Although in July and August, the Eternal City is bathed in sunshine, it is the perfect time to stroll around in peace and quiet, while masses of tourists migrate to the Amalfi Coast. The must-see sites such as the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain remain crowded (and with good reason!), but once you’ve completed your tour, you’ll discover that there is much more to the Eternal City than meets the eye.
For my part, Rome quickly rose to the top of my list of favorite cities. You will tell me that this comment is conventional, but the Italian cuisine has a lot to do with it! It’s not to mention the perfect mix between the historical aspect of the city and its very trendy side, the wonder you feel in front of the iconic monuments, the ease of moving from one neighborhood to another (on foot, by scooter, by Uber) or along the Tiber River… and the convivial experience (typically Italian!) of sipping espresso at the counter of a coffee shop or a grocery store, to feel the pulse of the Italian daily life. A whole week in Rome wasn’t enough for me: here are 7 must-see experiences!
Things to see and do
1. Immerse yourself in ancient Roman history during a visit to the Colosseum
Booked through Viator, a visit to the Colosseum is a must; you will be completely transported back in time! The walk lasts about 3 hours and takes you through the ruins of the Roman Forum, leads to the top of Mount Palatine dotted with umbrella pines (emblematic Italian trees), and concludes with the witness of gladiatorial combats: the Colosseum. Although classic and seen a thousand times in photos, the view overlooking the arena is breathtaking!
2. Wander from piazza to piazza to discover the Roman must-sees
A visit to the City of the Seven Hills is never complete without contemplating the iconic piazzas and monuments that shape the eastern bank of the Tiber, the long river that flows from Tuscany to Rome. On foot (preferably!), you can begin your journey in front of the splendor of Piazza di Spagna , which owes its name to the Spanish embassy that was located there in the 17th century.
A little further South, make your way through the crowds photographing in front of the Trevi Fountain If you are superstitious, you will turn your back to the fountain and flip a coin; if you are like me, you will sit at the edge of the fountain to contemplate its monumental character.
Finally, if you haven’t lost your way in the maze of streets, go to the Pantheon which testifies to the virtuosity of the Roman builders. And if you are lost, it’s probably a good sign, since there are many things to discover on this side of the Tiber: artisan stores, gelaterias, musical and theatrical performances, ancient ruins… However, I advise you to find the Piazza Navona to go and enjoy the Terrazza Borrominia restaurant with a rooftopserving fine Italian cuisine and overlooking the piazza. An incomparable… and very romantic (just in case!) moment.
3. Dive into the religious history of the Vatican
There is so much to say about the Vatican, and yet so few words are needed to describe the experience: it is majestic! A visit is necessary and it is breathtaking: first, because you will never be so squished (attention for agoraphobic people), and especially because the holy place is of a prodigious beauty! Book your tour a few months in advance on Viator; and keep your fingers crossed for a guide who really speaks French!
4. Taste a delicious Cacio e Pepe: a typical Roman dish
To say the least, no matter where you decide to eat in Rome, you will probably eat very well! For my part, I scoured the best of lists and reviews of dozens of restaurants to find the best Cacio e Pepe, the famous Roman dish composed of three ingredients: pasta, Pecorino Romano cheese and pepper. Here are my three recommendations (which also offer a variety of other delicious Italian dishes), which will also allow you to discover neighborhoods with a strong personality.
Piatto Romano (Testaccio): the best Cacio e Pepe of our week in Rome. Perfectly cooked pasta and an impeccably emulsified cheese and pepper sauce. Divine!
Go. Do al Pigneto: the detour in this district, by the way, full of locals, is quite justified! The fresh pasta is exquisite, the service is impeccable and the place is very nice, without pretention.
Osteria Da Zi Umberto (Trastevere): if you want to stay in a more touristy area, you will be very satisfied with this charming restaurant, where the food is delicious!
5. Admire the setting sun from a peak
Just a few steps from the vibrant Trastevere district, is the Belvedere del Gianicolo. A good idea for a successful evening would certainly be to climb to the top of the belvedere to contemplate Rome in all its splendor, illuminated by the warm light of the setting sun. With a drink in hand, sitting on the low stone wall, the Holy City standing out against the pink sky is very photogenic, and the atmosphere is at its most relaxating. A brief detour to see the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola (which appears in the opening scene of the film Great Beauty), which is beautifully illuminated, will allow you to descend to Trestavere to continue your evening.
6. Vibrate to the rhythm of the famous Trastevere and go out with the Romans in Testaccio
The famous Trastevere district is considered the heart of Rome; a heart beating following the rythm of a bohemian atmosphere. Its Piazza di Santa Maria is lively day and night and is the crossroads of very charming cobblestone streets, which are reminiscent of classic Italian postcards. If you like to party and be in the middle of the action, you’ll love this area, which is teeming with tourists in search of ancient Rome, but away from the historical monuments. If you’re more interested in a neighborhood with the same festive spirit and more locals, you’ll have a great time in Testaccio. One of my favorites is the Tram Depot, where you order your drink from the window of an old tramway car and then sip it in the surrounding park, beautifully lit up at night. Finally, if you are a movie lover, Nuovo Sacher is a perfect place to end the evening with an outdoor screening: the selection of films is diverse and subtitled in English.
7. Tivoli: an unforgettable getaway
If you feel like getting out of the city for a day, why not take the train to Tivoli? It is a picturesque village nestled in the heart of a rocky massif. A village whose interest lies mainly in visiting the villas of Este and Gregoriana. Both villas offer breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside and mountains, and their respective gardens are among the most beautiful that mark the Italian cultural heritage. An hour by train from Rome, it is a go to.
Travel to Rome with Air Canada (Signature Class)
There are several flight options to reach the Italian capital. However, the easiest way from Montreal is the daily direct flight with Air Canada. Since it’s an 8-hour flight, for the Montreal-Rome flight, I booked a 60,000-point Signature Class ticket for my boyfriend, and bought an Economy Class ticket that I upgraded (Signature Class) with the eUpgrades I had thanks to my Air Canada 35k status.
Accommodation in Rome with points
For members of the Marriott Bonvoy program, there’s certainly no shortage of hotel choices in Rome, as the group currently boasts no fewer than 16 in the city, from the most luxurious like The St. Regis Rome to the more affordable Sheraton Parco de’ Medici Rome Hotel, not to mention the many unique brands of Design Hotels and Autograph Collection.
Prices in points start at 16,000 points per night and vary widely depending on the season and the hotel selected.
The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card is the best credit card for free hotel nights.
With this welcome offer, you can earn 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
It’s a Card we recommend keeping because each year at renewal, you get an Annual Free Night Award (for up to 35,000 points at hotels worldwide) and 15 Elite Night Credits per year, counting towards your Marriott Bonvoy Elite status.
With this Card, you earn 5 points per dollar on all purchases at Marriott Bonvoy properties and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.
Finally, this Card comes with comprehensive insurance: baggage delay, lost or stolen baggage, $500,000 travel accident, flight delay, hotel or motel burglary, rental car theft and damage, Purchase Security, Purchase Protection.
Like all American Express Canada Cards, there is no minimum income requirement.
While writing this article, Rome has once again won me over, and it is certainly a stunning gateway to all that Italy has to offer. Through my 7 unforgettable experiences in the City of 7 Hills, I hope to have sparked an interest to go and (re)discover it! Arrivederci!
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