When in Rome…

Rome is a place I have always wanted to visit! Italian food, to me, has to be the best on the entire planet – am I right?! Although it’s not just the food itself that I love, It’s also the whole culture associated with it; the relationship Italians have with food and what it means to them. After visiting Venice this time last year and getting a taste for it I just knew Rome was where we had to go for our mini-moon. It was romantic, full of history and culture and most of all carried an abundance of cheese and carbs (which I had been starving myself of for the wedding.)

So let me set the scene, it’s the morning after the wedding. I’m feeling pretty fresh (still on a high from the day before.) We get all our stuff together and head home to open our gifts – mainly because people had got us euros for our trip, not because we’re Monica Gellar in that episode of Friends. (Was that at all convincing?!) We then packed the car back up with our holiday gear and started our journey…. first stop Gatwick.

It is in the car that I start to feel peaky and begin to relive the amount of shots I had done the previous night. Safe to say that kept me quiet!

As soon as we got to the airport and checked in we headed to find food. I was SO hungry and it was not helping my hangover in the slightest. After much (painful) deliberation we settled on Wondertree. Jon ordered a burger and a beer. I ordered mac and cheese balls with fries and an apple cider cocktail – sorted me right out!

The flight went by pretty quickly – I devoured more food on the plane (a tomato, basil and mozerella foccatcia), read some of my new book (After You) and had an unsuccessful nap.

We arrived in Rome pretty late (around 8.30pm) and IT WAS HOT!!!! Faced with a sea of cabs, we kind of just stared at them until someone approached us. He gave us a quote (60 Euros) and we hopped in. (I will point out now that we could have done this trip a lot cheaper by using the trains etc BUT it was our mini-moon so we indulged – when in Rome!)

Our first views of Rome were covered by a blanket of darkness, but this didn’t stop me eagerly staring out of the window. Our driver was quiet at first but once he started talking he was actually a really nice guy! He pointed out different landmarks and gave us some real local knowledge. He was also happy to hear of our recent matrimony (Italians love marriage!) and proceeded to inform us that the older you get, the better it gets. You understand it more, you love harder! So I guess we have that to look forward to. We also got to see some prostitutes scouting for work so yeah… take from that what you will.

We arrived at our hotel (Relais de l’Opera) around 9.30ish?! I didn’t actually check the time so this is a total guess. We got a little tour from the guy on reception (who had kindly stayed late to accommodate us) and took some time to sit down and figure out a plan of action.

The hotel, we found out, was within walking distance of all the major sights – winning! Our room was reasonably sized and SO COMFY. We also had a complimentary mini fridge which was restocked every day (unfortunately not with alcohol.)

Given what had proceeded us in the last 24 or even 48 hours we were understandably shattered so going out out was off the cards. Instead we took a little wander to a local corner shop, bought 3 bottles of wine and a tube of pringles – that was us sorted for the evening.

Jon had kindly been gifted a lonely planet guide to Rome from the people he works with and we used this ALOT during our trip. I actually don’t know what we would have done without it and I highly recommend getting one if you travel. We also got a map from the hotel which was easier to use than the fold out one in the book.

Day 1

We set a reasonably early alarm to start off our first day. I’d been advised by so many people that if you do a city break, it’s best to get up early, beating the crowds to all the sights. This didn’t go quite to plan but at least we tried.

As breakfast was included at the hotel, we decided to eat there. I wasn’t overly impressed to be honest, it was a basic continental breakfast – meats, cheese, bread, cereal, cakes and croissants. The bacon was good though! And the guy working in the breakfast room was super friendly, striking up a football based convo with Jon – much to his delight.

So first sight seeing stop – The Colosseum.

After walking in the wrong direction for a while and finally correcting ourselves, we made it to the Colosseum. If you walk down the right roads you literally cannot miss it. It was huge and so impressive. You could almost feel the history associated with it (if you blocked out the sounds of people trying to sell you selfie sticks – as if I travel without one, come on!) Jon is also a massive fan of the Spartacus/Gladiator era so he was in his element.

Sooooooo we didn’t beat the crowds and the queues were massive. There was no way around it, we admitted defeat and joined the back of the line. After about 5 minutes a guy approached us saying that it would take at least 2 hours to even get into the colosseum if we carried on queuing, but if we went with him although it would cost a little extra, we could join a tour that left soon and would take no more than 10 minutes to get in. This obviously sounded too good to be true and usually I would be super sceptical BUT we had enough money so took our chances.

Luckily it worked! We paid around 60 euros and joined a tour that pretty much got us straight in. We had a guide who told us interesting facts about the Colosseum itself as well as the history at that time. I’m glad we did it this way, you really got a sense of what it may have been like and learned things you wouldn’t have known had you gone in on your own.

We decided that if we go back (fingers crossed!) we will definitely book in advance to get a tour of the dungeons.

The tickets we got from these people also included a guided tour of the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum, however, we decided to do this alone. Obviously doing it this way meant that we didn’t really know what we were looking at but it was still enjoyable. I wasn’t all that sold on the Palantine Hill (although I did enjoy the chickens we stumbled upon.) On the other hand, I really liked the Roman Forum, it had a lot more structure and was therefore more appealing to the eye.

Before coming to Rome I had heard of a cat sanctuary and thought that this was in the Roman Forum – we were disappointed to find that it was not!

The weather was growing hotter and there’s only so much you can look at ruins so we took this as our cue to leave (walking about a mile out of our way to try and find the exit.)

It was definitely time for lunch, so as recommended in the lonely planet guide, we set off in search of Circus – a roof top bar on top of the FourtySeven hotel near the river Tiber. The guide noted their speciality dish was the spaghetti in garlic and oil, so that is what we ordered, as well as a starter of parma ham and mozerella (the biggest ball I have ever seen) and a bottle of gavi d gavi – perfection!

I thoroughly enjoyed the food and devoured it before I could even snap a picture. It was so nice to take some time to relax, soak up the views and just enjoy each others company. The bar was small and relatively quiet which made it a great pit stop.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and drink more wine – when in Rome!

That night we decided to find the Trevi Fountain. We were a lot more successful in our directions this time and found it without much hindrance. I feel like this may have been helped by the fact that I’d got some gelato for the journey – I mean how can anything go wrong when your filling your face with such deliciousness!? (oreo and caramel in case you were wondering.)

The fountain was absolutely packed!!!!! But the atmosphere was buzzing! I was informed that it had recently been closed for refurbishments so maybe this had something to do with it – or more likely, it’s always this way. Catching a quick glimpse of the fountain in all it’s glory we agreed to find food, arranging to come back a bit later on when it was dark.

We found a small authentic Italian restaurant in a cobbled side street called “La Locanda Del TemPio” – seated outside we ordered the same starter as we’d had earlier in the day. I then went for the lasagna with fries (to which the waiter asked if I was from England) and Jon ordered a steak.

I promise I am not lying when I say this was probably the best meal I have ever eaten in my whole life! I nearly cried into my food it was so delicious. All my hopes and dreams for Rome had been pilled into one huge plate of lasagne all washed down with a glass of something fizzy. I also have to note here that the lasagne was almost exactly the same as the ones served at Tarentino’s in Brentwood, which happens to be my favourite restaurant and says a lot about their authenticity.

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The waiter had been right in his assumption that I was English and probably laughed to himself that he had sold me some fries I definitely would not be needing – I’m not a girl who likes to leave food but my god was I full.

Back to the Fountain we went, with happy tummies in tow. We fought our way to the front and did the obligatory coin toss (complete with boomerang evidence of course).

The Trevi fountain was probably one of my favourite sights, that and the coloseum. It was just so beautiful and grand and anyone who follows me on insta will know I love a bit of water, it just photographs so well and had it been quieter I would have had a field day on the photo front. If we ever go back to Rome I want to get up really early one day and revisit the fountain when it’ll hopefully be quieter.

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Back to the hotel for more wine and a blissfull sleep. (Seriously I hadn’t slept for about a week before the wedding so this coupled with the mega comfy beds, the wine and the carbs – I slept like a baby!)

Day 2

So this day we decided to go find the cats! Yes we left our little moggy at home, travelled to Italy and decided to search for more furry friends, but come on! Cats … in Roman ruins! What’s not to love?!

Torre Argentina cat sanctuary, as it’s officially named, was pretty easy to find. However, we had some time to kill before it actually opened and decided to walk around for a bit. This saw us stumble upon a cute market (gutted I didn’t buy any pasta to bring home) and take a pit stop at a small bar. As we had just had breakfast at the hotel, Jon decided to get some fruit…………..I got a pizza! – When in Rome 🙂
Another impressive and delicious meal from the Italians! So simple yet so bloody good!
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Then it was opening time so back to the sanctuary we went. Ok… I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was a little depressing! The lovely lady from the sanctuary showed us around and told us how their main aim is to neuter as many of the strays as possible to stop the problem. It looks as though it’s pretty successful but they obviously rely heavily on funding and volunteers (Jon announced that if we lived in Rome he would work there lol.) We were then shown to the less abled cats who weren’t allowed outside due to the different conditions they all possessed. My favourite was Ray Charles – a black blind cat. At least they have a sense of humour eh! You can adopt any of the cats from afar or actually have them shipped to your home!
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Our next known stop was a hotel bar the lonely planet guide suggested but obviously we would fit in some sights along the way. The first of which being the pantheon. The contrast of this building was truly phenomenal – the outside is weathered and old leaving much to the imagination and nothing very grand except the sheer size of it. The inside however was a totally different story. Beautiful artwork, architecture and statues. There is a hole in the top of the building which lets in the light – the lonely planet guide suggested getting there around midday as this was when it was most prominent and luckily enough this is when we arrived.
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A short walk from here was the Spanish steps. I wasn’t greatly impressed by these to be honest – I much preffered the Altare della Patria which was close to our hotel and also had a lot of steps. (Although our cab driver had told us the Romans hate this building due to it’s annoying placement.)
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We then walked down a road paved with designer outlets until we reached our destination – the Stravinskij Bar, described in the lonely planet guide as a “celebrity hotel”. Unfortunately we spotted no celebs but the courtyard we sat in was so picturesque and we had the most fun here! Flashing the cash as 22 euros a cocktail I tired a Stravinskij spritz and a couple of rum based cocktails which were SO GOOD! Really tangy and fresh. Jon opted for whiskey based cocktails and we were showered with all the nibbles! Glazed almonds, crisps and olives. After a couple of cocktails we thought it was probably a good idea to eat some real food and so we ordered lunch. I went for a tomato and basil pasta, Jon opted for a vegetarian lasagne. Both delicious! (of course I tried his too.)
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Feeling a little tispy we headed back to the hotel for a power nap (and more wine – rude not to really.)
Our evening plan was to find the rooftop bar overlooking the coloseum. I really wanted to see that baby lit up at night! As we weren’t really in the mood for posh nosh we agreed to grab some food on the way there and just have some drinks at the bar. We found a little restaurant on the main road and sat outside. I had spag bowl and Jon had pizza (which I ate about a quarter of too – are you impressed yet?) We also had a bottle of wine to share (it wasn’t as good as the gavi but it still went down smooth.)
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Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but it had a great atmosphere and the guys working there were really chatty.
The coloseum is just as impressive at night if not more so. I loved how it was illuminated in the darkness!
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We found Aroma – the rooftop place we had been looking for and were ushered into an elevator to reach the bar. The view out to the coloseum was breathtaking BUT that was just for people in the restaurant LOL good one guys! However, this didn’t matter in the end as we were shown to the bar on the other side which was totally empty apart from the two of us. It was the perfect end to the most amazing day! We had more wine (gavi woo) and cocktails, were given some random little treats to try and spend the night in the open evening air laughing and talking. I’m literally pining for this right now just thinking about it.
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We walked home via the coloseum, manoeuvred some dodgy looking alleys and finally found our way back to the hotel.
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And that was it! Our cab arrived the next morning and off we went back to reality.
If you are considering a trip to Rome then do it!!! Even if you aren’t considering it, just go. I couldn’t recommend it more and I cannot wait to go back one day. It was the most beautiful city and I will keep the memories we made there close to my heart forever!
Ciao Bella’s x
Peace and Love xoxo
P.S, If none of that persuaded you…. Jon caught some wicked Pokémon there too!

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