Our Long Weekend in Rome – Day 3 by Alec Warriner

Day three began with a lazy lay in and an expresso from the authentic Italian café around the corner from our apartment. We then walked back up over the top of the Roman Forum, down onto the Piazza Venezia and down a street named Via del Corso. On this street discovered a brilliant shop called Gutteridge; now for all you gents out there I highly recommend that you visit this store, it is a taste of true Italian style and will leave you feeling very dapper indeed. So our third day became a day of shopping and enjoying an unplanned stroll around the streets of Rome.

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After a day of filling our bags with shopping and emptying our wallets, we decided that as it was our final evening in Rome that we should of course dine in style. Now I had planned to go to one a Rome’s most recommended restaurants, but as promised this isn’t a blog on Rome that the guide books would mirror. So in my ever romantic style I forgot to make a reservation and we ended up eating in the restaurant on the other side of the road called Barzilia. Now trip adviser gives this restaurant a 4 out of 5, but I would without question give it a 5 stars. The food was spectacular as you might expect for a small doing it themselves eatery. We both had pasta and the portions were huge, making the two bottles of red wine and prosecco a little harder to manage, but we got there in the end. The staff were brilliant, enjoyable and fun to speak with, their recommendations were spot on and to top it all off they gave us limoncello shots for free at the end of the meal!

But it doesn’t stop there folks. The waitress pointed us the direction of her cousin’s bar at the top of the road called Black Market on Via Panisperna, luckily for us it was literally a left turn and walk up the road. This cocktail bar with live Jazz is the cool, trendy and underground scene of Rome we had heard so much about and were thrilled to have found. We sat at the ridiculous high bar and order two drinks, a live jazz band played the final riffs of a song and their set, it was now 12:30am. The whole bar is covered with art of all forms and you can’t help but spend your time starring deeply at the pieces as the bar itself is very dimly lit, because it’s insanely trendy guys ha! But one particular piece caught our eye, a photograph of a naked lady laying on front on a bed. This piece happened to be for sale at a cost of €180, now it may have been the drink thinking this and it certainly was at the point of purchase, but we thought we have to have it. So it now sits proudly on our wall in London. A definite memento of our time in Rome.

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However in true Brits abroad style our night did not end there, we then followed another recommendation to a little known bar called APT in Monti, and in case you were wondering yes we had our new purchase with us. Now little can be told about the rest of the evening, but what I can tell you is that we stayed there with the owner of the bar and bar staff until 3:30am. APT is a proud member of the exclusive club, The Best Bars in Europe. This wasn’t down to our rather late evening there, but the bar had been given the accolade only the night before. So we were pretty chuffed to close our incredible weekend in Rome with a night full of amazing surprises and a little bit of drinking!

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So in conclusion guys, our recommendations are stay as central as possible as Rome is easily accessible by foot and tour buses. Get lost in the historic streets, enjoy the food and drink. Of course visit all the famous sites and make the most of your time around them. But if I was going to give a most important tip, that would be to try and make friends, be open to off the map recommendations as this is how we found our most memorable / not so memorable times. Rome is truly one of the best cities we’ve had the pleasure of visiting.

Our Long Weekend in Rome; Day 2 by Alec Warriner

On our second day in Rome we took upon ourselves to jump on a tour bus. There are now many choices for tours and from what we could gather they all covered pretty much the same stops, but what you don’t want is to get scalped for over priced tickets from an unsavory character in the street. So our tip is to head to Roma Termini, which is the main train / bus station in Rome as a lot of the tours start here and you can buy legitimate tickets from the tours themselves.

The tour we chose went as far out as the Vatican City which was our main goal for the day and as most do provided the luxury of being able to jump on and off at landmarks. The one thing I will say on this is be sure to plan when you want to get off and on as the stops do get very crowded and you could be waiting for several buses to come before you are allowed on.

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The first half of the tour took us around ancient Rome and having experienced most of this on foot the day before we stuck to our original plan stayed on until the Vatican City stop. This was of course perfectly enjoyable,as although it was mid Feb and slightly nippy the weather was clear blue skies and we could sit on the top deck and listen to audio talk us through the histories of Rome.

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Once we arrived at the Vatican City we hopped off and walked across St. Angelo Bridge. Built in 134 A.D the bridge gives access to Castel San’Angelo, a vast circular 2nd Century castle now used to house a collection of Renaissance furniture and paintings. But equally as interesting, Castel San’Angelo was the hiding place of Pope Clement VII during the sack of Rome.

We walked with the crowds up to St. Peters square and not for the first time nor the last we were stunned by the architectural beauty of the buildings. We stood in the square and avoided the many people trying to persuade us to part with our cash and follow them to someone selling tickets to the Sistine Chapel. Another tip here guys is to try and be as early as possible if you want to visit the Sistine Chapel and purchase your tickets at licence vendors; there plenty many in the square. We chose not to go into the Chapel as the line which was HUGE, because we did not get there early ha.

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After walking back across St Angelo Bridge we caught the open topped bus for the second half of our tour of Rome and settled back into the romantic audio of our tour guide and historic Rome. Our next stop was the Spanish steps and by this time the afternoon was coming to end and a beautiful purple sunset was on its way.

Unfortunately the majority of the steps were closed to the public due to much need TCL, but we were able to walk down the right hand side of them. Even then the marble was spectacular looking and smooth enough to slide down, not advisable. As expected the Spanish Steps and the area around the baroque ship fountain at the foot of the steps was packed with tourists taking photos, which makes getting any personal photos quite difficult, but when in Rome you need to give it a go!

If you can be at the steps for the end of the day it is 100% worth it as the sun strikes the Trinita dei Monti, which is the 16th century church at the top of the steps and creates another amazing photo opportunity. Our photo of this was taken from the balcony of a wonderful little restaurant called Mariotti, which is directly to the right of the steps if you’re standing at the top.  We perched there for an hour or so drinking prosecco and red wine whilst the sun went down on our 2nd day.

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We ended our day with a wonderful evening walk through the streets to Trevi Fountain, which is a short walk from the steps and only took us 15/20mins after a few large glasses of wine. This for me was the most impressive moment of our trip, the fountain after dark is illuminated by underwater lighting creating a magical environment and stunning view of the statues grandeur. Once again the crowds are slightly too many, but be patient and get the all-important selfie with the fountain and throw a coin over your shoulder into the water, making a wish!

To be continued…

Our Long Weekend in Rome: Day 1 by Alec Warriner

In February of this year we were lucky enough to spend a long weekend in the beautiful city of Rome, Italy. We’ve always wanted to travel to Italy and experience the ancient city, all the history and romance of Italian culture, so we took this opportunity to really try and experience as much of Rome as possible. Firstly we wanted to do all the classic tourist routes and spots, but equally as important to us was to try and get lost and find ourselves a Rome that you wouldn’t find on the page of Tourism Guide.

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After an easy flight from London we pitched up at our Airbnb which was located in the heart of historic Rome. This beautiful private flat in a classically kept gated community was a stones throw the ruins of the Roman Forum, which in turn meant that we were ideally placed to experience Ancient Rome and were exactly 400m from the Colosseum. We began by getting our bearings and decided to explore the area around us known as Rione X Campitelli. This area of Ancient Rome is home to some of Rome’s most famous and incredible buildings; walking just around the corner from our flat we were on top on the Roman Forum, which in its hay day was the centre of Rome’s government buildings, temples and a vibrant public area.  These astonishing ruins are something to behold, confusing as the geography has been somewhat lost amongst the remaining structures and the less durable remains. But what took us by surprise was the sheer size of these buildings, which was only surpassed by the realisation that they were hundreds of years old and were built and constructed by hand!

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A short walk from the Forum is the Piazza del Campidoglio, a stunning courtyard which is bordered by three equally stunning buildings which now house the Capitoline Museums. Walking down the Cordonata, grand stone steps, on the main road we arrived at the right hand side of the Piazza Venezia, home to the Vittoriano. This incredible marble building has many impressive attributes and stands proudly at the head of Via dei Fori Imperiali, or to you and I, the road that leads to the Colosseum. However, our favourite attribute of the Vittoriano had to be the Terrace of Chariots which stood at the back, which had giant iron horse drawn chariots at each end, lording over Rome like Roman gods!

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We then walked up to the Colosseum, which did not disappoint. I think the only way I can possibly do this amazing building justice is to simply say you have to see it for yourself! As we walked around the circumference of it, sadly it was closed for the day when we were there, our conversation bounced between Gladiators, Emperors and the splendour it would have been to see when fully constructed. Its easy to see how it is described as the worlds first stadium as it does rival many stadiums today.  The complete enormity of the Colosseum is breath taking, our eyes scanned every crack and every shade of stone oozing with history. Again our conversations came back to how on earth such a building was completed, by this stage we fancied ourselves quite the engineers so reckon we could figure it out, but in truth if you do look hard enough you can see the different stages and ages of which the Colosseum was built and birthed giving some indication as to how such a mammoth building has lasted so long.

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Our day ended with a lovely walk along to the Circus Maximus, which is now a vast open space where once stood a large stone and marble arena capable of seating over 250,000 people. This giant of an arena was where chariots racing took place and truly was a site. To this day the dirt sand track can be made out and walked on and opposite is Palatine Hill on which stands the ruins of a vast Roman palace and Rome’s second ever temple, Temple of Apollo.

To be continued…….