Rome is undoubtedly one of the best European cities for a weekend city break from London. Take a Friday off work and after just a two hour flight you can be wandering the streets of this historic capital and eating your body weight in pasta. There’s a lot to see, do, and eat but most of it is in a relatively compact area, so you really can pack a lot in to a 3 day / 2 night trip. Read on for our guide on where to eat in Rome and how to see the city like a pro.
Where to eat in Rome
This trattoria in the hip Trastevere neighbourhood completely nails it and is one of our top tips for Rome. The owners and the staff are extremely helpful and friendly and it draws a very local crowd (we were the only tourists in there and they only have one English translated menu to share around). Incredible cheeses and hams are all sourced from small producers in the Lazio region but it was the carbonara that truly won us over, made with wafer thin crisps of salty guanciale.
This cheap and cheerful spot is perfect for quick pitstop or late and night after far too much wine. Run by chef Arcangelo Dandini, it specialises in Suppli, a classic Roman snack of deep fried rice balls. Check out the carbonara-inspired version with Pecorino cheese, bacon, and egg.
This very trad looking deli also has a restaurant out back and a separate bar next door. The pasta is truly excellent, especially if you’re looking for a classic Cacio e Pepe or Carbonara. But we’d recommend it only for lunch or if you’re looking for a quick early dinner – despite the food being excellent, the staff are comically rude, and the prices are maybe a little on the pricey side.
This neighbourhood pizza joint is a bit out of the centre but if you’re in the area around lunchtime it’s the place to come for a few slices of banging Roman-style pizza. The owners are super nice and helpful and will even give you a few samples if they sense you’re a newbie, much to the annoyance of the queue of local workers behind you. We loved the simple mushroom and Pecorino slice, but the one topped with fresh courgette strands and anchovy was a revelation.
As much as we love a rustic Roman trattoria, the shtick does wear thin after a couple of days. So if you’ve got authenticity-fatigue, check out Retrobottega which offers a bit more of a modern spin, and is open from morning right though to night with no break. There’s sleek black walls, hightop communal tables and an open kitchen where you can watch the dishes being prepared and plated up right in front of you. There’s a tasting menu option but it’s equally good for a couple of plates at lunch – the risotto with speck ham and the tortelli with broccoli and anchovies are must orders.
Cul de Sac
This little wine bar is great for anything from a quick glass of wine and a couple of snacks to a full on blow-out meal. The crowd is a mix of locals and tourists who are packed into the cosy (read : tiny) space that’s filled to the ceiling with wine bottles. As ever, you can expect excellent pasta – ox cheek ravioli and the lasagne are our recommendations for this little gem.
You’re going to want to eat at LEAST one giant bowl of gelato on a trip to Rome, and Otaleg (that’s gelato backwards in case you’re not paying attention) is our favourite. Located in Trastevere, the flavours here are a nice mix between the classics and some more adventurous creations. It’s all made freshly on site in small batches by superstar ice cream man Marco Radicioni and we think our combo of hazelnut and dark chocolate was a simple satisfying winner.
There’s a fair few Michelin-star places in Rome but many of them are stuck in the 90s – that formal fine dining style that London thankfully shook off years ago. If you want an all singing all dancing Michelin meal without all that nonsense though, head to All’Oro, where you can have an epic tasting menu and excellent service in cool contemporary surroundings. Highlights include a deconstructed carbonara served in an egg shell; a potato and salt cod ’tiramisu’; and the signature oxtail ‘rocher’, a slow cooked sphere of oxtail that is designed to resemble a Ferrero Rocher.
Where to sleep
The H’all Tailor Suite
This small boutique hotel houses the All’Oro restaurant and is owned by the chef Riccardo Di Giacinto and his wife. There’s just 14 rooms, all of which have been designed by the husband and wife team, inlcuding all the artworks and modern furniture. Lots of hotels in Rome tend to lean towards the chintzy end of the scale so it’s refreshing to stay in a place with a bit more of acontemporary vibe, and the location means you can walk most places. Service is top notch too, with super-friendly staff.
What to see
The sheer range and scale of ancient buildings and incredible architecture in Rome is pretty stunning. Just taking a stroll around the centre you’ll run into the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, and The Pantheon without even trying. Yes there are usually large crowds of tourists at all of them but they’re must visits all the same.
Then of course, there’s the ancient Roman architecture and, again, you’ll see ruins everywhere you look. If you haven’t been before then the Collisseum and The Forum are two pretty essential stops on your Roman weekend itinerary.
If you want to get more of a handle on the history of Rome while touring the sites, we can definitely recommend Roma Experience, who run excellent small group and private tours of all the sites. If you’ve got any interest in visiting The Vatican (and you should) then they offer an early morning access tour which gets you in there before it opens to the public, giving you a good head start. It starts at 7am but it does include breakfast, which is taken in the Vatican gardens. From there you move through the museum, see the living quarters of Michelangelo, and then the epic world-famous Sistine Chapel, before finishing up at St Peter’s Basilica. Whatever you think about religion or the Catholic Church, the Vatican is a serioulsy impressive place to visit, and you get a lot of great insight from the Roma Experience team.