The sun paints the city in a sepia glow, and as you walk Rome’s cobbled streets, it is a place that truly feels eternal. It is a city steeped in history and culture, so it comes as no surprise that travelers from across the world flock to Rome not only for its historical sites but for a taste of la dolce vita, which is synonymous with Italy, but especially Rome. There is no better place to start your Italian adventure.
To maximize your city experience, I would recommend planning with a Travel Designer from Tully Luxury Travel who can seamlessly organize transportation, unique experiences, dinner reservations, and the best tour guides (a must on your first visit to the city!).
Best time to visit: From March to May, and September to October.
Length of stay: Five days will allow enough time to visit plenty of attractions without compromising on a relaxing and fulfilling holiday.
Rome radiates elegance and luxury no matter where in the city you venture. Equally, the city offers something for every traveler, whether you are seeking relaxation, meandering the streets, sipping on coffee by day and cocktails by night, or an avid foodie in search of the city’s finest gastronomical delights, or perhaps you are there to immerse yourself in Rome’s history, in which case there is no shortage of ruins to explore.
St. Peter's Basillica Exterior
St. Peter's Basillica Interior
Rome has a plethora of beautiful, unique hotels that offer a different experience for every traveler, unlike many cities that are teeming with luxurious but identical, if not slightly characterless, hotels. My recommendation is Portrait Roma. This chic townhouse hotel has a boutique feel with all the luxury of Rome’s bigger, esteemed establishments such as the renowned Hotel Hassler. Much like the Hassler, Portrait Roma is situated a stone’s throw from the Spanish Steps, a perfect base for your Roman adventure (if you’re anything like me, you won’t be spending much time in your hotel room, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t indulge in the best the city has to offer!).
Of Portrait Roma’s fourteen elegant suites, the Penthouse is undoubtedly the finest, occupying the top two floors. It offers a large terrace with views of the city and two private saunas. It is the perfect sanctuary to return to after a long day of sightseeing. Italian shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo founded Portrait Roma, and this is apparent throughout the hotel, with shoe-inspired artwork and a transcendent sense of style in the plush furnishings and Carrera marble bathrooms.
As I sit on the rooftop terrace, exclusive to hotel guests, an Aperitivo in hand, I feel like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Stepping out from the hotel onto the Via Condotti, Rome’s most exclusive shopping street enhances the air of vintage glamour that Portrait Roma exudes. The hotel’s dedicated Lifestyle Team can arrange unique experiences in the city, from Vespa tours to dining experiences, with menus from fifteen of Rome’s best restaurants that can be enjoyed from the privacy and convenience of your terrace. Portrait Roma is the place for travelers who value discretion.
Rome is a city best explored on foot. Whether you wish to stroll the city’s streets and encounter its abundance of tourist attractions at your leisure or would prefer a private car to deliver you to the sites which pique your interest, it is ultimately up to you. Another great way of exploring the city is by electric scooter, and it’s as simple as downloading an app on your phone and hopping on. It certainly is a fun way to explore. Rome is a city full of surprises, so prepare to lose yourself and not be afraid to deviate from your pre-planned itinerary.
Since most travelers are in the city for only a matter of days, it is about prioritizing where you would like to visit without rushing to pack as much as you can into a single day. Rome is best enjoyed when you aren’t hurrying from one attraction to the next, so when you’re planning your visit, allow yourself time to explore the city at your convenience. My advice would be to immerse yourself in all that Rome has to offer, which many mistakenly equate with visiting as many attractions as possible. This is not my idea of luxury and certainly doesn’t embody the slow pace of life that Italy is known for. Rome may be a lively metropolitan hub, but it is quintessentially Italian in the sense that it is about making the most of the small moments.
So, if you’re only in Rome for a short time, where in the city should you visit? This can be a daunting question with so much on offer, especially if it’s your first time in the city. It is a matter of personal preference, but it wouldn’t be a trip to Rome if you didn’t marvel at the Colosseum and step into Ancient Rome while exploring the Forum and Palatine hill by foot. The Pantheon, an architectural masterpiece and the best-preserved Roman temple in the world, is a must-see but be sure to purchase skip-the-line tickets to avoid long wait times. Put a day aside for your visit to Vatican City. It is a country in itself which is why I recommend spending the day exploring the museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel. If you have time afterward, make the short walk to Castel Sant’Angelo, Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum, which later became a fortress and papal residence. Climb to the top of this imposing cylindrical tomb to experience a 360-degree view of Rome.
Aside from historical monuments, make sure to visit the Borghese Gardens at sunset, with a view over the Piazza del Popolo; it must be the most romantic spot in the city. The musicians play at dusk, and a warm breeze brushes over your shoulders, breathe and take a moment for yourself after a long day of exploration – this is what Rome is all about. Hotspots such as the Trevi Fountain are best visited after a dinner in one of the nearby trattorias when the day’s crowds have dispersed. Throw a coin over your shoulder to guarantee your return to Rome.
The city is even more magical at night, and many of its monuments can be admired in all their splendor, illuminated and glittering under the starlight. A not-so-secret keyhole atop the Aventine Hill offers a unique glimpse of St. Peter’s Basilica. Don’t attempt to capture this magical sight through a camera lens like all the other tourists who flock to this mysterious door, instead put your camera aside and enjoy the magical moment of peering through the keyhole for one of Rome’s most perfect views. It is moments like these that you will remember in years to come.
Walk down the Aventine Hill and cross the Ponte Palatino into the lively district of Trastavere and the nearby Jewish Ghetto. This district is home to some of the best and most traditional restaurants in the city, but if not for dinner, rest your weary legs and enjoy a limoncello spritz and a bowl of nocerella olives in Piazza Santa Maria, the district’s most vibrant square. Cat lovers must take a moment to visit the cat sanctuary at Largo di Torre Argentina. These cats rescued from all over the city call these ancient ruins of a Roman temple home. The lady who runs the sanctuary allows visitors to interact with the cats kept inside the shelter for special care. There is, of course, for philanthropic travelers, the opportunity to donate or adopt these friendly felines from a distance. What began as a surprise for my animal-loving boyfriend became my most rewarding experience in the city. To end your Roman adventure, I recommend making the hike up the Giancolo Hill; it is long but worth it. Looking out on the city, it will feel like you have taken a step back in time. Rome is a city without skyscrapers, and all the more beautiful for it.
Trattoria Dai 3 Amici Al Pantheon
When it comes to dining in Rome, reservations are essential, so let a Travel Designer take care of that for you. Some of the most popular and famous restaurants require bookings weeks or even months in advance, so bear this in mind when planning your visit. For lunch, make sure to visit the city’s famous salumeria, Roscioli, a deli-turned restaurant in the heart of town. On offer are some of the city’s finest cold cuts, over three hundred cheeses, and the best carbonara I tasted in Rome, and there is no shortage of competition. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, sit at the deli counter where you can admire the carefully selected ingredients from all over Italy and beyond.
For a more romantic, alfresco experience, dine at Santa Lucia and enjoy a leisurely lunch under the trees, steps away from the beautiful Piazza Navona. If you are searching for Rome’s best pizza, then head to Seu Pizza Illuminati in the energetic district of Trastavere. This trendy restaurant offers gourmet pizzas with a modern twist and is a far cry from your traditional Roman pizzeria. Make sure to order the fritti and suppli to start your meal the “Roman” way.
Suppose you’re looking to experience Michelin Star dining. In that case, La Pergola is the only three-star restaurant in Rome with one of the city’s best panoramic views. For a light snack on your way to or from the Pantheon, stop by Gelateria Della Palma; with over 150 gelato flavors on offer, it is an ice cream lover’s paradise. The city hosts several swanky bars offering the finest cocktails. By chance, as often happens in Rome, I discovered the chic La Buvette, near the Spanish Steps, where I enjoyed the perfect Aperitivo and delectable canapés.