Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck made Rome the setting for an exciting romance, Anita Ekberg made the Trevi Fountain look sexy and Charlton Heston brought back some life into the Circus Maximus. We chose a weekend in Rome as our ideal city break – spending hours taking in marvellous views, tasting the best authentic Italian pizzas and filling our brains to the brim with history.
View from the cupola of St Peters
Seeing the beautiful St Peter’s Basilica is high up on everyone’s must-see list whenever Rome is mentioned. Not only is the church itself amazing, but the views from the famous dome are breathtaking. There’s the option to make the whole journey up to the dome by the stairs for EUR 6.00, or a pay a little bit extra (EUR 7.00) to take the lift halfway up and carry on by foot for the last 300 steps. The halfway point has a cafe overlooking the basilica to sip tea and nibble on cakes before heading up to the gallery.
Not brave enough to take all the stairs, we opted to ride the lift halfway up and climb the dome with sweaty hands and hearts racing at the sideways angle. We visited on a clear sunny morning so there were no clouds to distract our view s, just blue skies and a panorama so beautiful we felt like we were in a Hollywood blockbuster.
The Sistine Chapel
Nestled in the heart of the Vatican Museum, the chapel is one of those delights that seems to take an age to find but once you’re there it’s hard to not find it utterly breathtaking. Once inside the museum there’s the option of a ‘short track’ through some staircases and rooms of modern art before being hushed through the chapel door, or the ‘long track’ through the entire museum and finishing with the beauty of Michelangelo’s famous ceiling. The museum itself can take almost an entire day to discover everything that’s within it, so finishing with the Sistine Chapel is a brilliant way of experiencing the amazing historical art within such a city as Rome.
Calzone in Borgo Nuovo
You can’t have a weekend in Rome without tasting an authentic Italian pizza, so we chose Borgo Nuovo after a long day discovering the Vatican City. Only two minutes away from St Peter’s, the cosy restaurant has beautiful summery window shutters and neat magnolia walls adorned with paintings and all different kinds of beer bottle. We had a window table looking out onto the street, which looked so beautiful on such a sunny day. The menu is full of delicious sounding pizzas, calzone, fresh pasta and summer salads, as well as desserts including tiramisu and gelato with a thousand flavours. We opted for the cheese and ham calzone at EUR 8.00, which was the best we’ve ever tasted. Everything is handmade and cooked fresh, taking from old-fashioned recipes to keep the authenticity, including the most delicious and creamy tomato sauce I have ever tasted on a pizza.
Ristorante-Pizzeria Borgo Nuovo, Via Borgo Pio, 104 00193 Roma. Tel/Fax: +39 06/6892852.
Risciò Rental in Villa Borghese
A sunny afternoon can be spent in the park, walking along the dusty pavements and looking at nature or listening to a classical guitar busker. Villa Borghese is the second largest public park in Rome with 148 acres of green to explore and photograph, as well as a boating lake and places to rent bikes, scooters and Segways. We chose an electric 2-seater risciò for EUR 25.00 and spent an hour biking around the park taking in the views, as well as giving our leg muscles a good workout. A good family activity, there are also 4-seater bikes to rent so the kids can sit in the back (or make them pedal!)
The Knights of Malta keyhole view
After the beautiful views from St Peter’s Cupola, there’s no better picture perfect snapshot of the cathedral itself than from the Knights of Malta keyhole along I Cavalieri di Malta. Just peek through the keyhole and spot the famous dome through a line of trees and beautiful clear blue sky. A real postcard frame, what you see through they keyhole is so beautiful on a sunny day it stays with you forever. It might take you a while to get the focus right on a camera, but if you can perfect that amazingly still snapshot you can get a brilliant photo of the view.
La Bocca della Verita
Made famous by Hepburn and Peck in Roman Holiday, the Mouth of Truth is open for tourists to have their picture taken and visit the historical chapel it lives in. The sculpture is most famous for being a lie detector, with stories of it biting the hands off those who were untruthful. We stood in line to pose with the sculpture, hands in mouth and scared expressions for the camera! It’s quite a walk from the Vatican City, but a beautiful one at that – especially if you walk along the riverside and through the Jewish Ghetto, passing each bridge on the way.
Caricatures in Piazza Navona
To experience the hustle and bustle of this typical Italian city, Piazza Navona is a must-see. One of the most popular piazzas in the city, Navona holds two beautiful fountains and restaurants brimming with excited customers. In the summer months the square is alive with artists, musicians and street performers, creating a fantastic buzz in such a hidden piazza. We watched a couple of comedic performances and found a caricaturist who drew a brilliant sketch for EURO 10.00 each.
How to enjoy the rest of your weekend in Rome
A great tip to enjoy the most famous tourist spots in Rome is to buy the Roma Pass for EUR 34 from one of the tourist information centres. The 3-day pass allows holders entry into the first two museums or archeological sites of their choice for free, then reduced prices on all sites and museums thereafter. The card also allows free use of the city’s metro system, which is really handy when wanting to reach some of the further attractions such as Circo Massimo and Piramide Cestia. The Colosseum has a separate turnstile for Roma Pass holders to gain fast-track entry – particularly great when the queues are almost an hour long!