Why Should Rome Be On Your Top 5 City’s To Visit?
I had never fully grasped the saying, ”Rome wasn’t built in a day” until I stepped foot into this wonderland of architecture, history, culture and gastronomy. With so many extraordinary monuments, delightful restaurants and hundreds of streets it can all be slightly overwhelming!
So how do you navigate and explore Rome like a local? Let me show you some secret gems!
Now, of course, your first visit to Rome has some absolute ‘musts’ which you simply cannot miss: the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and the mesmerising, ascending Piazza Di Spana. But after speaking to quite a few of the passionate locals, we found some real treasures, which I would say are the ‘local musts’ of Rome. In the end, they turned out to be my most precious memories on my trip.
Firstly A pick of Romes Caffettiera’s
To begin your busy day of walking and eating, Italians would agree that taking your time in the morning to sit down with a coffee and pastry is essential, even if it is only for 10 mins. No matter what your schedule is, a takeaway is unheard of. Every last drop of your rich and gorgeously dark expresso should be treasured.
- ‘Forno Spettacolo Feliziani‘, a bakery, ‘forno’, and cafe. Despite being on a busy road behind the Vatican Museum, as soon as you step inside all is forgotten, as mouth-watering smells of baked cornetti (an Italian croissant), cantucci and of course the divine biscotti for after meals, hit your senses. Approaching Easter, I’m sure it will be filled with panettones, yum! This particular bakery was family run and knew all the locals; you could sit there all day and just listen to the passionate conversations about what bread loaf they should buy for lunch. Behind the glass counter, are homemade pizzas and gorgeous salads full of the best ingredients from the market. Too tempting not to, we bought a delicious array, which we enjoyed under the St Basilica for our lunch.
- We stumbled upon ‘Gran Caffe La Caffettiera‘, after visiting the chocolatier, ‘Venchi‘ (which of course had a chocolate-covered wall). A grand cafe it certainly is, the exquisite interior and polished wooden bar overlook the Piazza di Pietra a short walk away from the Spanish Steps. If you are a fan of coffee machines that resemble a masterpiece, then this place is ideal for you. We fell upon this in the afternoon; I had a creamy cappuccino which tasted divine, although I did become slightly jealous when the ladies next to us were brought two Negroni Cocktails (Negroni: gin, campari and red vermouth) on a silver tray.
Winding Streets of Ponté
Restaurants, cocktail bars and tiny stunning shops – this area near the Piazza Navona was my favourite. The burnt orange colour of the buildings and never-ending streets were filled with surprises. Here are the two places that are ‘must visits’ in this area to really explore Rome like a local.
We began our exploration of Ponté by having the signature Apérol Spritz, a refreshing, bright orange cocktail from Rome, in the Coronari Bistrot. A tiny bistro which sold olive oils, hams, regional wines and their speciality is cocktails. The perfect spot to watch the world go by.
After exploring and doing quite a lot of shopping in the small boutiques in Ponté, we were told we must eat in the ‘Taverna Agape‘ at the Piazza Di San Simeone which specialises in traditional Italian recipes and seafood. Lobster, oysters, homemade ravioli and beautiful wine. If you’re looking for the best gastronomic experience in Rome – this is it.
Packed full of locals and overlooking an idyllic square, we were lucky to get a space!
The Locals secret park
Villa Pamphili, if you are looking for the least touristic spot in Rome, this is it. This atmospheric park, surrounded by fields and a view of the whole city, can only be described as the locals’ paradise. We encountered huge family picnics with phenomenal spreads, to outside yoga classes. Completely off the beaten track, this hidden gem bustling with happy people walking, cycling, running and chatting, is like the Italian version of LA.
In the centre of all this breathtaking excitement is the Vivi Bistrot, an old converted barn. Modern but in keeping with its old charm and inspired by the Provençal country style, it is just magical. Should this be top of your list? Absolutely. If you need a break from the city down below, this is the place for a lovely evening aperitif to watch the sun go down, as the sky turns to a gorgeous pink.
I would recommend making a reservation, as the queue for this healthy but scrumptious restaurant can grow very quickly!
A short walk away the Villa Doria Pamphili a 17th Century Villa is located. If you love Architecture and gardens then this is perfect for you as it is the largest landscaped park in the whole of Rome.
Promenade in the Local Markets
At the weekend, if you are staying in a self-catered apartment and want to cook up a storm, or perhaps, you want to buy a picnic for one of the parks using fresh produce, Rome’s local markets are an explosion of fragrances and colours.
- Campo De Fiori Market – is the oldest market in Rome. Originally it started with just selling fruit and vegetables, but now sells bouquets, meats and fish. A true authentic market which will give you the full Rome experience.
- Esquilino Market – will not disappoint you, bursting with different ethnic ingredients. If you are self-catering when you visit, this market should be your to go too. Filled with stands selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, beans, olives and so much more. The amazing variety reminded me of the market I used to visit when I was little – Les Halles in Nîmes, South Of France – where I would spend hours and hours mesmerised by the rainbow mix of colours and the aromatic smell of cheese and flowers. Esquilino Market comes very close and is situated behind the Parco del Colle Opio. A stunning park for a sit-down and a bite to eat so you can enjoy your newly bought feast.
How To Discover Your Own Secret Gems
The key to exploring Rome like a local is to not be afraid of approaching the locals themselves. They are proud of this beautiful city and are normally more than happy to point out some of their favourite places.
If you don’t like the idea of talking to the table next to you at a bar or restaurant, you can always ask waiters and shop owners, as you will be sure they live in Rome.
Another obvious but very effective tip is to bring a good pair of shoes, as walking is the best way to properly explore. There are buses, trams and taxis but to see all the sights and appreciate the small streets, shops, restaurants and sites on foot is the most enjoyable. And don’t make the mistake I made by wearing heels on your first day!
Tips & Tricks:
- Have a vague plan for your day
- Ask the actual locals!
- Take time to wonder around the streets
- Try the small ‘tucked-away’ places
- Keep an eye out for where the locals are going
- Don’t look through a lease the whole time
Why Rome Is The Perfect Long Weekend Getaway
Don’t get me wrong, I really could spend weeks in this historic city. Lazier days in the Italian heat, promenades along the canal and the opportunity to explore what surrounds the city as well. However, if you are looking for a short trip, choosing a city seems like the perfect choice as not only is it convenient to get to, you will also be able to fill your schedule without having to spend most of your time travelling to each place.
Tips & Tricks
- Book the closest you can to the centre of Rome
- For a party atmosphere book in the area of Trastevere, fun filled bohemian streets famous for it’s B&B’s, craft beer pubs and fabulous bars
- October to April is a great time to go as most of the tourists don’t go then
- Make sure you visit the Parks – Villa Pamphili especially!
Revisiting this beautiful city through writing this article has given me a huge case of the Summer blues! Hopefully, you enjoyed reading about how to explore Rome like a local just as much as I did writing it and that you can explore the winding orange streets very soon.
Feeling like relaxing in the sun with an icy apérol spritz right about now? Me too… Well, why not have a luxurious self-care day instead and check out my article: Self-Care Sunday: 8 Ways To Replenish Your Mind & Body for all my tips & tricks.