City break to Rome: early startThis is the second post in the City Break in Rome series
Bleary eyed we arrived at Stansted airport at 4.45am ready for our flight to Rome at ten past six. I had figured with only three nights/ four days in Rome I wanted to make sure we had every minute we could there; but had begun to regret this when I dragged myself out of the Premier Inn bed about 30 minutes before hand and fell into my ready picked outfit. The queue’s were thankfully quick at the airport and in what seemed like no time at all, we were boarding our plane and up above the clouds. I’m quite a nervous flyer, to say the least, so whilst I was waiting for the plane to level out and be able to turn on the iPad and relax with a movie I was thinking about getting into Rome, ordering a coffee and getting some great food.
We had booked a nice little hotel close to the centre of Rome with breakfast included. This meant we had just four lunches and three to four dinners in which to sample the best food Italy and Rome could offer us. A lot to pack into a few meals when you think of all the dishes Rome is famous for, not to mention……gelato!
After the flight, we took the short ride into the city by coach which wasn’t too bad as we got to see Rome rise up out of the countryside. The first thing I noticed was that it was quite warm for early October, I’d expected weather similar to London (though looking back I can’t see why!) so was glad I had listened to Hana and left my jumpers at home. We arrived at the Rome’s Termini Station and after a much-needed coffee, we found our hotel (thanks to Google maps) and headed off to check in. I was happy with the hotel, the room itself was spacious and the staff seemed friendly enough. My only complaint was that the breakfast room looked tiny.
Lunch in Rome
After checking in and taking a little nap, we got ourselves looking stylish enough for Rome and out we went to get lunch and explore Rome. We quickly learned that if you go for lunch at 3pm (not uncommon in London) a lot of places will be closing up. But after a few minutes we found a small cafe which was serving a lunch special with wine and coffee for 10euros.
This was a really lovely Vegetarian Ravioli filled with cheese and spinach with a tomato sauce and dusted with a little parmesan . It’s something I have had many times back in the UK and as a first meal I was quite happy with it. What struck me almost straight away when we were looking for a restaurant or cafe was the lack of chain outlets. We were quite close to the centre of Rome and an equivalent street in London would be home to the usual chain restaurants. I’m not saying it is a bad thing to have them, but it was refreshing to see an alternative. The little cafe we went to had a small menu with a couple of homemade dishes like this Ravioli, a great introduction to Roman cuisine.
Fueled up with great pasta and both mine and Hana’s coffee’s we headed into the heart of Rome. To get our bearings, see something of Rome and knock a couple of sights off our Sightseeing in Rome list, we headed towards the Spanish steps and the Trevi Fountain. Before going, we made ourselves a list of the things we really wanted to see, if you are going on a city break I’d highly recommend it.
Sightseeing in Rome: The Spanish Steps
Our first stop was the Spanish Steps and Piazza Spagna which were immortalised in the 1953 film Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. We approached from aside the church at the top of the steps and were greeted by a lovely view out across Rome. The Piazza below can get quite crowded as this is one of Rome’s big tourist draws and we found it difficult to even see the small fountains at the bottom through the throng of other tourists getting pictures. Whilst they are nice to see, I’m not quite sure if the Spanish Steps lived up to my expectations. Maybe it was just that the area was so crowded with people it was hard to take it in.
After trying to see the fountains at the bottom we moved on to the Trevi Fountain.
Sightseeing in Rome: The Trevi Fountain
We then took a wonder, guided by the map from the hotel and with a bit of help from Google maps, eventually coming into the impossibly tiny Piazza which houses the largest and most impressive of the baroque fountains, the Trevi Fountain. The original fountain was built at the end of the Virgo (or Virgin) aqueduct which was constructed in 19BC by Marcus Agripa. The current fountain was built in its places at the commission of Pope Clement XII in the 18th century and has been restored many times since then, the most recent having begun in early 2013 and continuing into next year.
Where as the Spanish steps had been deflationary, the Trevi Fountain deserves its reputation as a stunning piece of art. The Piazza itself is surprisingly tiny and, as with the Spanish Steps and Piazza Spagna, gets pretty busy during the day. But wander through in the evening and the crowds die down a lot, plus you get the beautiful view of the illuminated statues.
Evening and first dinner in Rome
We ended our first day in Rome by wandering through the streets and Piazza before heading out to dinner at what by Roman standards, far too early, but by our standards it was already quite late. For my first dinner in Rome, I tried my first classic Roman pasta dish, Bucantini all’ Amatriciana. Next to Carbonara, this is the most famous and popular pasta recipe from Rome. I really enjoyed this and Hana tried it at another restaurant the following evening.
As we both really enjoyed this meal it was the first Italian recipe I cooked when we got back to London and you can find my recipe for Bucantini all’ Amatrician in my post here.
Recipe, text and photos By Russell Bowes