We sent local photographer/videographer Dillon and his 10 year old son Noah off to the “Eternal City” Rome Italy for a winter educational short break – check out their full NInja review below!
If you like visiting cities but don’t like crowds then travelling to Rome in Winter is a great call. Blue skies, cool temperatures, no crowds. The city was quiet and peaceful, the streets were easy to walk through, attractions and restaurants were empty and easily accessible. We didn’t queue for anything, we enjoyed a peaceful 4 days walking around the city. It’s a gritty Italian city with character and charm, especially if you meander slowly on foot through its winding roads discovering the history, cafes and pizzerias.
We flew out of Dublin Airport Terminal 2 with Aer Lingus and arrived at Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport, a coastal airport half an hour west of Romeby car. From there we decided to hop on the train. The journey was quick and comfortable, kids under 12 travel free and a one way ticket was €14. We arrived at Roma Termini, a large train station with a shopping mall surrounded by bustling roads with cars and people everywhere and small souvenir shops creating a buzz. We made our way to our hotel which was about 10min walk. This was my first experience with Italian driving and rules of the road… which to be honest felt more like guidelines #theyplaybytheirownrules
Our hotel, the Relais Santa Maria Maggiore was hidden away down a side road, the staff were very friendly and helpful, and they allowed us to leave backpacks and checked us in. One thing to be aware of is that Rome operates a City Tax on a lot of things, ours was not included in our original Room price so we had to pay this on arrival, it was €5 per night per adult. The prices vary from €3-€7 so check with your accommodation if this tax is included. The hotel itself was nestled tightly amongst the buildings and roads around the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore, get used to this word ‘Basilica’ its effectively a large multi purpose Cathedral-like building connected to the Catholic Church. You can walk into them and enjoy the sheer scale, beauty and attention to detail of the architecture, they are quiet and peaceful, but remember to remove any hats you may be wearing and don’t use flash photography.
It was a Monday mid day, so we decided to do what any sane person would “when in Rome” and indulge ourselves immediately with a pizza! Only a few minutes walk from the hotel was Pizzeria il Nipotino a small understated restaurant of about 12 tables. The people were friendly, the food was delicious and the price was spot on. If you are in a popular area, walk a few roads back out of the way and you will find a small local independent Pizzeria or Cafe serving great food at better value prices.
We decided to take a walk over to Trevi Fountain around 2pm, I was pleasantly surprised to find the place fairly peaceful. The steps, fountain water and surrounding areas were easy to move around, there wasn’t a lot of noise. The afternoon light filled the area with warmth, it sparkled off the water creating interesting reflections and long shadows. We stood there for a while people-watching, before eventually wandering back toward the hotel, but not before stopping to a local restaurant for some pasta.
We started with breakfast in the hotel. It’s simple, don’t expect much. Sliced Ham and Cheese with toast and an array of sweet treats and pastries. There are loads of cafes in the area if you want something fancier, or a bit more substantial.
Onto our first attraction, The Colosseum. We approached it from the north arriving by foot at the top section of Colesseo Train Station, there’s a few ways to make it down to ground level, we went down through the station. Before we left home, we pre-booked tickets online with extra access to the floor level. We arrived on time, and didn’t have to queue at all. I would imagine this is a crazy place in peak-season though. A brief security check and we were through, on foot, walking through columns and corridors of memories, history and stories. The whole place was quiet, very peaceful, people walking around but no one felt on top of you. We spent about 2 hours there just absorbing the atmosphere, looking, staring and imagining what it used to be like. If you like history, castles, architecture and stories this is an incredible visit, do NOT miss it.
We spent the rest of the morning wandering around the surrounding area of the Roman Forum, you can choose to purchase tickets for this and get inside the grounds, but we managed to walk around it and find enough access points from the roads and paths to get an idea of what it was like. We walked north west from the Colosseum along the main promenade crossing the River Tiber into the area of Trastevere.
It’s a smaller more quaint part of the city with deep working class roots it’s got a trendy, more hipster vibe. Cobbled roads wind through tight corridors of old orange and brown buildings with wooden shutters. A really authentic area with soul, character and an array of cafes, sandwich shops and bars. We stopped into Forte La Renella for some of the tastiest freshly baked crispy rolls with baked ham. Having the ability to speak Italian here would be very handy, there is definitely less enthusiasm to embrace the english language in this area so just be friendly and ask how to pronounce things, if you try, they will meet you half way. Everyone loves a trier!
The rest of the afternoon was spent kicking back with more gelato wandering the back lanes before heading back past the Roman Forum enjoying the late afternoon sun and finding another local pizzeria and indulging ourselves in crispy cheesy goodness ….. well you have to, right!?
Started with a short taxi trip, for an early morning visit to the Vatican. The Vatican City is a stand alone city-state, it’s the smallest State in the world in size and population and became independent of Italy in 1929. It is the head of the Catholic Church and is ruled by the Pope. It’s free to enter the city but the museums themselves require an admission fee, book ahead, it’s absolutely worth it. The area is huge, and the money and worth in the buildings is incredible. Grand marble staircases join long corridors and rooms dressed from floor to ceiling in artwork, tapestry and sculptures from a wealth of talent artists including Raphael and Michelangelo (not the NInja Turtles …) all collected by the Catholic Church since the 16th Century. Check out the Gallery Of Tapestries, a huge corridor around 250m long, lined wall to wall with tapestry including the work of Raphael. Get up close and appreciate the detail because it really is something special.
Eventually we make it to the Sistine Chapel and wow, what an experience. The walls are lined with incredible paintings showing the story of Moses and the Baptism of Christ. The walls were created by Renaissance painters in the 1400’s while the entire ceiling is covered in artworks by Michelangelo and to my surprise the Creation Of Adam plays a very small part in this absolute masterpiece – see if you can find it first before others! It really needs to be seen to be appreciated in all its glory. There are no photos allowed in the chapel and security is VERY tight … so bear that in mind.
After a few hours indoors we took a stroll out into their peaceful walled garden and enjoyed the serenity and sunshine. We left the museums and walked round to see the rest of the Vatican City… we entered St Peters Square, which is ironically a huge circle! Basically just a huge outdoor area that I imagine is used for ceremonial purposes. We took a couple hours to walk around the grounds before making our way back across town. The sun was setting and we were lured in to a more touristy pizzeria on the main promenade. Outdoor seating with checked table cloths, hot fire burners blazing and people enjoying food and drinks with a beautiful view of the sunset behind the forum. The food and service were ok, not bad, just not special. But the vibe was great. After dinner we took a nice slow stroll back through the city past the Colosseum at night and it was completely worth it. The openings are lit up with a soft orange light that lift the structure out from the night sky. Highly recommend checking it out at night especially for photos.
We decided to start the lazy way and hop on an open top city bus tour. This was great, in hindsight, I would do this on day one (like the NInja always says!!), it helps you get your bearings. We hopped on at the main Roma Termini and took it 2/3 of the way round before hopping off north of Trevi Fountain at the Spanish Steps. This was pretty cool offering up some nice views out over the city.
We took a dander south west past the Pantheon and back toward the Plaza Novona on the hunt for one last Pizza and wow did we find a spot worth checking out.
Hidden down a back road was a place called Ponte e Parione, it had good reviews on Trip Advisor so we stuck our head in. Welcomed immediately by friendly staff and a lovely outdoor atmosphere. We took a seat and had a lovely chat with the staff and learnt a bit about the city. The pizza was hands down the best we had, a traditional wood fire pizza oven makes all the difference. We left with a smile and full bellies and found our way back to the bus stop and hopped on for the rest of the trip back to the Roma Termini and then onto the Leonardo Express back to the airport.
Now I glossed over one thing that is important to keep in mind when visiting Rome … toilets. There are no public toilets anywhere! Keep that in mind especially when travelling with children. My tip here is find a fancy hotel and use the kid as an excuse “could this little guy please use your toilet?” Then tut at the kid . Worked every time, even when it was me that needed the toilet haha.
I enjoyed Rome, it was an interesting city, perfect for those who like to explore by foot. It’s a gritty grubby city, more run down than I imagined it would be. Its all very walkable so don’t feel you need to use public transport or taxis but they are there if you need them.
The phone internet and signal was probably the biggest issue we had, so download your maps and save your locations in a note on your phone incase you need to get a taxi and have no signal.
If you are interested in Roman history you will have a ball, if you just like general history and enjoy a city walk it’s also going to be great.
I imagine in peak summer season it’s going to be very busy. The food and drinks were great at every place we stopped and the people were friendly. Everywhere took credit card and most places spoke or understood English. I think being there in February was a benefit because there were very little crowds and no queues for anything. Apparently Jan/Feb are the low season, it starts getting busy from March onward.
If you are visiting at this time of year, bring warm shoes or walking boots, and wear layers, there is not a lot of rain, nor wind and the layers allow you to adapt to the subtle changes as you walk in and out of the sunlight throughout the day.
You can check out the FULL highlights from this NInja trip over on the instagram page – on the homepage under the ROME Highlights – CLICK HERE
Why not visit your LOCAL NInja travel agency and ask them to plan your next NInja adventure to Rome!! You can contact them via Holiday NInja CLICK HERE and we can easily make that connection for you!!
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