Even with a great big seagull blocking the view the Roman Forum looks pretty spectacularCity breaks can be pretty full on, especially if you’re only there for a few days.
Rome was, I always thought, a dusty, busy city where it would be impossible to rewind, fearing for my life every time I crossed the road and difficult to navigate because it is such an ancient city.
But then we found an oasis with breathtaking views overlooking the city and its famous domes that have been an inspiration for architecture across the world.
Normally city breaks would take place over a weekend, but being my birthday we opted to stay for a few days at the Rome Cavalieri.
That gave us time, armed with our Omnia travel pass, to do things at a much more relaxed pace, allowing us to explore the city’s winding side streets, taste food from places off the beaten track or sit outside a bar taking in the sounds of the city.
Rome is known for being quite a hot city over the summer, so we were there a little earlier in the spring. If it’s hot weather you’re after, May to September is almost guaranteed to give you sunshine.
The queues for the colosseum are massive – priority passes and booking are essential
The view from the top of St Peter’s Basilica is something to behold
The Roman Forum goes hand in hand with a relaxing city break
The Forum is big enough to get lost in and find quiet spots where you can have five minutes of peaceThe Cavalieri, where we were staying – so lush that they have a pillow menu – was about half an hour’s walk from the Vatican. There’s the option of catching a shuttle bus that is put on by the hotel, but we chose to go into the city on foot to get the blood flowing early.
The downhill journey winds around the hill where the hotel is positioned, giving more views and helping you to plot that day’s sightseeing.
If sightseeing is what you’re in Rome for, it is highly recommended that you book time slots for certain activities – and get fast track passes to jump the queues.
You’ll be utterly bombarded, particularly around the Colosseum and outside Vatican City, by ‘Tourist information’ guides. Having the pre-booked slots and fast-track passes will help reduce that stress, you’ll just have to get used to saying ‘no grazie’ to every guide you meet.
If you happen to be there on the first Sunday of the month, access to museums – including the Colosseum – is free. Sounds good, right?
Everywhere you go in Rome – the Eternal City – the old and the new are fused together
If you wait long enough you can get a decent picture without any fellow tourists blocking the view – this is the Trevi Fountain, which is swarmed by tourists
A relaxing rooftop view at night over the city of Rome from our hotelWell, the problem is that pretty much all of Italy seems to descend on the city on that day, so if you’re in town for a few days it is probably wise to leave Sunday as a day of rest. Go for a walk along the river, sit in a bar, eat until you are rolling home, or enjoy some time in the spa.
Incidentally our steam room was so good I’m considering getting one installed in my own flat. If only I had the budget.
One thing that we enjoyed most was visiting the Roman Forum and we kept going back there. There’s not just a tonne of history to take in, but it’s also just utterly stunning.
It’s definitely not something that can be done in just a day if you want to enjoy it properly.
Set over a large area, it’s easy to get lost, to find a little quiet space to sit down and just relax. Far from the dusty hustle and bustle I thought I’d relax.
You know you’re in a decent place when there’s a menu of pillows – spelt chaff, anyone?
The steam room in our hotel’s spa – I wanted to transport back to the UK with me
This picture doesn’t do justice to just how massive our bed was in our roomIf you like pasta and pizza, obviously Rome is the place to be – and don’t just stick to the main streets. As well as being more likely to get some authentic cuisine, you’re likely to find that you’ll save yourself a pretty penny or two.
As with any city, the restaurants with views of tourist attractions, rivers or parks are usually considerably more expensive even if the food is not quite as good.
One of our favourites was Pancia Felice – within spitting distance of the Vatican, but a little more difficult to find, the pasta was divine.
For a special treat – my birthday dinner – we ate in the restaurant back at our hotel. The homemade bread was so delicious I would have been happy to have eaten that for the entire meal.
In reality, we had a platter of meats sourced from Bassiano, just to the south of Rome, followed by sliced pork fillet that melted in the mouth.
Far from coming back from Rome dead on my feet, I returned on a high from la dolce vita.
A dramatic skyline with the dome of St Peter’s Basilica peering over the top of the trees
Travel fact box
Nightly rates at Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Resort start from 323 Euros (approx. £277) in a Deluxe Room, double occupancy. For reservations and enquiries, visit their website or call +39 06 35091.
For more information about the OMNIA Rome and Vatican Card, click here.