The difficulty most people face when booking their first long weekend or midweek break to the Eternal City is how to fit all the main sightseeing attractions into their short holiday and there are plenty of guidebooks / tour guides available to assist you with achieving that goal. However, my first observation for anyone planning a trip to Rome is that you must find time to relax and take part in one of the great joys of being in this wonderful city, that of simply watching the world go by in it’s own Italian or Roman style. People watching and absorbing the atmosphere in the Piazzas and side streets of Rome cannot be adequately described but need to be experienced to truly understand their appeal.
The natural response to that maybe that you don’t want to waste a minute of your trip when there are so many places of interest to see in such a short time frame. The reality is, and the vast majority of those who have had the pleasure of travelling to the Italian capital will tell you, you will be back to visit again. This city will enchant you, the locals will welcome you and the jaw dropping sights will have you thinking about a return trip within hours of your first day unfolding. Having said that a three day trip to Rome affords you the opportunity to get a real feel for the place, see the major attractions and relax in one of the world’s most awe inspiring cities. It wouldn’t matter if you were in Rome for three weeks or three days the truth is that there are so many places to visit and sights to see that it would take many trips to allow anyone to claim they have seen all of Rome.
A relaxing day in Rome will still require some walking around and Rome’s cobbled streets demand comfortable footwear although the local women’s fashion sense doesn’t always bear that fact out. Watching Italian women elegantly navigate the cobbled streets of Rome in lofty heels and fur coats in the Spring sunshine does suggest that us mere mortals with comfy trainers or walking shoes are lacking a certain un certo non-so-che or je ne sais quoi as their Parisien counterparts may say.
Rome is not just about the Colosseum and the Vatican, the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps and the Borghese Palace it’s about the atmosphere, the simple pleasures of stopping and watching the world drift by over a glass of Prosecco or a Nastro Azzuro. Combining the two is perhaps one way of enjoying all that Rome has to offer and I’ve jotted down my idea of a lovely, relaxing day in the most stunning capital city in the world. A day free from the need to see the obvious attractions and enjoy some of the real Roman lifestyle.
The day will centre around a little walking, a lot of sitting in beautiful places and the opportunity to see Rome in a relaxed way. Over the coming weeks I’ll offer similar days in different areas of Rome.
What better way to start your day in Rome than with a coffee and a pastry? In every café in Rome you can expect to taste wonderful coffee but not every café has the type of view on offer at Cafeteria at Monumento Vittorio Emanuele II. Essentially a glass box at the top of the stairs behind this stunning monument, pictured above, where everything is surprisingly inexpensive but the views utterly priceless. This location is a photographers and tourists dream to look over a section of the Eternal City and in particular the Roman Forum and Colosseum.
The terrace at this café really does offer a great starting point of the day or alternatively a lunchtime stop when cocktails can also be enjoyed whilst overlooking this historic area. You never know it may be lunchtime by the time you decide to tear yourself away 🙂 But move on you must and…
After descending the massive steps of the Vittorio Emanuele and stopping to have photos taken of course, a short ten minute walk along Via del Corso and a couple of well signposted left turns will see you arrive in the area surrounding the Pantheon and here I would suggest a stop off in the, relatively small by Roman standards, stunning Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola. This is a beautiful church but it also hosts one of the greatest optical illusions I’ve had the pleasure to see in real life. When you enter the church and walk towards the altar your eyes will drawn to the startling, stunning artwork which adorns the vast dome above the altar. The reality is there is no dome there but rather than say more, I’ll leave you to experience the surprise for yourself, it really is amazing.
As with any of Rome’s churches it also boasts beautiful artwork and a serenity for those wishing to simply relax in a calming spot. The beauty of Rome includes many such churches and all within a stone’s throw of each other.
Also within a couple of hundred yards of St Ignazio’s is the most famous, and reputedly the best coffee bar in Rome. This place is small, busy with locals and is a ten minute caffeine or hot chocolate to die for fix on route to the Pantheon. Coffee lovers must stop at Caffe Tazza D’oro, it is just one hundred feet from the front of the Pantheon which offers a perfect spot for some more relaxing and people watching whilst gazing in awe at Rome’s most impressive ancient building (in my opinion) which seems to defy the laws of physics and gravity.
You can sit and enjoy a slice of pizza and a glass of whatever takes your fancy in a little café diagonally opposite the main doors to the Pantheon affording yourself a stunning view of an Ancient Roman monument and a perfect view across the Piazza to watch the combination of locals, tourists and street performers go about their daily business. Or you could embark on perhaps the best three course meal in Europe and at no time do you need to sit in a restaurant. This delight begins a five minute walk away in Campo Di Fiori, the home by day of Rome’s fruit and veg market and night the hotspot for young Romans and tourists alike to be seen in trendy bars & cafes.
Wander through this little market eating your meals first course, a lovely slice of fresh melon or any other delicacy that you see on offer before walking to the edge of the square and buying a slice of pizza from one of Rome’s many hole in the wall cafes before strolling a few yards to Piazza Farnese to sit alongside the fountains eating your pizza to the tune of the world going by.
Your sweet requires you to walk a few hundred yards to Romes most famous Piazza Navona, in ancient times a chariot racing track, in modern times where everyone wants to be seen. You could easily spend your entire afternoon here, eating ice cream by Berninis Four Rivers and amidst the street entertainers and artists displaying their wears. The gelato is one of Rome’s specialities but it would be wrong to visit Piazza Navona and not try the famous chocolate Tartufo from Café Tre Scalini. Again you can take away and sit in the square to enjoy the atmosphere. We, on our visits, have been known not to move again for hours apart from a stroll to one of the bars on the Piazza for a couple of light refreshments whilst watching Roman life play out in front of you.
With very little walking and physical effort you have now seen the Colosseum, Vittorio Emanuele, the Roman Forum, beautiful churches, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and all in a very relaxed and leisurely way.
The remainder of the day and the evening are your own but if you want a recommendation for where to eat, based purely on what you like in terms of atmosphere, food quality and style let me know and I’ll gladly make a recommendation within the centre of Rome. Make time for relaxing and Rome will reward you with a great performance everyday 🙂
Tumble Drift out…
Categories: Travel & Reviews