Travel Diary: Rome-ing the City
It’s been a short while since I’ve last blogged but after returning from Rome, I’ve felt inspired to share my trip with you all! We headed to the capital of Italy to celebrate my Gran’s 82nd birthday and it has been on my travel bucket list for a while now. Here’s my Rome travel diary about the 5 days we spent in the beautiful city of history and culture.
Wednesday 17th July
After an extremely early start, we landed in Rome around 4:15pm. Following a slight mishap of our taxi transport to our hotel (and a heated exchange between special assistance and the taxi company), we arrived at Hotel Caravel, our temporary home for the next few nights. It’s a four star hotel which is designed for travellers. It was spacious and had the necessities for facilities plus a few other luxurious amenities such as a salon, restaurant, bar and men’s boutique (I was a bit disappointed there was nothing for women, but what can you do?). We unpacked immediately before requesting a taxi from our concierge to head over to a place so highly talked about; Eataly.
Eataly is a marketplace with various restaurants inside, both offering high quality Italian food. There’s a few stores around the world, with Rome’s being the biggest to date, which acts as the chain’s flagship store. Four floors are filled with Italian produce of all price ranges, meaning there was something for everyone and a variety of cuisine to choose from at each restaurant. After looking around and making purchases for souvenirs for friends and family back home, we headed to the second floor where there was a pasta and pizza restaurant. This was the moment we had been dreaming for since January; trying authentic Italian pizza.
I’m happy to report that the pizza was delicious. It was a thin, stone-baked pizza base with a thick crust that boarded the rich tomato sauce which was covered in mozzarella cheese that oozed from each slice you tucked into. Our taste buds were in pure bliss.
We then headed downstairs to the ice cream parlour to try some real Italian gelato and once again, we were in for a real treat. I had a chocolate gelato with a milk coated cone, some squirty cream and a chocolate on top. It was truly delicious. I’m not really one for ice cream unless it’s Ben & Jerry’s, but this was so incredible that I think if I lived in Rome, I’d be having gelato everyday!
We then decided it was time to hail a taxi and head back for the night to rest up before the big day tomorrow would bring.
Thursday 18th July
Today was our first full day in Rome and after I indulged in a fussy breakfast of bread rolls and butter whilst my mother tucked into some pastries of sorts and my gran her usual cornflakes and raisins that she eats back home, we headed out to the city centre where we jumped on a hop-on hop-off bus to see the magnificent historic sights that Rome has to offer. This cost about €22 and lasted for 24 hours. With most transportation being either too expensive or inaccessible for my disabled family, this was the most convenient way for us to travel around the city. For most able-bodied people, I’d say that all the main landmarks and attractions are accessible by foot if you’re willing to spend a bit of time walking. For those who can handle stairs, the metro is a great option. But as these were both inaccessible for us, the bus was our best choice.
We spent the morning heading around different landmarks such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon and Basilica of St Peter which are all beautiful. Due to the amount of queuing, we decided we would admire the exterior and get photos of them but someday I would love to return and properly experience each attraction. We headed back onto the bus and got off at the nearest stop to somewhere that is tradition to visit if it’s in a location we’re at – Hard Rock Cafe.
As the doors opened at the entrance, we were welcomed by a blissful cold breeze that danced around our overheated bodies thanks to the great invention that is air conditioning. I have to admit, out of all the places we went in Rome, Hard Rock Cafe had the best air conditioning and so I thoroughly recommend trying to go there, even if it’s just to the bar, to keep cool during the peak high temperatures of the day.
I’d made my mother aware of the menu before travelling because I knew she would be ecstatic to hear about the veggie burger (formally known as the Veggie Leggie but has since changed names to something so uniconic, I cannot even remember it) and the golden stack of onion rings. When making our pre-planned order, we sat in anticipation. After a few minutes, our amazing waitress, Freddie, brought our food. She was singing along to the famous rock songs that played on the screens and you could tell that she loved her job.
We tucked into our food and was left pleasantly full, sipping on our drinks. We had previously let Freddie know that we were celebrating my gran’s birthday which was the following day. She wished her happy birthday and we thought nothing of it. That was until she brought our our huge sharable fudge brownie (which we had a coupon for a free one from a promoter outside) which had a candle stuck in the top and a group of staff came along clapping and cheering before bursting into singing Happy Birthday. My gran’s eyes lit up and she really enjoyed the efforts they went to make her feel special.
After attempting – and failing – to finish our dessert, we grabbed our cheque before exploring the Hard Rock shop where I picked up a t-shirt while my gran bought another one for my birthday in two months because she knew there was nothing I wanted but fell in love with this one shirt. We clubbed our purchases together which meant we qualified for a free gift; a Hard Rock drawstring bag! This was handy for us to cart our souvenirs around the city for the rest of the day.
With food devoured, we headed back to the bus to get to our next destination, which was Via Del Corso. This is a main high street in Rome, full of brands both Italian and international and is a popular spot for those who are in need of a good spending spree. One thing I looked forward to the most about our trip to Rome was going to Sephora. The UK, for some bizarre reason, doesn’t have any Sephora stores but the rest of Europe has plenty of the American beauty chain and so I was ecstatic to be able to go there and treat myself.
We sat my gran down at a cafe as she was beginning to get tired – after all, we were celebrating her 82nd birthday – before my mother and I went to explore some of the stores that Via Del Corso had to offer. Besides our trip to Sephora, we headed to the Disney Store (come on, if you know me, you know how much of a Disnerd I am!), Kiko Milano – an Italian makeup brand which has taken off globally – and the Mr Christmas Store, which sold beautiful Christmas tree ornaments which you could personalise.
After our quick but fulfilling shopping spree, we decided to call it a day and head back to our hotel for some much needed rest. With a disabled family, it can be difficult to do a lot in one day and it meant heading back to the hotel earlier than a tourist might want to, but we enjoyed our time together in the hotel as much as we did seeing the sights.
After a bit of resting, my mother and I took it upon ourselves to explore the area we were staying in, Ostiense, while my gran decided to stay back to relax and complete an Arrow Word puzzle. There were small shops and cafes, an area not quite attractive to the typical tourist, but we were intrigued. As we continued to walk, we realised we were as close to Eataly as we were to our hotel, so we decided to head back to pick up something to eat and I could get my Gran the bag she had been eyeing up the day before as a birthday present.
We spent less than an hour in Eataly, finding things to eat such as focaccia pizza bread, before getting a taxi back. We had one final mission before calling it a night: getting a cake for my Gran’s birthday. We had looked around in Eataly for one and while they had some beautiful cakes on offer, they were cream filled and with no fridge in the hotel room, we didn’t want to chance not being able to ask the kitchen staff of the hotel restaurant to keep it for us. We decided to speak to the restaurant themselves, where we had planned to have the birthday meal the following evening, to see what their suggestions were. They offered to hand make a cake for us and so we willingly agreed to this generous offer. It came to €20 which we were pleased with, €10 each from my mother and I was a small price to pay to make my Gran’s birthday the best it could be.
Friday 19th July
Today was the day we were here for; my gran’s birthday. She awoke to us singing her Happy Birthday and opened the cards we had sneaked on the trip with us from family and friends. Today we decided was going to be more relaxing after the previous day being so busy and so after breakfast, we requested a taxi to Castel Romano.
Castel Romano is Rome’s chain of McCarthur Glen Designer Outlets and had hundreds of designer brands with high prices slashed down to the fraction of their original price. This was something that we really looked forward to, since we are quite the shopaholics who loved a good deal. July is also sale season in Rome, meaning the prices were cut down even more.
The shopping complex was quiet and peaceful, a completely different pace in comparison to the day before and it seems as though not that many tourists are aware of it. I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking to indulge in some retail therapy while in Italy’s capital.
The three of us roamed around the high end brands that we wouldn’t normally go in – Coach, Michael Kors, Diesel, Levi’s and Jimmy Choo were just a few of the stores we went to. My mother and I managed to get a real bargain from Michael Kors, where slider flip flops were two for €49, meaning we paid just €24.50 each for high end sliders! My mother was also beyond pleased when she went to the North Face store and picked out some deals for both herself and my stepdad who volunteered to stay home and look after the dogs (and whose worst nightmare would be to go on a girly trip away – video games along with peace and quiet were more up his street).
We took photos of my gran with the set up photo areas around the complex which was really fun. There was also plenty of places to sit down, meaning it was a much more accessible day, especially with all stores all being on ground floor level.
We went for lunch at Obica Mozarella Bar where more pizza was devoured – after all, when in Rome! Before having a last look around and heading to the taxi rank to return to the hotel. We had reservations for the evening for a birthday meal and so my gran decided to rest up while my mother and I decided to find another place of where we were staying to explore. We stumbled across a few stalls selling a variety of things; from tourist souvenirs to other things such as jewellery, sunglasses and handbags. We picked up a few things before heading into a few local business-run shops. I found a place which sold these beautiful scented soaps and knew I had to get one for my stepdad, who loved a good bar of soap. I also picked up a lavender one for myself because lavender is something that helps me when I’m struggling to sleep.
When we headed back to the hotel, we put our glad rags on and dressed up to celebrate my gran’s birthday. We headed to the restaurant downstairs where traditional Italian music was playing. My mother took it upon herself to pretend she needed to go to the toilet and excused herself from the table before speaking to the waitress about the cake. She soon returned and we ordered our food. There was no pizza on offer this time, so I decided to order my second favourite Italian cuisine; pasta.
After finishing food, the staff lowered the lights and brought the beautiful handmade cake out as my mother and I sang happy birthday. My gran’s face lit up with surprise and joy before blowing the candles out as we cheered. The cake was cut and we each had a slice which was so creamy, tasting as if it was from a patisserie. They had handmade chocolates on top which melted in your mouth. It was so rich and filling that we couldn’t eat it all, so we donated the rest to the kitchen staff. With our full bellies, we decided to head upstairs and call it a night.
Saturday 20th July
Today we decided to do the things we didn’t quite get around to doing on Thursday. I was adamant to go back to Via Del Corso to visit Sephora once more since I still had a decent amount of spending money left and I’m a bit of a makeup hoarder, so my gran decided to sit back at the cafe we were at on Thursday to people watch and enjoy life going by. She wasn’t all that keen on makeup, anyway. My mother and I made the 5 minute trek to the makeup haven and I had more time to swatch eye shadows and highlighters, really getting to decide what I wanted to pick up. After a hefty spend spree in there, we decided to go back to Kiko Milano’s as I couldn’t stop raving about the water eye shadows I’d picked up previously, so my mother wanted to get some for herself. We finished up our makeup haul and headed back to my Gran before deciding to head towards some more landmarks.
The Spanish Steps were a couple of minutes away, making that our first stop. The Spanish Steps – known as Scalinata di Trintà dei Monti in Italian – are a set of steps climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trintà dei Monti, with the Trintà dei Monti church at the top. It consists of 174 steps and are a famous focal point for local people and tourists alike. They are known for a multitude of things, such as appearances in iconic films (Roman Holiday, The Talented Mr Ripley and Eat, Pray, Love to name a few), being the most photographed place in Rome, a focal point for artists and located right next to the house where English poet, John Keats, once lived.
As you can probably guess, the area of the Spanish Steps was absolutely crowded. Tons of tourists taking photos on selfie sticks, some climbing the steps to reach the top and multiple people sat around the fountain to try and cool off (though it was strictly forbidden to try and go in the fountain, much to anyone’s temptation). We sat for a moment, taking in the sights, taking photos and just appreciating being in the presence of such an iconic landmark. After a short while, the peak heat of the day began to rise and we decided it was time to cool off. We noticed that Babington’s Tea Room was located practically on the steps and decided to see what was on offer.
It turns out that this is a slightly high priced place, but if you’re not on a tight budget the gelato would set you back around €8 and was absolutely worth it. Babington’s Tea Room is a quaint little place and if you do have money to play with for high quality, then I think it’s probably worth indulging in an afternoon tea or something else on the menu. We decided we weren’t ready for lunch, so a dish of gelato and some water to cool us down, along with a nice sit down in an air conditioned building, was just what we needed.
We took our time eating our gelato so we had a chance to rest and cool off before setting off on our travels once again. This time we headed to the Trevi Fountain.
There was a lot on offer at Babington’s Tea Room, from a quick snack to a full afternoon tea
The Trevi Fountain is a place my Gran made clear she wanted to visit since we first booked the trip in January. Known as the Fontana di Trevi in Italian, it is one of the oldest water sources in Rome, dating back to the ancient Roman times, since the construction of the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct in 19 B.C that provided water to the Roman baths and the fountains of central Rome. It’s said that the Aqua Virgo, or Virgin Waters, is named in honour of a young Roman girl who led thirsty soldiers to the source of the spring to drink. Roughly €3,000 is thrown into the Trevi Fountain every day, thanks to people following the tradition of throwing coins over their shoulders. The coins are collected every night and given to an Italian charity, Caritas, who uses the money for a supermarket programme which gives rechargeable cards to Rome’s needy in order to help them get groceries.
The area surrounding the Trevi Fountain was busier than the Spanish Steps and if you wanted to get up close to the fountain itself, it took a lot of waiting and trying to squeeze past the people who didn’t want to get too close. We decided to admire it from a few feet away, which also gave us the chance to take better photos. With architecture being such a focal point in Rome’s beauty, it’s no surprise that Trevi Fountain and its breathtaking sculptures was so beautiful to look at and capture on camera.
By now, we had worked up an appetite and decided to head to Pizza in Trevi, which was a stone’s throw away from the fountain itself. Though it had a variety of food on offer, I was still adamant on having pizza to eat whenever possible, though this time my gran had opted for a lasagne. What’s great about Pizza in Trevi is that it has gluten free and plenty of vegetarian options on offer, meaning it can cater for those with dietary needs.
After our food, we decided to wander around some souvenir stalls and local business shops before hailing a taxi. Though it was an early end to our sightseeing, it was crucial for my gran to take it easy. She spent the afternoon in the hotel while my mother and I once again headed out to explore the neighbourhood. We came across a supermarket, where we picked up some snacks for the room before hunting down somewhere to have food later that evening. Something you should know about Rome is that a lot of places such as restaurants that aren’t surrounding tourist attractions close down midday for ripolo, the Italian’s answer to a siesta. Italians tend to have their dinner a lot later in the evening, which is typically when my early bird family (aside for me) are settling down for the night. This made it difficult for us to find anywhere to eat before going to bed and so we decided to head to the hotel restaurant to order fries to take back to our room. We spent the evening packing most of our stuff away so we could spend the morning taking our time at breakfast.
Sunday 21st July
Today was the day we would be heading home, but with our flight not until the night, we had time to kill. Our original plans for the day had fallen through and so after breakfast, we Googled a shopping centre to head to. Unfortunately, this was one of those times that Google was not most reliable as the shopping centre we headed to was in fact a train station. There were a variety of shops which took to our interest such as LUSH (my home from home), a small department store which reminds me of one floor of Debenham’s and a Kipling store, where I scored a Disney bag for half the original price, but with so many busy travellers passing through and a shockingly distinct lack of places to sit, we spent less than an hour here before deciding to explore what was surrounding the station.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a great deal but there were a lot of stalls with sellers and it was time for my mother to get her haggle on. She managed to get the price of a red bag (something my gran had been looking for our entire trip) down to half the price and a few other things. I decided to invest in another small bag for future concerts. Anyone who knows me knows how often I go to concerts and following a recent security rule of smaller bags, I’ve decided to stock up on some so I wouldn’t have to tear my entire house apart trying to find one.
Wit time to spare, we decided to head back to one of our favourite places on our trip; Eataly. It was a short taxi ride away and a great place for us to get lunch. No surprise what I chose to eat! We then spent time wandering around the four floors and decided to stock up on affordable Italian food such as bread, pasta and sauces so we could reminisce when we returned home and cook Italian meals that my stepdad could also enjoy.
Soon, we returned to our hotel to collect our luggage and wait on our transport to the airport to begin our journey home. Tired, but satisfied with our trip, we looked forward to returning home and dreamed of being back in the comfort of our own beds.
The flight home was late at night and flying low, we managed to see the beauty of Paris lit up at night, which got us excited as this was our destination for our next trip in just over two months time.
Have you ever been to Rome? What’s on your bucket list for the capital of Italy?
Jazz is a Disney, tea and pop culture enthusiast with a passion for blogging. Also a proud introvert.