A Rome Itinerary: 5 Days of La Dolce Vita
Explore the side of Rome most tourists don’t see with this five-day guide
As we all know, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if you’re clever about it you can take in the highlights of the ancient civilisation in just five. A handpicked Plum Guide home is the perfect base to explore the wonders of the Eternal City, of course, and our curated Rome itinerary for 5 days leads you along the perfect path to follow.
Make your way from your very own Plum Guide palace towards Palazzo Barberini; once home to a papal family, it’s now an art gallery and grounds that can be explored by all budding aristocrats. Look out for the helix staircase designed by architect Bernini, works by Caravaggio, and Raphael’s portrait of his mistress. Your route into the centre will take you past the Trevi Fountain, where Fellini’s leading lady Anita Ekberg took a dip in La Dolce Vita - more selfies than stars, nowadays, but nice to stop at for a (very brief) moment all the same. Spend the afternoon browsing the historic city, stopping to pop into artisanal boutiques, enjoy a spritz in the squares, and pack in the pasta at La Ciambella restaurant, which is built on the ruins of a temple that are still visible through the glass floors. Wherever the day takes you, don’t forget to grab a gelato at Giolitti; it is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best in Rome. And you can be sure that’s a stiff competition. Finish up with a wine at local Enoteca Il Piccolo - piccolo means small, but you're more than welcome to opt for a large glass. You’re on holiday, after all.
Practically every street corner here is home to a church but if you must see only one during your Rome itinerary of 5 days, make it Santa Maria Maggiore; one of the largest in the city. It’s home to 5th century mosaics, marble columns from even earlier, and Byzantine icon paintings; for a quick-fire round of Christian art styles, you can’t get much better. Afterwards, make your way to Pigneto; a formerly working class district, this area is chic, eclectic, but yet to be discovered by the wider tourism throng. Vintage shops such as Flamingo and Mademoiselle offer up unique treasures, traditional trattoria Necci dal 1924 gives a glimpse into the faded glamour of 20th century urban Rome, and cocktail bar Co.So provides innovative creations in an intimate nook of a space. By the time you return to your Plum Guide home, you’ll be wondering why Pigneto isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Paris.
The Non-Catholic cemetery (where poets Shelley and Keats are buried) is one of the more unusual graveyards in Rome, possibly the world’s most Catholic city; no wonder, as it’s in one of the city’s most unusual districts. In a Rome itinerary of 5 days, dedicating a full 24 hours to Testaccio is a must. It’s home to the Pyramid of Cestius (yes, a real Egyptian-style pyramid) a historical rubbish dump that’s become a major landmark (Monte Testaccio is actually an enormous mound of broken Roman pottery) and a sculpture museum hosted in an old power plant (the surreal vista of Centrale Montemartini). But what the slaughterhouse district of Testaccio is best known as today is as a riotous foodie’s paradise, where Roman cuisine truly becomes alive. Even the most judicious of critics (yes, you - admit it) will be impressed by the lively market offering local, artisanal goods and the packed-tight jumble of neighbourhood restaurants. Try Taverna Volpetti for decadent platters of meats and cheeses, and Checchino dal 1887 for the area’s offal-rich specialities such as oxtail stew. No, it’s not glamorous, but it’s glorious.
Is it really a trip to Rome if you don’t pay at least a passing visit to the Vatican? We don’t know, and we don’t want to find out. Make sure to book a skip-the-line ticket to your attraction of choice so that you don’t waste half your day in a queue outside St Peter’s (charming though the view may be). Aside from the obvious attractions, there’s not much else to do in the Vatican, so grab a slice of Rome’s finest pizza at Bonci Pizzarium on your way out. However, be aware that once you do so, no other pizza will ever quite hit the spot again. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Head back into town to take in the sights at the Jewish quarter; historic cobbled streets, the utterly silly dolphins of the Renaissance fountain Fontana delle Tartarughe, and the ruins of the Temple of Apollo. The area’s distinctive cuisine is a unique part of Roman-Jewish culture -- the fried artichoke at Giggetto is a definite must. You may return to your Plum Guide home tired, but you certainly won’t be hungry.
You’ve reached the end of your Rome itinerary of 5 days, and it feels fitting to go back to the city’s history to bid farewell. The archeological park of the Roman Forum overlooks the Colosseum while providing much more space than the cramped arena; enjoy the fresh air as you clamber over Palatine Hill and gaze down at the city. The ruins of villas are recreated using the latest technology and you can wander through old temples such as the House of the Vestal Virgins. Bear in mind there are no food outlets in the Forum and little shade, so come well caffeinated and leave in time for lunch before the heat gets unbearable. A refreshing spritz and a plate of carbonara at nearby La Vecchia Roma should restore your energy in time to spend the evening bar-hopping through Trastevere on the other side of the Tiber. Favourite local haunts include Bar San Calisto, Freni e Frizioni, and cocktail lounge Meccanismo. You may be leaving your Plum Guide apartment in Rome, but the spirit of La Dolce Vita is coming home with you.