Living in London and having easy access to travel in Europe are two things we try not to take for granted. We feel so lucky to have these opportunities and to be able to experience them together.
However, expat life does have its drawbacks. The primary downside is that we are far away from the family and friends we love so dearly. So when we learned that some of our best buds were going to be just a couple hours away by plane in one of my favourite cities, we decided YOLO, booked the cheapest tickets and Airbnb we could find and headed to Rome, Italy for 24 hours in May (yep, 3 weeks before our wedding).
Using Google Flights, we booked some Ryan Air tickets out of Stansted on Saturday morning and the cheapest Airbnb still available near their hotel. Then we packed up our backpacks for a whirlwind adventure, making it back to London for a late lunch on Sunday.
We had both been to Rome before we met, and we visited together two years ago. With such limited time this trip, we didn’t make any plans to see certain sights. Our friends made meal reservations for us and other than that, we decided to just see where our time would take us.
There was something really nice about being in a city like Rome with no pressure whatsoever to see all (or really any) of the sights. We were there to enjoy time spent with friends with the beautiful backdrop of a place where all of us have wonderful memories. I absolutely love Rome – it was such a treat to return to such a special place!
Sightseeing was not our top priority, but because of the excellent location of our Airbnb, we were able to squeeze in a bunch of highlights! I did not bring my camera with me, due to the shortness of our stay, but luckily we snapped some pics on our phones and I have many photos from previous trips to help fill in the gaps.
Up until this brief trip, I have only ever visited Rome in the off-season. Being there at the start of high tourist season (early May) was a very different experience. If you can, visit in the off-season so that you don’t have to wait in huge lines everywhere you go and can avoid visiting the city when there are crowds everywhere. The difference is striking!
We stayed near Largo di Torre Argentina, so we had plenty of opportunities to look for the resident cats. These ruins are near to the site where Julius Caesar was killed and are now home to a whole colony of feral cats.
We meandered through the streets to the Pantheon. We didn’t end up going in because they were having mass when we went by. We did not miss the opportunity for a Kodak moment, however. Fun fact: a rat has run over my foot on the Pantheon steps, once upon a time.
Our wanderings then took us to the Piazza Navona for a late afternoon Aperol spritz with a view of the street performers.
Later, we crossed the Tiber into Trastevere for dinner.
That night, we even made it to the Spanish Steps!
We walked with our friends to the Colosseum, where we left them to begin our journey back to the airport. The line to get in was crazy!
Not bad for 24 hours!
If you have more time…
If you visit Rome, my must-see recommendations are both located in Vatican City. We did not have time to visit them again this trip, but even after visiting three times, I would go again in a heartbeat. If you visit Rome, Italy, you absolutely must visit St. Peter’s Basilica and climb to the top of the duomo and then you must visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. They are both so, so worth it. Prioritise these two sights above all the others when visiting Rome.
The cathedral is stunning and a true wonder of the modern world. Go and be amazed.
Climbing the duomo is a super must. It is an unbelievably beautiful view and climbing to the top gives you a much better sense of size and scale of St. Peter’s. It is really special.
Our dear friends Sean and Mairead did their research and booked us two fabulous meals for our trip. Upon arriving in the city, the two of us from London and the two of them from Paris, we met for lunch at Roscioli Caffe.
Set up as a sort of deli, the restaurant has a casual, but serious about food type vibe. We were seated in the basement/wine cellar part of the restaurant, which was nice and cool on a warm spring day.
Our pasta was delicious and they even accommodated my gluten allergy with gluten free pasta, yum!
After lunch, it was time to get some gelato. I was so excited to return to my favourite gelato shop in Rome – the incredible Gelateria Della Palma! It was every bit as delicious as I remembered.
This gelateria has it down to a science. You pay first, then get a ticket that you give to the scoopers behind the counter. Take your time – there are many, many flavours to choose from!
Sean and Mairead booked dinner in our favourite Rome neighbourhood – Trastevere. They chose Antica Pesa and it was perfect for a special dinner together in Rome. We sat outside in the covered terrace. It was a beautiful meal with friends.
They were incredibly accommodating of my gluten allergy. My dish was delicious, but the dish to get is the cacio e pepe. It cannot be made gluten free, but I hear it is some of the best in Rome!
You don’t need to be a bon vivant to know that the wine in Rome, Italy is fabulous. And where better to have an Aperol spritz than in the sunshine in the city where I first tried one two years earlier?
Our 24-hour excursion could also be titled “Rooftop Bar Tour of Roma.” We enjoyed some clutch views at two awesome rooftops.
First, we checked out Minerva Roof Garden, which is right by the Pantheon. We took in beautiful views of the Pantheon, the Elephant and Obelisk in the Piazza della Minerva and even the Vittorio Emmanuelle, just off in the distance from where we sat.
Since we were there in the late afternoon, it was not crowded at all. There were a few other tables of people, but the section of the roof we claimed felt like it was all ours!
After our lovely dinner, we visited the beautiful Hotel Sofitel for another rooftop experience. We caught them just before they closed and got to enjoy views of St. Peter’s at night.
The Bon Vivant Basics
Rome is one of my most favourite cities in the world. There is just something about it. The history, the food, the people, the language, the wine – everything is fabulous. Go to Rome, but go for more than 24-hours and soak up all the beautiful ruins, eat all the pasta and drink all the wine and spritzes you can!