surreal to stand in a place of such carnage and history. The queue can get very long early in the day. When we arrived around 10am and the wait was already 1-2 hours. Note that portions of the queue do not have shade and the waiting can be extremely uncomfortable in the summer months. We opted for the much pricier option of a semi-private tour (12-14 people). For 35 euros each we skipped the line and were led for about 30 minutes by a local guide before being left on our own to explore. Keep in mind the 35 euros almost includes entry to The Forum next door. It's a preference thing, but I'm all about maxing our time and therefore skipping the line and getting to the good stuff was totally worth it! No need to book in advance for the tour. As you approach the Colosseum, guides will start pitching you.
Next we made our way to The Forum, what some historians refer to as "The Center of the Universe". For centuries this was the heartbeat of public life in the Roman Empire. While some may not appreciate the way the forum looks today, I assure you it is quite impressive. I highly recommend doing a little research prior to your visit to fully understand the significance of this incredible sight.
The Altare della Patria, also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II or Il Vittoriano, is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. WOW! The grandness of this building left me speechless. Some have described the design of the building as a giant wedding cake. For 5 euro you can take an elevator to the top observation deck which offers great aerial view of the Forum and Colosseum. The mid-deck (where you board the elevator) offers a bar/restaurant with outside terrace, that's me just outside the restaurant (I spy the Colosseum!).
The Vatican is another obvious choice. Read all about it here. It's as incredible as people say it is. Tip for ladies: you must have your shoulders covered and a reasonable length to your shorts/skirts/dresses. They will not allow entrance into the Sistine Chapel or St. Peter's without it. So pack a sweater or pashima and/or wear pants during your visit. I broke both rules on my visit wearing shorts and a sleeveless top. Thank goodness Craig had a pullover in his backpack, see my trendy outfit below, Pope Francis approved!