“All roads lead to Rome” as the saying goes, but unfortunately the phrase often equates to hoards of tour buses, crowded restaurants and lengthy queues to the city’s most famous icons. Everybody loves Rome, but it also means that everyone wants to be there, so being smart about how you book tours and dining experiences can make all the difference if you are keen to bypass the crowds.
During high season it can be a monumental undertaking, however with the right travel advice, it can be an absolute delight. With thanks to our partners at Virtuoso, a global network representing some of the world’s finest travel advisors, here is our city guide to Rome.
DO THE MUST-DO’S RIGHT
When travelling in Rome, most visitors consider it mandatory to tick off a few ‘must sees’, however the key is knowing when to go and how to get there. This will not only help you avoid the crowds, but allow you a bit of time to truly soak in their majestic wonders.
To find a bit of breathing space at the Vatican, pre-book your tickets and tour guide for 7.30am sharp and head directly for the Sistine Chapel. Here you can spend a hushed half-hour in Michelangelo’s sanctuary before backtracking through the Raphael Rooms to Saint Peter’s Basilica. Even non-believers can appreciate this site’s architectural delights, and while you’re there, don’t miss Bernini’s sculpted bronze canopy, Baldachin, and of course Michelangelo’s divine sculpture, Pietà.
One of the most internationally recognised attractions in Rome, the Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire, and now a three-year refresh has opened the top floor to small group tours for the first time in over 40 years. Private tours are also available of the third and terrace levels and the subterranean sotterranei, however with almost four million people visiting this site annually, you’ll need to book your tickets well in advance.
And a tour of Rome’s famous sites would of course not be complete without a visit to Nicola Salvi’s Baroque masterpiece, the Trevi Fountain. This spot is notoriously busy as well, so for the best views hire a golf cart driver to take you to a discrete little drop off point behind the fountain (they’ll know the one), where you can find the perfect perch above the fray from one of the open windows of the Benetton retail store on the Piazza di Trevi.
MODERNISE YOUR ARTISTIC OUTLOOK
Like to gather a few modern memories while you’re travelling around Rome? The Borghese Gallery is the perfect way to view some of Bernini’s baroque sculptures without the frenzy of the crowds (no more than 360 visitors are allowed on the ground floor within a two-hour period).
Or book a guided tour (and escape the queues) of Rome’s newest national art museum, MAXXI, where you can view a collection of eclectic twenty-first-century pieces, including a 28-metre human skeleton meticulously crafted by Italian artist Gina De Dominicis.
Not done? Stop by the National Gallery of Modern Art for Italy’s largest collection of nineteen and twentieth century paintings and sculptures.
DO WHAT THE LOCALS DO… MANGIA!
Look at any Rome travel guide, and you’ll notice one thing – there will be lots of talk about dining venues. That’s because while the majority of travellers visit Venice to fall in love and visit Milan to fall in love with fashion, in Rome they come to eat! However, if you’re keen to avoid the ‘hangry’ parties of tourists queuing for an authentic Italian meal, the first tip is to eat late – Romans generally lunch between 1.30 and 3pm and eat dinner no earlier than 8pm.
An un-touristy favourite not far from Piazza Navona, Campana is an Italian delight offering classics like Roman pasta with a cheese and black pepper sauce (tonnarelli cacio e pepe), and an antipasti dish that’s a meal unto itself! Weekend lunches are filled with families who have had the same table for generations (so time it right), and dinner reservations are a must.
L’Osteria de Memmo is a hidden gem on an obscure side street, whose specialties include roasted suckling pig and a spaghetti Al Moro (a spaghetti carbonara with a twist), with tableside service that certainly beats the other pizza-frenzied establishments down the block.
And even the locals can’t resist the backdrop of Michelin-starred Aroma on Palazzo Manfredi’s outdoor terrace, which serves classic Italian cuisine, beautifully enhanced by unparalleled views of the Colosseum.
Ready to book your Italian adventure, but need some advice on the best tours and accommodation? As a member of the Virtuoso network, Orbit World Travel are proud to offer our clients not only the services of our experience travel experts, but the benefits of booking through a network of the world’s finest travel advisors.