When I think about Rome, I think about the three P's - pizza, pasta, and the Pope. All jokes aside, you can't go wrong visiting Rome. Even if you're just wandering its cobblestone streets, there's plenty of sights, sounds, and tastes to take in. How bad can it be when you can pass by the Trevi Fountain holding onto a gelato cone?
Here's my one day Rome itinerary - hope you enjoy!
(1) Start your day with an espresso
[Photo credit: culture trip, Sciascia]
Italians take their coffee very seriously. To be fair, almost our entire modern day coffee vocabulary revolves around Italian. And some of the oldest cafes are in Italy. Italians always start their morning with a coffee and pastry at their local bar (or café, as we call it). Coffee is usually taken standing up at the bar, in part because the amount is often a small shot of espresso which takes less than a minute to drink. There are plenty of options around Rome, but if you want something special - you must head to Sciascia. Scaiascia is an old-school coffee house, almost a century old, in Prati. The interior is decorated with period artwork and vintage machines. Their signature coffee is a punchy espresso served in a porcelain cup lined with melted dark chocolate. Yum.
(2) Immerse yourself in Vatican City
[Photo credit: youlocalRome]
While Vatican City is completely encompassed by Rome, it is a country all on its own. As a matter of fact, it's the smallest country in the world - at just one hundred acres. It is naturally one of the most populated areas in Rome, as both locals and tourists visit it daily. But it's worth the time. To make the most of your time here, you will need to some planning. To start off - there is a dress code at certain parts of Vatican City: you need to be covered inside the Basilica and Sistine Chapel. Men can get away with knee length shorts (pants are best) BUT women and girls must cover shoulders and knees.
St. Peter’s Basilica
This is one of the largest churches in the world and the most impressive example of Renaissance architecture. Outside the Basilica is St. Peter’s Square. This large public square is where the Papal Mass is held twice a week. Visit here on Sunday or on Wednesday to get the chance to catch a glimpse of the Pope. One of the magnificent features of St. Peter’s Square is the obelisk. This obelisk that was brought to Rome from Egypt by Caligula in 37 AD.
While touring the Basilica is free, they do charge you if you chose to walk up to the dome: You can take the lift plus walk 320 steps or climb all 551 steps. Having done it, I must say that the climb up and down was harder than I expected. The pathways can be quite steep and narrow, and some clearings were quite low. It was a beautiful view from the top... But I'd rather take in the view from some nearby rooftop bar.
(3 / 4) Savor some of Italy's best cuisine
You can't go to Italy and not expect to gain weight. If you're on a carb-free diet... good luck to you. Pizza and Pasta are a must... and it's always a struggle deciding which to have!
Pastasciutta is a small shop right outside Vatican City. Yes, it is a chain. Yes, it is fast food. And no, it is NOTHING like what you expect of fast-food chains. Pastasciutta stores make fresh pasta in front of you and cook it to order! That's right! You can see the chef preparing your meal or watch how fresh pasta is produced in the tiny little store. On top of the classics that are always on the menu, there are also seasonal items. It's basically everything you expect about eating pasta in Italy... except on a budget, and available to be eaten on the go while you walk around outside Vatican City.
[Photo credit: Pastasciutta]
Bonci Pizzarium is the place to go for pizza. This tiny unassuming pizza shop has consistently remained at the top of the list of Rome’s best pizza. The moment you walk in, you're greeted by the counter displaying more than a dozen different pizzas, topped with the classic as well as seasonal ingredients. Do it the right way: pick up your slice (and an extra one) and eat on the pavement outside. Order what calls to your heart... but the simplest toppings are best!
[Photo credit: Conde Nast Traveler]
(5) Take in the world's best artwork at the Vatican Museum
The Vatican Museum first opened to the public under Pope Clement XIV. He began the museum as a way to showcase his collection of sculptures of Julius II. Over the years, other popes added to the collection and now you will find sculptures and art from Egypt to the 20th century (most notable are works from Michelangelo and Raphael). The Vatican museum is open from 10am-6pm (ticket office opens at 9am/ last entrance is 4pm).
The full walking distance of seeing everything inside would be like walking 9 miles. You will not be able to see EVERYTHING in one day. Pace yourself.
The Sistine Chapel
[Photo credit: The Times]
Built at the end of the 15th century, this chapel is most known for its ceiling painted by Michelangelo. Be sure to also notice the murals painted by Botticelli along the walls.
When you get to the Chapel, it will be crowded, prepare yourself in advance to not have much space to move around.
There is NO PHOTOGRAPHY in the Sistine Chapel. But does everyone sneak one in... yes.
(6) Enjoy Truffles in all its form
If you love truffles (and who doesn't) - Italy is the place to get it. It's much more readily available and consequently more affordable. The truffle is also... just better there. And when in Rome... you might as well fully immerse yourself in the truffle experience. I first learned about Ad Hoc from a friend. It was incredible Located inside a 15th century building between Piazza di Spagna, Via dei Condotti and Piazza del Popolo, Ad Hoc offers a variety of truffle-focused tasting menus and experiences. We started our meal in their truffle tasting cave (yes cave) a few doors down from their restaurant. Truffle and champagne before the meal even starts - how bad can it be! And if truffle isn't your thing... you should still check Ad Hoc out for their delicious classic Italian fare and extensive wine list with 1,000 labels (yes, 1,000).
(7) Make a wish at Trevi Fountain
[Photo credit: Fodors]
The Trevi Fountain is the most iconic fountain in Rome and a must-visit. It has recently gone through an intensive restoration and cleaning by the Fendi luxury fashion house. The precise legend of the Trevi Fountain says you should stand with your back to the fountain and toss a coin over your left shoulder to guarantee a return trip to Rome. This mythological site is best viewed at night when lights illuminate the fountain.
(8) Sweet ending with a Giolitti cone
I'm sorry, but you've never really had gelato until you've had it in Italy. It's just not the same. And Giolitti... it's one of the best there is. Giolitti has been in business since 1890, with three generations passing along the secrets of perfect gelato making. Its long counter curves around the store and has any possible option you can possibly dream of (maybe not quite like that, but close)!
[Photo credit: Giolitti]