Ciao Citalia | Citalia Blog | The Leading Italian Specialist
We are the leading Italian holiday specialist with an exquisite range of holidays throughout Italy. We believe in offering our customers a truly exquisite holiday experience by combining our expert knowledge and passion for travelling to Italy.
Rome has enough to see and do to keep you busy for weeks – but we think two days is plenty of time to get to grips with the Eternal City’s best bits. The secret is having a plan, which is where we come in.
We’ve put together an in-depth guide to spending 48 hours in Rome, from which sights to see when, to where to grab a few scoops of cioccolato gelato. Once you’re done reading, let us know in the comments what your ideal 48 hours in Rome would entail!
08:00 If your Rome hotel doesn’t serve breakfast, do as the Italians do and grab a coffee and croissant from a nearby café. Then make your way to the entrance to Palatine Hill on Via di San Gregorio, where you can buy a combination ticket that includes the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. Alternatively, hop on a guided tour that includes priority entry to the Colosseum.
09:00 Start off exploring the ruined palace and stadium of Palatine Hill, before stopping in the botanical garden to admire the views across the Forum. Head down to the Forum and you can walk along dusty paths past temples, churches and the impressive Arch of Titus. Once you’re done, exit the Roman Forum and walk next door to the Colosseum – your combination ticket means you can skip the queues at the ticket office and walk straight in.
12:00 Pop round the back of the Colosseum to Via Labicana, where you’ll find the Basilica di San Clemente. It’s a multi-layered church – the 12th-century basilica was built on top of a 4th-century church, which was built over a 2nd-century pagan temple – and is one of our favourite sites in Rome. Admire the beautiful mosaics in the basilica, before descending below ground to explore the remains of the earlier buildings.
12:30 It’s almost time for lunch, so make your way over towards Piazza della Rotonda, about half an hour’s walk away. On the way, pop into Signor Panino, a little sandwich shop on Via Piè di Marmo, and pick up a panino to take away – when you get to Piazza della Rotonda, you can perch on the steps of the Fontana del Pantheon and eat it overlooking the Pantheon’s 2nd-century pillars. Once you’ve finished up, head inside the Pantheon and marvel at its tombs, paintings and marble statues.
14:00 Walk 10 minutes eastwards to Via della Panetteria. Look for the tiny sign that marks the entrance to San Crispino, one of the best gelaterie in Rome. Get a coppetta of stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate shavings), nocciola (hazelnut) and cioccolato (chocolate) to go and walk the two minutes to Piazza di Trevi, which is dominated by the iconic Trevi Fountain. Prefer a tour complete with an expert guide? Sign up to the small-group Rome Fountains and Squares tour or the Espresso and Gelato Tour.
15:00 Head down Via delle Muratte and turn right when you reach Via del Corso. The street is lined with high street names and independent clothes stores, so it’s ideal if you fancy a bit of shopping. When you reach Via Condotti, turn right – you’ll pass designer boutiques including Prada, Armani and Gucci, and end up at Piazza di Spagna, with the famous Spanish Steps in front of you. Walk up to the top of the steps for great views and a chance to peek inside Trinità dei Monti church, or find an empty spot on the stairs to rest your legs and enjoy the atmosphere.
16:30 From the top of the Spanish Steps, you’re less than 10 minutes’ walk from the Villa Borghese (just follow the signposts). It’s the biggest public park in Rome, so is perfect for relaxing at the end of a busy day.
20:30 There are plenty of little restaurants around Piazza del Popolo – try the Fiaschetteria Beltramme on Via della Croce, a hole-in-the-wall trattoria serving traditional Roman dishes.
22:30 If you’ve still got energy, walk down to Piazza Navona (about 15-20 minutes). Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers looks lovely all lit up, and the al fresco diners, street musicians and artists give the whole place a lively feel. Explore the streets and piazzas nearby and you’ll find plenty of tucked-away wine bars (we love Cul de Sac on Piazza Pasquino and Caffè della Pace on Via della Pace).
09:00 Arrive at the Vatican Museums bright and early – if you’ve booked your tickets online in advance, you’ll be able to skip the queues. The site is huge, so if you’re not taking a guided tour, make sure you read a guidebook beforehand and decide which parts you want to see. Some of the most popular sections are the frescoed Raphael Rooms, the Gregorian Etruscan museum, and – of course – the Sistine Chapel.
12:00 Time for an early lunch. Refuel with a huge panino from Duecento Gradi (Piazza del Risorgimento) or a topping-laden slice of pizza from Pizzarium (Via della Meloria), before walking round to St. Peter’s Square.
13:00 Join the queue to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. It can look dauntingly long, but it moves quickly and gives you a chance to take in the grandeur of the square and the basilica’s exterior. Make sure you’ve got your shoulders and knees covered – you won’t be allowed in if not. Give yourself at least half an hour to wander through the vast, richly decorated interior. You can also climb up to the top of the basilica, or go underground and explore the necropolis beneath (you’ll need to book in advance via the Vatican’s website).
15:00 From St. Peter’s Square, wander down Via della Conciliazione to Castel Sant’Angelo, a mausoleum-turned-fortress-turned-museum. Tour the frescoed interiors, take in the views of Rome from the terrace (which features in Puccini’s Tosca), then pull up a chair at the castle’s café for an espresso.
18:00 Start your evening off early in Trastevere. The Piazza Santa Maria is the hub of the neighbourhood. Have a drink at one of the cafés edging the square, and perhaps pop in to the church to see the 12th-century mosaics.
19:00 Lively Freni e Frizioni on Via del Politeama is famous for its aperitivo. Order a drink, then help yourself to a buffet of bruschetta, salads, pasta and pizza.
21:00 Tuck in to Roman specialities at Roma Sparita, a lovely restaurant with a terrace on Piazza Santa Cecilia.
22:30 A 15-minute walk takes you across Ponte Garibaldi and over to Campo de’ Fiori, one of the liveliest area in Rome. Pick a bar, order a Negroni, and enjoy your final evening in the Eternal City.
Duck into the sassi. These ancient caves are believed to date back a casual 9,000 years – and locals were living in them right up to the 1950s. These days, they double as shops, restaurants and boutique hotels.
2. Admire the sculptures at MUSMA (Museo della Scultura Contemporanea).This one-time sassi is filled with modern sculptures by Italian and international artists.
3. Seek out the best viewpoints. There are plenty to choose from, including the snaking boundary road called Via Madonna della Virtù, which is pinioned by panoramic platforms. Some come with stairways that dip down into the valleys and ravines that piece together the surrounding Basilicata countryside.
4. Church-hop your way around town. The St. Mary of Idris Church is chipped right out of the rock and comes filled with frescoes. Or there’s always the 13th-century Matera Cathedral. You can’t miss it – its cloud-scraping spire is the highest point in Matera.
5. Trylocal cuisine. The Ridola Caffè is great if you fancy a mozzarella panino and espresso in a sassi, while hotels offer more in the way of slap-up regional fare.
Where to stay in Matera
Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita (above) gives you the chance to stay in a boutique hotel that’s converted from a cluster of sassi. The best bit? The eighth-century cave church – it doubles as the breakfast room.
Hotel Del Campo is an 18th-century aristocrats’ retreat that perches on the outskirts of Matera.
If you fancy something a little more luxurious, try the 15th-century Palazzo Gattini. It makes itself at home right next to Matera Cathedral.
Our favourite Matera holidays
We recommend hiring a car when exploring Basilicata and nearby Puglia. The Undiscovered South tour is the perfect introduction to road-tripping in southern Italy, thanks to a 15-day itinerary that takes in the lesser-visited southern regions of Puglia, Basilicata, Cilento and Calabria.
Had your fill of Roman treasures? Not a fan of browsing a palazzo’s worth of Renaissance portraits? Then these Italian museums and galleries are for you. From Ferrari showrooms to Piedmont wine banks – sink into Italian culture without a Michelangelo in sight.
MUSMA (Museum of Contemporary Sculpture Matera) burrows into the heart of the sassi – the ancient cave dwellings of Matera that locals lived in right up until the 1950s. Weird and wonderful sculptures decorate hewn-rock rooms and courtyards that are works of art in themselves.
There’s another great reason to visit Matera: it’s the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Watch this space for the full event schedule, but past cities have hosted art shows, food festivals, live music and behind-the-scenes tours.
Address: Museo della Scultura Contemporanea, Via S. Giacomo, 75100 Matera (MT)
You’ll find the Limonaia del Castèl in Limone (of course), a village on the north-west shore of Lake Garda. It’s an ode to the importance of lemon farming in Lake Garda in the early 18th century. Over the years, various owners have added to the citrus orchard, planting grapefruit, kumquats and chinotto (best known for flavouring San Pellegrino drinks).
The location is half the charm – it staggers down centuries-old terraces that stripe the foothills of the mountains.
Address: Limonaia del Castèl, Via Orti, 9, 25010 Limone Sul Garda (BS)
Entry fee: €2
We recommend: Limone is a little town, so why not balance your stay here with a few days in the Shakespearean city of Verona? Alternatively, top or tail your holiday to Limone with a Dolomites tour.
If any Italian region is going to have a wine museum, it’s the heart of the Slow Food movement – the vine-striped Piedmont Countryside. In fact, the tiny town of Pollenza has been dedicated to the craft of fine wining and dining since the 19th century, when the University of Gastronomic Sciences set up shop.
The Wine Bank is the highlight. You can trace the cellars, read all about the millennia-old art of Italian wine-making, and treat yourself to a tasting session. Or you could sign up to workshops that range between talks covering Italy’s top wine regions to team quizzes.
Address: La Banca del Vino S.C., Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, 13 – 12042 Pollenzo, Bra (CN)
Entry fee: Self-guided tour: €3; guided tour with three wine tastings: €15; guided tour with five wine tastings: €20
We recommend: Pair countrified Pollenza with the foodie city of Turin (you could even pop into to the National Cinema Museum at no. 6).
Most people head to the lovely harbour town of Portofino without ever realising that one of the best works of art is just out of sight – to be precise, 15 metres below sea level.
Christ of the Abyss is an underwater sculpture that dates back to 1954. Boats putter above the statue’s raised arms, but you’ll get a better view on a scuba diving trip that takes you to a nearby shipwreck, too.
Address: San Fruttuoso, Province of Genoa
Entry fee: Free. To get a good look, though, you’ll need to book a diving trip.
Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari showcases the high-speed artistry of Enzo Ferrari – car designer and Modena’s local son. Restored workshops, photo galleries, experimental engine rooms, driving simulators and a race track all come part and parcel. And it’s all wrapped in a swooping glass showroom topped with a Ferrari-yellow roof.
The National Museum of Cinema is a bit of an architectural marvel. It’s housed in the 19th-century Mole Antonelliana – the iconic monument of Turin. After kicking back in the ground-floor cinema or wandering through immersive light and sound shows, you can hop in the lift to the roof for sweeping views over the boulevards and rooftops of Turin.
Address: Via Montebello, 20/A, 10124 Torino (TO)
Entry fee: €11
We recommend: Make it a double city trip by continuing on to stylish Milan. Alternatively (or also) head to Lake Maggiore, which is a traditional retreat for aristocrats, poets and artists.
You might recognise the medieval Castel del Monte – it’s a bit of a rising star in the film world, popping up in Wonder Woman and Tale of Tales (and the Italian €1 coin).
It’s the shape that’s most intriguing, thanks to the octagonal body with eight octagonal towers. To this day, no one really knows why this UNESCO World Heritage Site was originally built, although it’s doubled as a prison and shelter for farmers over the centuries.
Best of all, you can climb to the top of Castel del Monte (in the footsteps of actors Bebe Cave and Toby Jones, no less) and take in 360-degree views of the Apulian countryside.
Address: Strada Statale 170, 76123 Località Castel Del Monte, Andria (BT)
Caorle stretches out north-east of Venice. The beach is a series of bright gold sands lined with sunloungers, parasols and and beach huts, and topped with the lemon-yellow Shrine of Our Lady of the Angel. The town sits behind, serving up the perfectly cylindrical tower of St Stephen’s Cathedral and Aquafollie Water Park.
But although well-supplied with sunbeds and beach cafés, Caorle is still a fishing town at heart. Primary-hued fishing boats brighten the old harbour, Porto Peschereccio, and traditional fishermen’s huts still perch next to the lagoon.
Where to stay: The four-star Hotel San Giorgio, which lays out loungers on the gold-sand beach.
How to get there: Drive or book a private transfer. Caorle is 50 minutes away from Venice Airport.
Lido di Jesolo is one of the most sought-after spots on the Venetian Rivera – and that’s largely thanks to its 10-mile-long beach.
There are lots of things to do for families, including Aqualandia waterpark and the New Jesolandia fairground. The long stretches of flat sand make cycling easy, plus there’s a couple of golf clubs for budding Phil Mickelsons.
Come evening, the beach bars turn up the volume and the cocktails flow. For something a little quieter, retreat to the pizzerias of Bafile Road.
The little beaches in Lake Garda are pretty tucked away – but that’s the beauty of them. Malcesine Beach is one of the few kitted out with sunloungers and parasols in the summer. It also comes with a dramatic backdrop, thanks to the crenellated towers of neighbouring Scaliger Castle and mountains opposite.
Grado has been a hit since Roman times, and became especially popular during the 19th century when visitors used to take a dip in the thermal springs. Although the waterfront is all-modern – expect a glossy marina and luxury hotels – it’s got plenty of leftovers from its past, including a winding old quarter with elaborate Belle Époque buildings.
Location-wise, Grado perches right at the mouth of the Marano Lagoon, towards the far end of the Venetian Riviera. This northerly spot lends it a more laid-back feel.
Bibione is a Venetian Riviera classic, having been a favourite with Italian sun- and sand-seekers since the 1950s. With that in mind, it’s no surprised that it fires on all cylinders, dealing out sunloungers, changing huts, beach showers, a picturesque lighthouse and a few miles’ worth of bike-friendly promenades. And it’s all wrapped in a shroud of green pine trees.
Move over, Tuscany – the north-westerly Piedmont wine region is the next big thing in the wine-tasting world. You might already be familiar with the Barolos and Barbarescos, but what about the rest of this mountainous Italian region? We introduce you to the best grapes of the bunch, as well as pointing out where to stay and things to do.
The Barbera grape makes dark red wines that go well with anything, thanks to its dark fruit and anise finish. We love it paired with white truffles, Genoa seafood and hazelnut-chocolate tortes from Turin bakeries.
Whatever variety you choose, the quality will be great – especially if you go for a DOCG like Barbera d’Asti, which has a red fruit finish.
Nebbiolo grapes give birth to the Piedmont wines you might be familiar with already – Barolo and Barberesco. Barolo vineyards patchwork the hills south-west of Alba, while Barbaresco vineyards sit north-east of Alba.
The clay soils give wine pressed from Nebbiolo grapes a slightly more complicated – but no less delicious – taste. Expect hints of rose, cherry and spicy myrrh, especially from the older vintages. Saying that, the Nebbiolo vineyards cross a range of landscapes, so there can be a big difference in tastes. Our motto: if you don’t like one, then you’ll just have to try another. Salute!
Multi-centre options: Again, Turin is a great pick.
Cortese di Gavi (AKA Gavi di Gavi) is the most well-known variety of Cortese wine. It’s a floral dry white with pick-me-up flavours of lemon and peach – a perfect summer tipple. Although the vineyards gather around Gavi, the wine is served in most restaurants and enotecas in Piedmont.
Dolcetto grapes don’t make wine as sweet as you’d imagine, instead coming up with fruity blackberry flavours. They tend to have a slightly higher alcohol %, so don’t be disheartened if the waiter pours you a a little glass – it more than pulls its weight!
One of the best places to try a Dolcetto wine is at Banca del Vino (the Bank of Wine) in the gastronomic university town of Pollenzo. Tour the expansive cellars, sign up to a tasting, or join a workshop that shows you which local recipes to dish up with your Piedmont wine.
Can’t tell your Renaissance from your baroque? Take our Italian architecture cheat-sheet to Italy with you, and you’ll soon become a history pro.
Let’s warm up with the easiest one: classical. The Romans were one of the most powerful civilisations on the planet, leaving their stamp everywhere from Turkey right up to Hadrian’s Wall. They were hugely influenced by Ancient Greek architecture.
When: From the fifth century BC.
Where: You’ll find classical architecture all over Italy, but unsurprisingly Rome is home to famous behemoths like the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.
How to spot it: Perfectly engineered arches and columns are a giveaway — the Romans specialised in them.
The icon: The Colosseum, which has become the powerhouse symbol of Rome.
This was the preferred style of the Byzantine Empire — a late extension of the Roman Empire. It has origins in Greece, but was popular wherever the empire stretched, although many of the grandest structures have been lost.
When: Byzantine architecture as we know it really took off in the fourth century and lasted till the empire dissolved in the 15th century.
How to spot it: Mosaics and domes. The Byzantines really went for it, decoration-wise, plastering vast church domes with intricate gold mosaics.
The icon: The Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna. Consecrated in 548 when Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman Empire, it’s one of the earliest and most pristine examples of early byzantine architecture. Leave plenty of time to admire its cavernous mosaicked domes that show a mix of Bible stories and Christian icons.
In Italy, gothic is a mix between true French gothic and Romanesque architecture. That means you’ll see plenty of classical elements in it, although it’s very distinctly its own style.
How to spot it: Solid, symmetrical structures with pretty details like small rose windows and inner arcades. Italian gothic structures tend to be the tallest in town, and filled with plenty of light.
The icon: Siena Cathedral or ‘the Duomo’. This towering church comes with distinctive black and white striped marble columns. It’s also filled with art, from floor mosaics to the books in the gilded Piccolomini Library.
Florence is basically a byword for the Renaissance. This is where you’ll find the famous galleries filled with works of art by the likes of Michelangelo and Raphael. Like gothic and byzantine architecture, Renaissance buildings were also influenced by the Greeks and Romans.
When: Roughly 1300 to 1700.
Where: It’s got to be the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence. Native son Filippo Brunelleschi is said to be the first Renaissance architect. You’ll also see lots of colonnaded Renaissance villas throughout the Italian countryside.
How to spot it: Mathematical domes, columns and arches are the theme. The Renaissance is when architects began to be recognised as artists, so you’ll find creative flourishes too.
The south of Italy took a particular liking to baroque, thanks to local architects like Andrea Palma. It’s the next step on from the Renaissance, so the decorations on the domes and arches take a dramatic turn. Windows were carefully placed to emphasise the huge size of churches and palaces.
When: 17th and 18th centuries.
Where:Sicily is a hive of southern baroque, with whole towns built in the style. Also watch out for Apulian cities like Lecce.
How to spot it: Theatrical touches like balconies, cherubs and gargoyle-like masks.
Art nouveau, Liberty, stile floreale — whichever name you call it by, the beach towns along the Tuscany Coast are glimpses into this post-industrial era of Italian architecture. Grand hotels, casinos and cafés all embraced the fashionable arts and crafts look.