Agnes Crawford from Understanding Rome shares her top tips for making the most of the Italian capital.
There are plenty of places around the world that I can give great tips on, but there are usually people better placed to do it than me. So consider this post the first in a new Expert Tips series. For this I’ve interviewed genuine experts – tour guides, newspaper editors, hoteliers and the like – about the cities they live in.
I’ve only selected people I respect. I’ve either met them, done their tour or know them through Twitter and can clearly see that they know their stuff.
Kicking off the series is Agnes Crawford from Understanding Rome. She puts together tailor-made tours of the Italian capital for those who want more than the basic shots of the Colosseum…
What’s your background? How did you end up in Rome and how long have you been there for?
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BOOK YOUR OWN ADVENTUREThe following sites are usually my first port of call when booking a trip - so I recommend them as somewhere to start when booking your own holiday.
HOTELS: Hotels.com (£) or Agoda (£)
FLIGHTS: Skyscanner (£) Kayak or Roundtheworldflights.com
CAR HIRE: Car Rentals (£)
GUIDE BOOKS: Amazon (£)
TOURS AND ACTIVITIES: Viator (£)
I graduated with an MA in Architectural History fromUniversity in 1999, came to Rome for six months to teach English and learn some Italian and stayed!
What, for you, makes Rome a good – or exciting – place to live?
Wherever you turn there’s something spectacular. Mosaics nestle in the gloom of medieval churches, Imperial ruins jostle with Renaissance palaces, and life goes on around it all. Romans are a loquacious bunch with a tendency to the theatrical, and the city is a splendid backdrop to the relentless banter.
What’s the classic mistake that visitors to Rome make, and what’s the best way to avoid it?
Don’t try and do everything, you’ll end up exhausted and perplexed. Book tickets online (or better still a guide ) for the Vatican museums and Colosseum so you don’t spend time queuing. Go to the Trevi & Spanish Steps as late (or early) in the day as possible.
If you could suggest one good, affordable place for visitors to stay in Rome, what would be your tip?
The Beehive is a jolly hotel/hostel near Termini which is great value and has very helpful staff. (via Marghera 8)
Are there any restaurants you’d recommend for doing really good food at a surprisingly reasonable price?
My local cheapo spot is I Porchettoni der Pigneto (via del Pigneto 68). Plastic plates, jugs of wine, no frills, and some of the best porchetta in town. In the San Lorenzo area Da Marcello (via dei Campani 12) is the Roman trattoria of times past. Yummy, cheap, but with a surprisingly good wine list. For a quick cheap lunch near the Vatican Fa-bio (via Germanico 43) is tiny but very friendly and makes yummy salads, sandwiches, and smoothies to order.
Which attractions in Rome are really underrated and don’t get the number of visitors they deserve? If you could pick one of these that visitors really should allocate some time for, which would it be?
There are many… Very celebrated, but astonishingly undervisited, are the Capitoline Museums (piazza del Campidoglio) the world’s oldest public museum. Even less frequented is the Capitoline’s annexe, the Centrale Montemartini (via Ostiense 106). An early twentieth century power station turned ancient sculpture gallery: it turns out generators and Germanicus go hand-in-hand. If you prefer to envelop yourself in papal Rome I also love the Galleria Doria Pamphilj (via del Corso 305), a Roman palace still owned and run by the Doria Pamphilj family whose ancestor was Pope Innocent X. It’s a sort of time machine which zips you back into the seventeenth century. Then there are the Roman paintings and bronzes at Palazzo Massimo, the Roman Houses on the Celio, the Etruscan museum at Villa Giulia… As they say in these parts “Roma, nun basta ‘na vita”, “a lifetime isn’t enough”.
Tell us about what you do with Understanding Rome…
I organize tailor-made private tours of Rome, whether for a few hours or several days. Suggested itineraries are on my website and I’m only happy to invent others to suit specific requests.
You might also want to follow Agnes on Twitter – she’s @UnderstandRome.