Conquering Rome, The First Time

Rome can appear overwhelming, unforgiving, and yet remains unquestionably the heart of Italy. Travelers often include it first in their overall itinerary because of the simple fact that most of us fly in and out of Rome from the states. To many first time travelers, Rome is a list of sights to check off, and certainly to post on Instagram, but it truly is a mystery to unearth. The city proper, enclosed by walls built over 2000 years ago and dominated by ruins from as early as 400 B.C. (as well as five star hotels and unaffordable boutiques) has an intimidation factor that makes the most seasoned traveler pause. But underneath all of this, like the layers of layers of timeless mysteries that Rome will always hold, is something infallible for even a first time traveler.

Like the Colosseum that for centuries has been stripped of it’s former white marble facade, Rome undressed, still rises to dominate in every direction; food, art, culture, shopping and style. For a first time visitor, it can feel overwhelming. May I suggest, because I will, that when you visit, you do not feel ashamed of your status as “turista.”

Everything you google search will tell you what to do while in Rome, but if you are still reading this then allow me to relieve the burden of worrying if you are missing anything, yes you are missing a lot. It’s time to let go of that, because no matter what happens, you will not regret your time in Rome.

Rome in three days (or even two and a half):

You arrive! That in itself will be an achievement. Prepare yourself to feast your eyes on everything.. the people, the streets, the food, the monuments rising before you as your taxi speeds precariously through the crowds. Check in to your hotel with a welcome aperitif and know that you will have time to visit some amazing sights even if it is late. First, I suggest you walk or taxi to the Pantheon and marvel at the most perfectly intact structure left in Roman history. Consider doing this first because the Pantheon needs no tickets, is in a very central location, and is an amazing way to start. From the Piazza della Rotunda walk towards the Via Condotti to a late lunch, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.

Walking along the narrow cobblestone streets beside the shops and cafes while darting Vespas with leather clad models whizz by, listening to beautifully dressed Italians trill amongst each other is enough. It is truly the most wonderful thing to do. But if you have never been to Rome, you must conquer your list. Andiamo!

Dining Tip~ We arrived in Rome in the afternoon when most good restaurants are closed until 6:30 or 7:00. Our hotel concierge recommended a hotel that served good Italian food during the “off” hours of the afternoon (3:00-6:00). After visiting the Pantheon we found our way to this restaurant and sat down inside. Please keep in mind we had been traveling for a day and a half from California and arrived around 2:00 to Rome. The restaurant was too quiet for me and although it had a nice interior and the menu was good, we left after a glass of wine and tagliere (traditional meat and cheese plate) because I wanted to feel like I was in Rome, not a quiet restaurant that could be in our neighborhood. My husband thought I was crazy but we started walking and I found a fantastic bustling outdoor cafe that was in the middle of a piazza with tourists, locals, people sitting drinking wine and I said, this is it! Sitting in the square with my new glass of wine, pasta, people to watch, the sun shining after a quick rain, and my teenage daughter giggling with excitement.. made the journey worth it all. Cafe Ciampini ~

Ciampini in Piazza della Trinita dei Monti 2, Roma.

Ciampini in Piazza della Trinita dei Monti 2, Roma.

Andiamo.. let’s go! It’s all possible!

Day One: The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, shopping in Via Condotti, the Keats-Shelley museum (if you wish) this can all be done in the first two hours you land. It is possible to walk to all of these from each other. Just do it and knock it off your bucket list, then relax. Our favorite place to refresh with an Aperol Spritz is the lobby bar of the Hotel Hassler atop the Spanish Steps~

Day Two: The Vatican, then lunch and shopping in the afternoon: If you only pay for one private tour the this is the one you must have a guide for. Please do not go and stand for four hours in line to not know what you are looking at. You have to have a guide and you have to go early. Everything else you will get to. Please heed this. Our fantastic guide, Valeria Canfarini was from

Day Three: The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. These can all be done in one morning until lunchtime, a late lunch of course. My God I can't stop talking about lunch. Back to the sights! It is probably strange and sacrilegious to say that I prefer the grounds of the Roman Forum to the Colosseum, but if my fifteen year old daughter agrees with me, it must be true. Why is this? Possibly because the Colosseum is one colossal entity and the Forum grounds are more of a mystery to unfold.

This is all you must expect to cover your first time. Anything added to the list will be too much, even though your friends and Rome aficionados may beg to differ.

On my most recent trip to Italy, I was fortunate enough to circle back to Rome and experience it through fresh eyes after traveling through Tuscany and Cinque Terre. My heart and soul had been captivated by the Tuscan countryside as well as the Italian Riviera, and returning to Rome I felt disconsolate. It was Easter Sunday, and I was sure the restaurants would be full, the streets unmanageable and in general not as visually awe inspiring as before.

But that was a foolish thought, for Rome is never to be doubted, and never to disappoint. I found myself along with my husband and teenage daughter revisiting the Piazza Di Spagna teeming with visitors, violin players in the street, horse carriages trotting slowly over the cobblestones and life! So much LIFE everywhere! I found a quiet doorway to gaze upon it all while underneath my sunglasses the tears unashamedly fell. I wanted to stay, and I certainly never wanted to forget this feeling.

Rome never disappoints.