HCX Travel Guide: Rome

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So with the promise of snow turning into another rainy day and the first week of term under the belt, HCX thinks it’s only fair to start looking forward to the excitement 2013 should hold for all of us. And what is more exotic and enticing then planning a European city break to banish the January blues?

With cheap flights from Bristol (ala Easyjet), this week’s Travel Guide is economy but also full of gelato, pizza, shopping and history. Benevenuto a Roma!

As a local girl, I hope to show all you HCX readers some spots within this beautiful city that maybe you have never heard of before. So while the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Vatican are big must-visits, here are some local spots that are equally note-worthy.


Restaurants and Bars: (While any restaurant you enter in Italy is likely to serve up something home-made, good value and delicious here are a few of my favourites.)

  • For something slightly different, the Roman Ghetto has roads lined with Jewish restaurants that serve tantalising dishes; while specialising in vegetables, my recommendation here is definitely fried artichoke heart. Go for lunch or after drinks; in summer time most restaurants put tables out onto the street so you can people-watch while eating. (Located on the east bank of the Tiber, in Rione Sant’Angelo.)
  • If you are visiting with parents (so they’re paying) or wanting to splash out on something special one evening, Babette is the place to go. Infamous among locals and within many top guides of the city, this restaurant is positioned on Via Margutta, which is the street lots of famous artists have their studies on, so go for a wander either pre or post meal. Babette does a fantastic brunch which quickly became a family favourite because you get to try many traditional dishes in one sitting. They also have the most divine dessert list you can think of. Not budget but definitely worth the extra expense!
  • For a slightly cheaper option, Gusto pizzeria and wine bar in Piazza Augusto Imperatore is a modern twist on Italian dining. It is always full of a mixture of locals and tourists, and the perfect place to stop for a bite during shopping on the Via del Corso. Another great place for good value food is rHome, a contemporary restaurant on the opposite side of the square that do a delicious €10 lunch buffet.
  • For a really chic Italian bar experience, head to Bar del Fico, where you will find yourself surrounded by young, good looking and well dressed Italians. There is a restaurant attached, however the cocktail bar with outdoor seating is the perfect place to have an apertivo* before heading off to dinner. Dress to impress for this one! (Located in Piazza del Fico, next to Via della Pace)


(Outdoor dining area of Babette)

[*Aperitivo- a must do when living la Dolce Vita, this is the term used for cocktails and canapés usually had at around 7-9pm before dinner. When in Rome, right!?!]

Markets and Shopping:

  • The fantastic market in Campo de Fiori will really give all you culture vultures something to rave about. Traditionally a flower market the stalls promise to be full of exciting colours and a great place to drool over local artesian food. At night-time, Campo is also a place that lots of young locals hang out, so head here for a sample of what Roman nightlife has to offer.
  • Porta Portese is the biggest and oldest market in Rome, situated within the ancient walls and happens every Sunday morning; the stalls here sell everything from tourist junk to fur coats. My big warning here is HEAD EARLY as all the good stuff will be gone after 10:00am, also beware during the summer as it quickly gets hot and claustrophobic within the small confines of the stalls.  Be prepared to barter, the braver you are the better deals you will get. It is a fantastic place to find ethnic jewellery, antique gifts and old records.
  • So after all that rummaging around in market stalls, via del Corso and via Cola di Rienzo are the places to head for more relaxing retail therapy. The latter of the two is the less touristy option and definitely the perfect place to head for shoe shops and small boutiques. While wandering around look out for La Rinascente and COIN department stores. Italy’s take on John Lewis and House of Fraser, these shops have been around for years and are always situated in stunning buildings that are worthy of a quick visit.


(Campo dei Fiori Market)

Historical Sights:

  • For all you poetry lovers out there the Protestant Cemetery, in via Caio Cestino, is definitely a must visit as it houses the graves of both Keats and Shelley. The beautiful cemetery is full of decorative and original tombstones adorned with touching messages, definitely a place of calm within the bustling city. (After visiting head up to the Giardino degli Aranci and the Aventine Keyhole for the best views you will get of Rome.)
  • While it is a small train journey outside of the city, for all history and archaeology fans, Ostia Antica is worth the trek. The ancient harbour city is one of the most impressive ruins I have been to, allowing you to climb amongst the walls and really live the experience, a day will not feel like enough when here. Take a picnic or have lunch at the small cafe, but remember to wear comfortable shoes, as you will constantly find yourself clambering over walls and mounds.

(Protestant Cemetery in Spring Time)

So there we have it, the perfect guide to your mini-break weekend in Rome, so make like Audrey Hepburn to escape the daily drag of deadlines through this magical city.

Happy Roman Holidays Ladies!



(Image credits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Audrey_Hepburn_and_Gregory_Peck_on_Vespa_in_Roman_Holiday_trailer.jpg




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