Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Travel Guide: Rome, Italy

My guide to: Rome, Italy

Hey now, hey now! There’s one city in the world that stole my heart when I was 18 and never quite let go of it, Rome. After working with an amazing group of Italians in the states, I flew to Italy (my first time EVER abroad) for a month long adventure- move over Lizzie McGuire, Karina is coming to town! That incredible summer I explored Rome with the locals and fell completely in love, I may have even met a popstar who swept me off of my feet...but maybe I can tell you guys that story later on.

In the meantime! I’ve since been to Rome several times and picked up a few tips and tricks on how to enjoy la citta eterna. There really is so much of Rome to discover I could go on and on about how the cobblestone streets ooze with culture and history, or how I would voluntarily eat my weight in pizza and past but somehow still have room for gelato. But instead, here are my top tips when visiting Rome!

What to do:
  1. Exploring the Colosseum
    The Colosseum and Roman Forum! (17€) - This seems like a no brainer, visit the iconic and grandiose sight of ancient gladiator battles and events.  Here’s a tip to save time (and money). Buy your tickets online! If you buy your skip the line tickets online you save a ton of time, especially in the high season. Arrive early to the colosseum with your tickets in hand, you can print or use your mobile device. Your ticket will allow you entry into both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum directly across the way. The ticket allows you to split the colosseum and forum into two days but I find it easier to knock them both out in one day, especially if you are limited on time in Rome. The forum is absolutely spectacular, wander around the same halls and streets as the ancient Romans. This was their center of life, commerce, politics and entertainment and it’s all incredibly well preserved! History nerds like me could spend hours exploring.

  1. The Trevi Fountain (Free!)- Toss your coin into the Trevi fountain and you’re sure to come back to Rome, be sure to use your right hand over your left shoulder! This magnificent fountain really is an unbelievable spectacle. It has recently been polished and refurbished so it’s even more of a sight to behold. Take a few moments to admire the details, to people watch (and trust me there will be a LOT of people to watch)

  1. The Pantheon (Free!)- Another amazing feat by the ancient romans, this is the most well preserved of all the ruins in Rome. Did you know that the Romans built the pantheon as a temple to all of the Gods (ya know, just incase they missed anyone!). The pan-theon (all-gods), still baffles engineers today as to how the Romans were able to construct a building to this scale and with it’s unique dome roof which features an oculus, the room’s only source of light.

  2. The Spanish Steps (Free!)- If you’re still in the mood for some more people watching, grab a spot on the famous Spanish Steps which connect the Piazza di Spagna to the Piazza Trinita dei Monti. This area of Rome is the “Beverly Hills” of the city, you’ll find every luxury brand around from Gucci to Chanel to Ferragamo, as well as some (overpriced) cafes.

  3. Piazza del Popolo (Free!)- This is one of my favorite spots in Rome to sit down and enjoy a gelato, or my favorite hobby in Rome- more people watching! Follow Via Del Corso, the straightest road in Rome, from the Spanish steps all the way down to Piazza del Popolo where you’ll find two identical twin churches and a large fountain with an obelisk in the center. Directly behind the piazza you’ll find stairs and a trail which lead to Pincio Promenade. From this promenade you can take in some of the most scenic and panoramic views of Rome. My favorite time to visit is Sunset, but if you visit a bit early, walk through the park to the Villa Borghese gardens!

Where to eat:
Dinner at Ginger Sapori e Salute
Rome is obviously famous for it’s delicious food, after all, it’s the land where they invented spaghetti (thanks Ethan Kraft)! But be weary of overpriced tourist traps! Often times when restaurants have people trying to basically pull you in, or offer a “tourist menu” they are not authentically Italian.

  1. Osteria del Cavalieri- ($$)- Via Alba 32, 00182 Rome, Italy
  2. Ginger Sapori e Salute- ($$)- Via Borgognona 43, 00187 Rome, Italy
  3. Ristochicco-  ($$)- Borgo Pio 186, 00193 Rome, Italy
  4. Da Francesco- ($$)- Piazza del Fico 29, 00186 Rome, Italy
  5. La Vecchia Locanda- ($$)- Vicolo Sinibaldi 2, 00186 Rome, Italy

**BONUS!** Giolitti- Via degli Uffici del Vicario 40, 00186 Rome, Italy

Where to stay:
I personally love staying in Air BnB’s when I go to Rome because I usually stay for longer periods of time. The areas you want to look for when booking a hotel or airbnb are Piazza di Spagna, Colosseo, Piazza Navona, Republicca-Via Nazionale, Vatican City and Termini. Be advised Termini is a very busy area and not the safest at night, but it is the main metro station so you’d be at the hub of all transportation around Rome.

Here are a few of my favorite places to stay:

  1. Hotel Locarno- Great location, amazing lobby bar with live music, friendly staff.
Via della Penna 22, 00186 Rome, Italy

  1. Hotel Mozart- Great location, lovely rooftop bar, clean rooms
Via Dei Greci 23/B, 00187 Rome, Italy
  1. Hotel Scalinata di Spagna- Great location, clean modern rooms
Via di Torre Argentina 47, 00186 Rome, Italy

Air BnB:

  1. Cozy Apartment in Central Rome- Jacopo was a wonderful host, this apartment had everything we needed and was just across from the Pyramide station which connected us everywhere we needed to go!
  2. Lovely Apartment 10 min to Coloseo- I love this AirBnB because it’s so open and clean with a great location, everything you need for a relaxed trip!

Where to shop:
Shopping Tip!: Did you know that in Europe taxes are already included in the price of items, and you can actually get a REFUND at the airport for those taxes by bringing your receipt and a VAT tax form from the retailer to the VAT kiosks at customs. You could save up to 22% on purchases! For more information click here.

Here are some of my favorite stores and Italian brands.

  1. Zara- I pretty much by the whole store when I go to Zara anywhere in Europe but especially Italy and Spain, it’s cheaper, I get a VAT refund (by spending more than 120€) and the sales in January and July are UNREAL!

  1. Coccinelle- This luxury handbag and accessory retailer has amazing quality pieces for fractions of the cost of more famous Italian brands like Prada and Gucci. Their leather bags are to die for and I really think this brand is the next big name in luxury.

  1. Superga- If you’re a sneakerhead or casualwear junkie like I am you’ll LOVE superga shoes. I actually didn’t even know they were Italian until my last trip, you’ll find their small shop near the Piazza di Spagna, with their famous styles in every color.

  1. KIKO Milano- Think Sephora quality at drugstore prices. I’m obsessed with KIKO and, again, stock up whenever I get the chance! My faves are their lipsticks, nail polishes, and bronzer/blushes. I also have a highlighter stick by them that is impossible to find now so I use it super rarely but always get a ton of compliments!

  1. Local Souvenirs- Yes, admittedly I’m THAT girl that gets suckered into buying every magnet, postcard and keychain wherever I go. BUT some of my favorite things to get in Italy are pasta sauces, wines, watercolor paintings from Piazza Navona, rosaries from the Vatican (which make great gifts), and Italian cookbooks!

Favorite tours:
Here are some tours that I’ve taken that I totally reccommend!

  1. Tuscany in One Day from Rome- $120 HIGHLY RECCOMMEND to live out your Under the Tuscan Sun fantasies, if you end up quitting your job and buying a villa I don’t blame you and I’m willing to go halfsies!

  1. Rome Night Tour- $85 I find Rome to be most beautiful and romantic at night when everything is lit up and the streets are quieter, and you can split a spaghetti with your lover under the moonlight *cue lady and the tramp soundtrack*.

Tips and tricks:

Finally here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned about Rome from my many visits.

  • History 101: I love watching documentaries before I go places especially like Rome, there’s so much history to take in, it helps to know a little bit more about all of its wonders and makes the trip more exciting in my opinion to know more about where you are going!

  • Do your research: Because Rome is a popular tourist destination there are a ton of scams, really do your research when planning your trip to find the best deals. Summer is an ultimate high season, but Rome is just as beautiful in the fall when Airline prices drop from $1200 roundtrip to as low as $400 ROUNDTRIP!

  • Avoid the gypsies and pickpockets: There are a ton of beggars and scammers in Rome who are professionals at their craft. Keep bags zipped and in front of you. Don’t keep anything in your back pockets and avoid interacting with beggars, or the men who try to give you flowers on the street for “free”, they’ll harass you for your euros as a “tip”

  • Enjoy the view!: Rome has so much to offer it can feel overwhelming, but take time to appreciate where you are and the beauty around you.

  • Don't get upsetti, eat more spaghetti!

Exploring Tuscany with Melissa on our tour from Rome

Views from the top of Castel Sant'Angelo

Walking into Piazza del Popolo

Roman Forum

Pasta e prosecco per favore 

Grazie Roma

Travel Guide: Rome, Italy

My guide to: Rome, Italy Hey now, hey now! There’s one city in the world that stole my heart when I was 18 and never quite let go of...