Whether it is pasta, pizza or pizzaz Rome has it in absolute abundance. The ‘eternal city’ also has magnificent buildings like the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the famous, romantic Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, boundless basilicas and our favourite monument dedicated to Victor Emmanuel at Piazza Venezia. Rome in summer is hot and there is a vast number of tourists. Planning to visit the city out of peak tourist times is a very good idea.
By far the best way to see Rome is to take a city tour on either the the red, green, blue or pink bus lines. We chose City Roma (http://www.roma.city-sightseeing.it/eng/index-mobile.html) the blue bus line but they are all much the same and follow a similar route around the city sights. We bought the 48 hours ticket which helped us see Rome over a couple of days and it was good to repeat the city tour at night as the buildings are lit beautifully. To see the Vatican it is best to go an organised tour which will save huge amounts of time lining up at the entrance. If going solo, go early. We have always found Viator (http://www.viator.com/Rome/d511-ttd?pref=02) a great tour company to work with.
We based ourselves in close proximity to Roma Termini, Rome’s main train station. It is very central and there are good bus and metro connections to all parts of the city. We stayed at Hotel Dorica (http://www.hoteldorica.com/en/default.html), a three star family run hotel that was very friendly, welcoming and reasonably priced. The rooms were modest but spacious, clean, comfortable and quiet. The hotel tariff includes a lovely continental breakfast and all the staff give their time generously to provide exceptional service. We can highly recommend this hotel.
Of course there are thousands of restaurants in Rome. We have found a good ‘rule of thumb’ for eating out is to find a small restaurant away from the main piazzas/squares or popular monuments. Go a few streets back from the main areas to find locals eating rather than tourists.
One restaurant which we found to have excellent home cooked Italian food, outstanding service at a very reasonable price was La Forchetta D’Oro (http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Restaurant_Review-g187791-d2057218-Reviews-La_Forchetta_d_Oro-Rome_Lazio.html) in via San Martino Ai Monti 40. It is behind Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in a small side street close to Hangar Bar. (See note below)
Another near Hotel Dorica is Trattoria Antica Boheme (http://www.anticaboheme.it/Contacts.aspx#_=_). We visited this restaurant in a large group and had good traditional Roman food, pasta cascio e pepe, saltimboca, veal masala, Frito Mitso and home made minestrone. A favourite was the baked rabbit as the Romans cook it (a little dry) all of course washed down with some good Italian wine. Service was fast and efficient and excellent value for money. If you want to have a decent meal in (touristic) Rome, for an honest price, this is a great choice.
If staying in Rome for a while you may want a change of pace from pizza and pasta. For instance, Rome has some excellent Chinese restaurants found around Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore on Via Cavour.
The good news is you don’t need a Uno card like you did when we visited ten years ago. It seems the gay scene in Rome has finally grown up a little and joined the rest of Europe.
Hangar Bar (Via In Selci 69) is the oldest gay bar in Rome and attracts both locals and international visitors. The bar is a littler dark and gritty, but fun and friendly and the owner and staff speak English. There is a back bar for smokers and a small dark room. Open Wednesday to Saturday from 10:00pm to late. My Bar and Coming Out are close to the Colosseum and these bars cater for a younger crowd. My Bar is more of a coffee shop with accommodation on the first floor.
There is also a range of private parties like Bear Monday@L’Alibi (http://www.bearmonday.com) and Amigdala, a queer culture party (http://www.amigdala.biz). Check out http://www.travelgayeurope.com/rome-gay-clubs-dance-parties/ for up-to-date information on the latest parties.
There are a number of very good gay saunas in Rome. Sauna Mediterraneo is right in the heart of the city. Catering for mature men and bears, entry fee is around 14€. EMC attracts a younger crowd and is another large sauna about a 15 minutes walk from Roma Termini. Most saunas in Rome seem to liven up early at around 5pm and by 9pm things become quieter.
See http://www.patroc.com/rome/saunas.html for latest updates on saunas.
Our Top 10 Places To Visit
- The Colosseum can only take 3000 tourists a day so in order not to miss out if time is tight book online (http://www.coopculture.it/en/colosseo-e-shop.cfm). Take a walk right around the outside of the Colosseum before taking the tour inside. You can purchase tickets on the day and buy the one which includes entry into the Forum.
- The Roman Forum situated between the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.
- The Roman Pantheon is the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome. It was a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome but is now a christian church. As the brick stamps on the side of the building reveal, it was built and dedicated between A.D 118 and 125.
- La Trevi Fountain is the world’s most famous fountain composed of some of the most remarkable statues to be seen in the city.
- The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the largest church in Rome and well worth a look.
- Piazza Navona is a piazza built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in 1st century AD, and follows the form of the open space of the stadium. There are some great restaurants in the streets off to the side of the piazza itself.
- Monument Victor Emmanuel ll is an outstanding white marble building built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of Italy. Famous leaders of 20th century Europe, including Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, have made proclamations on the steps of the monument.
- Villa Borghese gardens (http://youtu.be/YT-08urKaw) is the third largest public park in Rome with huge landscaped gardens in the naturalistic English manner. The park’s main feature is the museum and the Borghese gallery which has masterpieces in every room. You need to reserve tickets well in advance of your visit (http://www.galleriaborghese.it/borghese/en/evilla.htm).
- The Spanish Steps climb the steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. It is a very romantic spot at night.
- Vatican City, a city-state surrounded by Rome, is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s home to the pope and a treasure trove of iconic art and architecture. The Vatican Museums house ancient Roman sculptures such as the Laocoön and Renaissance frescoes in the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling.
Around the corner from our hotel was a cosy and inconspicuous little bar (Bar Viminale Di Pepe Marilio) with some tables on the street. Before dinner each night of our stay in Rome we would rendez-vous with our friends at this place for a predinner cocktail. One night a stunning young lady was waiting on our table and we asked the owner who she was as we had not seen her working in the bar on previous visits. He told us it was his daughter and she was currently preparing to become a full time opera singer. With that he spoke to her in Italian, the music began and the beautiful young woman launched into an impromptu performance of a well known aria for all the guests in the bar and the people passing by. And what an amazing soprano voice she had. Although she was only eighteen she had developed a strong, rich tone and a clarity which had been honed by years of study and practice. Her father beamed with pride as the crowd applauded this amazing, off the cuff performance. She was a natural. Maybe this was an experience one could only expect in such a cultured, passionate city such as this.
Rome is truly a magnificent city, with extraordinary and celebrated buildings, monuments and works of art, friendly people and, if you know where to find it, great food at reasonable prices. If it isn’t already, this iconic and historic capital needs to be near the top of your ‘must do’ list.