Travel - Rome {Part 1 of the Italian travelogue}

May 30, 2016

Oh, Italy. What a crazy magical week we had and it feels like forever ago already?? Sometimes I think I should blog whilst I'm away to really capture the excitement of it all as it happens. But when I'm on holiday the last thing I want to do is get a laptop out. And actually blogging after the event once I'm home and unpacked and back to reality is my favourite way to look back on the trip. Downloading all the photos, sorting through them, writing a travelogue and reliving it all finishes it all off. Let me go back to the beginning with this one, Ciao ROME! 

Italy has been on our list for a long while {we'd been to Florence for a long weekend back in 2010 but that was just a tiny fraction of it} but it was only when I read an article in the Sunday Times Travel about new high speed trains easily connecting Rome right up to Venice that we decided to plan a trip. And plan we did. We booked flights into Rome and stayed for 2 nights then booked a train {via the trenitalia website} from Rome to Tuscany {Florence had no changes so we based ourselves there}, had a couple of nights and then booked our last train from Florence to Venice for our last three nights and then booked a flight home from there.

Most of our trip was booked through Mr & Mrs Smith which I'll talk more about on So You're Getting Married. The thing I love about Smith Hotels though is having a curated list of boutique accommodation that you know you can trust. They have high standards as do I. It saves me hours of research trawling through Tripadvisor/ and the like. The Italian's don't tend to do boutique having a very ostentatious style with so many hotels looking old fashioned and grand. We wanted something simple and booked Casacau, boutiquey designer apartments in the heart of Rome with mini kitchens and everything you'd need for a couple of days. We were literally a two minute walk to the famous Trevi fountains. 

We arrived at lunchtime so dropped our bags off and went straight out ready to explore, eat a lot of pizza and see some ruins!

We quickly realised that we'd never have to go far for good food in Italy. Practically outside the doorstep we found a pizzeria selling ready made slices to go. It was just what we wanted not wanting to waste any time sitting down in a restaurant. We sat on the steps of the fountain and wolfed down the first of the pizzas. It was so fresh and light. 

We'd heard that Rome is such a walkable city so I'd bought a folding pop-out map {here from amazon} and circled the main places that we wanted to visit/good restaurants/gelato stops on it so that we'd have a rough idea where we were aiming for out there. We then used google maps, without data it still shows where you are if we got lost and needed to work out where we were on the map.

Our first stop was the Colosseum. I prebooked tickets online from the official website and printed them out which meant the only queue we had to stand in was the bag search. It saved us a lot of time especially given we only had a couple of days in the city. Just the walk down to the ancient Rome part of the city from Casacau was incredible and unlike anywhere else we'd ever visited. Everything is just so so old and you can just imagine the days of the Romans chariot racing or fighting lions in the massive stone amphitheatre.

My dress is from Boden, here.

Tickets to the Colosseum will also get you into the Roman forum opposite and Palatine Hill, again a plethora of a look into the past of Ancient Rome with crumbling pillars and old relics. We found that the Forum was actually the best place to get photos in front of the Colosseum too as you're a bit higher up so we did this before going inside.

Dress from Boden here

In hindsight we probably should have gone early in the morning to the Colosseum as it was packed full of people. And even though we only had to queue for security, it still took 15 or 20 minutes of standing in line. The airport style bag checks have only been introduced this year, since the Paris attacks last November. Speaking of which there were soldiers allll over the city with huge machine guns which scared me slightly! They'd arrested somebody the week before we flew out over plotting to attack the Colosseum and I think the whole of Europe is on edge at the moment. I hate even having to talk about it and I won't lie, terrorism does give me anxiety. But it's just the way the world is right now I guess.

Anyway, security aside. The Colosseum was incredible. We decided not to get an audiobook or a guide but we still found it fascinating. It's all been so well preserved considering it's nearly 2000 years old {!!}. That night as bedtime reading we looked up more about the history of it all.

After a couple of hours we were off in search of gelato. We walked out the back of the Colosseum along to the Circo Massimo and down to Aventine Hill. Wherever you walk it's like you're in a huge open air museum, there's just so much to see on every street.

Hot and with our feet starting to ache we found a pretty rose garden to sit in for a while. It looked over the city and to my delight there was a heart shaped opening covered in roses! Inspiration for our new garden I think! 

The roses, and most of the flowers in Italy, were at their peak and most Italians said that the end of May is the best time to visit. There were oranges and lemons hanging off the trees and scented jasmine covering walls.

We spotted our first vintage fiat 500 that first afternoon in Rome, much to my delight. They're just so classic and soo tiny! I fell in love and also loved the way that it had Roma on the numberplate. {In the days that followed we added different colours to our collection!}

Before our trip I'd researched the 'best pizza in Rome, the best gelato' etc etc and marked a few restaurants on the map. Li Rioni was a name that kept coming up and it was fairly near the Colosseum so I'd emailed ahead and booked a table. Most pizza restaurants only open from 7pm as it's the time they start their wood ovens. It was about 5pm at this stage and we were starving and tired from getting up so early with the travelling. So we decided to go to sacrifice Li Rioni and eat at a restaurant nearby that was open instead. It was still amazing, I think in Rome unless you go somewhere really touristy you'd be hard pushed to find a bad pizza!

After walking so much we were starving and ordered two big pizzas to share. The fiori di zucchini {courgette flowers} was a favourite.

As the sun began to set, we wandered back down the Via dei Fori Imperiali, one of the most impressive streets in Rome and marvelled at it all with light from the magic hour. There were guys playing live music which echoed across the street and it just felt like one of those evenings you'd remember for a long time.

{Outfit here}

We got back and practically collapsed into bed, our poor poor feet! We got opened the iPhone health app and realised we'd walked 28,000 steps! That's over 15 miles. All in sandals oops! We certainly slept well that night.

Each morning in the apartments, Casacau leave a bag full of breakfast supplies on your door for when you wake up. We had our first taste of Italian croissants and realised just how much we loved them compared to French pastries {sorry Parisians!}. They're fillled with chocolate or custard and feel so much lighter? The Italians really do know how to eat.

We had a feast in bed that morning with fruit, yogurt and the croissants before getting ready for another day of exploring.

The streets were quiet early in the morning and we were headed to Campo de' Fiori, the famous and one of the oldest markets in Rome. We passed the Pantheon which again blew us away with the history and architecture of it all. It's a Roman temple with a hole in the ceiling and one of the most preserved and influential buildings of Ancient Rome.

I loved this building covered in ivy too. And see those pillars? It's all just soo old and crumbly.

Another vintage fiat to add to our colour collection!

And then to the market, which was full of the most colourful produce as well as PEONIES!

It was all so beautiful. A feast for the eyes as well as to eat. 

From there we walked down Via di Monserrato towards the river.

We crossed the bridge and then saw a huge church at the end of an impressive street. Naively we walked along it and then realised 'OMG that's the Vatican'! It had seemed so far away on the map that we'd decided not to walk over that way but without even realising the city was smaller than we thought.

It's a city in it's own right, the Vatican City and of course home to the Pope and HQ of the Catholic world. We're not religious and whilst it was impressive we decided not to pay for a tour or a visit. It was definitely worth a look though although very crowded as you'd expect.

Instead, we slowly made our way back to our apartment choosing a different route back to see more of the city. We walked our way across the river, towards the Spanish steps and then down the famous shopping streets of Rome. Passing a few more Fiat 500's on the way.. {are you bored of these car pics yet?!}


Back at the Trevi fountain we made lunch in the apartment and got back on the wifi to look up a few more places on the map. It was the worst city we'd been in for public wifi by the way which meant we had to have a plan or addresses before we went out.

Grom was first on our list that afternoon, it's known for some of the best gelato and has branches all across Italy. It was the first of many Grom visits that week. The shop we went to was right in the heart of the Italian parliament and we laughed as serious city guys in suits went in for a post lunch gelato. You don't really see that in London. We found that week that Italians of alll ages seriously love their gelato.

We were heading towards the Trastevere region of Rome across the river and passed the Piazza Navona en route which was well worth a stop. It's a big square with gorgeous shuttered buildings and lots of buzzy cafes. 

Trastevere is known as Rome's favourite neighbourhood. I guess it's like London's Hampstead or Notting Hill in a way. A bit more authentic and villagey than the rest of the city with untouched buildings, cobbled streets and ivy covered trattorias. I'd heard that it's the place that the Romans come to eat and there were so many good restaurants to choose between. It comes alive at night so visit in late afternoon or early evening for the best atmosphere.

With full tummies, after a yummy dinner and umm yet more gelato, and achey feet for a second day of crazy walking we walked back to the apartment. Saying goodbye to the Colosseum and all the amazing streets and getting some sleep before an early train. Boy, we'd forgotten just how exhausting city breaks are. But so so rewarding! Rome we reallyyy had the best time.

Next up, Tuscany.

R <3 xx

{I was a guest of Smith Hotels for So You're Getting Married in the interest of honeymoon research. But we paid for everything else and I would never ever promote something I didn't truly love}

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  1. We went for a long weekend to Rome in April and it was lovely to read this and reminisce, thank you. It was our second trip to Rome and we hadn't visited the Vatican before, but decided to this time. I'd really recommend it next time you go as (rightly or wrongly) most of the amazingly preserved statues are in the museums there.

    1. Thank you that's a good tip. I'm sure we'll definitely go back at some point xx


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