There is something endlessly enchanting about Rome. Between the rich history spanning millennia and the deeply delicious dishes on offer, there’s never a moment to be bored. I visited Rome a few years ago, but returning on this trip showed me so much more of what the city has to offer.
The trip between Vienna and Rome was the only one which required an overnight train. Always one for a new experience, I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, an error with the Interrail website (not the first or the last) meant instead of the preferable couchette we were stuck in a seated compartment. We shared this six seater compartment with half of a friendly Italian family, the other half of which were in the neighbouring block, although this didn’t stop them coming in to ours to join the party. The language barrier proved little issue, and they even shared some cake and what we believe to be a shot of sambuca from a Coke bottle (our lemon sherbets were a measly offering in comparison). While this was all a fun experience, sleeping proved quite difficult, especially with the long stops at brightly lit stations juxtaposed by our poor blinds. Arriving in Rome just before 10am, we were tired and hungry and in desperate need of a shower.
After a succession of AirBnBs we were back in a hostel, albeit only in a four bed dorm. The Alessandro Palace Hotel & Bar (a hostel despite its name) was only five minutes from Roma Termini station, and even less time away from the nearest metro station. It was a classic hostel set up, with a small kitchen located next to the downstairs bar and plenty of advertising for social activities. The rooftop bar was a particularly good feature, with tonnes of drinks offers and overall chilled out vibe. One night another of the hostel residents even got out his guitar (which for whatever reason he brought to the bar with him) and played possibly the worst version of ‘Wonderwall’ I’ve heard in my life, in addition to a better but slightly bizarre acoustic cover of ‘My Neck, My Back’. It was certainly unforgettable, and I’d happily return if I were ever in the city again.
Obviously there are so many iconic areas in Rome you can’t afford to miss: the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican City, the Colosseum, etc. I thought I’d share some of the things beyond these that we did which just made things a little bit different.
Castel de Sant’Angelo — Also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian (of Scottish wall fame), this Roman building harbours both a deep history and an incredible view of Rome and the Vatican City. The structure reflects both its ancient Roman origins and Medieval restoration, and includes both interesting architecture and artwork. The main attraction for us was the reduction for 16-25 year olds, a sporadic scheme around Europe for EU citizens wanting to experience history and culture.
Colosseum at Night — In general, the best time to experience Rome is in the evening, when the heat of the day is diminished and the cobbled streets are illuminated by golden lights. The Colosseum in particular looks incredible illuminated against the night sky. Also very handy that the metro station is right next to it.
Spanish Steps and View — The Spanish Steps are an iconic tourist destination, but if you travel up the hill from the top you can also find one of the best views of Rome at sunset. There are also a couple of restaurants dotted up here if you fancy enjoying the view for a little bit longer.
Cats? — Just around the corner from the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II is a cat shelter located within the confines of an ancient ruin site. We stumbled upon this in a happy mistake and while it isn’t exactly an attraction in itself, it was certainly a pleasant place to find. Their main objective is to sterilise strays and find them new homes, and you can give a donation within the shelter while enjoying the company of the felines.
Rome is an unmissable destination, and I would highly recommend trying to fit it in to your Interrail trip. A visit closer to the end of the summer period, or even the autumn might improve the experience further—the long days of June and the pavement-melting heat meant we spent a lot of our trip waiting for the later evening to do anything. Who knows, throw your coin in the Trevi Fountain and your wish to come back might even come true.