Gladiators, Popes and Pasta Carbonara


Gladiators, Popes and Pasta Carbonara

Step back in time to the home of the most influential and celebrated empire in the whole of human existence. Over the course of more than a millennium, our togaed friends conquered pretty much all of Europe, western Asia and northern Africa, building roads, arches, and walls, baths and public toilets. Indeed Ancient Rome was a busy sort of a place, unbelievably estimated to be around six times more densely populated than New York City is today. In fact, the old centre can still seemed rather rammed, as tourists clammer to experience the very same cobbled streets, sacred temples, and beautiful views enjoyed by Ceasar, Caligula, and Virgil.

Low Season here is something of a respite from the stinking hot summer.  Rome is never exactly going to be crowd-free but November to March sees the fewest visitors and shortest wait times. This period can offer a much more efficient use of your time, with some low season travellers reporting being able to double their experiences compared with summer. Daytime temperatures are generally around 10°C so not as cold as more northern climes and the period offers your best chance to experience the Italian capital at its most authentic best.


Evoke your inner Russell Crowe

The huge Colosseum once seated 50,000 Romans, baying for blood and a good day out and now attracts 7 million visitors a year. Christian martyrs, slaves and wild animals were rich pickings for slaughter and the site was even flooded on occasion for naval battles to take place. Book online for your particular time slot and while you wait for entry, take a stroll admiring the well preserved architecture of the exterior. Your ticket includes also the Forum, original city centre where markets, housing and temples once stood. You additionally access Palatine Hill, the most central of Rome’s seven mounts, and from where we get the word ‘palace’ thanks to Emperor Augustus establishing a tradition of building imperial homes there.


World’s Smallest Independent State

Designed in 1667, the Vatican has its own flag, stamps, mint and passports. It’ss the official seat of the Catholic Church and forms a kind of a country within a country. At the heart, St Peter’s Basilica is the single most important church in Christendom, and is said to be built on the very site of St Peter’s tomb. It’s free to enter so expect long queues, but the inside is absolutely stunning and the amount of art incredible. Remember to dress modestly or you’ll be turned away by the rather scary Vatican Swiss Guards. The Vatican Museums are something else again, and for these you do need a pre-booked ticket. 7km of outstanding works are here including the Pinacoteca, the Gallery of Maps, Raphael’s Rooms and the Sistine Chapel.


Local Rome

Rome can be expensive, so as well as experiencing the major sites, take time to sit and relax or wander the backstreets. Don’t miss a lunch in a local Rionale market such as Campo dei Fiori or visit the Jewish neighbourhood to sample artichokes, deep-fried just the way Jewish Mamme have been making them for centuries. Get lost in the narrow streets of the Trastevere area “beyond the Tiber”, the cobbled alleyways and lively piazzas of Rome’s Left Bank where you’ll find Dante Alighieri’s home and the mosaics of Santa Maria di Trastevere. End your day at the 18th century Spanish steps, great for people watching as residents take their evening passeggiata.

Low Season Months

Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov

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Top Experiences

Sistine Chapel

Claimed to be the ultimate achievement of human capability, the Michelangelo frescoes here are a lifetime highlight. Yes, it is going to be busy. Travelling in low season can minimise that, but accept that you won’t ever be alone with ‘The Creation of Adam’ and enjoy the stunning work.

Cycle the Appian Way

This ancient Roman road stretched 300km to Brindisi, but the section near Rome now forms part of a delightful nature and archaeological park. Rent a bike from HQ and explore the catacombs, causeways, monuments and mausoleums, especially on a Sunday when the park is closed to traffic.

Explore by Vintage Fiat 500

Travel back in time to Fellini's Italy and explore Rome in the coolest of Italian vehicles, the Cinquecento. Self-drive options are possible, or let your driver take care of the traffic while you enjoy the iconic sights. Don’t be surprised if you become the subject of tourists’ photos yourself.

Insider Tips

  • Head to ‘la bocca della verità’, the mouth of truth, a giant marble face found at the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Legend has it that if someone tells a lie and then slips their hand into the mouth, the hand will be bitten off. Don’t worry, it’s only a game, you’ll be fine, or will you...? I dare you.
  • The Pantheon is one iconic converted site. Its 2000 year old Roman façade gives way in a tardis-like manner to a super impressive huge domed interior, once dedicated to the worship of pagan gods and now a church rammed full of important Renaissance art and religious artifacts.
  • Don't miss the most panoramic spots in Rome, for great photos and greater memories. The Orange Gardens on Aventine Hill is beautiful, as is the gorgeous Villa Borghese Park. A top spot is Gianicolo Hill for views of the city as the sun sets over St Peter’s Basilica. Bring your olives and wine.

Good To Know

  • Don’t buy expensive bottles of water. All over the city you’ll see ‘Nasoni’ drinking fountains. There are thousands of them. Water is piped from an original Roman aqueduct and is tested all the time for purity and safety. Check out the ornate ones, like the She-Wolf on Aventine Hill.
  • The metro in Rome is just 3 lines, hardly growing since its 1955 opening. However, tickets are good value, and it’s pretty efficient, stopping at the major landmarks if you have had enough of walking. Just beware that pickpockets practise here so don’t take your hand off your wallet.
  • For lovers of art not crowds, visit historic Santa Maria del Popolo near the northern gate of the Aurelian Wall. It’s one of the best free things to do in Rome and houses some incredible works by the artist Caravaggio. Open during daylight hours but usually closed over lunchtime.

Food & Drink

Felice a Testaccio, Via Mastro Giorgio

Founded in 1936, this historical Testaccio institution is dedicated to excellent Roman cooking. In a comfortable space with bare-brick interior, a different menu is offered each day of the week. Specialties include homemade pasta Cacio e Pepe, Roman artichokes, and pasta amatriciana.

Ristorante Emma, Via del Monte della Farina

For a real Roman style Pizza this the place for you. Ideal for lunchtime, you will find your preferred flavour in their menu: from traditional pizza to stuffed pizzas. Try a white pizza with mortadella cheese and no sauce. Emma’s also offers a wide selection of great first and second courses.

Harry’s Bar, Via Veneto

The historic bar became a legend when it appeared in "La Dolce Vita", a 1960 film by Federico Fellini. Celebrities like Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Marlon Brando, and Audrey Hepburn would hang out here and the old time vibe is still evoked in today’s elegant décor and sophisticated atmosphere.

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