Frugal City Guide: Rome

Photographs: Christopher O’Donnell

Bella Roma. I hadn’t been back for 10 years and I missed it, studying Classics at uni means I have a certain attachment to cities of antiquity and Rome has to be the pinnacle. My husband had never been before so I knew exactly what to book as a post birthday getaway…

Dress: £55, Next. Denim jacket: £40, Next. Sunglasses: £16, Next.

Disappointingly, the weather wasn’t great for our short stay, and actually rained for 2 of our 3 days – so most of these pictures are from our final day (luckily I packed enough options, including an umbrella – see my previous packing post here). But regardless of the weather, we had a fantastic time and loved the sights, the streets, the culture and probably most of all, the food.

So we jotted down a few of our favourite things to do, see and eat.

Blazer: £68, Next. T-shirt: £6, Next. Trousers: Madewell (old). Bag: £30, Next. Watch: £125, Skagen.

WHERE TO STAY

In terms of hotels, to be honest, Rome is a bit ‘fancy’. Most hotels we looked at had columns, tons of marble with a side of gold. The best bet is to look for Pensiones or apartments, ours was roughly €90 a night through Air BnB (but our host was also on Sweet Inn). We stayed near The Vatican but in hindsight we should’ve stayed East of the river Tiber as it was a long walk to the major sights. The metro is fine but only a small network compared to other major cities – expect to walk A LOT, so the closer you can get to the places you want to visit is essential. If we could do it again, we’d probably stay near the Camp de’ Fiori area – close to major sights and tons of good restaurants.

Blazer: £68, Next. T-shirt: £6, Next. Necklace: Missoma. Trousers: Madewell (old). Bracelets: Dana Levy. Bag: £30, Next. Watch: £125, Skagen. Pom pom mules: £32, Next.

WHAT TO DO

I suppose Rome is totally subjective. There is too much to do and too little time to do it in one weekend. I’d definitely say don’t try and do everything, make a shortlist of the top 3 sights and work your way around that – and remember not all sights are near each other. Be prepared to walk.

We were far more interested in the ancient sites (but I have been to The Vatican before and it’s worth doing if you haven’t, and don’t mind queues) so prioritised these…this was our hit list:

Dress: £55, Next. Denim jacket: £40, Next. Bag: J Crew (old).

FORUM and COLOSSEUM

We queued for about 45 minutes to get tickets for both the Colosseum and the Forum (they’re sold together but last for 48 hours). The hoards at the Colosseum were a bit overbearing, even first thing, but it was still incredible to see. We decided to go back to the Forum first thing the following morning and it was incredible seeing it first thing with hardly any crowds. It was so humbling walking around amongst thousands of years of history…and even more so that we had it to ourselves.

Shirt: £22, Next. Skirt: £32, Next. Sunglasses: £70, Le Specs. Trainers: £59.99, Vans at Zalando. Bag: And Other Stories (old but buy similar here).

Shirt: £22, Next. Skirt: £32, Next. Sunglasses: £70, Le Specs. Bag: And Other Stories (old but buy similar here).

PANTHEON

This is free and my favourite building in Rome. The dome is almost incomprehensible for the era and if you go on a sunny day, the stream of light shining through is incredible.

TRASTEVERE

The cool, hip part of Rome – I’d recommending spending an afternoon roaming the beautiful streets and eating al fresco in one of the many leafy terraces with twinkling fairy lights.

Top: £40, Next. Jeans: Gap (old). Sunglasses: Mango (old). Sandals: Topshop (sold out).

BASILICA SAN CLEMENTE

I studied the ancient Roman cult of Mithraism for my dissertation so, for me, this church holds amazing interest. Not only is this church beautiful in its own right, you can also go underneath to see its excavations, the ancient frescoes and the 3rd century church underneath this one. And then go down another layer to see the remains of a Roman Mithraeum – where the mystery religion founded by the Romans was practised, and was an early rival of Christianity.

SAVELLO PARK

Again, this is free and a wonderful way to spend a few hours. Set amongst the hills in an orange grove, you get some of the most beautiful views of Rome and if the weather is good, it’s the perfect place to take a book and a picnic.

TREVI FOUNTAIN

One of Rome’s most iconic monuments – but it’s also on everyone else’s to-do list. During the day, the tour groups and the cruise ships all stop by for their iPad photos, selfie sticks and gelato shots. Try and go at dusk or first thing in the morning to really take in its beauty. Because it really is worth the hype.

CAMPO DE’ FIORI

This is an easy one to add to your list, as you can spend as little or as long as you like here. And chances are, you’ll probably pass through at some point as it is near so many sights and great restaurants. I especially loved browsing all the crockery and food stalls as live performers payed music and everyone sat outside basking in the sunshine – a real feast for the senses.

Dress: £55, Next. Sterling silver ring: £45, Pandora. Sunglasses: £16, Next.

WHERE TO EAT

I would never order a pasta dish in a restaurant, as always feel it’s something you can just knock up at home. But in Rome, we had some of the best pasta we’ve ever eaten. And so simple – Cacio e pepe is the traditional Roman dish: spaghetti, pepper and pecorini – and it’s always reasonably priced. We only visited recommended restaurants (via instagram and friends) and all of them exceeded our expectations:

Rosciolo this was one of those perfect meals for us. We couldn’t get a reservation, so turned up early instead at 7pm and got the last two seats at the bar. The staff were friendly, recommended us complimentary dishes and all the ingredients so fresh (you can see it being carved and served in front of you). The starters are big enough to share and the burrata was incredible, and the La Gricia is a dish my husband and I still talk about….

Osteria Da Fortunata recommended to us by an Italian reader (thanks Francesca!), and one of those hidden gems that was larger than life. We went for lunch on a Sunday and it was full of long tables of locals having big family meals, and there were two amazing women hand rolling the pasta at the front. Great prices, fantastic food and even better atmosphere.

 

Denim jacket: £40, Next.

Armando Al Pantheon tucked away on a side street by the Pantheon, try and reserve a table as it gets busy. Intimate, friendly and super food – this was my first taste of Cacio e Pepe and it didn’t let me down.

Dar Poeta one of the many great, relaxed establishments in Trastevere – pizzas here are delicious and €8.50. There are probably too many tables crammed into this already cramped space but that’s part of the charm.

This post was in collaboration with Next, which made this city guide possible.

27 Comments

  1. Oooh this has got me itching to go back to Rome! Armando is great, I love how wonderfully retro it feels inside. The Osteria sounds incredible too! My favourites are the Pantheon and the Forum, you can really feel the history in the walls of the buildings xxx
    Lucy @ La Lingua

  2. You’ve made Next clothes look better than I’ve seen for years. I often think they’re unnecessarily embellished but I want all of these clothes! The blazer reminds me of the jcrew one but much more affordable – need to check it out ….

  3. oh what a beautiful post!
    i have only been to rome once, and it was just so wonderful. i was lucky and found a room at a (not too expensive) hotel just around the corner from campo dei fiori. and you are right, that’s the best location because a lot of sights are in walking distance.
    also i’d like to mention that i found rome extremely pleasant as a destination when you travel alone as a woman. i felt very safe, everyone was extremely sweet and nice, especially at restaurants where i never felt uncomfortable eating on my own (with such a lot of delicious food around, there is no time for letting this feeling come up anyway ;)).
    you inspired me. i have been thinking about what destination to choose for a little trip for my 50th birthday. i think i know now… brigitte xx

    1. Oh what a lovely comment! And yes, sometimes it’s hard travelling alone (I travelled Europe on my own in 2006) and so good to know it was a pleasant experience! Definitely a celebratory destination xxx

  4. My husband and I had our first trip to Rome last June for our 20th wedding anniversary and had a perfect hotel. It was just around the corner from Campo di Fiori, called Relais Torre Argentina. The main sights were within a 10/15 walk and the Vatican was 25 minute walk.

    We’re hoping to return in February for a quick break and will book the same place! Loved Rome and had the best pizza at a place in Trastevere!

  5. Love this post, I did Classics at A-level and more recently got engaged at the Trevi Fountain (after a late dinner when it was quiet), this is a lovely reminder of that trip!

  6. Ooh, this post gives me itchy feet to hop on a plane to Italy again (I’ve never been to Rome!). We’re off to Spain for a wedding next week, but I definitely want to try to get to Italy before the end autumn, so thank you for the inspiration!

    Briony xx

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