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5 days in Rome: Experience the city off the beaten path

Photo by S.Borisov

When you think of Rome you probably think of the colosseum, the famous Trevi fountain, the Spanish Steps, etc. And once in your life you probably should have seen them but Rome also has so much more to offer!

‘Dolce far niente’ (the sweet idleness) definitely is part of that. Italians simply know how to lead a stressfree, happy life! And what better is there than to stroll from one cafe to the next and watch the Italians go about their daily lives and simply not stress out. The clocks really do go slower here!

Next to lots of good food and wine – pizza, pasta, gelato, aperitivo, vino, and, and, and – you can take on the flea markets, discover unknown areas and make a trip to the sea. Here are our best secret suggestions for Rome!

5 days in Rome: enjoy the ‘eternal city’ like a Roman!

Enjoy the quiet of the numerous parks

The largest park of Rome surrounds Villa Doria Pamphili, you can reach it best with a bike, it lies West of Trastevere. Come here for a nice picnic or just to relax. Heart of the park is the villa and its beautiful gardens. If you don’t want to miss out on your sports program during your 5 days in Rome this is a good place for a jog – past fountains, tree lined alleys and more fountains. Once at the park you can go on to the botanical garden.

You may have heard of Villa Borghese already because the park around the villa is named after it. Definitely go visit these green lungs right in the heart of Rome. A short hike up the stairs of Pincio hill and you will have a great view over the city. Take a look at the Galoppatoio, the horse racing tracks, where to this day international tournaments are held, or rise up 100 m above Rome in a hot air balloon at Galleria Borghese.

And just drift around the city. There are so many great green spaces to be discovered!

Aperitivo in Trastevere

As is the culture in many Southern countries, Italians traditionally have an aperitif before eating. Between 6 and 7 pm they flock to the bars to have an alcoholic beverage and some light food with it. The drink is so much better with some olives, pizza bread and nuts and they keep the first hunger at bay. A little tipsy you then go on to a restaurant. Often times these appetizers even are free. A cheap outing altogether!

The perfect place for this ritual is Trastevere on the Western side of the Tiber. Almost only Romans live here. Streets are narrow and crowded with young people in the evening, cute restaurants and artistry shops have made this part of town to a real hotspot.

Freniefrizoni serves the best aperitivo. You can sit outside the stylish, slightly run-down bar and mingle with the locals. This is also a great place for a drink after a good meal!

San Calisto bar in Trastevere is a real institution, it has been around for over 70 years and has not really changed much: a cool bar with lots of different kinds of Romans enjoying life together. This place attracts alternative artists to hip students alike. Here too, most people hang out it the street holding a beer or a glass of wine. But you should definitely have had a look inside, it is still the 1950s there!

Enoteca Palombi on the other hand is more traditional, the wooden tables make for a rustic feel. They offer a large selection of wine and beer and you can also take a seat outside and enjoy a good wine and antipasti.

Try Checco er Carettiere for typical Roman cuisine and handmade pasta and fish dishes starting at 9€. This family restaurant has been making guests happy with great Italian food for three generations now!

Pasta-Rom

Pizza in Testaccio

Testaccio is a folksy neighborhood on the opposite side of the Tiber where you can really feel the charme of the old Rome.

There is a daily market on Piazza Testaccio which tourists do not seem to know of yet. Here you can finde fruit, vegetables, fish and meat of best quality and can watch the Italian Mammas do their grocery shopping. The ancient Roman mini pyramid, Piramide Castio, which a local tribune built for himself when he returned from Egypt seems very out of place here but that is all the more reason to visit it!

There are many great little shops here where you can buy delicacies, wine and clothing. In the evening this neighborhood is the perfect place to meet up for pizza in one of the little pizzarias or trattorias where Mama still cooks herself.

Nuovo Mondo is the place to satisfy your cravings for a great pizza. 90% of the guests there are Roman, the pizza has a thin crust and the toppings are delicious! I have to admit that for me, pizza has to have a nice thick crust with lots of dough, to hell with crispy, but I am guessing you like crispy?

Pizza-essen-Rom

Swimming in the Sea at Sperlonga

A city like Rome can be exhausting: loud traffic, stuffy air, long distances. What better is there than to spend a day at the beach? And the greatest part: the train ride there is only an hour! So pack your swimsuit and sun screen and get on a train at the main station. My suggestion is Sperlonga. This picturesque village is located on a cliff between Rome and Naples.

Unlike Ostia there are almost no tourists here and you have the quint little village to yourself. Pay close attention on the train, your stop is Fondi! Of course I rode too far, waiting for a stop called Sperlonga and then had to go back after asking someone at the next stop.

From the Fondi station you either take the bus or a taxi to Sperlonga. This takes around 15 minutes. Once you arrive have a look around, there are many narrow alleyways to discover!

Sperlonga-2

Sperlonga-Marktplatz

The main beach starts just below the market square. Leave this beach behind and go up the steps to cross over the hill on which the old part of the village is located. Then you get to a nicer, quieter beach. If you go all the way to the end of it you will find a wonderful place right by the water, a great place to spend a day!

Sperlonga

If you want a little more action, you can also do as the Italians do and rent a long chair plus umbrella in one of the typical Lidi (beach baths).

And on the way back treat yourself to ice cream at one of the ice cream shops on the main square. I tried it and boy it’s good!

Sperlonga-Eisdiele / Geheimtipps Rom

I headed back around 5 since I didn’t know when the train leaves. My advice: check the schedule for your return when you arrive at the station, trains usually only go once an hour. This way you avoid a long wait when really you could have still been at the beach.

Do the Liar’s test at Santa Maria church

Hands off of this activity if you are superstitious, literally: hands off. The Bocca della verità is a round stone carving in Santa Maria church, it is around 2.000 years old. In its center there is an open mouth. Legend has it that if a liar put his hand into the mouth, it will be bitten off. So do some soul searching before you go there, do you really want to risk your hand?

I felt a little uneasy when I put my hand in, who hasn’t had to tell a little white lie? I was lucky: hand’s still there!

Do you dare?

Walk along Via Appia Antica

I still knew Via Appia Antica from my Latin classes, back when I had to torture myself with Caesar, Cicero and cart races at Circus Maximus. I figured why not take a walk along the traces of the world’s longest museum – this comes with the added benefit of the calmness on the outskirts of the city!

The entire Via Appia extends more than 560 km to Brindisi. Around 18 km of the ancient cobblestone is still preserved, this part is referred to as Via Appia Antica. Here you will really feel perpelled back to ancient Roman times. Cars can hardly navigate the road here, it is difficult to drive on the old stones!

And at every corner you discover catacombs, aquaeducts and tombs, because it was not allowed to bury the dead within the city. Pine and cyprus trees and old villas line the ancient road. I was fortunate enough to spend a week in one of these old villas. It is crazy that in every garden you find ancient relics like columns that are not allowed to move even a single millimeter.

Bus number 218 will take you from the city center to Via Appia Antica. Best to go on a Sunday or public holiday because the road is closed for traffic then.

If you want to relax and strengthen yourself after all the walking swing by the Trattoria di Priscilla which is right on Via Appia Antica. Real Roman cuisine à la Mama awaits you there!

Buy Italian groceries at Eataly

Welcome to the heaven of Italian goods! I almost went crazy here! Upon entering you are presented with four floors full of delicacies. You could easily spend a whole day during your 5 days in Rome here, so plan a lot of time, this is not a regular trip to the supermarket – also not for the wallet!

You can hit Eataly for eating and shopping. 23 slowfood restaurants and delicacy stalls invite you to taste what Italian cuisine has to offer. And if you do not already, once you stroll through the isles you will feel like you are on a culinary trip through Italy and grab all the olive oil, wine, pasta and biscotti you might need.

Even if you had planned to not get much, you will buckle here. Even if you don’t find anything for yourself, you are sure to come across some great gifts for your loved ones at home. And of course you will find the best ingredients for a dinner at home. I got myself an incredibly wonderful Burrata and fresh salmon. Truly a dream!

Prices are a little higher here but then again you can also expect nothing but the highest quality! The locals you meet here love the place for that.

You can combine shopping at Eataly with a visit to Testaccio.

Coffee at the oldest cafe in Rome

Saint Eustachio cafe is a Roman institution. So unfortunately you will not be the only tourist there. But still this place in Rome’s historical center serves the best coffee in town. They still roast their own coffee right behind the Pantheon, just as in the 1930s. So let your nose guide you!

If you want to do as the Italians do, have your coffee standing. At 1,50€ this is a real steal! If you are lucky enough to get a table, the same coffee will cost you 4€. That was the most expensive cappuccino I had in Rome – but also the best! And it is a wonderful place for people watching!

Saint-Eustacchio

(c) Café Saint Eustacchio

If you order a ‘cappuccino decorato’ at Bardel Cappuccino you will get a coffee with great froth design like a tulip. A real work of art!

Watch the sun set over Rome

Time for romance: at Gianicolo, a hill above Trastevere, which is not one of the 7 hills of Rome! Follow Via di Porta S. Pancrazio and Passeggiata del Gianicolo away from the narrow alleyways of Trastevere up the 82 meter high hill. The view that awaits you here is spectacular! You can see all the most important sights of Rome from the big terrace at Piazza Garibaldi.

Best to take a bottle of wine along and enjoy the last hours of the day in the company of young Italians that hang out here. A good opportunity to get in touch with them!

Gianicolo / 5 days in Rome

Another hill you should definitely climb is Aventin. You will discover a famous photo and postcard motif if you peer through the key hole of the orange garden, you have a straight view of the dome of St. Peter.

Delicious ice cream

Having ice cream, every day if you can, belongs to Italy just as much as pizza, pasta and espresso. Whether you have it to refresh during the day or as a dessert while going for a stroll after eating – ice cream is always a good idea!

Giolitti has always been a big name for ice cream in the eternal city. Right in the historic center, around the corner from the Pantheon, you will find the long queue that perpetually crowds the place. Getting in line is worth it though! Even Obamas daughters have learnt here how the perfect ice cream is made!

Giolitti definitely is not a secret tip, but for many it is the very best address in town for typical Italian gelato!

Giolitti

(c) Giolitti

When in Trastevere you have to check out Fior di Luna! They don’t use waffle cones here, only cups, because the ice cream is supposed to get center stage. Particularly good: strawberry and pistachio!

If you cannot make it to either of these two places during your 5 days in Rome, just look out for where the longest lines are, especially lines of locals! Because the Italians too have a weakness for good ice cream!

Haggle for fringe at the flea market

Porta Portese at Trastevere is paradise for flea market lovers. It is the largest and best known flea market in Rome. There is nothing you can’t buy here, maybe even lost items like a stolen camera!

Every Sunday Romans come here to shop, gossip and eat. The flea market has two parts. Head for the smaller, less commercial part. If you are looking for antique treasures you will definitely get lucky here!

Pigneto market on the other hand is a little quieter and less touristy. Tourism hasn’t really come to this neighborhood yet, but there are already a lot of vegan cafes and organic shops there. Every fourth Sunday in a month locals come together at the main square to sell old stuff. Don’t forget to bargain!

After the flea market shopping you can also get fresh, regional fruit and veg from local farmers at the far end of the square.

If you collect old prints and books you should visit Mercato dell’Antiquariato di Fontanella Borghese. Traders offer up their goods every day from 9 to 5:30 pm.

Marvel at the fantastic architecture at Quartiere Coppedè

Quartiere Coppedè is a secret tip for all lovers of architecture. Literally it means neighborhood even though it’s not. An architect by the name of Gino Coppedè designed a magical world in this part of the Trieste neighborhood, it consists of 18 palazzi and several villas. A genious mixture of art deco and baroque meets here and manifests even in the large arch through which you enter the area. Center of the tiny neighborhood is the frog fountain on Piazza Mincio. From there streets depart into all corners of the neighborhood and you should look at them all!

The fairy villa is the highlight of the area, it combines everything that is essential to Copeddè’s style, it is fantastical in the truest sense of the word! Especially in the light of dusk it presents itself as a fairy tale castle. You will be anticipating all sorts of fairy tale creatures to come to life and have a ball in the garden!

Don’t miss Palazzo del Ragno after that, the spider palace across the road. A huge spider thrones in a golden net right over the entrance.

Settle into Bar Coppedè for a drink and a bite to eat as the locals do. There really aren’t any other bars or restaurants in the area.

This place is still so unknown that you will meet hardly any tourists here. Be sure to go there before the masses start coming!

Go for fresh fish at Fiumicino

You only know Fiumicino because Rome’s airport carries the same name? You should change that because the places down by the harbour here serve up really great seafood thanks to the large fish market. Diverse, idyllic restaurants line the Viale Traiano only around 30 km away from Rome.

I especially recommend L’Osteria Dell’ Orologio where you can sit right by the water and enjoy the sunset alongside a great wine and delicious seafood.

Il Ristorantino is a little more private and offers a typical Italian atmosphere. Locals go here for fish straight from the sea.

And one last tip: If you still have cash left over for shopping then go to Via Cola di Rienzo. Here you can shop for Italian fashion and accessories among the Romans!

 

The best places to stay in Rome

Trastevere Penthouse With Amazing Views

This one bedroom apartment, located in the heart of Trastevere, offers a furnished terrace with stunning views over the city. It’s composed by a large living room, a master bedroom with queen size bed and a bathroom with Jacuzzi. All sights are at walking distance.

rome-airbnb

 

Trastevere Stylish Loft

This stylish loft is also located in Trastevere on the third floor of an 18th century building. The modern living room is split on two floors. On the upper level you will find a nice studio with a writing desk and a couch that turns into a double sofa bed.

rome-airbnb-2

 

Rome Times Hotel

The hotel is located in the heart of Rome, just a 10 minutes walk from sights like Trevibrunnen or Colosseum. The rooms and suites are quiet and well appointed with furniture specially designed for this hotel. For breakfast also organic and gluten as well as lactose free options are served.

http://www.booking.com/

 

Have you been to Rome and got some suggestions for the city? Where is your favourite spot? Please leave a comment!

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