Updated: Nov 30, 2020
Since about the time my son was 12 we’ve been saving and planning a mother son trip to Italy for his high school graduation. We had talked about a few different places to see and things to do, but ultimately decided 7 days in Rome would be perfect for his first trip to Europe. I also decided that I wasn’t super comfortable traveling alone (without my husband), so we talked him into coming along for the adventure.
Exactly 7 days prior to our scheduled flight to Rome I injured my back and in spite of multiple visits to the acupuncturist, I wasn’t getting better, and in fact had gotten worse. By the time I stepped onto the plane I was in excruciating pain and couldn’t sit or stand for any amount of time. Basically, there was no comfortable position to be in, especially on a plane for for nearly 9 hours! My entire trip was consumed by this pain, so I didn’t get to see & do it all, but I wanted to share with you a few of the highlights. Perhaps one day I’ll get the chance to do a more in-depth look at this magical city. *I’m happy to report that 7 months later I am still on the mend but doing better. Herniated disks and early onset osteoarthritis are no picnic, but I’m hoping to get to a place where I can once again be as active as I was before.
My Rome Recommendations…
I could ramble off a list of attractions that you must see, like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, but I figure you already know to hit all the touristy spots. Rome is big and its attractions are many, so give yourself time to see & do it all without running yourself ragged, while also making time to visit some neighborhoods that aren’t touristy.
#1 Get to know the locals and eat in cafes & restaurants that they frequent in order to have the authentic Roman experience; you won’t regret it. We stayed in Testaccio and took the bus into the city center each day, sometimes several times a day, and loved it! There was a park across the street from our Airbnb where the locals and their children spent their afternoons, and wonderful restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores all around us. We couldn’t have asked for better and wouldn’t have had that experience had we stayed in the busy & expensive city center. Plus, we had the best host ever! I can’t recommend her Airbnb enough!
#2 Get a public transport pass! Go to a Metro station to buy your pass at a kiosk, and make sure you validate it the first time you ride the metro, bus, or train. It’s that simple. We bought the 7 day pass and it cost €24 each. Definitely worth it with as much as we traveled by bus. There we so many buses and so many bus stops that we never had an issue getting to and from our destinations. We never rode the metro or trains, so I can’t speak for them, but the busses were clean and most were air conditioned, and always on time.
#3 Get up early to see the sites! It’s wonderful to explore the streets of Rome while all the other tourists and most of the locals are still sleeping. It also allows you to get to the sites well before all the huge crowds, and you’ll be thankful for that once you see just how many people visit these sites daily. We got up early for the Trevi Fountain and were able to get photos without anyone in them. Just a few hours later we couldn’t even find a path to walk close to the street the fountains one because there were so many people.
#4 Try as much authentic Italian cuisine as you can, steering clear of all the touristy spots where the waitstaff practically beg you to sit down for a Americanized & overly expensive “Italian” meal. There is more to this beautiful food culture than pasta and pizza, but oh my gosh!, if you go to the right spots, even the typical foods will blow you away. We found what we thought was absolutely fantastic pizza just down the block from us in Testaccio. Pizzeria da Remo serves up authentic pizza & great wine with a friendly staff. It was our first & last meal in Rome, and we’ll definitely go back. We also loved a little family restaurant in our neighborhood called Ristorante Antico Forno a Testaccio. The best Cacio e Pepe can be found here, and shouldn’t be missed. Basically go anywhere instead of the city center to eat, and you’ll do fine.
#5 Plan one day to just relax and truly take it all in. Put the cameras & phones away, and just experience your surroundings unobstructed by anything else. Enjoy!