Hack the weekend: Rome

By Etan Smallman

Photography by Michal Krakowiak/Getty Images

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Updated March 2019

Can you really enjoy Rome if you’ve only got a spare 48 hours? Whizz through the formidable city’s impressive history – with tips from travel journalist Etan Smallman – and you won’t need to book any holiday leave.


Evening - Make your escape

It’s worth taking a half day off work (or getting an early Friday finish) to catch British Airways’ 15:20 flight from London Gatwick – you’ll touch down at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport at 18:50, 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 Metamorforsi 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.

Find our cheapest flights to Rome

  • 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:

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  • Be sure to try the local snack, pizza bianca © Jedrzej Kaminski / EyeEm, Getty

    No pomodoro

    Pizza bianca is a Roman speciality. Get it fresh from the oven and you’ll fast discover that this delectable morsel is so much more than just ‘tomato-free pizza’.

  • St. Peter Church of Vatican City at night © Panithan Fakseemuang / Getty

    Night vision

    Rome dazzles by night. Many of its major sights are all illuminated – and less busy than in the day. Admire St Peter’s Church, or make a wish at the Trevi Fountain.

    Book a Rome Pass


09:00 - Culture vulture

Make sure you buy the Omnia Vatican and Rome Pass before you fly. Valid for three days, it gives you entry to the Vatican Museums, plus free access to two out of five other top Rome attractions. You’ll also get a free bus tour, guidebook, travel card, plus a host of discounts. At the Vatican Museums (a must) you should go 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 - Candlelit dinner

In Italy, dinner is a less elaborate affair than lunch. Italians thoroughly embrace apertivo (the generous helping of snacks you get with bar drinks in the evening) so when it comes to the evening meal, they generally order fewer dishes. The romantic Casa Coppelle near the Pantheon is a great place to be wined and dined. Its deep-buttoned velvet seats, elaborate floral arrangements and candlelight provide an intimate setting for a Saturday supper.

20:30 - Night crawler

Take a stroll across the Tiber river to the district of Trastevere to soak up the heady nightlife and after dinner cocktails. Freni e Frizioni at Via del Politeama and Meccanismo at Piazza Trilussa are both crowd pleasers. They say all roads lead to Rome, but in Trastevere, all streets eventually lead back to the bustling Piazza Santa Maria – so you won’t get as lost as you think.


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. You’ll get free entry with your Omnia Vatican and Rome Pass.

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 Omnia Vatican and Rome Pass. Roam around this epic blood-sport amphitheatre at your own pace or enjoy a guided tour, including upper tier and underground corridors. If you don’t get a Rome Card, why not book a Colosseum Tour?

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.

15:00 – Green spaces

Walk off your lunch along Aventine Hill, one of Rome’s seven hills. Satisfy your curiosity and peek through the keyhole of Villa del Priorato di Malta, one of Rome’s best unkept secrets, then quickly move on to the star attraction. The sweeping views from Parco Savello are spellbinding, as are the impressive orange groves that line either side.

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


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.

Book a stay at Regno

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.

Book a stay at The Inn At The Roman Forum