72 Hours in Rome

[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]o see all of Rome in three days may seem like a daunting task, but, rest assured, it is an easy and conquerable one… if you choose the right hotel or bed and breakfast. Rome is an incredibly walkable city, and I encourage all who visit to tour Rome on foot. One will, however, find this troublesome if their lodgings are farther north than Piazza del Popolo, farther south than Circo Massimo, farther east than the Colosseum or farther west than Vatican City. If you stay in this (big) bubble, you should have no problem following the itinerary laid out below.

But first, some restaurant etiquette to know before arriving: “il conto” is the bill and will only be brought after you request it, water costs money, vino della casa (house wine) is cheap and good, pizza is often eaten with a fork and knife, and it is unnecessary to tip servers. Each region of Italy has signature dishes that either cannot be found elsewhere, or are best in their native city. Rome is best known for fried artichokes, cacio e pepe, amatriciana, carbonara and arrabiata. Last, it is customary for Italians to finish the meal with coffee, but it is counter-culture to finish a meal with a coffee drink made with milk (think cappuccino, latte, or macchiato). Italians believe these drinks are for breakfast and breakfast alone. These tips will not make or break your weekend in Rome, but they will set you apart from the average tourist and make you appear more appreciative for Italian culture.

 

Friday

9:00 am – Begin the day at a local café for an espresso and croissant. In Italy, customers pay the cashier first, then place their order at the bar. Tables typically cost money, but bar seats are a free and fun experience.

9:30 am – Spend the morning exploring the Vatican museums (8€ for students with IDs, 16€ for others) and the Sistine Chapel. Join the line into St. Peter’s Basilica and discover the massive cathedral. Visitors may pay 7€ to climb to “la cupola” or the dome atop the basilica for an incredible view of Rome.

1:00 pm – Stroll into the historic Trastevere neighborhood for a quiet lunch at Dar Poeta, a Roman-style pizzeria, or pick up a quick lunch at La Boccaccia, a ready-made focaccia pizzeria.

2:00 pm – Cross the Ponte Sisto bridge on the Tiber River for easy access to the picturesque piazzas of Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona. From there, it’s a short walk to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain.

4:00 pm – Stop at Il Gelato di San Crispino near the Trevi Fountain for artisanal gelato that is out of this world. The unique flavors and velvety texture are worth every euro. Then, return to your hotel to rest your feet before dinner.

6:30 pm – Start your night off with Italy’s version of happy hour: aperitivo. Many restaurants will offer a cocktail or glass of wine alongside antipasti (appetizers) for 6€-9€. The restaurants will have a sign out front if they offer aperitivo.

7:30 pm – Dinner at restaurant of your choosing. It’s difficult to find a bad restaurant in Rome, but it happens, and it happens most often within busy piazzas. When choosing a restaurant, stay out of city centers and opt for restaurants on adjoining side streets instead. The food will be cheaper and higher quality. Also, take your time with dinner – there’s no rush. Food is a social experience in Italy and should be treated as such.

10:30 pm – Call it a night or hit the bars in Campo de’ Fiori or Trastevere… just don’t overdo it and risk of ruining your sightseeing plans on Saturday. In the summertime, bars set up shop along the Tiber River for an outdoor drinking experience not to be missed.

 

Saturday

9:00 am – Once again, do as the Italians do and start your morning with a cappuccino and a pastry at a local café.

9:30 am – Head to the Roman Forum and pay for a ticket there. This ticket will grant you access to the Forum, the Colosseum, and Palatine Hill. It’s a good deal because it’s valid for 24 hours and you will skip a major line trying to buy a ticket at the Colosseum. Both are incredible sights and definitely worth the crowds. You can wander on your own or join a tour if you’d like a more educational experience.

12:30 pm – Whether you’re religious or not, a trip to the Basilica di San Clemente is a must. The church is beautiful, but what sets it apart from the hundreds of churches in Europe is the fact it was built on top of the original basilica, which was itself built on top of 2,000-year-old houses where the original members of the church first gathered. Visitors can walk through all three levels of ancient history, where water still flows through the walls and original artifacts and frescoes remain.

1:30 pm – Take a short walk across the river for lunch at Da Enzo 29 in Trastevere. The restaurant is excellent, but teeny, so lunchtime is your best option if you want to be seated quickly. My only regret from studying abroad is that I didn’t find this restaurant sooner.

2:30 pm – After filling up with carbs from lunch, take a stroll up Gianicolo Hill in Trastevere. There is a picturesque fountain on the way up and an incredible view of Rome from the top.

4:00 pm – Naturally, its time for late afternoon gelato. Try Old Bridge in Trastevere for a cheap treat with rotating flavor options. Head back to your hotel to rest your legs before dinner.

6:30 pm – Start your night with aperitivo again, or go straight for dinner – your choice. Rome is all about going with the flow. Some good options are Taverna Trilussa and Hosteria Grappolo d’Oro, but try your hand at finding one yourself!

10:00 pm – If you find yourself in Trastevere after dinner and are in the mood for something chocolatey, head over to Cioccolata e Vino for a chocolate liqueur shot in a shot glass made of chocolate. End your night there or stroll through the Roman streets. The Trevi Fountain and Colosseum are beautiful at night.
Sunday

9:00 am – You know the drill: coffee and pastries for breakfast at a local café.

9:30 am – Window shop your way down Via del Corso to see the Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna. Next, visit Piazza del Popolo and Villa Borghese.

12:30-6:00 pm – For your last day in Rome, feel free to adlib the remainder of your stay. These are a few great options:

  • Apart from the large stores on Via del Corso, there are many small, specialty stores near the Pantheon for buying souvenirs or gifts.
  • If you enjoyed the Basilica di San Clemente, there is another great church near the Pantheon called the Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and another near Piazza Venezia called Chiesa del Gesù. Neither were built upon ancient basilicas, but are beautiful and interesting in their own right.
  • Feeling historic? Tour Castel Sant’Angelo near Vatican City, a castle that was once a fortress for popes. Or, on the other end of Rome, see La Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) to test your truthiness.

6:30 pm – For your last dinner in Rome, I recommend Hostaria Dino e Toni near Vatican City. It may not look like much from the outside, but the owners, Dino and Toni, are the best hosts around. There is no menu (don’t be alarmed, the prices are all reasonable), but one of the hosts will arrive at your table and ask if you would like vino and antipasto – say yes. Your table will be filled with house wine and every type of antipasti imaginable. Next he’ll ask if you’d like primo (pasta) – say yes. Whichever pasta Dino and Toni want to give you will be the type of pasta you get. Then they’ll ask if you’d like secondo (meat) – your choice, but if you’re saving room for dessert, opt out. Last, your host will ask if you would like dolce (dessert) – say yes. A variety of desserts will magically appear before you along with a few dessert drinks. After your feast, your host will arrive at your table with a calculator and add up the cost right before you. You may feel out of control all dinner long, but it’s an experience you’ll never forget with food you’ll dream of for months, the most kind hosts in town, and an incredibly authentic way to end your stay in Roma, the Eternal City.

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