We did this trip with my wife for her birthday. Half of it was a short road trip, another half – in Rome. If you have any special occasion to celebrate, plan it for the second day of your journey as you will have an opportunity to spend in a real castle, literally all alone! Stay on a chick farm with a pool and meet their donkey, spend an evening and night in a place that looks like a dream world, enjoy Rome's top highlights escaping the crowds and try the best lasagna in your life!
Drive around Rome via its outer circle road and you will arrive in Tivoli, where the gorgeous Villa d'Este is located. Warning! Watch out for the Zona Trafico Limitato signs in each city our town you drive in. This is a restricted area where only resident cars are allowed. Each camera that will catch your license plate will issue a huge fine! But the end of the general road usually has a turnaround and a parking nearby. One hour is enough to walk around the villa and its beautiful green gardens. If you have more time, enjoy the town of Tivoli itself.
In the local shops, you can buy water and food for your short road trip of two days. Make sure to taste the fresh fruits!
This elegant place is a real secret. For those who don't search well, of course :-) Right in the middle of small countryside area, on a hill with amazing views, it's a perfect place for a dinner on the sunset. We arrived right on time of the evening opening. After half an hour the place was full of locals who come here to escape touristic masses. Portions are huge, so mind your order. It was our first dinner in Italy, so we had too much of everything.
Just a short drive to the town of Bomarzo and you are in a very unusual place. The Sacro Bosco or Park of the Monsters (Parco dei Mostri in Italian), also named Garden of Bomarzo, is a monumental complex. The garden was created during the 16th century. Situated in a valley beneath the castle of Orsini, it has grotesque sculptures and small buildings located among the natural vegetation. Come as early as possible while there're no touristic buses.
Then we walked around the local botanical garden. As we were here in Spring, we saw fields of pions blooming in it.
For lunch, we went to the vicinity of the Cascate delle Marmore, or the Marmore Falls. You can go directly to the Falls following the signs and find a place with the view to the cascade. We were unlucky and the food was not so good there. This place looks cool and the rating is good. And when you drive here, you will surely notice the signs of the Centro Canoa e Rafting "Le Marmore" where you can join the group of adrenaline lovers and ride the stream of the river under the falls. Make sure to book it in advance.
From this square start several hiking routes to the waterfall. You can climb up close, but get ready to be completely wet. Consider buying a raincoat here or somewhere in advance.
When you drive to this place you see only fields and hills around. Then you come to a small town that looks quite ordinary. And then, after a turn of the road, you see the Civita. Oh, what emotions we had! If you stay in one of the lodgings there, you can ask for a parking permit right below the bridge. It's the ZTL restricted zone, so make sure you request your pass or park outside.
A bit up and back is a nice bar where we had a glass of white wine with the best view over Civita.
When you plan your dinner here, make sure to book a table in advance according to the schedule. It's not because of the crowds, it's because most of the place close early on don't work at all on some of the days of the week. This was the only place that agreed to invite us in the late evening. No one stays in Civita apart from a group of locals and a few lucky tourists. After dinner, you can explore the small streets of the place in nearly absolute privacy!
You can make a cup of coffee at home and go for a walk around Civita with it while there's nobody there! Incredible experience! Cafes open in the morning for you to have a nice breakfast in the street.
We stayed close to the Re di Roma square. There's a good parking garage where you can park your car for a couple of days to walk around Rome on foot. It's much more convenient than driving. And you cannot drive in the historical centre. But still, you always can take your car back and drive outside of the city if you want. We did it for some shopping in the malls close to the FCO airport when our legs were dying after about 30km of strolls in the city.
On your way to the Colosseum, visit this popular sandwich bar if you are hungry.
We didn't go inside, but walked around the most famous landmark of Rome or possibly of the whole worlds.
Then we continued our way into the central part of Rome.
Enormous building on the gorgeous Square of Venice– one of the main hubs of Rome.
You can get inside and up the roof of this magnificent structure to have a panoramic view of Rome.
Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the ancient city where all the nationalities meet in a great adventure of discovery!
Time to taste the famous Italian ice-cream!
You can cross the river via the beautiful bridge of Saint Angel leading directly to the Castel Sant'Angelo. Or you can choose another bridge a bit to the east to have an even better view of all the sight, including the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.
In the evening, the square is far less crowded and the illumination is very beautiful!
Actually, we tried to get to another restaurant nearby, but there was a long queue in the evening, so we went there tomorrow for lunch. In this restaurant, we enjoyed a perfect outdoor seating with a bottle of wine, a plate of cheese and prosciutto and a show of making the fresh pasta by the hands of the local specialist.
On some of the websites that sell excursions and museum tickets, you can easily find the tour that will allow you to skip the incredibly huge lines on entrances to the top attractions. We took the one that included an early access to the Sestine Chapel and the Vatican museums. We met our guide near this cafe located not far from the Ottaviano metro station. He walked us into the Chapel with just a few other groups, half an hour before all other tourists gained access. Then we explored the museums on our own and there were just a few people there. When we walked out, we were shocked. All the people were standing outside in the queue that was about 2km long! Poor people...
I'm not a big fan of historical art, but this... this is just astonishing! I could have stood there for hours to check each detail of this magnificent masterpiece Michelangelo inside. Incredible colours, forms and sceneries depicted.
A lot of things to see inside. A very large museum that exhibits collections of different things that were collected by the popes through the ages. Did you know that they even have their own euro in the Vatican? It's nearly the same as the original money but depicting the pope on itself.
Another place where you will see an enormous line of people that want to enter. The entrance is free but is it really worth it? We bought a special ticket online that allowed us to go via a separate entrance where there were just a few people. If you are not tired, make sure to pay some extra money and go upstairs. A lift can get you up a bit, but the final hundreds of steps to the dome you will have to do on your own. One of the best views of Rome opens from the top.
This is the place we couldn't get in yesterday. For lunch, we managed to get two last seats that were available. Oh, it was the most amazing food I ever tried. The lasagna is just out of this world! Only the filet-mignon from a New York restaurant with 2 Michelin stars could compete with it.
The dessert! A very old gelateria where you first need to pay for the amount you want to get and then get it from the ice-cream specialist. Tens and tens of flavours. I recommend you try not the fruity flavours as they are not so tasty.
Of course, we couldn't miss the most famous steps of the city – the Spanish Steps.
A very interesting interactive museum where you can learn more about the works of da Vinci and literally touch most of them to see how they work. I can say that this guy has surely come from future as there are no other explanations of how he created all these amazing machines!
We spend the evening in the Borghese gardens walking around and drinking coffee and wine in the local cafe. This is the biggest public park in Rome where locals love to spend their time.
For dinner, we took a taxi to the hip Trastevere district. There are lots of amazing places to eat, drink or just walk around. We decided to start with some beer together with some of the tasty options on the menu.
You can choose any bar in the area to feel the local atmosphere. We have chosen the unusual chocolate shots. They make small chocolate glasses where they pour different liquors.
Trevi Fountain is too crowded during the day so the best time to see it is late in the evening or early in the morning.
We decided to meet the sea as we were not far from it, so we drove to Ostia and spent some time there walking along the promenade before going back to the airport.