If you’re like us and are never far away from daydreaming about a mini-break of sorts – may we present for your consideration, Rome.
‘Perché?’ you ask.
Well, firstly it’s far enough away to feel like you’re properly going on your holliers. But it’s also close enough (two and half hours from Dublin and three from Cork) to be do-able in a 48-hour weekend if that’s all you had free. Aer Lingus AND Ryanair both fly there too.
Secondly, there is the uh-maze-ing food to contemplate. And although like most European capitals central accommodation can be pricy, the rest remains pretty affordable.
It furthermore offers year-round pleasantry in terms of weather conditions. The short winters are still fairly mild, and right now you can expect 21C and blue skies. Bliss!
Here, we offer you a selection of highlights… Mamma mia!
It wouldn’t be a trip to Rome without a goo at at least a couple of churches. It’ll keep your granny happy if nothing else. And luckily enough there are about as many churches in Rome as there are pubs in Dublin. The best include:
In between Via del Corso and the Pantheon. A lovely Jesuit church with a trompe l’oeil optical illusion for a ceiling (it’s gorge). There’s a spot on the floor marking the right place to view it from so the perspective is right, and it’s pretty incredible. The main part of the ceiling is painted to make it look much taller than it is as well (reaching, specifically, to heaven).
Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini:
Nothing to do with coffee! Rather a crypt-style church covered in human bones: skeletons in cowls, and ribs and finger bones arranged into chandeliers. Ghoulish? Yes – but it’s also fascinating. Get the Red Line metro to Barberini, it’s just off the square on Via Veneto, next door to a Lamborghini shop (how very Italian!).
This a seminal baroque building architecturally and furthermore contains St Ignatiuis of Loyola’s bloodied right arm is a glass case. It’s between Piazza Venezia and Largo Argentina.
Basilica di San Clemente:
This spot is truly amazing; a beautiful medieval basilica built on top of an ancient Roman temple, built on top of another ancient Roman temple, built on top of an ancient Roman house. Phew! Every layer has been excavated, and three floors down you can walk on what were once ancient Roman streets. It’s on Via di San Giovanni in Laterano, not far from the Colosseum.
A huge and richly decorated altar commissioned by Augustus more than 2,000 years ago and depicting him and his family in procession. Only unearthed and reassembled in the 1930s, it’s located next to his mausoleum, near Via del Corso.
Largo di Torre Argentina:
This is where Julius Caesar was stabbed in 44BC. The senate building in the forum itself had burned down and was being rebuilt at the time, so they were meeting here temporarily. It’s on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II – the road that leads to the Vatican from Piazza Venezia – and is now home to lots of cats.
The largest amphitheatre the world has ever seen and the very symbol of Rome – it’s certainly on the tourist trail but worth a visit nonetheless. You could happily spend half a day there, latterly moving on to the Roman Forum, which is packed full of hugely impressive ancient government buildings.
Rome‘s most impressive park. The easiest way to get there is to go up to the top of the Spanish Steps and turn left, the park is on your right a few hundred metres up the hill. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic and prosecco. Otherwise, head to the zoo.
The apartment where Keats spent his last weeks is on Piazza di Spagna, right next to the Spanish steps (the building on the right as you look at the steps). A nice little museum with some interesting Keats and Shelley paraphernalia (both poets spent significant time in the city).
The Protestant Cemetery:
Going to a graveyard mightn’t sound like a whole load of fun on your mini-break, but this cemetery is packed full of history; poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are both buried here. The cemetery is also very picturesque – set against Marcus Aurelius’s city walls, and next to the newly-spruced up Pyramid of Caius Cestius. If you get the blue metro line to the Piramide stop, you’ll see the Pyramid, and it’s right behind it.
You can’t really help but go here; it’s bang in the centre of the city and is home to the Vittorio Emmanuele II monument (the ludicrously large white structure you can see from pretty much everywhere), as well as the Palazzo Venezia (from whose balcony Benito Mussolini used to make his speeches).
If you find yourself walking back into the centre of town from the Vatican, go along Via Giulia. It’s a beautiful street that runs parallel to the river, behind the Palazzo Farnese. There’s not a lot on it (with the exception of a Criminology Museum that is random but fun), but it’s a lovely walk.
Food and drink:
So long as you stay away from the obviously touristy places around the centre, you can eat pretty much anywhere and it’ll probably be fantastic and super value (although one really great place that’s still quite central is the Piccolo Arancio on Vicolo Scanderbeg).
A great area to wander around during the day and go out in at night. Some standout bars around Vicolo del Cinque, and a great restaurant for lunch is Ristorante Carlo Menta on Via della Lungaretta. The service is questionable but the pizzas are great, and it’s incredibly good value.
Lots of nice restaurants around the piazza, but there’s also a cocktail bar called La Piccola Cuccagna on Via della Cuccagna, between the piazza and Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II. Lethally strong; very inexpensive.
Campo di Fiore:
This piazza is a market during the day, and has load of bars around it at night. It’s very central and always has a good atmosphere about it – all the bars have a terrace outside perfect of taking in the night air with a tipple.
A largely residential area set around a fairly sizeable hill that is entirely made up of discarded pottery from Roman times. And all around the hill are bars and clubs or varying levels of fanciness. There is furthermore a fantastic pizzeria on the city-centre end of this area called Pizzeria Da Remo. Really authentic – not at all fancy but supremely delicious.