Hack the weekend: Rome


By Etan Smallman

Photography by Michal Krakowiak/Getty Images

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March 2016

Rome wasn’t built in a day – so it’s no surprise that even a few days in the Eternal City isn’t enough to take in all of its ancient sights, creative cuisine and classic architecture. But you can still enjoy a city break without eating into your holiday time. Here’s how to make the most of your weekend when you only have 48 hours to spare.

Friday

Evening - Make your escape

It’s worth taking a half day off work (or getting an early Friday finish) to catch British Airways’ 15:10 flight from London Gatwick – you’ll touch down at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport at 18:30, just in time for dinner in the Eternal City.

Stop by the Pantheon, Rome’s best-preserved ancient monument, and admire the ornate fountains of the Piazza Navona

20:00 - First taste of Rome

After checking into your hotel (see below for recommendations), duck into Metamorfosi on Via Giovanni Antonelli before it closes at 22:30. The informal, Michelin-starred restaurant has a variety of tasting menus. If you’d prefer to grab and go, try classic Roman street food pizza bianca (‘white’ pizza with olive oil, rosemary and salt) from Forni di Campo de’ Fiori.

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  • The Inn at the Roman Forum

    A room with a view

    The chance to bed down in a living, breathing archaeological site, it doesn’t get more authentic than The Inn at the Roman Forum. Book flights from London to Rome, plus a three-night stay at The Inn from:£326 pp

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  • Be sure to try the local snack, pizza bianca © Jedrzej Kaminski / EyeEm, Getty
  • St. Peter Church of Vatican City at night © Panithan Fakseemuang / Getty

    Night vision

    Watch the city sparkle by night on a two-hour tour, which will take you past Rome’s most iconic sights – from the Colosseum to Castel Sant’ Angelo. You can even upgrade your tour to include a traditional three-course Roman dinner in the Trevi neighbourhood.

    Book the tour

Saturday

09:00 - Culture vulture

Make sure you buy a Rome Card and Omnia Vatican Card before you fly. Valid for three days, it gives you free access to your choice of two out of six top Rome attractions, along with free bus tour, guidebook, travel card and a host of discounts. Included is free entry to the Vatican Museums (a must), home to the Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms. Described as ‘the largest, richest, most compelling and perhaps most exhausting museum complex in the world’, it is worth devoting a whole morning to. And don’t forget the dress code – knees and shoulders must be covered.

13:30 - Refuel like a Roman

When in Rome, eat where the Romans eat. Try Dal Toscano on Via Germanico for giant Tuscan T-bone steaks and chunky homemade spaghetti. About €12 to €15 for mains.

14.30 - Roman delights

The world's largest church and the centre of the Roman Catholic faith, St Peter’s Basilica is also one for art connoisseurs who will appreciate the handiwork of the great creatives of the Roman Renaissance and Baroque period. Make sure you climb up to the awe-inspiring dome, designed by Michelangelo.

16:30 - A historic stroll

Head for the Centro Storico (historic centre), where you can shop till you drop at the same time as gawping at yet more ancient sights. Stop by the Pantheon, Rome’s best-preserved ancient monument, and admire the ornate fountains of the Piazza Navona, before mooching around the boutiques on Via del Governo Vecchio.

  • Channel Italian glamour, ‘La Dolce Vita’-style, at the Trevi Fountain © Brian LoPiccolo

    Did you know…?

    The Trevi Fountain is one of the oldest water sources in the world, dating back to ancient Roman times. The fountain was built at the end point of the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct at the junction of three streets (or ‘tre vi’) – which is where the fountain gets its name from.

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18:30 - Candle-lit dinner

Make dinner reservations at Casa Coppelle on Piazza delle Coppelle near the Pantheon. The restaurant serves a variety of pastas, with a focus on meat dishes, in an intimate setting – think exposed brick walls and mood lighting.

19:45 - Night crawler

Rest your legs on an air-conditioned coach as you enjoy the sights of the city lit up at night – accompanied by informed commentary from a local guide – on a two-and-a-half hour tour. Departing from central Rome, near the Repubblica Metro stop, you’ll see Capitoline Hill, the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Castel Sant’Angelo, St Peter’s Basilica and the district of Trastevere. You’ll also make a stop at the Trevi Fountain – so make sure your pockets are full of coins.

Sunday

09:00 - Pine trees and marble pavements

Start your day with one of the city’s prettiest ancient sites, Palatine Hill, which sits on slopes covered with pine trees and is said to be where Romulus and Remus (the founders of Rome) were brought up by a wolf in a cave. Take your time marvelling at the beautifully-coloured mosaics, marble floors, intricate fountains and frescoes in the ruins of a vast 1st-century palace. Free entry with Rome Card.

11:00 - Italy’s top tourist attraction

Walk down to Rome’s biggest hitter, the Colosseum, and enjoy free and fast-track entry with your Rome Card. Roam around this epic blood-sport amphitheatre at your own pace or enjoy a guided tour, including upper tier and underground corridors.

12:00 - Local lunch

Pop into Terre e Domus for local dishes by chef Marco Pasquali. Order the cod with pine nuts and raisins, a glass of regional wine and admire the view of Trajan’s Column.

13:00 - Sandals and swords

Enroll in Rome's Gladiator School for two hours of intensive training in the basics of hand-to-hand combat on the ancient Appian Way. You’ll feel like Spartacus once you get kitted out in a gladiator tunic, belt, leather protective gloves and training sword – and everyone leaves with a certificate. Friends and family can look on from the viewing platform.

After, meander along the tree-lined Appian Way, have a bite to eat and stop off at the church where a fleeing St Peter saw a vision of Jesus going in the opposite direction.

17:30 - Homeward bound

If you’re conscious that you need to be up bright and early next morning for work, there are plenty of BA flights on Sunday evening – the latest, at 20:15, arrives in London Heathrow at 21:55. But if you prefer to squeeze every last drop of Roman pleasure from your trip, you could stay on another day and catch the first Monday morning flight at 07:15 (landing in Heathrow at 09:00).

Where to stay in Rome

Regno

This 3.5-star family-run gem prides itself on excellent service and is located right on the famed shopping street Via del Corso – just a hope, skip and short stroll from the Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum and Pantheon. The hotel occupies a former 16th-century building, with beautiful terraces overlooking Rome’s splendid rooftops. Free Wi-Fi and a buffet breakfast are included.

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The Inn At The Roman Forum

Settle in to the only luxury residence in Rome that houses Roman ruins inside it (an exquisite stone gallery at the entrance with 2,000-year-old engravings). Rome’s world-famous ruins, including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, are just a few steps away. The five-star Inn also boasts a Jacuzzi and complimentary snacks on the roof terrace in the early evening.

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