JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH ANNALISA FRANCESCHINI FROM ROME, ITALY!
Annalisa grew up in a suburb of Rome, Italy. She is a gypsy at heart who is passionate about foreign cultures and photography. She writes about places and the people she meets during her travels. She also works as a translator, teacher of Italian, travel guide and planner and holistic therapist. Blogging about destinations and communities is her passion together with meditation, hiking, and photography.
Rome is the capital and largest city of Italy. It’s rich history can be seen in it’s ancient ruins belonging to many different historical periods and civilisations. Despite of a strong past, exquisite architecture and culture the city provides enough scope for entertainment and nightlife. Rome is also home to a couple of popular food like gelato and sliced pizza which can be found just about anywhere in the city.
Which is the best time to visit Rome?
The weather in Rome is mild and enjoyable throughout the whole year. Each season has a consistent amount of sunny days. The best time to visit is from mid April to the end of October. I would avoid the middle of August, when walking in the sun unprotected becomes a hard task.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Rome? What are the different modes of transport available from the airport to city?
Definitely the subway or “Metro”. The 3 lines MA, MB, MC serve the historical center and neighboring areas. The metro is affordable and convenient but gets very busy, while public buses are slow and affected by traffic. Riding a bike might be a risky option, due to the lack of proper signage and lanes. I suggest walking if you are capable.
There are a few shuttle bus services that go from Ciampino Airport to Roma Termini central station directly. The public bus number 520 stops at Anagnina MA subway station, from which you can reach the city center in about 30 minutes.
Which are the top 3 must visit places in Rome?
It is very challenging to recommend only 3 top places in Rome! It depends very much on your personal taste.
The history lovers will be delighted walking inside the Colosseo e Foro Romano. That is the place were the public life of the Roman Empire concentrated. You will see the remains of the ancient temples to pagan gods, the markets, and where Roman warriors performed for their emperors.
Talking architecture, the city holds squares which showcase the harmony and beauty of Renaissance urban planning and sculpture. My favorite square in Rome is Piazza Navona with it’s brilliant fountain and church. Navona square reflects the glory of the powerful clergy of the XVI century. The three fountains of white travertine stone in the center of the square represent figures from classical mythology. The square is always very lively and a must for people watching and to simply stroll around.
The Vatican Museums is the third not-to-miss spot in Rome. Do you have an idea of how powerful the popes were in Italy and in Europe throughout history? The Vatican Museums contain part of the artistic treasures collected by the popes or produce by artists at the pope’s service. The complex, vivid, perfectly preserved frescoes of the Sistine Chapel are the highlight in the Vatican Museums. Inside the Vatican Museum, it also is worthy to look at the collections of sculptures, tapestries and remains from ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Italy, as well as the gallery of the geographical maps.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Rome ?
For nature, art, and history lovers, I recommend the following day-trips from Rome:
Bracciano town and lake, roughly 50 minutes by city train from Valle Aurelia station. Here you’ll find a excellently preserved castle and old city from the XV century with spectacular views on one of the cleanest lakes in the world. Bracciano Lake is a fantastic spot for swimming in the warm seasons (June through September)
The town of Civita di Bagnoregio is about 2 hours drive from Rome center. Locals call it “the dying city” and visitors know it as the “floating city”. It’s unique landscape inspired an animation movie from Hayao Miyazaki. The city is at least 2500 years old. There is a small entrance fee (a few euros). Cross the bridge to the main square. Enjoy the majestic views and the silence of the valley. Stroll around the old houses and craft shops in the alleys. Get your lunch in the delicious local foodies.
The ancient town of Tivoli is located East of Rome center 30 minutes by city train from Termini Station. Tivoli is a fantastic day trip if you love nature, views, and very old mansions. You’ll be able to visit 3 of them! Historically, The Romans used the town as a strategic commercial exchange point, starting a few centuries BC. Emperor Adriano erected his “country manor” here: Villa Adriana. The manor is certainly worth a visit! It is huge and it showcases examples of Roman architecture away from the crowds and hurry of the center of proper Rome. During XVI century AD, the Papacy renovated and transformed Villa d’ Este and Villa Gregoriana. The former is famous for its gardens and fountains. The latter is home to a waterfall and water vortex and situated in a beautiful park.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Rome?
As Rome has been the center of the Catholic church for many centuries, Christmas and Easter are the most celebrated holidays, which is the same for the rest of Italy. Something we Romans cherish in particular is the night between the 5th and the 6th of January. This is this anniversary of the “Befana”. Befana is an old, poor, and ugly woman who uses a broom to fly from house to house and brings sweets to children, or charcoal, if they’ve been naughty. The origin of this mysterious, feminine figure, is lost in time.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Rome?
The most traditional Roman foods are:
Gnocchi of course, can be vegetarian on demand; Spaghetti alla carbonara meat dish; Tonnarelli cacio e pepe vegetarian; Filetto di Baccalà fish; Carciofo alla romana vegan; Abbacchio scottadito (meat) and Tiramisù (vegetarian dessert)
While, the most popular street foods are:
Gelato (sweet); Pizza al taglio (savoury sliced pizza of all kinds); Supplì (savoury) and Crepes (sweet/savoury)
Is it a vegetarian friendly city?
Rome is certainly a vegetarian-friendly city, while it could be more challenging for vegans. Cheese lovers will especially love Rome, as we like an abundance of grated Parmesan cheese on top of all our pastas. The most traditional dishes contain meat or meat derivatives. If you are vegetarian, remember this phrase when you communicate at the restaurant “Non mangio carne e pesce.” (I don’t eat meat and fish)
I’m a vegetarian, I always recommend to vegetarians and vegans in Rome to get their meals at “Aromaticus” in the Colosseum area.
Which are the best places to eat out in Rome?
The most popular and trendy areas for cafes, restaurants, and wine bars are the following:
Piazza Campo dei Fiori; Piazza Navona and the alleys between Piazza Navona and Ponte Sant’Angelo; Trastevere district, between Piazza Trilussa and Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. The section of Via del Portico d’Ottavia between the monument Portico d’Ottavia and and Via Arenula. In there are many trattorias specialized in Roman dishes. The Trattoria I recommend is: Le Mani in Pasta. Monti district (Via Urbana walking street and area).
Where to head for shopping in Rome?
The best areas for shopping are located around the Spanish Steps in Via del Corso, Via Frattina and Via Condotti. There you will find the best deals from famous Italian and foreign brands, as well as unique local boutiques, and souvenir shops. The best local products are leather goods and food souvenirs, including olive oil, bottles of limoncello, and freshly ground coffee beans for espresso.
Another convenient shopping area is located nearby the Vatican museum, at Via Ottaviano and Via Cola di Rienzo.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of Rome?
If you have time only for a single view in the city, head to Terrazza del Gianicolo (Gianicolo rooftop Square), on the homonym hill. There are two best times in the day to visit: at 12pm, to hear a cannon announcing midday; at sunset, to gaze at the changing colors on the city’s skyline..
Would you suggest any shows in Rome to drama, music, comedy or art lovers?
The main venue for music lovers in the city is the Auditorium Parco della Musica theater. It features local and international artists. At a smaller scale, I recommend the more intimate Alexanderplatz Jazz Club near San Peter Square, and the live music/restaurant club Na Cosetta in the Pigneto district.
If you are traveling with small children, you might want to check out the puppet shows at San Carlino Theatre inside Villa Borghese Park, or the spontaneous puppet show (by chance) on Sunday mornings between 10:30 and 12:00 nearby Terrazza del Gianicolo viewpoint.
Where can one spot street art in the city?
In Rome, street art is forbidden by the law, with a few exceptions. One of the most favorite squares with many street artists is Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere.
How difficult it is to travel in Rome without knowing the local language?
It’s very useful to learn a little bit of Italian before going to Rome. Most of Italians have a poor knowledge of the English language. You shouldn’t have problems downtown and in the most common tourist sites. Having a small phrasebook with you could help a lot! If you decide to move to Italy, you definitely need to study the language.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Rome?
Roman citizens’ favorite app for finding places of interest, cafes and restaurants is Google Maps. It displays countless sincere reviews and allow you to research about local businesses and attractions, a feature that I have used quite often.
Another app that might be useful for visitors is Mycicero, which allows you to buy all kinds of public transport tickets at no additional costs via Paypal or Visa/Mastercard card.