I’d been planning to visit Rome for ages and finally booked to go in Easter so was gutted when the world shut down just weeks before. Travelling during a pandemic is something I’ve felt conflicted over as the potential risks compared with the benefits of a change of scene and a break were hard to balance. In the end, the traveller in me won and I flew to Rome on the 8th September, 6 months after my last trip abroad!
We flew with easyJet from London Gatwick. The early morning departing flight was great because the plane was more than half empty! The seats looked new and were leather so easy to wipe clean in my Naomi Campbell cleaning routine. Masks were mandatory not only in the airport but for the duration of the flight with limited trolley service. When we landed, you had to wait until the row in front of you had left which actually made the process easier than it used to.
Disposable surgical masks are mandatory for flying to Italy (and they will tell you to go and buy one if you’re queuing without one)! I personally think they’re the only masks you should fly with anyways!
At Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, our temperatures were checked but the self declaration forms we filled out weren’t (still fill it out and take it with you though). We flew with hand luggage so it was a very quick process.
We took the train directly from the airport to the city centre (Termini station). Tickets can be easily bought in the station. Tip: Make sure you take a picture of the screen detailing which station you’re changing at and/or getting off with the times as the printed tickets don’t have this information on them!!
We stayed at A World’s Apart, a lovely hotel within a building complex. Although the reception wasn’t 24 hours, the staff were easily reachable via WhatsApp. It was walking distance from Barberini metro station and many of the main sights in Rome.
As it was my first time in Rome, I focused on the main places to tick off my bucket list…
Trevi Fountain – only a short walk from our hotel. It’s a beautiful Baroque fountain where people go to throw coins in for luck…throw in 3 to return to Rome, find love and get married! Guess how many I threw in…!
Spanish Steps – they connect the Spanish Square with the Trinità Dei Monti Church. There are rules regarding the steps including not to sit on them..and someone will blow their whistle at you if you do!
Villa Borghese – beautifully landscaped gardens with museums, houses, cafes and those beautiful stone pine trees of course! It’s up a steep hill which offers a great view over Rome (especially during sunset).
Colosseum – one the 7 New World Wonders. It’s an absolute must see and I highly recommend doing a tour of the inside! You get to see the arena itself plus read about the history of the Colosseum which was fascinating for me! I bought self guided tickets on Tiquet app (19 euros at the time).
Palatine hill and Roman Forum are included in the ticket price for the Colosseum as a 3 in 1 bundle.
Palatine Hill is the centre of the 7 hills of Ancient Rome. Back then it was a desirable place to live filled with important rich people. It is now an open air museum with gardens and the most amazing view of the city!
The Roman Forum is what used to be the centre of Roman life – originally a marketplace, it was also home to speeches, processions, gladiatorial matches plus monuments of great men.
All 3 sites can take approx 3 hours to do in total…come with a refillable water bottle as in the summer, you’re very exposed to the sun.
Vatican – the smallest independent state in the world! If you like to keep track of countries visited then this one counts! It’s a short metro ride and walk away from most places in Rome.
I recommend buying online tickets for the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel to feast your eyes on beautiful artwork, painted ceilings and statues. The Sistine Chapel requires you to cover up shoulders and knees and photos specifically inside the chapel are banned!
The museums also have beautiful gardens and a Car museum of Pope’s past which was cool to see the stories behind them.
Basilica and St. Peter’s Square – free to enter once you get through the queue. The Pope does mass here occasionally! We didn’t get to see him but the mostly empty grounds made for a pleasant experience!
Castel D’angelo is a short walk away by the River Tiber. I didn’t visit as I was all museum’d out by that point but it’s nice to just stroll along its perimeter if nothing else.
The Pantheon is a Catholic Church which used to be a Roman temple. The temple was dedicated to all the Pagan Gods of Rome so was important. Currently it contains the tombs of many Italian Kings and artists. European church rules apply which I didn’t realise so couldn’t get in!
Piazza di navona was one of my fave squares! The centre piece is a beautiful Fountain of Four Rivers and it’s surrounded by restaurants and bars (their prices naturally reflect the view!)
Portico di Octavia – Roman ruins with a walkway you can walk (or in my case run) across!
Largo Di Torre Argentina – is an impressive structure and apparently Julius Caesar was killed nearby! This is currently the home of a cat sanctuary. You can actually pet the cats and even sponsor one.
Tiber island – located within the River Tiber. It has a few restaurants and a hospital! I can imagine in the height of summer, it’s much livelier than I experienced.
During our walks, we also passed Piazza dell Esquilino Rome, Basilia di Santa Maria Maggiore, Castro Pretorio and circus Maximus – all impressive in their own right. It highlighted how much culture and history is literally on every corner in Rome.
Don’t forget how beautiful the sights can be at night too e.g. Barberini fountain below.
Staying in the city centre meant walking was the best way to get around. The streets are cobbled and steep so you’ll get a great workout too!
We used the Metro a few times when it got too hot to walk. You can use your contactless card to pay for your journey which cost only 1.50 euros per journey. Most of the main attractions will have a metro station nearby and as there’s only 3 lines, it’s easy to navigate.
A popular way to get around was on electric scooters! They were found all over the city and you started your journey once you downloaded the relevant app to pay. If you run into difficulties with them (like we did with Bird when we were trying to end our journey and the money kept running!), the help section are on it which was good!
Food and drink
Half of our meals seemed to be on the go or quick sandwiches whilst out in the day so here’s the few recommendations from our sit down meals:
Pasqualino de Colosseum – I was slightly apprehensive due to the proximity to the Colosseum and the waiters trying to call us in..but it was filled with mostly Italians so we checked it out. I had lasagne which was delicious. The decor suggested it would be perfect for a nice evening meal.
Hostario al Boschetto – this was described as a Roman restaurant instead of Italian so I was curious to check it out. The menu is extensive and they have a dining section in the garden which I recommend.
Charlotte Cafe, Via Barberini- we had breakfast here one day and I liked how you could personalise your order here. A good alternative to traditional Italian breakfast.
The Hive Rooftop Restaurant – this is on top of the hotel which wasn’t available to stay when we booked but looked worth checking out! The views on the right hand side are best if you can get a seat there. We booked through thefork.com for a good deal on our meal because this place required you to open your purse!!
Terra Satis – a homely restaurant where I ate a cheese-less pizza (not intentionally) but it actually banged. We must’ve been the only foreigners there so you know it was good..prices were also great!
Don’t forget to treat yourself to gelato whilst you’re out and about! The other thing I loved were the fresh water drinking fountains found all over town – so cold and refreshing, plus a great way to reduce plastic bottle usage.
The new 2020 experience summed up
Was Rome worth visiting during this pandemic? Absolutely yes. Fewer people were out and about meaning we could get into all the touristy sights in 5 minutes and creating content wasn’t as stressful! I felt a lot safer out there because your temperature was checked everywhere and masks were mandatory on public transport, in touristy places, restaurants and bars before you sat down. I also felt a warmth from Italians that I didn’t get during my Milan trip 2 years ago so that was nice.
Unfortunately there were limits as some places or parts within places were closed. I found Google wasn’t completely up to date with closures of restaurants and bars so the evenings were quieter than usual for a city break for me. And because fewer people were about, I didn’t get to mingle with other travellers as normal. But if you’re going to travel during a time like this, you have to be flexible.
During the time of my trip, Italy was on the UK corridor list so we didn’t need to quarantine on our return. At the time of publishing this post, this fact is still correct but you now also need evidence of a negative Covid test (done on arrival or one 72 hours prior – ideally private)
One thing Italy taught me was how to carry my mask handsfree when I wasn’t wearing it – much better than resting it under my chin!