Travel: Like drinking a fine wine, there's much to savour in the Eternal City
Rome wasn't built in a day ... and you shouldn't even think of seeing it in a day.
Like a fine wine there’s so much to savour here and with this being my first visit to the Eternal City, only one question remained - ‘why did I leave it so long?’
Our 48-hour trip preceded a Mediterranean cruise from nearby Civitavecchia, but before hopping on board for nine days at sea we couldn’t leave Rome without seeing what it had to offer.
The base for our stay was three-star Hotel Madrid, a spotlessly clean, great-value accommodation tucked away near the famous Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain.
Situated on quiet Via Mario de Fiori, it’s central to most of the popular sights and is the perfect base for exploring the city.
Location is crucial when booking a stay in Rome, which is why Hotel Madrid ticks a very important box.
The hotel offers several perks, including a stress-free shuttle transfer from the airport, which for around 50 Euros is worth it to avoid the hassle of lugging heavy suitcases around.
It’s also nice to be greeted by friendly hotel staff, particularly general manager Fulvio who was always happy to help and answer our questions, which usually started with the word ‘Where’.
Armed with camera, we decided our first sightseeing stop would be Trevi Fountain and after a short winding walk through the palazzos, it was time to stop for a snack and a few pictures.
As you’d expect, Rome is full of classical ruins, churches and museums, but there’s so much more to the city than history and religion.
The Mediterranean climate is always appealing, but there’s also an energetic feel, which is always evident if you have to take a taxi anywhere.
There’s hundreds of cafes, bars and restaurants, but wherever you choose to dine, it’s clear the Italians really care about their cuisine.
If you’re staying at Hotel Madrid, pop round the corner for a pizza at Osteria della Vite and try Ristorante Leonardo in quiet Piazza Mignanelli, where the fresh pasta dishes are out of this world.
Food-lovers should head to the down-to-earth Testaccio neighbourhood, where we had signed up for one of Eating Europe’s organised food tours.
The Testaccio Supper Stroll showcases where Roman cuisine was born, so what better way to cure the hunger pains than by eating our way through the streets like a local. It was great to get away from the crowds for a while and enjoy a sample of regular Roman life .
But if you think Rome’s just about pizza and pasta, you couldn’t be more wrong. Coda (oxtail stew), trapizzino (pizza in bread pocket), quinto quarto (offal) and, of course, ‘real’ gelato (not the fake stuff you get in the more touristy areas) were just some of the delights we tasted.
Not to mention the various alcoholic drinks we consumed, including an Aperol Spritz to start, some real ale beer and various Italian wines.
If Eating Europe’s aim is to provide an unparalleled food experience in the depths of an undiscovered part of the city, it was mission accomplished!
Breakfast at the hotel was buffet-style and served on the pretty rooftop terrace, which gave us a stunning view of St Peter’s Basilica in the glistening morning sunshine.
Food included fresh home-made bruschetta, creamy scrambled eggs, delicious buttery pastries and a cappuccino literally served with a smile - it’s amazing what you can do with a bit of cocoa powder.
And boy did we need to fuel up for the day as we knew it was going to be a long one with trips planned to two of Rome’s must-sees, the Colusseum and, of course, Vatican City.
If you’re not too tired after all the sightseeing, take a bottle fizz to the Spanish Steps one evening, where people go to socialise in a relaxed and romantic atmosphere as the sun sets.
Weather-wise, best months to visit Rome are April, May and October when you can get about comfortably in temperatures of around 24 degrees.
The city has two airports, Fiumicino and Ciampino, both of which cover flights from the UK, with British Airways, Monarch, EasyJet and Ryanair among the operators.
When in Rome! … as they say. If you’ve never been, you must visit. Don’t leave it as long as I did.
- Hotel Madrid - 3 star
- Address: Via Mario de Fiori, 93-95, 00187 Roma
- Tel: (+39) 066991510-11-12-13