Discovering Rome

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

I took 5 years of Latin in high school. It wasn't enough for me - I couldn't learn enough about Rome, Italy, languages, and food (well, you know me). So, I am drawn to all things Rome - past, present, and future. From Romulus and Remus to Gelato, I am all in. So imagine my delight when I found a website ALL ABOUT ROME  - for thinking people! Rachel's Rome Writings, by Rachel McCombie, is more than a travelogue - it's a resorce for learning about Rome  - places, spaces, walks, food, and more. You can read about the Tomb of Eurysaces, the top Rome attractions, archaeology, churches, places to stay, the Seven Hills of Rome. It's so much fun to dig into this site and explore. AND! Rachel is our NEW Rome Editor, so look for more great articles from her - both on our site, and hers. Her latest here? Rome's Trevi Fountain - understanding the rituals. Love it!


Rachel McCombie

Rachel McCombie



We sat down to talk with Rachel about her site, Rome, travel tips, and more. Here's what she had to say...



WE: How did you get to love Rome?

RM: It all started when I was at university. I studied Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, meaning I got to study both ancient writings and the surviving monuments. In my second year, one of my many amazing tutors told me about a summer school which is held every year at the British School at Rome, and I decided to apply. I’d been to Rome before, but this was a lot more intense – site visits all day every day, with lectures in the evening. It was the best two weeks of my life, and I really got to know and love the city. I’ve been going back regularly ever since!


WE: Please tell us about Rachel's Rome Writings...

RM: I’ve always kept a journal and I loved reading back over what I’d written on the trips I’d made to Rome. Since the thoughts I’d jotted down weren’t really that private, I thought it would be nice to start a blog and share my experiences with the world! It started off as just a transcript of some of my travel journals, but it’s a lot more varied now, with posts ranging from history lessons to wine bar reviews. I’ve also taken thousands of photos of Rome during my time there, so it’s a great way of sharing those, too.



WE: How can travelers best plan a journey to Rome?

RM: Don’t go in July or August! It’s unbearably hot. October is my favourite time of year to go, as the weather is on the hotter side of warm without being stifling. I’d definitely recommend finding a hotel or B&B that’s as close to the historical centre as possible – not only is the atmosphere better, but it means you waste a lot less time on public transport! The centre of Rome is small enough that you can get around on foot to see all the main sights. As for planning what to see, it depends on your interests really. Rome is bursting with archaeology, museums, interesting churches, and of course shops and restaurants, so I’d recommend investing in a good guidebook – I like the Eyewitness Guide to Rome – and seeing what takes your fancy.



WE: What are your favorite off-the-beaten path places to see in Rome?

RM: Some of the smaller churches are wonderful, I think. The Caelian Hill – sort of behind the Colosseum – has several amazing churches which hardly any tourists seem to know about. Santi Quattro Coronati is a favourite, particularly if you get to hear its resident nuns singing, and it has a stunning chapel with scenes depicting the conversion of Constantine. I’d also recommend the Janiculum Hill, which is on the Vatican side of the river – the views from there are incredible.



WE:How can travelers best live like locals in Rome?

RM: Perhaps try renting an apartment from somewhere like Holiday Rentals. Make sure you visit an Italian supermarket – the food is great and the wine is cheap. Alternatively, go to the Testaccio market, where there’s an abundance of delicious local produce. If you want to dine out, try Trastevere, over the river – it has some of the best trattorias, and an energetic atmosphere for a night out. Try tonnarelli cacio e pepe – a pasta dish with pecorino cheese and black pepper. It’s a Roman speciality, and so simple but so delicious.



WE: What are your top Rome travel tips?

RM: Don’t try to do too much, because you won’t be able to fit everything in. And don’t worry about getting lost in the maze of back streets – you see more by getting lost! Finally, don’t waste too much time queuing. If you turn up at the Vatican and the queue goes right the way round the piazza, don’t bother – just go back at around 6.30pm and you’re likely to get straight in. For the Colosseum, buy a ticket at the Forum Romanum first thing in the morning, and that’ll let you skip the queues (it’s a combined ticket for the Forum, Palatine Hill and Colosseum). Don’t get drawn in by the numerous tour guides who’ll harass you outside, and don’t photograph the men dressed as gladiators unless you’re prepared to cough up around €5.



WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

RM: I’d like to share this photo that I took of the Via Baccina in Rome because it summarises what I love about Rome. Quiet backstreets with tall, ochre-coloured buildings with loads of shutters, and remarkable archaeology lying unexpectedly around every corner. That’s the Temple of Mars Ultor at the end of the street, built by Augustus in his forum. It’s just absolutely amazing to be able to walk down a modern street and see the same columns that Augustus would have seen.


Via Baccina in Rome

Via Baccina in Rome



WE: Thanks so very much, Rachel. We highly recommend your site to our Wandering Educators - it's an excellent resource!


Rachel McCombie is the Rome editor for Wandering Educators. She is an Oxford University archaeology graduate with a passion for Rome, and you can see more of her writing on her blog, Rachel's Rome Writings.