Rome in 7 days
Plus three days in Tolfa and Fontana del Papa
Italy has everything - beautiful architecture, ancient history, spectacular art, breath-taking scenery, the most delicious food and let's not forget the vino! This itinerary will focus on the capital city, Rome as well as a charming agrotourism farm, in Tolfa, where we did some cooking classes.
I've done several trips to Rome - once with our sons and the others alone with my husband. This itinerary is a bit of a combination of these trips. The suggestions on the first few days of the itinerary are geared toward first-time visitors and the last couple of days suggest where to go in Rome for returning visitors.
Perfectly located, next to the square bearing the same name, this boutique hotel has elegantly appointed rooms with renovated washrooms. The delicious breakfast is served in a lovely dining room. The staff are courteous and very helpful. Highly recommended.
This hotel is located between Campo De Fiori and Piazza Navona. The rooms are beautifully renovated, bright and quiet. The buffet breakfast has everything you could want and the service in the hotel is excellent. It has a roof-top terrace with beautiful views.
Fontana del Papa is a farmhouse, bed and breakfast which offers cooking classes. It is a quiet retreat away from the tourist crowds. A beautiful oasis which consists of an old stone house with quaint rooms, a modern kitchen for the best Italian cooking lessons, a refreshing swimming pool and terraces overlooking gardens, olive groves and mountains.
Rome, Italy's capital, is a 3,000 year old vibrant city. It is home to Vatican City, centre of the Catholic Church, where you can see masterpieces such as Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. The ancient Forum and Colosseum, sit in the centre of the city as a reminder of the Roman Empire. There is so much to see and do in the city you could spend several days just wandering through the different piazza's while admiring the architecture and eating good food.
We arrived at our hotel, Hotel Campo de Fiori, which is perfectly located, next to the lively square bearing the same name. It is in walking distance to most attractions.
After checking in and settling into our rooms we headed out. We walked toward Piazza Navona and stopped for a bite to eat. We had delicious sandwiches on fresh Italian buns.
From Piazza Navona we walked to the Villa Borghese Gardens. These beautiful and elegant gardens are a good spot to catch some shade in the summer heat.
We walked along the paths to the Borghese Gallery. This elegant and palatial museum houses a substantial collection of paintings and sculptures - including works by Bernini and Caravaggio - as well as stunning antiquities. It is breathtaking.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped at Giolitti, one of Rome's most famous gelato shops and is one of my favourite.
We decided to stay near the hotel for dinner. We went to a small outdoor restaurant serving delicious pizza and salads, and then headed to bed early.
This morning we booked a semi-private tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica through Dark Rome Tours. This tour is highly recommended as it helps you beat the crowds by entering before the general public arrives. The tour gave us a more intimate experience with our guide while visiting the main highlights of the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms, plus St. Peter’s Basilica where we were able to spend extra free time after the tour.
We had lunch at a local restaurant several blocks away from the Vatican and then headed back across the river to Piazza del Popolo, which is a charming square with an Egyptian obelisk marking its centre.
This is a great spot to begin a nice walk along the famous Via del Corso, a main shopping thoroughfare. From there you can take Via Condotti, another busy street filled with expensive shops and restaurants, to Piazza de Spagna and the popular Spanish Steps, which are named for the Spanish Embassy near the Vatican. The piazza is great for people watching.
We spent the afternoon walking around the small streets and alleys, grabbing a gelato to cool down.
This evening we headed across the river to Trastevere for dinner. This area is quiet and has the feel of a small village, filled with narrow streets as well as charming homes and terraces. The squares are lively but not overly crowded and there are many nice restaurants to choose from.
We ate at La Scala Restaurant. The food there is delicious and they have a nice patio.
This morning we booked another tour with Dark Rome Tours. This time we did a private, three-hour tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Our guide gave us an animated description and history of these ancient sites while walking through them. Again, it allowed us to skip the long lines to enter the Colosseum.
The tour ends with a walk along the "Sacred Way", which was the main artery through the Roman Forum that once sparkled with festivals and triumphal processions, and ends at the Temple which houses the altar where Julius Caesar was cremated. I highly recommend this tour.
We headed back to the market in Campo de Fiori by our hotel. We walked through the market and stopped in a cafe for some delicious, freshly baked focaccia, sandwiches and salads.
Then we walked toward the Trevi Fountain and on the way stopped into the Pantheon, which is a domed building surviving from ancient Rome, built in A.D. 120. The columns on the exterior are amazing but it is the domed roof/ceiling that is the biggest attraction. This domed roof was the inspiration for later domes. It is worth a visit inside if it is opened.
The popular and crowded Trevi Fountain, completed in 1762, was built to celebrate the reopening of many of Rome's ancient aqueducts. It sits in front of a majestic palace which gives it a stunning backdrop. While there are no cars in the square, it is so crowded that it can be hard to get close to the fountain. I recommend pushing your way through as it is definitely worth getting a close-up view.
This evening we went for a stroll west of Campo de Fiori and into one of the small and quieter Piazzas for dinner.
After breakfast we headed toward the former Jewish Quarter for a walking tour. This area is located between the river and the Pantheon. The Jews of Rome were forced to live in the tight quarters of the ghetto between the 16th and 19th centuries. While the ghetto no longer exists, this area is home to a couple of synagogues, a museum and several reminders of the once vibrant Jewish life. In fact, Rome has one of the oldest uninterrupted Jewish communities in the world. I cannot recall which tour company we used but there are several that I recently found online, including one with Walks Inside Rome.
We had lunch at one of the Jewish restaurants in the old ghetto area for a taste of Jewish-Italian cuisine.
From there we decided to spend the afternoon exploring the small streets and alleys off of Via Del Corso and Via Condotti - with stops along the way for some treats including cannoli's with espresso and gelato at the famous Giolitti's.
This evening in Rome we had some wine on the rooftop of our hotel and then headed to Pierluigi, a nice restaurant in Piazza de Ricci. This upscale restaurant serves delicious food and has a large selection of wines.
After breakfast this morning we made our way to the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli to see the famous sculpture of Moses by Michelangelo. It was commissioned in 1805 by Pope Julius II for his tomb. It depicts the image of Moses with horns on his head.
From the church we walked to the Oppian Hill Park located behind the Colosseum. This lush park is a quiet oasis in the middle of a very busy city. We wandered along the trails and had beautiful views of the Colosseum.
For lunch we decided to grab a taxi and head to the modern Testaccio Market for lunch. This glass-roofed market houses many food vendors and stalls. Our favourite was the The Food Box. Its specialty are the deep-fried arancini rice balls with ragu. They were so delicious we were licking our fingers. We also tried sandwiches from the deli, Mordi & Vai.
After wandering around the market, we headed to the Trastevere area where we strolled through the lively streets and stopped for a gelato at Fatamorgana - a gelateria that uses fresh, all natural and makes its gelato in the traditional method. There are several locations in Rome. Be sure to try one.
We then went back to our hotel for a rest.
This evening we booked a food tour of the Prati neighbourhood with the Roman Food Tour. This residential neighbourhood, just outside of the centre of Rome, was the perfect place to have an authentic Italian evening out. The neighbourhood is filled with gourmet eateries and grocery stores. We tasted wines, cheeses, salamis and had the best and most unique pizzas and homemade pastas I've eaten. Our guide was entertaining and gave us the history of the food establishments that we visited. A fun way to spend an evening!
This morning we decided to check out some of the smaller museums, those less travelled by most tourists in Rome. These hidden gems are often left out of Rome itineraries due to all the major tourist attractions in the city.
First we headed to the Galleria Doria Paphilj. This palace, which is still privately owned by the princely royal family, houses a large collection of art and furniture in its state rooms, as well as in galleries surrounding a courtyard. It's a beautiful museum with an audio guide narrated by one of the family members.
From there we walked over to the newly renovated Riascente Department Store. This flagship location of the high-end chain is located in the historical centre of the city. It sits above an archeological site which can be viewed in the lower level of the store.
The highlight of the building is the food emporium and views from the upper levels. We walked around the terrace and then had lunch at one of the many delicious food stalls. I highly recommend stopping by this store for the panoramic views of Rome.
We walked around the city and popped into Rome's Gallery of Modern Art. This small gallery had a special exhibit called Women Body and Image Between Symbolism and Revolution. It was interesting and I believe they have regular rotating exhibits.
We then walked toward the River Tiber, passing the Spanish Steps, and strolled along the river trail admiring the Castel Saint Angelo across the way, walking along Via Coronari with its small, quaint shops and cobble-stone streets, past Piazza Navona and back to our hotel. It was a lovely afternoon.
This evening we had a reservation at Hostaria Costanza, located near the Campo De Fiori. The homemade pastas were delicious. We shared the appetizer plate with the delectable Jewish artichokes to start, as well as salad with burrata. All the food was incredible.
After breakfast we walked over to the Domus Romane at Palazzo Valentini. Below this palace, archeologists recently discovered an ancient Roman home and bath complex, giving an idea of the civic, social and political life of Rome. A guided tour inside this site with a laser show gives a very interesting description of what life was like during that period.
Just outside the Palazzo Valentini stands Trajan's Column at a height of almost 40 metres and with a fascinating carved frieze winding up the column. This is part of the ancient site of Caesar's forum.
We then headed to a delicious sandwich shop, Forno Campo De'Fiori, grabbed some sandwiches for lunch and sat in the square enjoying them as well as the lively produce market taking place.
This afternoon we spent time wandering around and made our way to Piazza Barberini where we visited the National Gallery of Ancient Art in the Barberini Palace. It houses the main national collection of older (pre-1800) paintings in Rome.
We headed out a bit early and made our way to the Pantheon. The square is quieter during the evenings and the monument is very beautiful when lit up. We strolled along the streets around the Pantheon walking in and out of shops.
We had dinner reservations at Osteria il Sostegno. This was the perfect place for our last night in Rome. This tiny restaurant, located down a quiet alley had the most delicious pastas and salads. It is intimate with wonderful service. Reservations must be made in advance.
Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. These are a must-do when in Rome. I highly recommend that you either join a tour (both for the explanation and to enable you to enter avoiding the lines) or buy your tickets in advance. There are huge crowds and long lines.
Borghese Gallery. This elegant and palatial museum houses a substantial collection of paintings and sculptures - including works by Bernini and Caravaggio - as well as stunning antiquities. It is breathtaking. Booking tickets in advance is recommended.
Galleria Doria Paphilj. This palace, which is still privately owned by the princely royal family, houses a large collection of art and furniture in its state rooms, as well as in galleries surrounding a courtyard. It's a beautiful museum with an audio guide narrated by one of the family members.
Rome's Gallery of Modern Art. This small gallery had a special exhibit called Women Body and Image Between Symbolism and Revolution. It was interesting and I believe they have regular rotating exhibits.
Domus Romane at Palazzo Valentini. Below this palace, archeologists recently discovered ancient Roman homes and bath complex, considered to be the civic, social and political life of Rome built by the Emperor Caracealla. A guided tour inside this site with a laser show gives a very interesting description of what life was like during that period.
National Gallery of Ancient Art in the Barberini Palace. It houses the main national collection of older (pre-1800) paintings in Rome.
La Scala Restaurant in the Trastevere neighbourhood on the other side of the river. The food there is delicious and they have a nice patio.
Pierluigi is a nice restaurant in Piazza de Ricci. This upscale restaurant serves delicious food and has a large selection of wines.
Giolitti is one of Rome's most famous gelato shops and is one of my favourite.
The Food Box. Located in the Testaccio Market, specializes in deep-fried arancini rice balls with ragu. They were so delicious we were licking our fingers.
Fatamorgana. A gelateria that uses fresh, all natural and makes its gelato in the traditional method. There are several locations in Rome. Be sure to try one.
Hostaria Costanza. Located near the Campo De Fiori. The homemade pastas were delicious. We shared the appetizer plate with the delectable Jewish artichokes to start, as well as salad with burrata.
Forno Campo De'Fiori. Small sandwich shop in the square with focaccia, breads and pastries.
Osteria il Sostegno. This tiny restaurant, located down a quiet alley near the Pantheon had the most delicious pastas and salads. It is intimate with wonderful service. Reservations must be made in advance.
Guides and Tours
We did two tours with this company and they were both excellent:
a semi-private tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica
a private three-hour tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum
This tour company offers several tours including a Jewish walking tour of the former Ghetto and Synagogue. I am not certain that I used this company but they got good reviews and the tour seems to cover the same sites as the tour we did.
This evening food tour through the residential neighbourhood of Prati was the perfect location for an authentic Italian evening out. The neighbourhood is filled with gourmet eateries and grocery stores. We tasted wines, cheeses, salamis and had the best and most unique pizzas and homemade pastas I've eaten. !
If it's your first time in Rome and want to read some fun facts, check out this guide by Everywhere Forward.
Tolfa and Fontana del Papa
Fontana del Papa, near the town of Tolfa, is a farmhouse bed and breakfast which offers cooking classes. These types of accommodations are known in Italy as Agriturismo.
A quiet retreat away from the tourist crowds, it is a beautiful oasis which consists of an old stone house with quaint rooms, a modern kitchen for the best Italian cooking lessons, an outdoor stone pizza oven, a refreshing swimming pool and terraces overlooking gardens, olive groves and mountains.
Our family wanted a little bit of rest and relaxation and this was the perfect spot. It is located approximately one-hour north of Rome by train. The closest train station is in Civitavecchia. If you are coming from Cinque Terre you can catch a train to Civitavecchia from La Spezia (it takes approximately four hours).
From the train station, we arranged a pick-up with Assuntina, the owner of Fontana del Papa. It is approximately 20 minutes to the farm.
Arrived at Fontana de Papa and got settled in our room which was a lovely two-bedroom suite with a large living space.
We hung out by the pool and were pleasantly surprised to see their horse wandering around the farm grounds.
We had a delicious home cooked meal and then had a short lesson on wines by Assuntina's husband.
We sat on the terrace and enjoyed a glass of wine before heading to bed.
After breakfast my son and I started our cooking class with an animated and talented chef from Tolfa. We spent a couple of hours preparing lunch. We made everything from scratch including a delicious frittata, gnocchi, and fried zucchini flowers. We even picked some of the vegetables and herbs from the garden outside.
My husband and other two sons went on a hike to the natural springs in the area, which is what Fontana del Papa is named after.
After eating our delicious food for lunch, we relaxed by the pool for a while.
By mid-afternoon we were back in the kitchen preparing our dinner. This time we made the most scrumptious veal dish, fresh pasta, and vegetables from the garden. For dessert we learnt how to prepare a torta di mele, a beautiful apple cake that looks like a flower.
We sat on the terrace and had wine, cheese and homemade olives before we headed inside for our delicious dinner.
After breakfast we went to the town of Tolfa. We were there during an annual fair so the town centre was lively with vendors and food stands. It felt as though the whole town had come out.
Tolfa has a beautiful hike up a hill. Perched at the top is Castella de la Rocca, a 12th century castle with beautiful views of the area.
On our way back down we stopped at a couple of leather shops, had a light lunch and then had some gelato before heading back to the farm.
We relaxed by the pool and then headed back to the kitchen to make our dinner - handmade pizza (including the dough), salads and baked cookies for dessert.
Everyone came into the kitchen to choose their toppings and then we went outside to the outdoor, stone pizza oven. It was fun to watch the pizzas cook with the burning wood.
We ate outside on the terrace, enjoyed some wine and the views.
We left Fontana del Papa by train to Rome for our last evening before heading home.