Leaving Croatia was pretty tough, but catching a flight to Rome this morning was super exciting. This is my first time in Italy, and after years of dreaming of experiencing the country and its incredible food, it was finally happening. For those less familiar with the city, Rome is Italy’s historic capital, dating back to over 3,000 years. It’s impressive monuments and architecture including the Forum and the Colosseum reminisce the Roman Empire. Let’s not forget the delicious food, too, with traditional dishes including carbonara and saltimbocca. We caught the train from Rome’s Fiumicino airport, and walked a short distance to our hotel, Hotel Quirinale.
Hotel Quirinale, Rome
We picked the hotel after falling in love with the pictures of its grandeur and amazing decor. It’s also in a handy location and we found a great deal on Expedia. Hotel Quirinale is close to the Piazza della Republica, Piazza Venezia, and the Trevi Fountain. It has gorgeous period furniture, while maintaining a luxurious look and feel.
Our room was equally as lovely, with a high ceiling, chandelier, and a pretty city view from the balcony.
Altare della Patria
We went for a walk to check out the nearest sites, as we had a pretty packed itinerary for our few days in the capital. Luckily, our hotel was fairly central which made walking around the city much easier. We discovered the beautiful Altare della Patria, also known as the ‘Wedding Cake Building’. You can see why, with all those tiers, right? It’s a monument in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.
The Altare dates back to 1911, and is smack bang in the Piazza Venezia. It’s worth climbing the stairs simply to enjoy the breathtaking views of Rome. It’s also carved completely out of white marble. It epitomizes Rome itself – grand, stylish, and artfully curated.
One thing I must mention was the heat of the city when we visited in early August. There was an average temperature of the mid-30s with no sea or pools to cool off. Just be ready with as little clothing as possible and regular pitstops for drinks. I do love walking my way around a city as I feel it’s the best way to become acquainted with it, so the heat didn’t stop me.
We soon forgot about the heat when we reached the building we’d been looking for: the Colosseum. The walk to it is equally as impressive, with historic columns and ruins casually placed alongside the road.
It was so bizarre finally getting to see a building you’ve seen in so many pictures, heard so much about, and recognize as the largest ampitheatre in the world. The Colosseum was commissioned around 70AD from Emperor Vespasian as a gift to the people of Rome. It’s the famous home to gladiator fights, wild animals, and historic games.
Despite the Colosseum’s active use for over four hundred years, it fell into a state of disrepair. Until the eighteenth century, it was simply in use for construction materials. Consequently, only a third of the Colosseum was in good condition. To this day, it remains an iconic symbol of Rome and Italy and its long turbulent history. We’ll be back to take a look around inside the Colosseum later on in our Rome trip.
Another crazy thing about Rome is how you’ll have modern buildings just casually interspersed with some of the oldest ruins in the world. So bizarre, and like nowhere else. As the day was already cracking on, we freshened up at the hotel. We then set off in the direction of Trastevere for a wander round. We passed a hugely crowded Trevi Fountain, and the famous Piazza Navona, which was lovely.
Everywhere you turn in Rome, you’ll see some kind of sculpture or art, dating back hundreds of years – it’s pretty awesome. Even the streets are so polished with beautiful, ornate buildings wherever you look. We decided to revisit the Trevi Fountain later in our trip to toss our lucky coin when it wasn’t quite so crowded.
While Jo got into the Italian spirit, we walked up a block from the Trevi Fountain and saw the Pantheon. I was surprised at how close two of Rome’s most famous attractions really are together.
The Pantheon is actually the best well kept building of ancient Rome. It’s a temple purely for all gods of pagan Rome. Thanks to a stamp inside the Pantheon, we understand it dates back to between AD 118 and 125. Pretty phenomenal how it’s still intact today. Emperor Hadrian initially built the Pantheon to replace an original Pantheon of 27BC which burnt down several years prior.
A short walk along, you’ll find the Piazza Navona, with its impressive fountains, obelisk, restaurants, and entertainers.
We reached Trastevere for sunset, and it was truly beautiful. It’s quite an iconic image with the bridges across the Tiber river in the background. Trastevere is a historic neighbourhood that’s traditionally working class. It boasts fun nightlife that’s a little off the beaten path in Rome.
In Trastevere, you can expect to find cobbled labyrinthine streets, basilicas, excellent trattorias, and incredible art. Just how I’d imagined Rome.
We tried to get a reservation for a restaurant that we’d heard about, but unfortunately couldn’t for that evening. Instead, we went to another trattoria called Mamma Angela’s back in central Rome. It was a struggle to choose from the fantastic menu, but I went for a classic lasagne after sharing bruschetta with some of the tastiest tomatoes I’d ever tried. They also do a vegetarian lasagne with pesto and pistachios which looked awesome. One day, I’ll have to go back and give it a try.
I love how the lasagne comes plainly and confidently on its own. Many other restaurants will bring a side salad, garlic bread, or even chips. But it was beautiful just as it was, and certainly filling enough. It didn’t disappoint – so simple, but so delicious. All washed down with a glass of prosecco, of course.
We finished off with a tiramisu. As expected, it was also the best I’d ever tasted. When you pay, the staff make you do a shot of limoncello too. Rome is already making a great impression on me.
What were your first impressions of Rome? What are your favourite things to explore in the city?