Budget Travel in Rome

Budget Travel in Rome: 8 Money-Saving Tips Every Wanderlust Should Know

Over the years, traveling has become accessible to people from almost all walks of life. We’re lucky to live in an era where we get to go places without having to shell out a large sum of money, thanks to budget airlines and hostels that are relatively cheap but of great quality.

Benefits of Saving Money

What are the benefits of saving money, anyway?

It’s not only limited to travel. When you know how to manage your finances and have enough savings in the bank, you’re practically covered for any emergencies that you might encounter in the future.

Whether it be losing a job or a medical emergency, if you have savings, you don’t have to loan a certain amount and be buried under a large debt right after. In fact, we believe that handling finances should be taught in school. It could lead to a better generation of kids who know how to save up for their retirement.

The beauty of saving money will give you the financial freedom that you deserve after working so hard to earn that amount. It’s like a safety net that will tide you through the present and into the future.

It will also allow you to enjoy your hard-earned money by spending on a vacation that you’ve been wanting for so long.

And since we’re talking about traveling within limited means, if you’re one of those wanderlusts who’ve been trying to see the world on a shoestring budget, here are the most effective ways on how you can save and still enjoy the trip.

1. Look for free/discounted activities

Thorough research before you book anything will give you tons of opportunities for saving money during a trip.

Helpful sites like Budget Your Trip will give you an overview of the cost of living in Rome including usual transportation fares, estimated cost of a meal, home rentals, and leisure activities.

If you find the activities a little too pricey for your liking, you can look for discount vouchers online that will give you a bargained price for a certain activity. There are a lot of options that you can try.

For example, there are museums in Rome that offer free entry to students. So don’t forget to bring identification if you’re one or if you are traveling with your kids.

In fact, there are also sights and other attractions that are offered for free. You just have to learn how to ask.

2. Enjoy slow travel

Slow travel is an opportunity to really get to know a place, embrace its culture, and of course, save money.

It’s understandable that you’d want to see everything in one place and squeeze all the activities in one go, but to be honest, it’s not very ideal when you’re trying to save cash.

Imagine the train rides or plane tickets you have to pay for you to be able to see everything there is in a country. That’s going to eat up most of your travel budget, that’s for sure.

So to start, plan a slow journey and take time to appreciate the trip without worrying about your tight schedule. You don’t need to do much. Just a couple of travel musts like trying local delicacies and experiencing local traditions will do.
3. Use an unlocked smartphone
Bringing an unlocked phone with you during your trips means you get to use a local sim card for calls, texts, and data consumption. That’s one way of saying you don’t have to spend on ridiculous roaming fees and international data usage fees.

You’ve saved a dime, and you also get to connect with friends and family. Isn’t that a win-win situation?

4. Be prepared to be flexible

When you travel on a budget, you have to understand that it will be you that needs some adjusting and not the other way around. You have to learn how to fit in a certain situation where you think you can save but still be comfortable for you.

For example, when booking a flight, the usual cheapest ones are scheduled during the wee hours in the morning. And if you have trouble staying up late, you might need to adjust your sleep the day before your flight.

You also need to be able to pack using a small bag. Your carry on size will have to be the right one to fit all your clothes and essentials. That way, you won’t have to pay for a checked-luggage fee — another saving tip worth remembering when you go on your next trip.

If you can, create a list of things that you need to bring to help you with this whole light packing trend.

5. Book a room with a kitchen area

To save on meals, booking a room with a kitchen area will allow you to cook your own food while on vacation.

You can prepare your own cup of coffee exactly the way you want it without having to pay for an expensive cup at a nearby cafe, or that you can make a meal that you can reheat for dinner. That’s such a wise way to save money while enjoying the trip.

6. Stay over more than one night

If you travel often, you probably know by now that hotels and hostels are generous when it comes to the best deals and discounts.

The most common travel deal most of them offer is that they give a fair price to guests who stay more than one night in their wing. You can look at their websites and find deals like this. Sometimes, you’d be lucky to find an even better deal on some third party booking sites.

7. Keep a travel savings account

Planning a trip can take months, sometimes even years. In that case, you really have enough time to save up for it.

Keeping a travel savings account that’s inaccessible from your very reliable internet banking is one way to ensure that you don’t get tempted to use it for other purposes other than your travel goals.

8. Avoid peak season

And probably the most effective money-saving trick for any trip is to veer away from traveling during peak season. If you’re traveling to Rome, the best time to travel and save money is usually from November to March.

Prices go all the way up during peak season so you’d want to avoid that. Summer, Easter, Christmas and other major holidays all around the globe will hurt your pocket immensely so choose to travel during off-peak season.

Besides, you would pretty much have the place all to yourselves since tourists would likely be lean during this time.

Remember, traveling doesn’t have to always be luxurious. A simple vacation that you will truly enjoy with family and friends, or alone by yourself if you prefer it that way, is still the best way to do it.

Things to consider before traveling Rome

It is obvious that Rome is one of the cities where it’s hard to see the whole city or best places if you came for a short time. To be frank, you should give it a good week or maybe more to discover, and see this Eternal City’s true history and beauty.


Vatican, ancient Roman art, temples, and Italian cuisine are all entangled with different stages of history with a new Italian identity. Perhaps the great thing is that you will discover all of this in the magnificent city of Rome.

It is important to pay attention to specifics so that you can make the most of your time in the Italian capital, and have fun exploring every corner of it when visiting Rome.

Select the time wisely to visit Vatican City

There is no doubt that, the Vatican City is one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations. No wonder this small nation in a region is continually full of visitors. Nevertheless, as Pope Francis arrives in the meeting on Wednesdays and Sundays, the Vatican has even more participants.
And if you want to get a calm view of everything, skip those weekdays. The need to talk about the other big Christian holidays is irrelevant. On the other hand, it would also leave a positive image of the chance to see the Pope and be among the thousands of tourists from around the world.
One smart idea is to go on a tour of places such as Bookmundi or the like, save time while visiting the Vatican, and make sure you have the full experience and not a hurried one. In addition, you can check out some rare Vatican City tours, because some of them give you a view that not many visitors get to see.

Identify your prior destinations in Rome

Rome has incredible architecture and history, but there are still a lot of tourist scams, sadly. Do extensive study into the right places to discover all of your must-sees before arrival.

You will find cheap tickets all year round at this place for some of the biggest attractions, including the Colosseum. While scheduling trips, it is also useful to do a bit of context work on the past and popular society. You can find specific locations and places by making reverse image search if you have specific photos of places where you want to go.
You’re not going to be an expert, of course, so moving into the city with a certain background will make you enjoy your time there more.

Try not to wear revealing clothes

While jeans, short dresses, and other revealing clothes sound really enticing during the hot and steamy Rome summers, you should reconsider wearing them. You should recognize that you are definitely going to visit several museums and churches, and the revealing body in such places is not considered acceptable in Rome.
Therefore, do not hesitate to carry a traditional cover-up to visit religious places such as the Sistine Chapel if you want to wear nice. Otherwise, you may be told to resign or be shamed by remarks from bosses. Take some comfortable walking shoes because you are going to do a lot of walking and standing up in rows.
Note that a trip to Rome often involves a lot of museum visits where you can be freeze alive with air conditioning, as mentioned, Italian summers are hot.

Tips to waiters

In Rome, you don’t even have to leave a tip. Waiters’ wages are very high and equivalent to the wages of the doctors in this most touristy Italian capital.
Furthermore, you might also offend the waiter if you leave the money in the restaurant, particularly if you know him personally. Italians believe that honesty can’t be bought with money.
When you feel like leaving a tip, just leave the change is customary. And if your dinner was € 31.55, you would leave either € 0.45 in cash, or € 4.45 to add it up to € 35.

Make full use of public transportation

A Traffic Conductor in Rome

Although travelers going to a foreign country are always hesitant to use public transportation, you can do it easily in Rome. Buy a list of public transit, buy a one-off or daily ticket, and your big city trip would be a lot more fun.
Stay conscious, however, of the pickpockets who operate in buses full of passengers. The metro will link you to most sights, and the most significant sights will be within walking distance from each specific station.

Use public taps for drinking water

Do not use plastic bottles to waste money on drinking. You can find valves in the whole city of Rome with not only healthy to drink but also tasty.
Do not put your head under the tap out of respect for other drinking water users. When you like to clean yourself, spray a little water by hand or moisten a scarf faster.

You can’t see everything

Build a schedule, make your goals, evaluate your choices, and take the time to experience the city’s sun and scenery near any place you want to visit. This is an important suggestion to visit Rome.
If you want to get to know Rome in a couple of days, you’ll continuously get lost in line, get annoyed by visitors, and soon grow sick of the hot light.
It would be great to enjoy the spirit of this amazing city by slowing down without any hurry to see it all. Note that Rome is one of Europe’s most photogenic cities, so take your time to enjoy it.

Often it’s worth avoiding the queue

Certain significant sights like museums, Vatican City, and Colosseum will have lengthy queues that could make you stay in queue for hours. Why not spend a little bit more on jumping the queue and saving time to see more since you have a short time in the area.

You can do so by scheduling a tour or by purchasing a “skip the queue pass,” which will allow you to access the site at a certain time of day.
Also, don’t forget that there are a lot of free activities to do in Rome, and you can match your budget for sightseeing by adding some free sights as well. Many of the wonderful sights in Rome are open to view.

Colosseum 3d Tour, Rome Virtual Tour

Be open to everything that comes in your way

On your journey, miscommunication, thrilling food, and language problems will inevitably reach you. Taking on these things and work in the face of new and varied circumstances.
Being able to adapt to new attitudes, food, and customs will make you a more enjoyable, more genuine experience.

Don’t be afraid

People are cheerful in Italy. Do not get so relaxed simply by engaging in hostels and hotels with other travelers or with your friends. Be curious, playful, and engage with people.
There will be language gaps, so don’t let that deter you from a cultural exchange. Plus, the Italian language is so lovely, who wouldn’t want to learn it? They will always thank you for trying, even though you get every word wrong.

Conclusion

Romans are extremely friendly, but violence occurs as in other big cities, and visitors are also the targets. Stay vigilant in busy public areas because pickpockets sometimes happen there, and don’t buy tickets from “crazy people on the corner.” You should also be careful, particularly when you’re traveling by yourself. However, Rome is a lovely place to explore and let your guard down.

Children running around a man playing cello in Trastevere

#RomeIsLive


We write from the red zone. From Italy. From Rome. We receive everyday messages from all over the world. And the question is always the same: are you ok, are you alive? We are, thanks, although the coronavirus has changed our lives. Still, we are determined to fight. We are barricaded inside our house and need to have a written declaration to go out to the grocery. We work from home. As you might know, museums are closed and so are the main archaeological sites like the Roman Forum and the Colosseum in Rome. But we don’t give up.

Now, the authorities have declared Italy and Rome a red zone until April 3. The main goal is to delay the impact of the coronavirus, so that hospitals can treat all those affected by the virus. We all comply with the rules, and we leave our house only for food or health emergency. We are all committed to win this battle. And we will, rest assured.

What Happens Today

The feeling is that the quarantine of this amazing country will be extended beyond April 3. Possibly after Easter or April. Today the virus is spreading in the US and Europe. But according to USA Today and the BBC the virus has been curbed in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic. One month and a half after its explosion, China is winning against the disease. Some realistic calculations foresee a return to normality in a couple of months. Let’s say mid-May. According to some doctors, also warmer weather will help to stop the contagion of the coronavirus. Nobody knows for sure, but we know that at some point in two-three months we will go back to normal.

Rebirth and Resurrection

We know that soon this situation will go away and we can finally celebrate spring. Isn’t this what spring is all about after all, after the long winter? Resurrection, regeneration, rebirth. So we are thinking: what can we do to signal and celebrate that resurrection of a boisterous and lively town like Rome? They call it the Eternal City for a reason. Many times it has fallen, many times it has risen up. It has been on top of the world and at the bottom. It has been sieged and sacked. It has been rebuilt and transformed, every time surging up to new life.

#RomeIsLive

Whether you are in Rome or not, we want all of you to be with us. We want to feel your love for this city and we want to give you our love. Even if you can’t travel. If you can, we would be so happy to open the doors of Rome to you again. If you can’t, we hope you might want to join us in a different way. We will launch a series of tour webinars — we call them webitours! — with one of our amazing tour guides introducing you to the highlights of the city. Rome will become a live show!

Follow our Webitours

Subscribe today to receive an alert about our webitours. You will receive an alert once we go live. You will be able to follow the rebirth of this amazing city, the rebirth of Rome. More details will follow as soon as the sun will start to shine again over the Eternal City. Meanwhile, stay home, wash hands, and pray for the best. Life is contagious.


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We look forward to meeting you again soon in Italy!

#romeislive #lifeiscontagious #webitours #rome #italy

Palazzo Farnese

Palazzo Farnese: More than an Embassy

The Palazzo Farnese is the seat of the French embassy in Italy, but it is so much more than that. It is a paradigm of High Renaissance art and architecture!

When planning a trip somewhere, I can’t imagine that ‘embassy’ would figure as a top destination on one’s itinerary. But do read on, and you might just add this special site to your list of things to see when in Rome!

The Farnese Palace (Palazzo Farnese) is the seat of the French embassy in Italy, but it is so much more than just that. It is an enriching cultural center. Each year, more than 50,000 visitors visit the palace. The embassy hosts a number of events including seminars and debates, and music, theater and cinema festivals.

The palace is a majestic paradigm of High Renaissance architecture. Located in the eponymous piazza, on the east side of the River Tiber (where such landmarks as Piazza Navona and the Pantheon can also be found), the palace is a sixteenth century marvel, boasting an impressive collection of books as part of the École Française de Rome and an array of dazzling artwork lining its walls and adorning its ceilings. 

No monumental palazzo would be properly Roman without intriguing history, and this one boasts a fascinating background involving the union between the papacy and a royal family, and a myriad of notable residents that passed through its rooms, including a rather unconventional Swedish queen and a monarch seeking refuge during one of Italy’s most crucial moments in history! 

A little history

Construction of the Palazzo Farnese began in 1513 at the behest of cardinal Alessandro Farnese, who was elected pope in October of 1534 under the name Paul III. It took seventy-six years to complete the palace, and four famous architects were involved, including Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and the inimitable Michelangelo. At the death of Paul III, the palace came under the auspices of his descendants, all three of whom were cardinals: his nephew Ranuccio, also known as the Cardinal of Sant’Angelo, Alessandro Farnese il Giovane, and his great great grandnephew Odoardo. The three would see to the completion of both the construction and decoration of the palace. With Elisabetta Farnese, his last direct descendent and wife of Philip V of Spain, the palace would come to fall under the ownership of the Bourbon dynasty in Naples.

Shortly after the unification of Italy and the proclamation of Rome as its capital, the Ambassador of France, the Marquis of Noailles, would gain permission from Francesco II, last king of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, to host the embassy within the palace. In 1875, the palace would also become home to the aforementioned research institute and library, the École Française de Rome, located on the second floor of the palazzo. After France acquired the palace in 1911, Italy would buy it back in 1936. That same year, the two countries would sign a reciprocal agreement involving both the Italian embassy in Paris and the French embassy in Rome that would last 99 years with the palace becoming a place for cooperation and exchange between the two neighboring European countries. 

The architecture

The façade exemplifies the harmony, balance, and proportion that characterizes the High Renaissance period. Twenty-nine meters in height and fifty-seven in length, it is made of bricks and travertine, a form of limestone especially popular in Roman architecture. Its creation was entrusted to Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, the first architect. Michelangelo, who would continue Sangallo’s work in 1546, had already designed the large cornice, or ornamental molding, in the shape of a lily flower—symbol of the French royalty—which graces the façade and serves to cover the roof. Michelangelo would go on to introduce other modifications, including a central opening framed by four columns on the first floor. He would also incorporate the pope’s coat of arms, with the symbol of the keys and a crown on top. The façade was restored in the year 2000, on the occasion of the Jubilee, in line with its original appearance in the sixteenth century. 

The vestibule, designed by Antonio da Sangallo, was inspired by antiquity. It is fourteen meters long and adopts the basilica plan with a large central nave and columns in ancient granite from the Baths of Caracalla

Halfway up the length of the staircase leading to the upper floor is an atrium, which was originally open-air, but which was closed at the end of the nineteenth century. The atrium hosts three sarcophagi, decorated with ornate mythological scenes. One sarcophagus depicts the story of Diana and Endymion, in which Diana alights from her chariot to take him with her to the heavens. Another sarcophagus depicts the nine muses. Stuccos from 1580 show two dragons, symbol of Pope Gregory XIII, protecting a lily flower.

The first floor 

The first floor of the Palazzo Farnese is where you will find the many rooms and corridors that are the palace’s claims to fame. 

The Salone d’Ercole, or Hercules Room, derives its name from the giant statue of the deity displayed within the room. The room itself is monumentally large, measuring eighteen meters in height. The walls, which were supposed to be decorated with frescoes from the Carracci brothers, are bare. Only a series of imperial busts framed by medallions line the walls. 

Palazzo Farnese, Salone d'Ercole
Salone d’Ercole

Three tapestries from the seventeenth century made by the historic Gobelins tapestry factory in Paris, famous for producing tapestries for French monarchs, illustrate scenes from the frescoes of the Raphael room in the Vatican: The Fire in the Borgo, the Meeting of Leo the Great and Attila, and the Mass at Bolsena.

Two statues representing allegorical virtues, sculpted by Guglielmo della Porta, belonged to the funeral monument for Paul III at St Peter’s Basilica. They frame the polychrome marble fireplace made by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola in the seventeenth century.   

The different halls

Sala dei Fasti Farnesiani—“Hall of the Farnesian Wonders”

The office of the ambassador today, this salon once was a reception room for the Farnese family. Its ceiling is the oldest in the palace. The frescoes, commissioned by Cardinal Ranuccio to the Florentine artist Salviati, were painted between 1552 and 1558. Upon his death, Taddeo and Federico Zuccari completed the work. These large central paintings, framed by allegorical figures, depict the Farnese family glories. Salviati makes use of trompe-oeil effects, mimicking architecture and three-dimensional sculptures that are in reality only painted onto the walls. (This effect, evident in other parts of the Palazzo Farnese, I can say with confidence was one of the most striking in the entire palace!) Among the figures depicted in these epic scenes are Ranuccio il Vecchio leading his troops and claiming his ancestral land and other highlights involving the Farnese family.

Sala dei possedimenti—The Farnese family “possessions room”

In 1860, Francis II of the Two Sicilies and Maria Sophie of Bavaria, descendants of the Farnese family, sought refuge in the palace after they were forced to leave Naples. The room, likely painted by Antonio Cipolla as accommodations were being prepared for the king, is uniquely decorated with romantic flourishes and framed by medallions illustrating the villas, castles, and landscapes belonging to the Farnese family, including Caprarola, Piacenza, and the duchy of Parma. 

White room

The white room is also known as Christina, Queen of Sweden’s room. The monarch is remembered for being remarkably sharp, an avid learner whose many interests attracted scientists to the Swedish capital, but also for her scandalous decision not to marry! She stayed at the Palazzo Farnese from December 1655 to July 1656 after her abdication from the throne. Once in Rome, she invited much festivity, became friends with none other than famed sculptor and architect Bernini, and hosted poets and intellectuals within the palace. This particular room was also office to Camille Barrère, one of the most important ambassadors of the nineteenth century.

Galleria dei Carracci

Famous for its frescoes, the gallery derives its name from brothers Annibale and Agostino Carracci, originally from Bologna. They completed work on the hall between the years 1597 and 1608. 

The work was commissioned on the occasion of Ranuccio Farnese’s marriage to Margherita Aldobrandini, niece of Pope Clement VIII. The central fresco celebrates their union in mythological symbolism. 

The trompe-oeil effect is also put to dazzling use here in the gallery, combining elements of sculpture, painting and architecture. The atlases seem to be made from marble, and the medallions mimic the effects of bronze. The brothers were inspired by Renaissance artists like Raphael and Michelangelo and works like the Sistine Chapel in their use of elements like the ignudi. The gallery is considered a masterpiece by experts.

The second floor

The École Française de Rome, a public research institute, is located on the second floor. With its 230,000 volumes, it is the largest French library located outside of France. Each year, the library welcomes around 24,000 visitors.

Looking out from the second-floor window, you can spot the corkscrew lantern of S. Ivo alla Sapienza, built by Francesco Borromini

Details

From the carved wood window shutters to the doorknobs bearing the French fleur de lis, the details that adorn the palace are an art and architecture lover’s dream. Pay attention to these, as well as the breathtaking coffered ceilings of the different halls. My personal favorite was that of the Salone Rosso

How to get there

Arriving to the Palazzo Farnese is fairly straightforward. From Termini, Rome’s centrally located train, metro and bus station, you can take bus number 64 to the Corso Vittorio Emanuele stop. From there, it is about a five-minute walk to the palazzo. 

The Palazzo Farnese is definitely worth seeing, especially for those with an interest in art. Rome has an inexhaustible wealth of sights to tempt art lovers, so if you find yourself with time to spare after a walk through the halls of the Palazzo Farnese, why not explore another must-see, the Borghese Gallery? Click the link to learn how you can book a private tour with an art expert and see masterpieces from Caravaggio, Bernini, and more! 

Celebrating Carnival in Italy

Have you ever been in Italy in late January to the end of February?  Have you ever noticed confetti sprinkled everywhere on the streets?  Children wearing what seem to be Halloween costumes for days on end and thinking “what is going on”?  

Welcome to the season of Carnevale!  

Italians have a way of making sure that there is an event, “something special”, to celebrate in every season, if not every week.  This coming from an Italian American who left NYC to move to Rome and I swear there are “festivals” all the time.  I guess it is the concept of “la dolce vita”, but what exactly makes Carnevale special and why should you visit Italy during this period of time.

First some history.  Some say Carnevale was first celebrated in 1094 in Venice.  Others say that the Carnival of Venice was started from a victory of the Venice Republic against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico di Treven in the year 1162. In celebration of his victory, Venetians started to dance and party in San Marco Square. Presumably, it wasn’t until 1296 that the City of Venice actually recognized it as an annual event, but as they would say in Italian basta (enough) with the history, let’s talk about the fun of it!

It is a celebration directly tied to the tradition of Lent and Easter.  I think more people are familiar with Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) than Carnevale, except for knowing people wear masks in Venice during this period.  Yet it is the whole country and every age group which dresses up, wearing colorful, sometimes extravagant, costumes and not for just one day but for about two weeks, which means two weeks of parties, merry and fun!  I have seen children actually going to school in costumes and throwing confetti everywhere day after day during the period of Carnevale.  It creates a magical, fun, whimsical time in the whole country, from Venice to Sicily and everywhere in between.  

Rome is not as well-known as Venice but it is really worth visiting Rome during this period as the city hosts its own type of Parade.  It was not until the 17th Century that Romans started to embrace the tradition of Carnevale. At that time, Via del Corso which was one of the most important streets in Rome and is still the starting point for the Carnevale parade today.  People stroll down the street in extravagant costumes to Piazza del Popolo.  Carnevale itself lasts for about 10 days and the city is filled with musical and theatrical performances in addition to the wearing of costumes and throwing of confetti (did I say everywhere and at everyone?).  I tend to keep a mask in my pocket, you never know when you might fall into a party!

An interesting fact about Carnevale in Italy was traditionally it was a period where roles were reversed between men and women, the rich and the poor.  Today, I would say it is a time where people put their daily routine on hold to enjoy the humor in life, to be free to laugh together and enjoy life.

Oh, and of course, no festival would be complete without some super delicious Italian food specifically cooked for this period.  Frappe and Frittelle are the specialities of Carnevale.  They are delicious fried dough covered in powdered sugar, try not to wear black in this period or everyone will know how much you love these desserts.  They are sort of impossible to stop eating!  

There is a lot of debate as to the origin of the name Carnevale but the one that seems to be the most popular states that the word comes from the Latin expression, carnem levare, which means “taking away meat,” and somehow over time became “carne vale” which literally means “goodbye meat” which was associated with Ash Wednesday, the first day Lent.  From what I understand, in ancient times people gave up meat for Lent, I gave up chocolate as an American, waiting for the Easter Bunny to help me out, but that is another story.  

If you are in Rome for the Carnevale, which this year starts on February 20, make sure you don’t miss some of the parades. The rest of the time, you can sober up with a tour of ancient Rome!

The town of Civita di Bagnoregio as taken from a distance with bridge and tufa cliffs

5 Best Day Trips from Rome by Train

One of the best parts of visiting Italy is that you can get nearly anywhere by train. With this affordable travel option, you don’t have to worry about renting a vehicle and navigating a foreign country or waiting around in airports. Rome is the ideal home base for visiting Italy. Here are five of the best day trips you can take from Rome by train.

 

Florence

You can’t go to Italy without visiting the cradle of the Renaissance. The ancient city of Florence, also known as Firenze, is the reigning city of the Tuscan region and home to incredible architecture, wondrous art, and unbelievable dining. While you can see plenty in one day, it’s worth renting one of the romantic Florence homes and taking your time. Whether with a tour guide or not, you won’t want to miss Galleria dell’Accademia, where you can see Michaelangelo’s David on display. Visit Piazza del Duomo, the iconic red-domed cathedral that makes Florence so recognizable in pictures. Explore the markets, enjoy the atmosphere, and take the two-hour train ride back to Rome when you’re done.

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

Orvieto

Orvieto is just a quick train ride from Rome, making it an ideal destination for a day trip out of the city. This small town is just a taste of the beauty Umbria has to offer, with sweeping rooftop views of the hills below. Orvieto is home to many small restaurants with authentic regional cuisine. There’s also an elaborate cave system to explore underground if you’re looking for a break from the usual tourist sites. As this town doesn’t have as many of the world-famous wonders Italy is known for, it’s a great escape from the tourist-heavy hustle and bustle.

Exterior of the Duomo of Orvieto
The jaw-dropping Cathedral of Orvieto

Tivoli

Tivoli is a hidden gem that’s less than an hour away from Rome by train. Visit the stunning villas in the area with ancient architecture and incredible gardens that make you feel as though you’ve traveled through time. Villa d’Este is a World Heritage Site and boasts impressive fountains and water installations that set it apart from the other elegant villas throughout Italy. Hadrian’s Villa boasts breathtaking ruins of the Roman empire. With towering columns and ornate stonework, you’ll love walking through the abandoned archways of this once-majestic estate. While not so far from Rome, however, the best way to visit Tivoli is still by car, because Hadrian’s villa is not so close to Tivoli City Center. You might want to consider booking a private Tivoli tour from Rome by car, with a driver and a tour guide at your disposal.

 

One of Villa d’Este fountains in Tivoli

Naples

Head to Naples for a longer, more involved day trip from Rome. Pair some of the world’s most splendid art with some of Italy’s best pizza. Neapolitan pizza is made with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, similar to its sister-pizza, the Margherita. While in Naples, venture over to the ruins of Pompeii and learn about the rise and fall of this ancient city. Then, head down to Sorrento to tour a small, ancient town with incredible marketplaces and views. Sip a refreshing limoncello cocktail and purchase a lemon-branded souvenir to remember your trip. While the train ride to Naples is only about an hour and a half from Rome, there’s so much to see and do that you can expect to be gone for twelve hours. If you need a tour guide in Naples, consider booking an expert one.

Tour of Mount Vesuvius with the Bay and sea in foreground
View of the Vesuvius from Naples

Pisa

You can’t leave Italy without taking in the splendor of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Named for the town in which it stands, the tower is a spectacle to behold, especially when lit up in the evenings. Pisa is a quaint city where no more than a day of touring is required, which is great since it’s a two-hour train ride. Don’t just get caught up in the tower though; Pisa has lovely shops and restaurants worth exploring. Additionally, as Pisa is one of the oldest cities in Italy, there are Medieval churches and plenty of museums worth experiencing. Planning a trip to Italy can feel overwhelming. There’s so much to see and never enough time to do it all in one trip. However, the country is set up for easy traveling. Set a home base, hop a train, and traverse this incredible part of the world.

The so-called Square of Miracles in Pisa

 

La Befana

Italian Traditions and Holidays: La Befana

What is your favorite part of Christmas?  Getting gifts, giving gifts, decorating the street, Christmas songs, Christmas sweaters (no you did not say you enjoy them, haha), or hanging your stocking near the fireplace.  I grew up on the North East Coast and it was tradition to light a fire and after the tree was all decorated, we kids each picked a spot on the fireplace where we were sure Santa could fill our stocking to the max.  Now I live in Italy and there is something very different about Christmas Stocking and it includes a Witch!

If you know anything about Italy, one thing you know for sure is there are lots of Holidays, most related to something holy and so is Befana… somehow.  January 6th is in the Catholic Religion called the Epiphany.  Epiphany commemorates the first two occasions of Jesus’s divinity which according to Christian belief, was for Western Christianity when the three kings (also known as wise men or Magi or three wise men) visited infant Jesus in Bethlehem with gifts.  The second, according to Eastern Christianity is when Jesus baptized John the Baptist baptized in the River Jordan.  The day is also known as the Three Kings Day.

Here in Italy, it also represents the day of Befana, who is an old woman who delivers gifts (mainly chocolate) to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve if they were good, if not they get a lump of coal, just as Santa does on Christmas Eve.  Some claim she sweeps the floor before she leaves as a symbol to sweep away the previous year’s problems.  My mom used to have a kitchen witch which looked identical to Befana. 

A recent movie was produced about la Befana to watch with your kids!

As we in America leave milk and cookies for Santa, Italian tradition is to leave some wine.  I think there was a time my dad left Whiskey for Santa, only as older children, we realized find my father adored whiskey.  There are many stories around La Befana.  Have you ever seen the “little drummer boy”? Maybe with that one, I am dating myself, but the Romans kill the lamb of a peasant boy and he follows “the star” to Bethlehem to ask for a miracle.  He was without a gift and so played a song for baby Jesus and the lamb is resurrected.  Such a great Christmas story, I do not know if it even exists anymore, but there is a story about La Befana that is similar. 

Another Christian legend takes a slightly darker tone as La Befana was an ordinary woman with a child whom she greatly loved. However, her child died, and her resulting grief maddened her. Upon hearing news of Jesus being born, she set out to see him, delusional that he was her son. She eventually met Jesus and presented him with gifts to make him happy. The infant Jesus was delighted, and he gave La Befana a gift in return; she would be the mother of every child in Italy.

I guess I was a good “boy” this year as I did get a stocking full of Italian Chocolate and it made me smile.  I have the pleasure of living in Italy, but I would recommend that whoever is reading this, don’t just think of Italy as a summer destination, there are so many traditions throughout the year which make the country amazing which leaves you with an authentic experience. Did you get anything from Befana? A recent movie was produced about la Befana to watch with your kids!

There are many interesting songs and filastrocche about Befana. One of the most famous is “La Befana Vien di Notte” (The Befana Comes at Night).

Think of Italy as an all-year destination, see it in all its different personalities.  Let Italy surprise you and if you are a good boy or girl, maybe Befana will bring you chocolate next year. 

Eating Panettone is an amazing food experience

Panettone and the Italian Christmas Tradition


Panettone. The “big bread.” (Because this is what panettone just means, and yet and indeed it is The Big Thing when it comes to celebrating Christmas in Italy.) The most popular outcome of Italian pasticceria since its invention. Despite the challenging competition of other various sweets, panettone has become essentially a synonym of Christmas, and for me, as an expat who has been living in this amazing country for eight years, synonym of all things Italian.


Eating Panettone is an amazing food experience


After all, I am of Italian origins and there is no other bodily sense more than taste and smell that is so close to the heart and soul, and make us remember who we are, where we come from, what our roots are. My ancestors were from Sicily and Abruzzo, and although I have been born and raised in the States, I will always remember Christmas as the great moment when you gather around the table with your family and prepare, taste, smell, eat the best food. No matter what the tradition is.


Eating Panettone is an amazing food experience


What are the traditional foods for you at Christmas time? Me, I could still remember so vividly my mom baking star cookies with a redhot in the middle, the traditional baked ham with cloves, creamed spinach. Wow, waiting this I just realize how much I miss creamed spinach now! And, on the table, there was always a fruit cake. Can’t say I was a big fan of fruit cake, but it was tradition.


Eating Panettone is an amazing food experience


Now I live in Italy and they have panettone. The whole family, often extended to orbiting significant ones, aunts and uncles, second, third and fourth degree cousins, selected friends, gather around hungry and thirsty. Then, at the end of a Pantagruelian lunch or dinner, grandma solemnly places in the middle of the table this sort of giant muffin, made of the puffiest, most tender dough ever, filled with a constellation of raisins and candied fruit. It’s panettone. It might or might not be your fruitcake, but this is the king of all Christmas sweets.


Eating Panettone is an amazing food experience


There are many legends how panettone was invented, going back to the 1600’s in Milan. It is said that a baker in Milan wanted to make something special while making his traditional break but given the vast poverty at the time had only a few simple ingredients and to his traditional recipe added some candied fruit and raisins and panettone was born. The suffix “one” at the end of an Italian word tends to signify “big”. So pane, which means bread became ” big bread” or panettone in Milanese dialect, and now it is tradition. And there will not be a Christmas table in Italy without a panettone.


Eating Panettone is an amazing food experience


One of the most recent competitors of panettone is another Italian delicacy: pandoro. Pandoro literally means Golden Bread. A sort of panettone, but even softer and possibly more buttery. Pandoro contains no raisins or candied fruit, but it is traditionally covered with an abundant snowfall of icing sugar, which reminds kids and adults of the typical Italian paesaggio outside. It is a pleasure eating a slice of your preferred Christmas pastry in front of a crackling fireplace, while outside snows like there is no office to go back to.


Eating Panettone is an amazing food experience


Sometimes in life you are given two options, a clear cut choice: Messi or Ronaldo? Beach or Mountain? Wine or beer? Liberal or conservative? Evolution or creation? Plato or Aristotle? Vatican or Colosseum? For Italians the choice at the dinner table on Christmas day is: panettone or pandoro? But there is no doubt panettone represents tradition, and pandoro is just a sweet attempt to overthrow the rule and authority of panettone.


Eating Panettone is an amazing food experience


Have you ever been to Italy and eaten panettone? If you are traveling to Italy during this coming festivities don’t forget to have a taste of one and the other, and make up your mind… pardon, your belly! Let us know what you find out. But if you want to make sure not to miss anything, consider a food tour with a professional gastronomist and food expert, Adriano Vecchiarelli, who is leading Roma Experience’s best food experiences. Whether or not you choose a guided food itinerary make sure you try panettone and pandoro. What’s your favorite?


Eating Panettone is an amazing food experience


Me, I choose panettone. But between us, I have a special sacrilegious way to approach it. Don’t tell anyone. I personally like to toast it and spread nutella or vanilla ice cream on its top. I try not to be spotted by Italians when I do. They can be touchy when it comes to food heresy. But being an American, I think vanilla ice cream is a must on top of – well – anything, really. Be it a mum’s fruit cake or Italian panettone.


Celebrating Christmas, Food Tours


One thing, at last. I would love to learn how to make the perfect one. Has anyone ever made panettone? Can you tell us you favorite recipe? But whether you buy it, steal it or bake it, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you eat it! And if you really want to try an amazing one, check out the Igino Massari‘s panettone.

Happy holidays and panettone for all!

Robert Pardi