What does one do when one is in Rome for only 48-hours? There are a couple of rules that I lived by when I was there for only a couple of days recently, immediately after a 24-hour flight and keen to stay away from the crowds:
(1) Take advantage of your jet lag and get up early. There is something special about seeing a city before it is starting to wake up. I walked past the Colosseum at around 7.30am on a Saturday, when there were workers watering the gardens, a couple of cleaners, soldiers and not a tourist in sight. It was the perfect light for photos and totally hassle-free.
(2) Walk as much as you can. Follow the Tiber River from Regina Margherita Bridge, near Piazza del Popolo, past the cylindrical Castel Sant’Angelo down to the picturesque Tiber Island.
(3) Have a meal in Trastevere. You will find this suburb on the other side of the Tiber River and in fact you can get there from the Tiber Island by crossing the Cestio bridge. I often stay in Trastevere when I am in Rome and love its village feel. This time I ate at a new place called Piano Strada (Laboratorio di cucina) with my friend Maria, a fellow Italian-Australian who lives in Rome (she also has a travel blog called Heart Rome) and has excellent advice on where to eat in Trastevere. Piano Strada make their own super-soft focaccia, which I ate topped by figs, prosciutto and basil, and then a dish of braised escarole with sultanas and roasted almonds. Just delicious!
(4) See how the Romans live by visiting the Testaccio market (Testaccio is a rather hip suburb at the southern end of Rome). Knowledgeable and friendly stall-holders abound in this white grid of a market and the produce is super-fresh and generally local. They also sell great street food (see point 7 below) and I enjoyed a log chat there with another fellow Italian-Australian living in Rome (there are quite a few of them!).
(5) Take a stroll through the suburb of Monti, just north of the Colosseum. I posted a photo of Via dei Serpenti (street of the serpents) in Monti on my Instagram feed and the comments included “that’s one of my favourite areas, I love to get lost there”; “hope you found your way to Ai Tre Scalini wine bar under the vines and my favourite place in Monti” and “aaaah found this delightful spot last April. Great people watching and of course the food”. So don’t take it from me, take it from others – Monti is definitely worth a visit.
(6) Have an Aperol spritz in the early evening at the new Eataly in Piazza della Repubblica. There are of course hundreds of places to have a spritz, but this is in a lovely classy location, and you can sit back, have a meal and watch the passers by.
(7) Eat some street food. Typical Roman street food are suppli’ (fried balls of risotto rice stuffed with mozzarella) or pizza bianca, sliced and filled with mortadella or prosciutto and sometimes with cheese.
(8) Buy one bottle of water – and keep refilling it from the old-fashioned freely flowing water fountains (fontanelle, also known as nasoni) you find dotted around the city. The water is cool, delicious and totally safe to drink. The Romans built acqueducts thousands of years ago and we are still reaping the benefits. That way you will contribute less to the plastic bottle waste problem and drink as much water as you like.
(9) If you are travelling on from Rome by train, make it easy for yourself by staying near the Termini train station. I stayed in a cute hostel/boutique hotel called The Beehive, which is run by Americans Steve and Linda and came highly recommended. The bed was firm, it was clean and only a 5-minute walk from Termini station. Plus they had a colourful shaded courtyard, ideal relaxation after a long day of walking.
(10) If you visit Rome during a heatwave, buy slices of watermelon from street carts dotted around the city. The watermelon is cool and even has pips (all the watermelon in Australia is pip-free and just does not taste the same as the pipped version) – even though I am not a pip eater (I pick them out before biting into the sugary pink flesh), the pipped version reminds me of growing up and seems somehow more real. It is a perfectly thirst-quenching snack on a hot Roman night.
After 48-hours in Rome, you should be over your jet-lag and be able to easily get on with the rest of your Italian holiday.