The Perfect 40 Hours In Rome, Italy.

Dan and I spent a magical 40 hours in Rome to finish our Italy trip in September 2021, which is definitely NOT enough time to properly see Rome. However, we were only in Rome because our flight departed from Rome’s FCO and we will be back in Rome with our whole family in November. This was just a little taster of Roman goodness! While not the most popular Italian tourist destination (wrongfully so IMO), Dan and I spent a summer in Rome back in 2008 (yes, we’re that old) and have looooved Rome ever since. So this 40 hours was a real treat for us! Here’s what we did if you have your own 40 hours to explore Rome if you like to eat, drink, and shop.

Gorgeous, gorgeous Rome!

Saturday, 11 September, 2021

Our whirlwind Roman weekend started with a 4 hour train from Bari to Roma on TrenItalia. It was a surprisingly quick ride with everyone wearing masks except when eating the complimentary soda and snack given to premium class passengers. We arrived in Roma Termini around 5:15 PM and took a taxi 10 minutes to Hotel Damaso, just off Campo de’Fiori. It was SO GREAT to see Roma Termini come into sight!

Finally in Rome!!

We checked in at Hotel Damaso and promptly drank some Sagrantino on Hotel Damaso’s rooftop with spectacular views of Rome. And for those who don’t know, Sagrantino is one of our favorite wines and we spent a few days in Montefalco earlier in the trip just to drink this particular type of wine. We also purchased far too many bottles of it…

Sagrantino from Montefalco on the rooftop of Hotel Damaso.

After Sagrantino, it was time for dinner at one of our absolute favorite restaurants, Roma Sparita!! Roma Sparita is a classically Roman restaurant in Trastevere and its one of our favorites in all of Italy (and honestly, the world). As always, it was fabulous. Before dinner, we enjoyed serious cocktails at the neighboring bar, 404NameNotFound.

Roma Sparita’s famous Cacio e Pepe.

Serious cocktails pre-Roma Sparita.

Sunday, 12 September, 2021

Sunday started with breakfast at Hotel Damaso and a stroll through Piazza Navona and by the Pantheon, eventually making our way to a COVID-19 testing facility so a test to go home. SAD. I wrote about our COVID testing experience here. The walk was lovely and the COVID tests were honestly easy enough; done in about 30 minute flat.

Piazza Navona.

The Pantheon. Quite crowded.

Outside the Pantheon.

Always love this building. We passed it on our stroll.

Negative COVID-19 test in hand, we walked over to the Trevi Fountain, which was insanely crowded. Go really early or late to miss the crowds. We didn’t stay too long due to the crowd.

The crazy busy Trevi Fountain. I cut most of the tourists out of this picture. Don’t be fooled.

Next up, a stroll by the Colosseum via the Victor Emmanuel II Monument (i.e. the wedding cake building or the typewriter building). I love, love, love the walk from Victor Emmanuel II to the Colosseum and it was bustling the day we were in town. Its traffic free and we saw a military band and lots of bicyclists. Roma was hopping in the late summer sun!

The Victor Emmanuel II Monument.

The Colosseum!

After taking a number of photographs of the Colosseum (its just so photogenic), we walked allll the way back to the Spanish Steps for shopping (this walk is not recommended for those short on time or not loving walking). Due to the heat and the far distance between the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps, we made a pit stop at a cute bar called Doverlaù for Negronis (mine was a Negroni Sbaglaito, or with sparking wine) and a complimentary little pizza snack. Very Roman.

A Negroni Sbagliato.

Little snacks from Bar Doverlaù

We eventually made it to the Spanish Steps and hit my favorite store, Sermoneta, for a new pair of handmade leather gloves, and the Prada. However, the most popular place in Spanish Steps area was the McDonalds…. The line was out the door (I have to clarify – it is a great McDonalds and rumored to be one of the most beautiful in the world…but still).

Lines at the MacDo. This is not a joke.

Spanish Steps from the Prada store.

By the time we left Prada, it was around 2:30 PM and time for lunch! Post dropping our new purchases at Hotel Damaso, we crossed the Tiber to have lunch at yet another of our favorite Rome restaurants, Caramella. Caramella is a casual delicious, delicious restaurant that serves amazing pastas and pizzas, as well as salads, meat dishes, and suppli! Highly recommended. I had the best sausage that I have ever had in my life during this meal.

That sausage pizza from Caramella. The red bits are dried tomatoes.

Full from our delicious meal at Caramella, we strolled around Trastevere because it is this gorgeous:

Pretty park as we crossed into Trastevere.


Trastevere has so much green.

Lots of street art.

And graffiti, in a good way.

This is way I love Rome.

A favorite fountain in Trastevere. We used to hang out here in 08.

We eventually stopped back by our hotel for another rooftop glass of Sagrantino. After, a single Guinness at Abbey Theatre Pub, an adorable pub a few minutes walk from our hotel. So cute, in fact, that it was recently featured in a “cutest buildings of Rome” post! Unfortunately, I neglected to take a proper picture of the cuteness (I saw the article post visit).

Cute little Danny with our cute little Guinness.

The Guinness service was slow and the bar was packed, so we moved to one of our old haunts, Campo de’Fiori for amazing cocktails outdoors at Taba. While this was quite different than our previous Campo de’Fiori visits, the cocktails were great and Taba is amazing. A good find on not-so-great-quality Campo de’Fiori.

Campo de’Fiori.

Taba’s cocktail bar.

A Taba cocktail.

Our very final dinner in Rome was a late one (9:30 PM) at the absolutely amazing Roscioli! We split a bottle of Sagrantino, had fried zucchini flowers stuffed with ox tail (no anchovies!), mini sandwiches with pork, and the best, best pasta! It was a great way to end our evenings in Rome…for now!

Dinner at Roscioli.

Monday, 13 September, 2021

Ah, Monday morning. We were so sad to leave. The morning started with breakfast at Hotel Damaso, which is quite the treat: all the traditional Italian classics like croissants, Italian meats and cheeses, and cappuccino, plus some American favorites like bacon and eggs. We had a quick breakfast because we needed to visit the MailBoxes, Etc. to pick up a wine shipper for our extra 6 bottles of wine. Luckily, there is one around the corner from Hotel Damaso and they had a wine shipper. Hurray! We snapped a few more rooftop photos before we had to leave.

Breakfast at Hotel Damaso.

Morning Rome views.

After packing up, we checked in for our flight at FCO, which took forever, and spent a bit of time at the Prima Vista Lounge prior to departure. We also squeezed in a bit of duty free shopping – they had Sagrantino bottles!

A Spritz at the FCO lounge.


TrenItalia: TrenItalia’s English website. The best place to buy tickets on TrenItalia.

Hotel Damaso: Piazza della Cancelleria, 62, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

Antica Farmacia del Corso SNC: Via del Corso N. 242, 00186 Roma. Open on Sunday. 22 euro per test.

Roscioli: Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22, 00186 Roma RM, Italy. Closed Sunday. Open Monday – Sunday, 12h30 – 16h, 19h – 00h. Reservations almost mandatory and can be made here. There are several options of “where to sit” in Roscioli. All areas serve the same menu prepared by the same kitchen. Casual but more upscale than the other restaurants we visited.

Roma Sparita: Piazza di Santa Cecilia, 24, 00153 Roma RM, Italy.  12h30 – 14h30, 19h30 – 12h. Closed for 2 weeks every August. Recommended to reserve in advance here. or by calling +39 06 580 0757. Casual attire.

Sermoneta Gloves: Piazza di Spagna, 61, 00187 Roma RM, Italy. Open daily 10 – 19h30. Much, much less expensive in Italy than New York.

Caramella: Vicolo Del Cinque, 31 – 00153 – Rome. Open daily 10 – 2h. Casual pizzeria in Trastevere. Lots of young people and students.

MailBoxes, Etc.: Vicolo Savelli, 10, 00186 Roma RM, Italy. Open 9 AM – 1 PM, 2 PM – 6 PM. Closed Saturday and Sunday. This is where we purchased the wine shipper. I believe it was € 9.


Rome is a great budget city – lots of cheap lodging and eats. Of our list, Caramella is definitely the most budget-friendly food option. However, Roscioli does have a less pricey cafe and “forno” (or oven) open for lunch serving great foods. I recommend checking out the Trastevere or Testaccio areas for a classic Roman experience at a bit of a lower price than the more touristy destinations. Also, for those on a real budget, it’s free to explore the outside of most of Rome’s attractions, such as the Colosseum, Trevi, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon (inside also free), the Spanish Steps, St. Peter’s Basilica (entrance also free), etc., and I think that’s the best part. Skip the price interior tickets if you are really trying to save money.

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