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Weekend in Rome: an insider's guide to the best things to do

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Alessia Armenise
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Stylist.co.uk’s Alessia Armenise, an Italian who’s called the UK home for two years, guides you through history, gelatos and vespa rides…

One of the most visited places in the world, Rome doesn’t really need an introduction. The eternal city, as we Italians like to call it, carries a kind of magic that is difficult to find anywhere else. Even after many years as an Italian abroad – first in Paris and now in London – Rome is still my favourite place to go back and soak up all the amazing things that my country has to offer (food being first, of course).

 If a weekend in Paris is the perfect choice for a romantic getaway and Lisbon is the place to go with your best friends – Rome and its beauty will welcome you alone or with company.

If you choose August or September for your Roman holidays (pun intended), prepare yourself for boiling hot temperatures – perfect for surviving solely on creamy Italian gelato. Although, if the Mediterranean summer doesn’t scare you, you will be lucky to enjoy an almost empty city: the Italians escape the town for the seaside in the summer so the capital is left to the adoring eyes of the tourists.

If you have already booked your dreamy holiday in Turkey or Greece for the summer, then no problem: the autumn is probably the best season to explore Rome. The temperatures drop just enough to be pleasant, the locals are back and the many parks that surround the city are tinted of incredible shades of yellow, green and orange. Watching the sun sink in the Tevere, in the warm autumn light, is an experience you need to add to your bucket list. 

Best places to stay in Rome

The best hotels to feel like a princess in Rome

Rome Cavalieri

Entering the Rome Cavalieri is like being welcomed in an ancient aristocratic palace, full of art and amazing spaces that will make your eyes blink with incredulity. This lavish resort – situated on Monte Mario, one of Rome’s famous hills – is like something out of a fairytale. Three outdoor and one indoor pools, an incredible white marble Spa and plenty of space to relax and live your best dolce vita, while sipping on delicious homemade granitas. If you are lucky enough to make it to the top floor, here is the icing on the cake: a jaw-dropping view of the city from the heights of the hill. A spectacle that really has no price.

Book here: Rome Cavalieri

Palazzo Manfredi

This 17th-century palace couldn’t have a better location. A small gem composed of fourteen contemporary designed rooms (and four new suites) located seconds from the Colosseum, the Imperial Forum and the Domus Aurea. If you can’t stay the night, treat yourself to a dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant Aroma, strategically positioned on the rooftop. A spectacular 360-degree view of the Colosseum, impossible to get anywhere else.

Book here: Palazzo Manfredi 

Baglioni Hotel Regina

Located in the very fashionable Via Veneto, Baglioni Hotel Regina is the epitome of luxury. Formerly home to Queen Margherita of Savoy, all rooms and suites are decorated in a lavish art deco style complete of antique furniture, sumptuous silk tapestries and splendid marble floors. Time to channel your inner queen?

Book here: Baglioni Hotel Regina

Hotel Eden

Reopened last year after a big renovation, the Hotel Eden now has a Michelin star under its belt. La Terrazza – led by executive chef Fabio Ciervo – serves gastronomical mediterranean food in a perfect location: the rooftop terrace overlooking an enchanting view of the city. If you are feeling extra fancy, the ‘Aurora Terrace Suite’ has (as the name suggests) a private terrace and, most importantly, was once the actress Ingrid Bergman’s residence. When you say ‘a glorious past’…

Book here: Hotel Eden

The Nobildonne Relais

Talking about girl power, what’s best that a luxurious palace inspired by four incredible women from the past? Each suite at Nobildonne – which means noblewomen in Italian – is dedicated to a famous Italian aristocrat: Paolina Borghese (the sister of a certain Napoleon), Donna Olimpia Pamphili (a princess), Beatrice Cenci (noblewoman who killed her violent father and consequently became a popular heroin) and the famous Lucrezia Borgia (duchess, governor and all-around badass). Between frescoes and mosaics, this stunning original patrician residence is a full immersion in Italian most splendid art.

Book here: The Nobildonne Relais

Best things to do in Rome

Living la Dolce Vita

Enjoy a real Italian aperitivo

Forget the beer, the greasy peanuts and the sticky floor: the Italians will show you how to do ‘afterwork drinks’. Freni e Frizioni is without a doubt the best place to get your initiation in the art of aperitivo. Located in Trastevere – one of the most charming neighbourhood in Rome – this bar draws to itself the coolest kids in town. Get one of their delicious cocktails – let the bartenders have fun with it, they know what they are doing – and enjoy the mouth-watering buffet that comes included in the price. Cancel your dinner plans, you won’t need it.

Discover here: Freni e Frizioni

Try the best ice cream in town

You can’t go to Rome and not plan a pit stop to Giolitti. If queuing for food is not your cup of tea, we understand, but Giolitti is famous for a reason. This family-run Gelateria creates the best ice-cream in Rome since 1960 and the taste is definitely worth the wait. Not a fan of ice-cream? Giolitti is also a cafe. Between traditional pastries and delicious granitas, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Discover here: Giolitti

Embrace your inner cliche with a Vespa tour

Don’t fight your inner Audrey Hepburn and live your very own Roman Holidays dream. Exploring Rome by foot is great but doing it on a Vespa is just way more fun! Jump on and get ready to explore every corner of this ancient city, from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. Plus, imagine what a great Instagram story that could make.

Discover here: Rome by Vintage Vespa: Classic Rome Tour

Discover the Roman upside down

Like most historical cities, there is much more to Rome that what you see on the surface. Get ready to discover the capital’s dark side and be terrified by the subterranean labyrinths that lie under the visible splendour. An evening tour of the Catacombs – complete by macabre stories – for a crowd-free experience that promises to chill your bones!

Discover here: Exclusive Catacombs After Closing and Bone Chapel Tour

Be a VIP at the Vatican

If you have been to Rome before, you will know that trying to get into the Vatican is quite the mission. With an average of 25,000 people a day visiting the site, if you join the queue too late you risk spending the whole day under the Roman sun. Imagine entering this incredible building with the key-keeper, in a group of only 20 people to absorb all the beauty that is hidden inside the grandiose edifice. What’s more luxurious than a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel?

Discover here: Waking up the Vatican

Best places to eat in Rome

The best food that the Italian capital has to offer

Taverna Trilussa

A rustic restaurant in the heart of Trastevere, dining at Taverna Trilussa might mean sitting next to some famous Italian actors, as well as excited American tourists. Don’t let the crowd put you off though, their traditional fried antipasti (starters) will quickly warm you up and the pan of delicious cacio e pepe will make you forget everything else around you.

Book here: Taverna Trilussa

Santo Trastevere

If you want typical food but fancy a more sophisticated location than a regular Italian trattoria, Santo Trastevere is the place for you. Located in a small, quiet street in Trastevere, this cocktail bar turned restaurant gives a cool and modern touch to the most classic Italian dishes. A hidden gem that deserves to be discovered.

Book here: Santo Trastevere 

Hostaria Romana

This small cosy restaurant is for you if you are seeking a real traditional Roman dinner without frills. The restaurant is located in between the Spanish Steps and the Trevi’s Fountain but is far from being a tourist trap – the quality of the ingredients and the friendly service will make you feel like a local on a night out. No fuss, just genuine good food.

Book here: Hostaria Romana

Osteria Fratelli Mori

A family-run restaurant, Fratelli Mori is guided by the savvy hands of mamma Giuliana that could really teach us a thing or two about homemade pasta and delicious cakes. If a modern twist to the traditional Roman dishes is their forte, it will be almost impossible to not succumb to the pizza aroma coming from the burning wood oven. Definitely worth a visit.

Book here: Osteria Fratelli Mori

Antica Pesa

A more pricey choice for a special night in the Italian capital, Antica Pesa is a little taste of food heaven in the busy city. A beautiful decor enriched by the charming garden, perfect to enjoy a relaxing evening, dining under the stars. The restaurant was included in the Michelin guide 2018 so better book to avoid the unpleasant surprise of being denied a mouth-watering meal.

Book here: Antica Pesa

Best things to see in Rome

The most beautiful landmarks to visit at least once in your life

Trastevere

Located on the riverside, Trastevere is the coolest neighbourhood in Rome. Walking through the charming little streets, that historical must-see will excite all your senses. The beauty of the architecture accompanied by a familiar atmosphere, the smell of pizza, amatriciana and cacio e pepe and the warming sound of people chatting and having fun… Italian lifestyle at its best. 

Colosseum

The symbol of the city for a reason, the Colosseum is a monumental ode to Rome’s glorious past. Stunning during the day, this landmark is at its full potential at dusk, when the sun sinks in it and shines through the open ‘windows’. Suggestive is not enough when we are faced with such greatness. 

Villa Borghese

As far as capital metropoles go, Rome is an incredibly green city. If an adventure to the outskirts is out of the question, the most fascinating (and the 3rd biggest) of Rome’s green spaces is Villa Borghese. Located next to the Colosseum, is home to the homonym museum, Galleria Borghese and probably the most visited garden in town. To explore its 80 hectares of splendour, the best way is to grab a bike or a tuk-tuk at the entrance or, if you feel sporty, you can join the numerous joggers that populate the hilly park. 

Pantheon

Sometimes overlooked for the biggest and most famous attractions, the Pantheon is free, easy to get to and definitely worth a visit. First built as a pagan temple and then transformed into a church, the construction features a picturesque hole in the centre of the roof that lets the light in creating a magical atmosphere inside. If you are wondering about the rain, 22 holes in the floor drain the water – an architectural masterpiece.

Trevi’s Fountain

A must-see for any film junky – it’s the fountain where Anita Ekberg baths in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita – a weekend in Rome is not complete without a visit at the Trevi’s Fountain. This unmissable landmark is always crowded so, if you really want a perfect shot for your Instagram feed, you better get there early or your selfie will look more like a school trip souvenir. 

Pictures: Provided/Unsplash/Getty/Alessia Armenise