Interrail Italy – When in Rome

Hey guys! I sort of feel like I’ve had a blogging detox over the Summer, but I’m back in full swing blogging mode after being in hibernation. My Summer has been pretty busy, as I travelled for 5 whole weeks in total, worked quite a bit, FINALLY graduated, and was also bed bound for approximately 3 weeks with a disease (that part was about as fun as it sounds). On the positive side, I now have a whole summers worth of content to smash out including a lot of travel posts. So here goes.

At the end of August, my boyfriend and I explored our favourite country in the entire world for 16 days, Italy. We had been planning it in our heads for a while, and then one drunken night in Bierkeller resulted in us booking a spontaneous flight to Rome. Thank you Bierkeller! As soon as we knew that Rome was our first destination, we then booked places to stay in Pompei, Florence and Venice, but those are stories for another time (stay tuned). For now, here’s what we got up to during our 5 days in Rome.

Day 1

Our first day in Rome was definitely my favourite and I can’t believe how much we actually did in such a short space of time! We woke up pretty early, stuffed a load of the free breakfast from the hotel into our pockets, started up google maps and set out on a mission. Our hotel was a little out of the way, but the closest landmark was the colleseum and this was our first glimpse of Rome. It was pretty surreal turning the corner and seeing it there right in front of our eyes, and even more surreal to think that it was built in 70 AD. We didn’t end up going inside because the queues were insane, but just admiring it from the outside was enough. Oh, and Conor has already seen the inside on Assassins Creed. After wandering around for a little bit, we got some Fanta lemon from a supermarket (the only true reason I went on holiday) and found a park to eat our breakfast in.

After stuffing our face with Italian breakfast cakes (I don’t know what they’re really called so that’s what I’m calling them), Conor said he wanted to go to the Pantheon. I, an uncultured swine, had no idea what the Pantheon was so I rolled with it. Whilst walking there, we took a little detour towards the scenic route and stumbled across this amazing huge marble building called Piazza de Venezia. I just need to take a minute to tell you all how amazing the architecture is in Rome. I know you’ve seen pictures, but seeing it in person is honestly a whole other experience and I hope every single one of you have the opportunity to see it for yourself. Carrying on… we ventured up the stairs and ended up in a huge open space surrounded by pillars with the most amazing view over Rome. The pictures can’t even do this place justice, I felt (and looked) so small and it seriously took my breath away. It was also raining when the pictures were taken, which is why there’s pretty much nobody around! However, we, being British, were obviously having withdrawal symptoms from one day without rain and decided to utilise the photo opportunity instead of taking shelter. Worth it.

After we had explored to our hearts content, we set off to the Pantheon. This place was just as breathtaking, located in a beautiful square with a huge fountain at it’s centre. The pantheon is a former Roman temple and upon entering, it’s pretty hard to miss the huge hole in the ceiling. Fun fact of the day: the initial reasoning behind this was to illuminate the building with natural sunlight, yet also to allow those in the temple to contemplate the heavens. I’m not much of a history gal (ALTHOUGH I DID GET A B IN GCSE, not to toot my own horn), but learning about Rome fascinated me and some of the history behind the buildings I saw with my own eyes is honestly amazing (especially the last place we saw on this day, I’ll save the best until last). The Pantheon was huge and beautiful, and again, please allow the pictures to do it justice as I find the beauty here difficult to verbalise.

After playing tourists for the morning, we decided to sit down for our first Italian meal. Anyone who knows me (or anyone who doesn’t as I pretty much scream it from the rooftops on a daily basis), will know I am obsessed with pasta and I’ll admit, one of the best parts of our entire Italy trip was being able to have pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We found a spot directly across from the Pantheon called Da Clau Dia Caffe Ristorante, and let me tell you, this was probably my favourite meal I’ve ever had. I know what you’re thinking, peaked too early, right? The rest of the food was still incredible and came so close. But this was something else. Conor ordered seafood spaghetti which looked lovely, but I couldn’t resist ordering the four cheese gnocchi. Let me tell you, when this food came out I think my heart skipped a beat. MY HANDMADE FRESH GNOCCHI COATED IN FOUR CHEESE SAUCE ARRIVED IN A CHEESE BOWL. My tastebuds will never be satisfied again. If you do visit Rome at all, please make sure you try this place! We sat outside with a view of the pantheon, the atmosphere was great, the food was incredible AND we had a jug of sangria to wash it down. Bliss. Also the perfect place to people watch if that’s your thing.

After filling up my savoury tummy, my sweet tummy needed it’s fix so we went to find some ice cream. I can’t remember the name of this place but if you walk out of the restaurant, its’ directly to your left. Now, I’m an advocate for white chocolate anyway but white chocolate ice cream is my downfall. This place had THE BEST white chocolate ice-cream I’ve ever had, with kinder (sweet Jesus it was good) and strawberry falling not too far behind. You could also have macarons on top! We’d made no official plans for the rest of the day so we just walked around, accidentally stumbled upon a five-story Zara (a real life dream) and walked up towards the river. I’ve already mentioned how jaw-dropping the buildings are, but I noticed a white building which I assumed was a church and the architecture was incredible so we decided to take a look. We stared at it for while and took a few photos but it was shut so we just didn’t think twice and started to head back to the hotel. When we got back, we googled it just to see what it was all about and it was definitely the last thing I’d ever have expected. Are you ready for this? Okay here goes. It’s name is Museo Delle Anime del Purgatorio, translating to the Museum of the Souls of Purgatory. I know right? Creepy. In 1897, a chapel caught fire and a priest named Victor Jouet claimed to see a face burnt into the wall behind the altar, believing this was the soul of a deceased man who had been condemned to purgatory and had tried to contact the living. He built this museum to display objects which he believed showed traces of those who reside in purgatory. In order to be forgiven for their sins, the dead would attempt to catch the attention of the living who may then pray for them and facilitate their transition to Paradise. Second fun fact of the day, have fun sleeping tonight!

We’d had the longest day ever, but after a little siesta we were ready to venture out on our first night in Rome. Our hotel wasn’t exactly located in a tourist area, so it was difficult for us to know where to go without having to venture back into the centre of Rome, but what else is TripAdvisor for? We found the perfect-looking cocktail bar and set our sights on it, only to arrive and find out it was permanently shut down (whoops), but fate was on our side as we found the best place ever to spend the rest of the night. I guess we sort of just followed the young people (wow that sounds creepy) and discovered the coolest little local spot which sold super cheap slices of pizza and cocktails that were the same price as water in central Rome. A great end to a great first day in this incredible city.

Day 2

After our first day of exploring, we sorta had an idea of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. I’d also created a poll on Instagram asking for recommendations and the majority of people said to visit the Villa Borghese Gardens, so that’s where we went! These gardens are unbelievably beautiful and sit on the top of Rome, so the views are killer. They’re also huge and I think we got lost like 5 times. Anyway, we ventured towards a lake and rented out a rowing boat which was really cute (despite the fact that I had no idea how to actually manoeuvre it) and that was only a few euro each for 20 minutes!

We then rented out this strange electric carriage bike thing with pedals (I really need to use better terminology) and explored the entirety of the gardens. There were a few things to rent, such as golf buggies and just your regular bicycle, as there is a lot to see in a short space of time. Ignoring the fact that I spent the majority of the time screaming at Conor to slow down, we had a really lovely time and it’s still hard to believe that the gardens are in the centre of Rome. There’s also a zoo and an art gallery there which we didn’t visit, but if you’re wanting to make a day out of it I’d recommend going there too!

Upon leaving the park, we stumbled upon this incredible square and listened to a busker sing for a little while. At this point, we’d done enough pedalling and walking for one day, so decided it was time for some more food. And on this episode of what pasta did Lydia order this time… I had meat tortellini with super creamy cheese sauce and parmesan. They literally put a bowl of parmesan on the table which was extremely dangerous as I have no willpower so I essentially had parmesan with a side of pasta. Another recommendation we had been given was to go to the Black Market for drinks, which was our next port of call. This place was really cool and had such an indie vibe, as you walk in it just looks like a regular pub but as you walk down into the basement it’s almost like a speakeasy. The cocktails were pretty pricey but you know… when in Rome. We ordered two aperol spritz and some cocktails, but ending up hitting the hay early.

Or so we thought, until we decided we would rather order a McDonalds. I know what you’re thinking, you’re in ITALY, how could you order a McDonalds? Look, the McDonalds in Italy is not the same as in the UK, okay? We ordered a BUCKET filled with chicken nuggets, mozzarella bites and chicken wings, as well as a bacon and egg McMuffin, a grand Big Mac and LOADED cheese and bacon fries. We then slipped into a food coma and went to sleep.

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Day 3

Today was the day we had decided to visit the Vatican City, yet due to the food coma we had previously endured, we forgot to set our alarms. Despite leaving pretty late, we still decided to visit there. However, our first priority was to get some takeout carbonara. There are SO MANY takeout pasta places in Italy and all of them use fresh, handmade pasta so I just had to try at least one whilst we were in Rome. It obviously didn’t disappoint! The Vatican City, like the rest of Rome, was also surreal. We didn’t go inside, but I felt as if we didn’t have to as the outside was just breathtaking anyway. It seems like a weird way to describe it, but it felt extremely clean… and possibly more expectedly, holy.

We also ventured inside of the Castle of St. Angelo, which I didn’t expect to interest me too much, but it was actually a really incredible place. I keep surprising myself when I do things I don’t think I’ll enjoy, so I definitely need to start stepping out of my comfort zone more. Conor had also visited the castle on assassins creed (this happened a lot throughout the entire holiday), so I had my own little tour guide to show me around too. Upon reaching the top, the views were incredible and we could see across the entirety of Rome and could almost touch the Vatican. No seriously.

There was also a cute little cafe at the top where we had some refreshments and headed back down to the ground. As we were pretty far from our hotel, we ventured back through the scenic route again and found a little outside restaurant where we could dine al fresco (yeah I speak fluent Italian now). We filled up on pasta and pizza, went and took another glance at the Pantheon, grabbed another ice cream from the same place as the first day, then took a trip to the pharmacy as I had been eaten alive by mosquitos and figured I had to do something about it. Later on in the evening, we grabbed some cocktails and hit the sack.

Day 4

On our last full day in Rome, we decided to tick off all of the places we’d yet to see. Our first stop was the famous Trevi fountain, which was bloody gorgeous. We winded up staying here for a while, as despite how busy it was, there was something so therapeutic about just sitting back and people watching. We then sat on the edge and both threw a coin in to make a wish. Although, I’m not entirely sure I could even think of a wish because I was on the holiday of dreams… okay maybe to win the lottery…

After the fountain, we got straight onto google maps and headed for the Spanish steps. They were maybe not quite as breathtaking but it was so nice to just sit on the steps, have a drink and watch the world go by. Oh, and also to turn down all of the men trying to give us roses as ‘gifts’, in other words, waiting until you’ve accepted the rose and then demanding money, watch out for that!

We decided to head for a bite to eat and found a little restaurant right by the steps where we ordered a massive cheesy pizza and I discovered my first Rossini (prosecco and strawberry juice!!!). After, we took a stroll through the shopping area which is located near the steps. If you’re looking to go shopping, this is definitely the place to be! I found that a lot of stores were way cheaper than the ones in the UK, for example, I got an amazing lipstick from NYX for like 3 euros!! There’s also a zara on every corner and plenty of designer shops if you’re wanting to splash the cash. We, on the other hand, were on a budget. So a 3 Euro lipstick was about my fill.

One of my favourite places we went to in Venice was the magnum pleasure store so when I spotted one in Rome I just had to go. There’s something so strangely exciting about being able to make your own magnum, even if they are 5 euros… I chose a vanilla ice cream base coated in white chocolate topped with brownies, chocolate balls and freeze dried strawberries, finished off with a drizzle of pink chocolate.

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The day was nearing to a close, and we had decided that our last meal destination in Rome would be no other than the Hard Rock Cafe. One thing I will say is ALWAYS BOOK, don’t show up and expect a table as when we arrived the queues were out the door for people waiting. Thankfully, we did book and were seated in the little conservatory they have outside (which also had 2-4-1 cocktail offers on, win win) and ordered our regular order: 2 huge burgers with garlic aioli chips and a side of twisted Mac n cheese. It may be pricey but my god Hard Rock is so worth the prices because the food is incredible!!!

The time we spent in Rome was honestly magical and I can’t wait to go and explore there again. The holiday blues have well and truly set in now, however, we didn’t have much time to sulk as we woke up the next day and jumped on a train to Pompeii. Stay tuned for what we got up to there in the next post!

If anyone is planning to head to Rome at any point in their life and has any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks for reading!

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