Ahh Italia. Land of everything I love: wine, pasta, pizza, gelato, picturesque streets and buildings, teeny Fiats, a dreamy color palette, and more history than one can consume in a single visit. See below for recommendations on where to stay, what to do, and obvi: where to eat in Roma.
Where To Stay:
Trastevere (pronounced Trast-ev-er-ay - for some reason I could not, for the life of me, say it correctly but soon realized that the emphasis was on the second syllable). Close to the city center with provincial charm, Trastevere is described as one of Rome's favorite neighborhoods. It's narrow streets, laid-back vibe, plentiful restaurants and cafes make for a perfect area to call home base. While there are hotels I recommend finding a place through AirBnB; there are loads of fantastic apartments that immerse you; to make you feel like you live there, even if only for a few days. Get inspired here.
Piazza di Santa Maria is a square in Trastevere that provides a romantic backdrop for an evening stroll (even with your best girlfriends), sidewalk cafes, bars, people watching, music and of course taking some wine, pasta and pizza. I also recommend walking along the river in the evening. Simply dreamy.
How To Get Around:
My feet may disagree but Rome is entirely a walking city; what seems impossible to walk on a map is actually quite close. And to be honest, it only helped me get more acquainted to the city. Getting lost in the side streets of the piazzas, you're likely to stumble upon something lovely. That said - get a pocket map. It helps! If walking is not your thing, have no fear. The public transportation system is pretty good save for running every 30 minutes (I think that was a one-time fluke & beginners luck) and is seemingly free (don't tell the authorities). Otherwise, the streets are lined with taxi's and local shops where you can rent bikes or more daring, Segways.
What To Do:
Site Seeing: It goes without saying that there is MUCH to do and see in Rome. Someone mentioned to me that even 2 months is not enough to discover all the city has to offer. So if you're strapped on time but want to hit all the sites, I'm talking Trevi Fountain, The Vatican, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Colosseum and more, I recommend doing a bike tour with Roma Rent Bike. Our tour guide, Antonio was a delight and due to a small group, felt like a personal tour. It was a great way to see the city, sites, and get a nice little breeze during the hottest days of summer. Plus the bikes were über cute with a basket! Perfect for cruisin' the city streets.
Villa Borghese: originally a private vineyard, Villa Borghese was expanded to grandiose proportions and is now a large landscape garden composed of buildings, museums and attractions. One such place to visit is Galleria Borghese which houses a stunning private art collection. I was lucky enough to catch the Azzadine Alaïa exhibit, where some of the most exquisite haute couture pieces I've ever seen were on display in contrast with the classical art pieces that adorn the museum. The exhibit continues through October so if you can, get there soon!
Sunday's in St. Peter's Square: Every Sunday at 12pm sharp, Pope Francis emerges from a teeny tiny apartment window to address those in St. Peter's Square... in Italian. While we were told that he comes out for exactly 7 minutes and the crowds are insane, he actually spent quite a bit of time addressing the people (19 minutes to be exact) and the crowd was not bad at all. Being a newbie to this attraction, I got there at 11:15 and was subjected to the cruelty of the Mediterranean sun in August. You can get there at 11:55 a.m. and have a fantastic view (binoculars recommended).
Where To Eat:
This one is tricky. Its no surprise that Rome is nothing short of amazing restaurants and food. I was inundated with recommendations from friends on the best restaurants but truth be told, I only made it to a few places (there aren't enough meals in the day nor space in my stomach, though I could accept a challenge). Because I was constantly out around town, sometimes I had to just duck into whatever looked best and I can only count 1 bad meal. So the math is that if you stick to going to places outside of the piazzas (i.e. restaurants with the matre'd inviting you in) you'll be golden to have a great meal. That said, here are some of my faves.
Le Mani in Pasta: probably number 1. It was divine. Get the Le Mani in Pasta appetizer, with melon.
Cajo y Gajo: The best carbonara and bruschetta I have ever had. Ever.
Gelato Fatamorgana: yummy - yet pricey - gelato
Behind The Vatican Museum: can't remember the name of it but when you exit the museum, there is a cafe straight across the street with the most over-the-top gelato.
Pastaficio: Tiny space + No seats + Only 2 pasta options = Heavenly. Get one of their daily specials to go and enjoy it on the Spanish Steps; located right around the corner from the Spanish Steps.