Rome: City Highlights

16 May

May 2016: the first time I’ve been to Italy. I have no idea why Italy had eluded me until now, but I decided to start with Rome. And boy, was it glorious.


SO many highlights, including: walking 65k in three days because there’s just something beautiful around every corner in Rome, Peroni and gelato whilst watching the world go by, stumbling across beautiful ‘street-art’ lining the walk along the River Tiber, Trastevere being just like Barcelona, a man giving me a colourful bracelet as I watched the sunset over the city, storming around the hipster part of Rome to Lemonade (but turning off the music to enjoy the street music), shadows over the coliseum, night time at the Trevi Fountain, prosecco and strawberries four floors up, ALL THE ROMAN PILLARS, smiling selfie nuns, oil and balsamic as far as the eye can see at Campo de’ Fiori (I got Sicilian orange infused oil, swoon) and weaving hurriedly through the crowds to the Sistine Chapel.

More detailed highlights below.

EAT: First up, pizza. I wanted to explore the San Lorenzo area because it’s essentially where Brixton and Shoreditch were 10 years ago. Still pretty rough (a shopkeeper there lectured me about walking around at night alone…) but with endless indie restaurants popping up frequented by students and life taking place on the streets rather than family home. Plus, I actually felt pretty safe, so s’all good.


I went to Farine la pizza and it was quiet. It’s run by a couple (husband takes order, woman cooks pizzas) with a few staff. Get inside and nothing looks that quirky or special. It’s just simple, amazing food. I went for a small focaccia (rosemary and salt) and a medium chicory, tomato and cheese pizza (oi, shush, I’d walked a LOT) with a beer. And below is what I got; beautiful base which held together perfectly and added rather than swamped the flavour of the toppings!

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The cheese OH THAT CHEESE. JUST LOOK AT IT.

Basically, this is one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. Even though I had no idea what the hell chicory was (basically a stringy plant which isn’t spicy exactly… but you can tell it’s there. It balances out the cheese wonderfully) I went for it anyway and I can’t even being to imagine how amazing the garlic pizza is! Plus, it’s so cheap – small pizzas are only about EUR3, medium are about EUR6 and large are around EUR10. They’re cooked fresh, dough and all, over a wood-fire in a proper pizza oven. And damn, you can tell.

EAT: I wanted proper, freshly-made Italian pasta. Specifically, smothered in freshly made pesto. I adore pesto. If I could marry a dressing/sauce/whatever it is, it’d be pesto. Oh pesto.


Pastaciutta is a hole-in-the-wall type of place. Not much seating, paper style plates, plastic fork. AMAZING PASTA. The above cost me about EUR4-5 and was way more than I could eat… but I still ate it all anyway. They give you a few options (pesto, carbonara, tomato and basil etc) and it’s made within minutes. There’s a reason it’s so well reviewed on Tripadvisor… but thankfully, still isn’t too busy. Although it’s not a full ‘restaurant’ experience, don’t miss it.

EAT: Rome is full of gelato. Full of really good gelato. So, I picked a place called Il Gelato Di Claudio Torce (Aventino 59), which looks completely nondescript from the outside but when you get in there… fuuuck. So many flavours!

I went for the following: lemon and pistachio, rice and cinnamon, dark chocolate orange and almond and orange. There were all kinds of fruit, chocolate and nut varieties on offer… including wine gelato, cheese gelato and celery too.

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I then went across the street, got a bottle of Peroni for EUR1.50 and ate in the sunshine, watching the world go by. Bliss.

EAT: C’mon, I had to have a burger. I picked Fonzie burger, mainly because Rome ain’t known for burgers so there were limited good choices around, but Fonzie burger was on my way to my next stop and seemed to get some of the best burger reviews.

Obvs had a Peroni (most meals came with a Peroni, not gonna lie) but burger-wise I had a well done Chilli burger: seeded white bun, kosher beef burger spiced with chilli, tomato, lettuce, guacamole, aioli sauce, barbecue sauce.

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It was good. Not amazing, but still a strong burger. The spice had a kick, the beef was lovely (although in Italy ‘well done’ comes out medium rare…) and the chips I had with the burger were crunchy, salty and exactly what you’re after. If you want a burger (or you’re a bit sick of Italian food [although how that’d be possible I’m not sure]) then Fonzie does good food, centrally. Thumbs up.

SEE: You may have heard of a bloke called Caesar. He was a bit of a douche. And someone killed him… right in the middle of Rome. You can visit the place where he was killed with the foundations of the Roman building still intact. These days, it’s a very unassuming square which is just something to steer traffic around.

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But, history aside, there’s another compelling reason to visit. IT IS NOW A CAT SANCTUARY.

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There are 3 cats in the above photos. Can you see them?
Cats + Caesar’s death site? History and felines combined? Stuff of dreams. It’s sort of like a puzzle – it takes you ages to spot a cat, but one you’ve got one you start seeing them all over the site. One curled up on a pillar, another lying in the shade of some ruins. SO CUTE.

SEE: The Sistine Chapel is well famous. And for good reason; Leonardo Di Vinci’s artwork is iconic and I’ve always wanted to see the Creation of Adam in among the rest of the beautiful painting.

However, to get to it there are a few barriers. It’s in the middle of Vatican City which, unless you book in advance, takes 1-3 hours to get into. BOOK IN ADVANCE. Seriously.

Then, once you’re in the Vatican Museum, you have to wind your way through it for about 40 minutes in order to get to the Sistine Chapel. I got into the museum at 3pm, so only had a few hours, so I headed straight to the Chapel.

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And oh. my. days. When you’re inside, at first, it’s just a bunch of people being SHUSSSHED by the guards, but then, once you’ve been herded inside and actually managed to stop, you look up. And it’s only then you actually take it what’s above you and around you – stunning artwork. I mean… the effort that has gone into the painting of the Sistine Chapel has been written about the centuries, so I don’t need to recap. But I do need to urge you to go because it’s worth it.

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However, I would strongly recommend going with a tour company who can get you in at 7am before the regular crowds are allowed in. Having people around me talking, having the guards shusshing constantly, was bearable but I would love to go back and really take in the place in silence. The Sistine Chapel is actually REALLY small (I think the grandeur of the artwork just made me think it would be huge) – it’s essentially a village hall, with a small stage and EPIC ARTWORK.

SEE: As I’ve casually mentioned, Rome is a bit of a stunner. You can buy metro tickets for 3, 7 or 10 days but there is just no need to, so long as the weather is nice, because you NEED to walk the streets and take everything in.

So, I decided to go to a place in Rome which the owner of the bed and breakfast I stayed in (Sicla Guesthouse FYI – clean, amazing location, all round brilliant and not expensive!) recommended.

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The place is called Passeggiata del Pincio and you need to go past Piazza del Popolo (basically Rome’s version of Trafalgar Square) and climb up a small hill, past a pond and up to the view point. When you’re up there, you’ll find a wall from which you can see the rooftops of Rome… and a pretty stunning sunset.


SEE: So the Trastevere area is a bit like Barcelona; winding cobbled streets, mini plazas, lined with endless eateries and bars. The locals, and tour guides, are saying that the area is changing quickly because it’s a tourist draw and you can certainly see why. It’s charming and filled with independent shops and restaurants and right next to the river. I walked there in about 45 minutes from Vatican City – all along the River Tiber.


While in the area I stopped at a quiet little plaza which had a man playing the accordion, accompanied by church bells. I had food and drink (Peroni and a gorgeous salumi sandwich) and then wandered.

While wandering I found lots of street art and a flea market! Loads of tat, treasures and trinkets being sold for cheap. It was SO busy and a lot of locals were there as well as tourists – it’s located right next to the river on a Sunday next to Porta Portese.

Make sure you eat at Da Enzo too. I don’t have any photos but trust me, it’s a dream. Run by locals with amazing food (the free bread is wicked) and a really buzzy, lovely atmosphere. It opens at 12.30 and fills up FAST.

LISTEN: I usually have an album or song which defines each of my trips. Costa Rica wil forever be tied to Kanye’s ‘Life of Pablo’ and Rome will always be tied to Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’. You can’t beat striding through the streets with limoncello running through your veins and ears.

LOVE: Basilica di Santa Maria is a tourist haven. I rocked up and saw a huge queue. Yay. The reason? ‘The Mask of Truth’.

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The reason for all the tourists is because of a legend associated with the mask since ancient times. If a liar puts their hand inside its mouth, they will lose it… apparently. However, the queue of tourists (call me a cynic but I’m positive at least one of them has lied at some point) sticking their hands in the mouth all left the Basilica unscathed, so I’m a skeptical.

So, I headed inside the Basicilica. No queue to get in and in there are things that are far more interesting in my opinion. A crypt under the church which is apparently from B.C and the skull of St. Valentine.

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Yup, that’s the fella us marketers have to thank for making lots of money in February. And they made 50 cents out of me because I lit a candle and placed it in front of the skull.

Desperate times, etc.

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