If you want to see Rome’s classic ‘must-dos’, prepare to queue up… usually. In the off-season (i.e. now) it’s wonderfully quiet – no three-hour waits for the Vatican museums, just head on in!
But also make time for many fantastic sights that are not ‘A-list’ attractions.
Here we list a few and recommend great value places to eat and stay…
Holidaymakers can take in Rome’s fantastic attractions without facing extra-long queues during the off-season
Where to stay
Just around the corner from Rome’s main train station, this hotel is a fashionable homage to the 1930s, when it was first built, even if from the outside its brutalism might appeal to some more than others. Inside it’s an Art Deco heaven, with signage and furniture from the 1930s. Next door there’s a sister hotel, the Atlantico, and across the street another, the Massimo d’Azeglio, all in a similar style. B&B doubles from £77 (romehotelmediterraneo.it).
This is a hostel rather than a hotel and you’ll find dorm rooms as well as doubles. Some of the latter with en-suite bathrooms, some shared. A small vegetarian cafe is on site, where you can sample breads, bagels, pastries and cakes.
The Beehive hosts regular events such as story-telling evenings (in English) as well as pasta and pizza-making classes. Dorm beds from £31; doubles from £70 (the-beehive.com).
Guests at the Condominio Monti don’t have far to go to visit the Colosseum, pictured above
This small hotel is a gem, located in an untouristy neighbourhood with lots of restaurants and shops dotted about.
Rooms are tastefully decorated and in the morning you can enjoy a cappuccino and a pastry on the roof terrace.
While you’re up there, look over the railing to your left, and there’s the Colosseum at the end of the street. B&B doubles from £70 (condominiomonti.it).
Casa di Santa Francesca Romana a Ponte Rotto
Pictured above is the central courtyard of the Casa di Santa Francesca Romana, where guests can plan their days under the shade of the trees
Stay in a peaceful former monastery in the neighbourhood of Trastevere, perfect for strolls among picturesque streets and along the River Tiber.
This medieval building was home to St Francesca Romana until her death in the 15th century. Rooms are simple but the central courtyard is a winner, especially in summer, when you can sit under the shade of an orange tree to plan your day. Doubles from £88 (sfromana.it).
What to see and do
The poets Shelley and Keats were laid to rest in the Protestant Cemetery, pictured above
This is the final resting place of many interesting characters who came to Rome, not least poets Shelley and Keats.
You’re bound to bump into the many cats who call this place home and are tended by a group of dedicated volunteers (suggested donation £3, cemeteryrome.it).
Don virtual reality headsets for a tour of the Circus Maximus, pictured above
This was the largest racetrack in ancient Rome, able to hold 200,000 spectators who came to watch charioteers battle each other. You can now don virtual reality headsets for a tour (£10.50, circomaximoexperience.it).
Church of St Ignatius
If you can’t face the queues for the Sistine Chapel, this church in Piazza di Sant’Ignazio has a ceiling that’s a very worthy alternative (santignazio.gesuiti.it).
Visit the ruins of the Mercati di Traiano, pictured, and walk where Romans did 2,000 years ago
Although you can get a free look over the ruins of the Mercati di Traiano, it’s worth stumping up the £12.50 to go to the museum here — not just for the multimedia displays, but for the chance to walk where Romans did 2,000 years ago. (mercatiditraiano.it).
Where to eat
The Restaurant Retrobottega opened on Via della Stelletta last year and quickly gained rave reviews. But for lunch pop next door to their shop, Retropasta. Here there are just four chairs facing the kitchen, where you can see tortellini, gnocchi and other pastas being made.
Order some to be cooked on the spot, paying, for example, £3.50 for 50g or £8.70 for a 150g portion. Dishes of the day might include rigatoni with oxtail sauce or a ricotta cheese and spinach ravioli (retro-bottega.com).
Old-school trattoria Piperno is not far from the banks of the Tiber, pictured above
Not far from the banks of the Tiber, this old-school trattoria opened its doors in 1860. It’s tourist-friendly without being touristy and you’ll see plenty of locals alongside visitors dining on plates of air-cured meats, pasta and fish.
Spaghetti with clams is £14 (ristorantepiperno.it).
Roma therapy: Put eating a Fatamorgana ice cream on your list of things to do
When you come to Rome, of course you’ll want an ice cream. Many gelatarias close to tourist attractions aren’t the best so it’s worth seeking out this popular mini chain. Indulge in mainstream flavours or go off-piste with the likes of ‘lemon and spiced-dates’ or ‘chestnut, honey and orange peel’. A scoop is £2 (gelateriafatamorgana.com).
Need to know
British Airways has return Heathrow flights to Rome Fiumicino from £41 (ba.com). The Leonardo Express train service to the city takes 30 minutes and costs £12 (trenitalia). To enter Italy without quarantine you must have proof of being fully vaccinated, take an antigen or PCR test with a negative result within 48 hours of travel and complete an Italian passenger locator form. See entry requirements for Italy at gov.uk.
On return you must complete a UK passenger locator form and have paid for an antigen test to be taken before day two.