White taxis and an endless stream of Vespas rush through the arches carved into the old Aurelian walls; once the gates to Ancient Rome. Italy’s capital is a city where two parallel universes exist side by side. The contemporary cityscape has sprung up around the ruins. They appear at first blissfully unaware of each other’s presence. On their way to work, young Italians pass by the 2,000-year-old remains of the Roman Empire without even a sideways glance. The historic Trevi Fountain, is oblivious to the crowds that sit on its edges, basking in the warm Italian sunshine. Yet the two worlds are inextricably linked and completely co-dependent – their survival depends on each other. Make time travel easier; hire a car in Rome with easyCar and slip between the two dimensions.
Travel back in time to Ancient Rome
If you’re interested in archaeology, then you’ve come to the right place. Rome is heaving with history. Wander the walkways of the Coliseum; peer down into the largest amphitheatre ever built and imagine what it would have been like to sit in one of the 50,000 seats watching one of the gruesome, bloody battles unfold. Spend hours tracing the remains of the Roman Forum. Once the centre piece of Ancient Rome – this was the ceremonial, legal, social and business centre – now it’s a captivating sprawl of ruins. Envision what it would have been like, back then, packed with Romans and still fully functioning. The Palatine Hill – the most central of Rome’s seven hills – is where the emperors and aristocrats of Ancient Rome lived. Despite its faded grandeur, its setting is still un-debatably regal as it stands 40 metres above the Roman forum.
Day trip to Castel Gandolfo
Escape the buzz and bustle of central Rome and drive 15 miles southeast of the city to discover Italian tranquillity at its most serene. Castel Gandolfo is a small, pretty town that overlooks Lake Albano. Buried into the Alban Hills, it’s mostly Italians – not tourists – that sunbathe on the edges of this volcanic crater lake. Brush up on your Italian to order from the small restaurant and bar that sit on the water’s edge. There are also pedalos available to hire. If the spatter of people on dry ground is too much for you, pedal your boat out to one of the lake’s remote corners and dive in. Thanks to the vast size of the lake, this way you can grasp relative privacy. Once you’ve finished frolicking in the water, wander up the steep hill into the town. Castel Gandolfo feels like another world compared to Rome. With a papal palace in the town, it’s possible you could spot the pope here, although it’s been reported that Pope Francis sees the place as ‘too luxurious’. Before driving back to Rome, head to Antico Ristorante Pagnanelli for seasonal Italian food in a romantic setting.
Feast on the flavours of Rome
Rome is a city of indulgence. No one does food better than the Italians: the espresso, the pastries, the pizza, the pasta, the gelato, the wine. Read up on the country’s foodie culture before you set off on holiday. For example, Romans drink cappuccinos only at breakfast. And espressos should be drunk in one gulp, standing up at the coffee-shop bar. Take time to explore the city’s finest restaurants – try La Tavernaccia for a cheerful, family-run affair or Roma Sparita for the famous Cacio e Pepe pasta – made with pecorino cheese and black pepper served on a shell of Parmigiano.
To learn all there is about Italian food; take a tour. Eating Italy offers two tours in two different neighbourhoods – one in Testaccio, one in Trastevere. The Testaccio tour, set in Rome’s original foodie neighbourhood, allows visitors to experience authentic Rome, like a local, on a four-hour tour. The Trastevere Tour includes 10 Italian tastings in the city centre. Each tour provides a guide who will explain every taste and texture in detail while guiding you through the city. You will try Rome’s most famous pasta dishes, experience real Roman street food, learn how to make your own bruschetta and even meet the families behind the food.
Parks and Piazzas in Rome
Discover Rome’s green spaces. When it’s hot, join locals and visitors wandering the beautiful parks and piazzas of the city. The giant Villa Borghese Gardens are crafted to perfection with an orangery and a temple overlooking an artificial lake. It’s also where you can find a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, built in 2003. Beyond the Borghese, you can wander The Cloister of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, tucked away between the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. The cloisters have the atmosphere of a secret garden, eaten away by time with the fountain carpeted in fern and moss. Although there is nowhere to sit, the cloisters offer a serene place to amble and contemplate.