Its been a few years since I’ve stayed and explored Rome proper, clearly flying in and out of its airport a number of times doesn’t count. For the most part I generally fly into Milan and spend the majority of my time in Tuscany and Lake Como, but recently felt like I had been thoroughly neglecting Rome and all points south for too long!

Hence my decision to start this adventure in Rome, and work my way south to Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi coast. Now some might say that it’s not a great place to go at this time of year, but trust me Italy is wonderful to go any time of year and with each season brings new things to see and do no matter where you are in this beautiful country.

This visit I’m staying in the Via Veneto neighborhood, made famous by Federico Fellini and his 1960 hit movie “La Dolce Vita”.  Although some may argue that this once glamorous area has lost its star appeal since those heady days, but as I walk around I find it still retains a certain level of prestige and nostalgia befitting it’s pedigree.

Given the time of year I had to book a few things in advance, which usually isn’t my style but you know what they say “when in Rome…” 🙂

Seriously Christmas in a foreign city is something to be planned for and around especially in Rome, so I had to book restaurants for both Christmas eve and Christmas day as many are not open because as you know this time of year is huge for family gatherings and as such many shops and restaurants will be closed tight while everyone celebrates.

Prior to leaving I’d also been in a bit of a conundrum given that the weather in Toronto is so frigid, but not so much in Rome. Never one to overpack I’d been avidly checking the long term weather forecast to decide what I was going to bring to wear, and for those that know me I’m a minimalist (carryon only) when traveling, but given that I’ll be away 16 days and driving south which means slightly warmer climes I had to pack for a range of clothing options which leaves me no choice but to take a slightly larger bag…crazy right?!

Now to be fair I also packed my tripod and camera belt, which usually take up a chunk of room that I don’t have the luxury of accommodating normally without a last minute squeeze into my carryon, so now have room to buy a couple of things for Zach and Sami on my travels – sorta worked out I guess.

Rome, like most cosmopolitan cities has so many places to see and things for me to shoot it seems like I have endless choices. Fortunately for me I have a couple of days at the end of my adventure so whatever I don’t fit in now I will definitely circle back to prior to my departure.

Here are a couple of tips to get you started on your next adventure in Rome…

Indelible Tip #1: Like with all major cities, irrespective of whether you’re there just to explore and have fun or come with a purpose it’s important to plan your visit carefully. For many, booking a tour or purchasing tickets for the hop on, hop off bus is about as adventurous as it gets – which is all good.  Unfortunately for the vast majority of visitors you are channeled into specific sites and don’t get an opportunity to explore and discover the gems that are in plain sight.  I realize that not everyone enjoys getting outside their comfort zone and wandering the city until they are lost like me, but I do discover a side of a city that few do.

There are the obvious must see’s while you’re in Rome, such as the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Colosseum and of course the Trevi Fountain but the real Rome is beyond these major sites.

My personal shoot list for this visit to Rome is extensive to say the least!

Head down to the Aventine, which is one of the seven hills on which Ancient Rome was built. This lesser known area is also home to Circo Massimo, built in the third century BC as a venue for Chariot racing but destroyed by fire in 64 AD. It remains a key part of Rome’s history, as it was built in a natural amphitheater between the Palatine and Aventine Hills and was a perfect location for constructing the largest stadium in the world which sat up to 250,000 spectators.  Can you say enormous?!  Wandering its architecturally rich streets is a pleasure unto itself, check out the Rome Rose Garden and Basilica of Santa Sabina while you’re there.

Indelible Tip #2:  If all this walking makes you hungry, and you’re craving authentic Roman fare at a reasonable price away from the hordes of visitors, then continue walking across the Ponte Testaccio which spans the Tiber river to the Trastevere neighborhood.  You’ll be blown away by the local fare at La Prosciutteria Trastevere (Via della Scala, 71), this great little place has an amazing array of local prosciutto, cheeses and other Roman delicacies that will bring your palate alive.  Far from the crowds it’s an eclectic place to sit, eat and enjoy the amazing food and soak up the atmosphere.

However, if you’re near the Trevi Fountain and feeling a little peckish there is no better place that to drop into Pane e Salme (Via Santa Maria in Via, 19) for a Roman Panini sandwich.  This little hole in the wall is ranked third best restaurant in Rome so its got to be doing something right.  Tucked away in a small side street just blocks away from the Trevi fountain you can’t go wrong with one of their delicious panini’s.  Its now become a popular place, so depending on the time of year you may be standing in line…

Indelible Tip #3:  Rome is to be savored and not rushed, although it can be difficult with a limited time and a lot to see and do, why not take some time to sit on a sidewalk cafe and people watch over an afternoon espresso or glass of wine. Maybe even spend the afternoon strolling through the beautiful Borghese Gardens and Villa Medici to get a new perspective on the city and unwind.

Lots more to see and do so stay tuned as I explore further afield next time.  Until then….