Visiting Rome in the summer, can be hot, noisy and overwhelming, but just because the Roman Emperors dealt with it doesn’t mean you have to! If you do it ‘right’ you will have an amazing time and leave with unforgettable memories of this incredible city.
1. Roaming Rome
People forget that Rome isn’t just an ancient Disneyland where you go from ride to ride, line up to get in, get a few pictures with Mickey (read: fake Gladiator) and run to the next ride, stuffing a hotdog (read: pizza slice) down your throat as you go. It is a beautiful Italian city to be enjoyed - to while away the mornings with a great Italian coffee and fresh pastry, to sit on the steps in the sunshine with gelato, to wander down cool alleys away from the tourists, and sit outside quiet trattorias and people watch as you eat pizza straight from the oven. Rome shouldn’t be like a scavenger hunt, ticking off a list of sights - that’s the mistake I see people make time and time again, wondering why they finish the day sweaty, stressed, and hangry.
2. Rome wasn’t built in a day...
...and it sure as heck won’t be seen in a day either. So give yourself some extra time. Stay a few days longer if you can, and do one or two sights a day. Give yourself a whole day to do the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. When people say ‘Oh we’re just going to do a couple of hours in the Vatican’ I visibly cringe. One does not do the Vatican in two hours, darling. It is much too beautiful and too vast to do it justice in a few hours. Plus, you’ll get museum fatigue and be rendered almost completely useless afterwards anyway. Resign your afternoon to a plate of pasta and a bottle of vino to mull over the incredible things you’ve seen.
3. Do a walking tour
Rome is vast and it really helps to do a tour to find your feet and get a feel for your surroundings which will make Rome seem more manageable. I’ve done tours with Rogue Historians who are truly great. Rome is full of what essentially looks like rubble. To turn that rubble into a soaring Emperors palace or a chariot race track you need a guide to tell you the stories and bring the city to life. When you remember that Rome is a fascinating ancient city, not just a place full of scooters, you will enjoy it WAY more.
4. Stay out after dark
Rome lit up at night time is absolutely magical. It’s quieter, cooler and calmer and in the evenings the city takes on the rosy glow of sunset and then twinkles romantically as darkness descends. Not brave enough to go it alone? You could do an evening tour, exploring the renaissance side of Rome so you can see the palaces, piazzas and fountains in all their glory.
5. Get out of the touristy areas
Trastavere is an exceptional area to see a more local side of Rome. Again, this one is best kept for evening when the trattorias spill out onto the street and, when you buy a drink, you get free aperitivo (a light snack to warm you up for dinner). Wander the tiny cobbled streets first to scope out what everyone else is eating. Avoid the places handing out stale crisps - some places you can get a platter with bruschetta, olives, cheese and prosciutto for no more than the cost of your drink.
6. Eat like a local
Italy is known for pizza, pasta and gelato but Rome is known for carbonara, the drool-inducing pasta with eggs, bacon and cheese. For a less well known, but just as delicious dish, try cacio e pepe, a simple pasta with pepper and pecorino cheese. If you’re REALLY brave, veer into the Testaccio district, an area that was previously home to the largest slaughterhouse in Europe and where restaurants still use offal in their cooking. You can get the less gruesome favourites here too but this is where you will find true local cuisine.
7. ‘This is what dreams are made of’
Everyone fantasises about going to Rome and having a ‘Lizzie McGuire’ moment, and I’m here to tell you it probably won’t happen...sorry! Popstars don’t actually hang out at the Trevi Fountain FYI, pickpockets do. If you try to perform a cartwheel at the Spanish Steps, you’ll probably kick someone in the head. And, you probably won’t sing on stage at a concert but, I mean, you never know your luck.
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