Best views over Rome

Posted on Aug 25, 2015 in On your own | No Comments

giardino degli aranciRome’s skyline is unique and magic, you cannot miss a general overview of the city from the top of a famous monument or terrace.  And you have plenty of options here! We recommend to take a stroll in one of these “belvedere” in a sunny day and possibly at the end of your Roman holiday…you will be able to identify several attractions that you have visited during your holiday.

Let’s start with a short list of  free-of-charge panoramic locations: the Garden on top of the Aventino (Giardino degli Aranci), the promenade of the Janiculum hill or the Pincio Garden offer nice terraces from where you can take unforgettable pictures, especially at sunset!

Just investing few euros you can climb the dome of St. Peter’s (the tallest building in town): there is a lift but just to half way, then you have to climb 300 steps!  Less steps to go for the terrace of Castel S.Angelo, and you will enjoy St.Peter’s dome itself from there.

If you are not ready for the steps, chose the terrace of the Vittoriano, the big white monument overlooking Piazza Venezia. The lift will take you to the top in few seconds and Rome will embrace you!

Finally, if you can afford a deluxe meal in one of the 5 star hotels in town, you will enjoy a holystic experience pampering all your senses from a roof top restaurant. Among the best terraces we suggest the GH De la Minerve, the Bernini Bristol and the Pergola at Waldorf Astoria Cavalieri, especially by night.

view from Castel S.Angelo

View over the Tiber from Castel S.Angelo and a video  (click) with 360° view from the Vittoriano

It’s always time for “gelato”!

Posted on Jun 30, 2015 in Children, Foodies & Shopaholics | No Comments

gelato2Shall we explain why gelato is good? I don’t think so…

Gelato is part of our culture, like pizza and pasta, fashion, soccer, wine … These are not commonplaces, but true statements about everyday life in Rome. In Italy there are more than 35 thousands “gelateria” and Italians eat an average of 75 cups or cones of gelato each year (six kilos!). This implies we know how to judge a good gelato and how to skip tourist traps. Here is our selection divided by areas, but feel free to suggest us new entries !

In any case, do not line for a gelato more than 5 minutes! We have so many gelato shops and no one can be considered ” the best in town”… Gelato is a pleasure, if you have to queue too long, part of the pleasure is lost already!

And do not forget our local tradition in Rome, the “grattachecca“!!! It is the best relief for the hot summer days, and if you have to queue for that, well, this is an experience and you’ll feel like a real Roman! My favorite is “Sora Maria” , the kiosk along Via Trionfale, near the Vatican, but you have several other opportunities (Piazzale Ponte Milvio, where the summer movida is! Or Piazza del Porto di Ripetta near the Spanish Steps, or “Fonte D’Oro” and “Sora Mirella” near Trastevere and finally, Porta Cavalleggeri just next to St. Peter’s square).

And remember… “You can’t buy happiness but you can buy ice cream. And that’s kind of the same thing!”

PS. Do not forget we offer the Gelato Tasting Tour in the centre (children love to evaluate best gelato while sightseeing!) and we can arrange a “Gelato Making Class” for you! 


To go back to eating options, click here

Eating in Rome

aromaThere is such a wide choice of places and options to eat in Rome (…just some street food? A gelato? A fancy restaurant with view? Traditional trattoria? A wine-bar with some snacks? Midnight cornetto?) that it is impossible to list them all … We are “out there” everyday and we constantly ask for  feedbacks from our guests (and we also do “quality checks” ourselves, ehehehe!), so here you find the links to our blogposts about food and drinks to let you plan your gourmet breaks in Rome!


Opera under the stars

224547882-a2baf4f1-4def-49bb-a583-2557152930ecRome’s Opera House holds its summer opera and ballet season framed by the incredible ruins of the Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla), where you can enjoy opera under the stars. The performances feature the orchestra, chorus and the ballet company of the “Teatro dell’Opera di Roma” as well as international stars.

For over 70 years the monumental archaeological site has been a wonderful stage for unforgettable shows  set up in a magical frame of antiquity: in fact it was the year 1937 when the Teatro dell’Opera set up its summer season at the Caracalla Baths for the first time!
The Baths of Caracalla were among one of the major spa complexes in ancient Rome, maybe the richest for its splendid decoration. The baths were in use until 537 when Vitige, King of the Goths, cut the aquaeducts during the siege of Rome. In the first half of the 19th century the palaestra was rediscovered and mosaics of athletes and sporting judges were removed (you can now admire them in the Vatican Museums). Since then, non stop excavations have contributed to our knowledge of the monument revealing recently the underground galleries and a mitreum.

Opera was invented in the Renaissance Florence by a group of intellectuals who aimed to recreate the Greek drama combining poetry and music: the “sung theatre” (il recitar cantando) was originally just poems read aloud to the accompaniment of few chords. Opera flourished during the Baroque era, becoming a real business, a new world populated impresarios, librettists, divas and “castratos” (male singers who were evicted at the age of 8 to prevent their voice from breaking during puberty and giving them a great vocal extension from sopranos to tenor voices… This cruel practice was illegal but perpetrated among the poor who hoped their children would make good money from Opera).

In Rome the Counter Reformation stopped the development of the Opera which was only accepted in the 19th century when it had reached every social class, not only aristocracy. The Torre Argentina theatre (still in operation!) became the centre of the city’s musical life and here Rossini performed his first “Barber of Seville” in 1816, followed by Verdi’s “Trovatore” in 1853. The Rome Opera House opened in 1880, under the name of Teatro Costanzi from his patron, an hotelier. It became a public theatre in 1926 and was massively restored, boasting a wide stage and the largest Murano crystal chandelier in Europe.

If you are not in Rome during the Summer Festival, check the Opera House program and do not hesitate to book a seat if your read “Tosca” on it: it is the most Roman of all operas, a story of jealousy, obsession and lost love set in Rome during the tense period of the French Revolution and the fall of the first Roman Republic. The plot is played out over 24 hours in three important Roman monuments as backdrops, which can be the stops of a nice walk in the centre: the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, Palazzo Farnese and Castel Sant’Angelo.

Happy Birthday, Roma!

Posted on Apr 13, 2015 in Children, Outdoors, Sport, Music... | No Comments

ap80068872304155554_bigEvery April 21st the “Eternal city” gets older!

Even this year there will be the historical parade along Via dei Fori Imperiali, just in front of the Colosseum, ending at Circus Maximus (the ancient chariot race track) where  the ritual ceremony of the “digging of the trench”, a ri-evocation of the foundation of Rome, will take place: Romulus, Remus, the Vestal Virgins, the she-wolf…the whole tale will be much clearer afterwards!

PS. The historical group arranging the parade is also offering our activity-tour “Gladiator for a day“, a fun way to learn about ancient history!


Posted on Apr 6, 2015 in Outdoors, Sport, Music... | No Comments

roseto-comunaleMaybe you’ve never heard about it, but since many years there is a special contest which takes place here during springtime, it is the Rome Prix for roses!

On the slope of the romantic Aventino, a municipal Rose Garden  is located.

Every year approximately 100 varieties of roses from all over the world are on show and the most beautiful is awarded. The Garden is open for free every day from April to June (exact opening and closing day depending on weather conditions and blossom season) and everybody can enjoy the perfumes and amazing colours of the queens of  flowers. This might be a nice break while touring the Aventino hills, one of our favorite areas in Rome!

Spring in Rome…the second time!

Posted on Mar 21, 2015 in Time out to reflect | No Comments

tivoliSpring is definitely a great season to visit Rome, it might be crowded, but if you follow our off-the-beaten-track tips, you’ll enjoy Rome a lot!

In fact we always recommend to visit Rome at least twice!

The first time is meant to  get acquainted, visit the must-sees and taste a bit of this Eternal City. For this kind of trip the winter months are the best, as you can explore the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon without a thousand people around you and maybe you can even find a good spot to throw the coin into the Trevi fountain without queueing to take that iconic picture. Once the ritual of the coin has been accomplished, you can be sure you’ll be in Rome again!!!

That’s when spring is a great season! Leave the crowds to the main attractions you already know (you will catch up at night with the charming ruins of the Forum and the familiar arches of your “old friend”, the Colosseum…) and start exploring the city where the Romans still live, work,  eat, drink, love and enjoy life!

Useful links

Posted on Mar 12, 2015 in On your own, Planning Your Trip | No Comments

linksWhen you plan a trip to Rome, you might need the following links:

  • Trains: fast trains connect easily the main cities of Italy. You can compare the companies i.e. Trenitalia and Italo. You usually get better deals buying tickets in advance.
  • Bus/Metro in Rome is provided by a public company called  ATAC. Here you’ll find the map of the lines in the city centre. We know, it’s not easy!  There are 1-day, 3-day and 1-week-passes on sale at newsstands, metro stations and tobacco shops.
  • Transfers by private car: on arrival we recommend the Fiumicino Airport based company called Concora.
  • Bags: if you need to transport heavy luggage in town or to store your bags after check-out, Bon Bags , Rome Left Luggage or “Stow your bags” can provide a useful service (the only bag storage in Rome is at Termini train station).
  • Public toilets: finding public toilets in Rome is not easy. Here is a  map. Our suggestion is to use restrooms when visiting museums, before leaving a restaurant, or any time you stop by a coffee-bar. Near the Vatican (and they plan to open in other areas too) you can find the clean restrooms of City Toilet
  • Baby equipment rental (strollers, car seats, travel cots…)
  • Rome Free Lounge is a space next to Piazza Venezia where you can relax and enjoy wifi and air conditioning for free. They offer paying services such as clean toilets, bag storage, booking service.
  • Do not forget to check our page of links if you travel to other destinations in Italy.

When to start planning your trip?

Posted on Mar 12, 2015 in Planning Your Trip | No Comments

Plan-your-trip1We firmly believe a trip starts when you start planning it. That said…the sooner, the better!

But it is also true you cannot reserve everything too much in advance. Make your reservations well ahead of time, chosing the best period for you/your family to travel. Consult local experts (like us!) concerning how many nights you should spend in each location, possible accommodations, transportation between one city and another and so on… Once a plan is in place and you have your flights and accommodations booked, you can finalize details on tours. Most of the attractions in Rome are just there for you to enjoy: the outdoors, the city itself are THE attractions and this allows you to be flexible and change your mind closer to the date of the trip. Keep in mind that some museums/sites/events require pre-booking.

Here we go:

  • Vatican Museums: this is the link to the booking site where you can book your admission to the museum skipping the lines. You can also book  internal group tours (approx. 3 hrs length) or audio-guides. If you wish to reserve a private tour to the Vatican with A Friend in Rome, let’s agree first the best day and time for the tour and then we will give you instructions to buy tickets. The above site also allows you to reserve group tours to the “Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis”  (not the Tomb of Peter!) and the Vatican Gardens (select “Guided tours for individuals”) or the Papal Villa of Castel Gandolfo recently opened to the public.
  • Vatican Excavations: visits to the necropolis underneath the Basilica, where the tomb of St. Peter is located, are only possible following special permission granted from time to time by the “Fabbrica di San Pietro”. This visit has to be booked months in advance: only around 250 visitors per day are permitted to enter and children under the age of 15 are not admitted. Only internal guides of the Excavations office are allowed (sigh!).
  • Colosseum: for individual travellers the tickets are “open vouchers” with no date and time. Children up to 17 are entitled to free admissions but they have to pay for the 2.00 euro reservation and bring an ID to show their birth date. If there are children in your party, reserve separately the tickets for the adults (chose the “print@home” option deleting the pre-selected “pickup@ticket office”) and then book the tickets for the children on a separate form – you will be given a code for them. I know it seems more complicated, but it will save us some time once you are here. Please be aware that, due to anti-terroristic measures, we are still subject to lines for the security control. This ticket also allows you to visit the Palatine/Forum area. If you are interested in the underground portion of the Colosseum, there are internal group tours (same link as the regular tickets). In low season and with 2 months of advance we can also check availability of a private slot for this visit. Otherwise you can reserve the group tour and book a private tour with A Friend in Rome to the Forum/Palatine and another attraction of the Ancient Rome at your choice (Caracalla Baths, Pantheon, San Clemente’s undergrounds, etc…).
  • Borghese Gallery: booking is mandatory. If you wish to be guided by A Friend in Rome, reserve a free ticket for your guide as well (after agreeing time/day with us, of course!). This museum is one of the best art collections not only in Rome but in the whole world. Do not miss it!
  • Papal Audience/Celebrations: be careful! The Papal Audience and the Celebrations at the Vatican are free of charge (many companies sell tickets!), but reservation is mandatory. Audiences take place on Wednesdays, celebrations depend on the liturgical calendar. All information is available through the link. The Angelus blessing is on Sundays at noon and does not require booking. An interesting article here to figure out how it works: Papal Audience for beginners! 

Sleeping in Rome

Posted on Mar 10, 2015 in Planning Your Trip | No Comments

ermafordito dormienteThere are thousands of different options for your accommodation in Rome and it is quite impossible to have a full updated list of all the hotels, B&Bs, hostels, religious institutions, campings, apartments… we simply recommend caution in the choice of location, especially if you are visiting Rome for the first time: lodgings’ websites are often “deliberately fuzzy” about locations.

We are at your disposal to suggest or assist you in booking your accommodation in Rome and we enclose here a short list of hotels, B&Bs and apartments that we personally know and have “inspected” for you: