48 Hours in Rome: How to Make the Most of Italy's Breathtaking Capital

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48 Hours in Rome: How to Make the Most of Italy's Breathtaking Capital

Oh Rome, beautiful Rome: the Eternal City, Italy’s capital, and one of the most visited cities in all of Europe, where pizza and pasta reign supreme, where lovers stroll through cobblestoned streets, children greedily devour their gelato, and old men while away their days sipping espressos in traditional coffeehouses. Rome is a city of love, history, culture, art and food. It’s a bucket list destination, atop the ruins of an ancient civilization, with evidence of its rich history and culture waiting to be discovered on every corner. If you ever find yourself in Rome (and I hope, for your sake, that you do) let me guide you through an ideal 48 hours, filled with the best this incredible city has to offer.

So, you’ve arrived in Rome. It’s early evening and you’re settling into your accommodation, ideally in the charming neighborhood of Trastevere, just across the Tiber River from Rome’s historic center. Trastevere is formerly a working class district with a bohemian vibe, winding cobblestone streets and no shortage of restaurants, cafes, pizzerias, bars and cozy trattorias. So naturally, before you do anything else, it’s time for dinner. In Trastevere you can take your pick, but I recommend somewhere traditional, like Trattoria Da Enzo al 29, Le Mani in Pasta or Nannarella. For something a little more upmarket, try Zia. Wherever you choose, though, a post-dinner Limoncello is absolutely mandatory. Next, have a negroni or two at Freni e Frizioni or Bar San Calisto. Alternatively, indulge in some gelato at Otaleg, before heading back to your accommodation to rest. Tourists are aplenty in Rome, so I recommend starting your next day early to try and avoid them.

A typical breakfast in Italy always revolves around coffee and usually something light and sweet to nibble on like a cornetto, Italy’s answer to the croissant. Italians almost always drink their coffee standing up at the bar too, so follow suit if you want to do as the Romans do. Get your fill at Il Siciliano or Caffè Trastevere or, if you’re looking for something a little more substantial, visit trendy Eggs. Enjoy strolling through the gorgeous streets of Trastevere in the daylight and make your way to Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest churches in Rome, established in the 3rd century AD. Afterwards, head back towards the river, take in the breathtaking views and get your bearings, as you stroll towards Rome’s historical center, Centro Storico. Here you’ll find the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the beautiful Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola, a church with a ceiling so incredible that it easily rivals the Sistine Chapel (and you won’t get in trouble for taking photos). If you need a quick espresso to refuel, swing by Tazza d’Oro, an authentic spot open since 1944. Afterwards, discover nearby ruins at the Largo di Torre Argentina, rumored to be the very spot where Julius Caesar was murdered and now home to an adorable, volunteer-run cat sanctuary.

Next, stroll through the Piazza Navona before stopping at Supplizio for lunch, a charming little hole-in-the-wall spot where you can gorge on authentic Roman cuisine like supplì, delicious fried rice balls with various fillings and flavors. Grab a post-lunch gelato from nearby Frigidarium and then stroll back the way you came towards Galleria Doria Pamphilj, a decadent palazzo housing Rome’s largest private collection of art and well worth a visit (you’ll usually need to buy tickets beforehand, though). For dinner, you can’t miss Roscioli, a bustling restaurant with its own bakery, wine shop and deli counter and a menu filled with Italy’s best. Florence Welch was enjoying dinner at the table beside mine when I ate here. For drinks, go to Jerry Thomas Project, Salotto 42 or Argot Bar; they’re all reasonably close to each other, so why not go to all three? If you can bear to walk any further (or if not, hail a cab), head to the Spanish Steps for some late-night people watching and to see the city come to life all around you, before you mosey home to sleep.

For Day Two, enjoy breakfast at newcomer Marigold, serving organic Scandinavian fare in the Ostiense neighborhood. Once you’ve fuelled up, head to the Colosseum, a must-see for any trip to Rome. An entry ticket to the Colosseum will also include a visit to archaeological sites the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, so if you’re a history buff, do make an effort to visit those too, and imagine yourself in the days of the Republic. Afterwards, get away from the tourists and make your way to Ai Tre Scalini or La Carbonara for lunch in trendy district Monti and then spend some time exploring the streets of this quirky neighborhood. Stop by the Libreria Caffè Bohemien, stroll down Via Urbana, browse the many boutiques and vintage clothing stores, and if it’s a weekend, swing by Mercato Monti. Make sure to stop by the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore too; it’s impressive on the outside, but considerably more so once you go in.

For the afternoon, visit the Villa Borghese, a gallery and museum filled with Roman sculptures, antiquities and work by old masters. It’s an incredible and very elegant place to lose track of time and spend an afternoon, but again, make sure to book your tickets in advance. A visit here is also not complete without a stroll through the villa’s substantial park and gardens, as you begin to wind down from your whirlwind Roman holiday. Next, end on a high note with dinner at Trattoria Pennestri or Barred, a spot run by two brothers, with an excellent selection of natural wines. Wherever you end up, relax, get a little wine-drunk, soak up la dolce vita and get excited for your next trip to Rome, which, if you make sure to toss a coin over your shoulder and into the Trevi Fountain, will surely come your way.

Bryony Parker is a writer and artist currently living in São Paulo, Brazil and working on her Masters in International Affairs. You can find her at @par666ker on all social media.