Rome: Piazza del Popolo e Piazza di Spagna

The Piazza del Popolo and the Piazza di Spagna are two pretty squares in Rome, whilst the road between the two - the Via del Babuino - is lined with designer shops and little boutiques.

If you get off the Metro at Spagna, you're going to see a lot of people sat on some steps. These are the famous Spanish Steps, and whilst I've never seen the appeal, people sit on them day and night. (They are apparently the widest in Europe.)

Made famous by one of my favourites, Audrey Hepburn, and her co-star Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, both the church at the top of the Spanish Steps, the Trinità dei Monti, and the fountain at the bottom are currently under restoration, just like the Colosseum and other famous landmarks.

It's OK though, I was in Rome in July 2011 when the church wasn't under scaffolding so you can see above how it should look.

At the Piazza del Popolo, you'll find the "twin" churches - Santa Maria dei Miracoli is to the left, whilst Santa Maria di Montesanto is on the right-hand side. They're not identical twins, but they are very similar.

The Piazza del Popolo translates as the "People's Square" nowadays, but there's another church here - the Santa Maria del Popolo - where the square originally got its name from.

The Piazza del Popolo is probably my favourite square in Rome, but it has one annoyance. Street vendors will come up to you and try and force flowers or trinkets on you whilst you're milling around. A firm no will do the trick, though it may take several of these for them to disperse.

If you walk up the steps towards the Villa Borghese, you can get back to Trinità dei Monti and the Spanish Steps whilst taking in the awesome sight of Roman rooftops, and some famous landmarks. Quite the view, huh?

A city break in Rome

Doing two city breaks in a row as part of our Italian adventure was exhausting, so I'm glad we got to go to Sicily after Rome. Another thing I am glad about is that we didn't have hotel issues in Rome; in fact, we were upgraded when we arrived at the 4* Hotel Pulitzer and snagged their rather large junior suite. Hurrah!

The Hotel Pulitzer is situated a few minutes away from the Marconi Metro stop and whilst it was a lovely hotel, the road leading from the Metro to the hotel is actually an avenue for prostitutes! We never felt unsafe, but it was a surprise getting an eyeful of boobs and bum upon exiting the station on our first evening.

Getting around Rome is easy; there are two Metro lines, as well as buses and trains, to get you around the Eternal City. Again, we lucked out when stepping off the train at Termini, the main station, as two tourists who were leaving Rome gave us their weekly travel cards. I think we must have racked up some serious karma points for what we suffered in Florence!

A daily ticket on the Metro costs €6, but you can also get a single (€1.50), three-day (€16.50) and weekly (€24) ticket. Watch out for pickpockets though; we spotted a loud and large gang of young teenage girls push through the carriage, get off at the next stop, which is when one of the women they pushed by realised her bag was open. Keep an eye on your things and you'll be fine.

Food-wise, we didn't really find any amazing gems like we did in Florence, but these restaurants were definitely the best ones we ate at. Da Vito e Dina is near Vatican City, and we enjoyed a nice lunch there for €31. This was the first restaurant I spotted in Rome were you could order focaccia, and amazing focaccia it was! The pasta was pretty yummy, though the portions were massive.

Loste Ria was near our hotel (Marconi area), and is definitely more of a local place. They give you the most amazing home-made potato chips when you arrive, plus their steak is pretty awesome.

The staff at Ristorante Dal Carbonaro were super lovely. I ordered a delicious sea bass dish with an intricate potato crust for my main, but they accidentally brought me a sea bass with an aubergine crust. They realised before I did, were most apologetic, and they sorted out my replacement dish quickly. The restaurant is in Trastevere, which is a great neighbourhood to explore if you have time - it's about a twenty minute walk from the Circo Massimo Metro stop.

Finally, La Nuova Piazetta, near the Colosseum, gave us tasty pizza and pasta with a dessert, sparkling water and a litre of house wine for about €30 - a bargain price for dinner in Rome! They even gave us a limoncello shot, which whilst is the norm to receive a free shot in Florence and Milan, they don't tend to dish out freebies in Rome. This was the only place we found that did. Oh, plus you'll probably have to chase down oil and balsamic vinegar for your bread in Rome as they only seem to give it to locals. (Booooooo!)

Finally, I need to tell you about an awesome dress shop called Love-Life on Via Ottaviano. I bought two dresses from there back in July 2011, and bought another dress this time round. The manager/owner is still as rude as ever - your money is fake; stand over there; take this dress; do this - but, in the end, I got an awesome dress for €15. Via Ottaviano is on your way to Vatican City (if you get off at Ottaviano, which is the closest Metro stop), and there is also Oysho a few doors down. Oysho is another July 2011 find - they do awesome pyjama bottoms - though nowadays ASOS stocks their stuff!

Just like in Florence, we had a busy time in Rome and definitely needed a rest after all that sightseeing! We grabbed a taxi from our hotel - around €40 - and headed to Fiumicino to catch our plane to Sicily. Internal flights to Palermo take around 45 minutes and can be quite cheap. Our flight was about £40 each, with luggage checked in. x


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