Long-term readers of this blog may remember that Rome is a place dear to my heart, and with a healthy number of air miles to use up, I enjoyed a solo trip to the Eternal City this month. Rome is great for me because I know it so well that it’s no stress at all to go. I know exactly what to do and where to go when I’m there, and I can get to most places without a map. Here are some of the things I did on my Rome mini-break.
I walked a total of 35.5km while I was in Rome, which I thought was pretty good going. Simply walking around the city is the best way to pass the time of day in Rome, and you don’t need to pay a penny for the privilege. Even at night, I felt perfectly safe walking around by myself, and the first thing I did after checking in at my hotel around 9.30pm was to go for a long walk taking in some of the highlights, including my favourite Roman building, the Pantheon.
Rome is at its most magical at night. I had the Capitoline Hill all to myself!
Well, apart from Marcus Aurelius.
This one didn’t come out too well, but it’s always worth seeing this view over the Roman forum at night, when various landmarks are floodlit. Although strangely, not the one in the foreground.
The Trevi Fountain is ALWAYS busy, though some clever cropping here makes it look as though it’s empty. It wasn’t! As is customary, I threw my coin in to ensure my return to Rome (it’s worked approximately 14 times so far!!) and made a wish.
Here are the Spanish Steps the following morning. The house on the right is where poor old Keats met his maker.
Luckily the weather cleared into a beautiful blue sky day, and though it was November, I could walk around in a summer dress (looking every inch the true Brit amongst the Italians all wearing their coats and scarves). Here’s Piazza Navona.
That classic view over the Roman forum, as seen during the day.
I felt I ought to go up to the Colosseum, though the area around it isn’t looking at its best at the moment owing to all the works associated with the third Metro line, which is STILL in progress, as it has been for the decade or so I’ve been visiting Rome.
One good thing about the Metro line works is that they’re uncovering new archaeology. This lot was on display since the last time I visited; it’s thought to be the remains of Hadrian’s Athenaeum. I’m really pleased with this photo – the juxtaposition between the gleaming white Vittorio Emanuele monument and the Roman archaeology, the layers of history that make Rome so fascinating.
On the subject of which, where else can you see a stock exchange built into a Roman temple? This is the Temple of Hadrian, always an impressive sight to stumble upon on your wanderings around the Campus Martius area.
Antico Caffè Greco
I was staying just around the corner from one of Rome’s most historic and famous cafes, Antico Caffè Greco, so I had breakfast there both days. Established in 1760, it’s a stone’s throw from the Spanish Steps, in the heart of what was once known as ‘the English ghetto’ because it’s where many of the 18th century Grand Tourists had their quarters. Keats, Byron, Mendelssohn, Liszt and many other notable figures have all sipped their coffees here, and I was excited to be able to follow in their footsteps. A cup of coffee in these illustrious surroundings will set you back €9 if you choose to sit down, or you can do what I did and stand at the bar, paying the princely sum of €3.50 for a cappuccino and small croissant.
Pizza al taglio
Pizza al taglio means ‘pizza by the slice’. I pretty much lived on this stuff for two days, and very cheap and easy it is too. This one was a place called Roscioli, where I met up with my Twitter/Instagram pal Agnes of Understanding Rome.
On my last day I had a nice snack and glass of wine at Obica, a mozzarella bar.
No trip to Rome is complete without copious amounts of gelato, which is so much better than any ice cream you can get in the UK. I revisited a couple of my favourite gelaterias – Giolitti’s and, pictured here, San Crispino. At this one, the ice cream is all stored in silver vats with lids, so it’s a bit different from most places. I was pleased to find they still had my favourite flavour – caramel with meringue.
I have got into the habit of booking spa treatments for when I’m on holiday, as holidays are obviously all about self-indulgence and I love a good spa. Having done a bit of research I settled on Acqua Madre, which is a Turkish-style hammam that also does lovely relaxing massages. It’s not the easiest place to find, hidden away just around the corner from Piazza Mattei, where there’s the famous fountain featuring little turtles. Inside, it’s a wonderfully calming space and I was brought some soothing peppermint tea while I sat in the relaxation room after a fantastic massage. I will definitely be going back next time I’m in Rome!
Museo Barracco di Scultura Antica
No trip to Rome would be complete without a bit of time spent mooching around a museum, and Museo Barracco di Scultura Antica was the one I chose this time. I’d not been before – it was an excellent recommendation from Agnes – and it proved to be well worth a visit (and free!). It’s the private collection of a chap called Giovanni Barracco, who generously gave his superb collection of antiquities to the city of Rome in 1902. Throughout the museum – housed in an interesting building, as you can see in the picture – there are pictures of the objects in situ in his apartment. I particularly liked this statue because of the traces of paint on the eyes. I’m not sure whether it’s the original paint, but it gives you a good impression of what ancient statues would have been like.
I must say I rather enjoyed pottering around Rome by myself for a couple of days! As well as Agnes, I also got to meet up with an old colleague who I’d not seen for years, and I got a good amount of shopping for autumn clothes done without a travel companion to inconvenience. My next solo travel adventure is on a rather bigger scale: I’m off to Hong Kong for a week on my own, leaving within the hour. If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them, and watch this space for some more exotic travel photos coming soon…