Going off the beaten path near Rome

I was contacted by a lovely couple a few months ago to plan a trip in Italy.  This was going to be a personal vacation that went along with a destination wedding they were attending in Tuscany.  Never having been to Italy before, the door was pretty much wide open as to where they could stay and what they could do.

If someone has never been to Italy, the first inclination is to do the obvious.  Either Rome or Florence would have been incredibly convenient places to visit and then make your way to the Chianti region in Tuscany. However, after speaking to them in depth about the type of experience they wanted to have, what they really hoped for was an opportunity to spend some peace and quiet time with each other, and yet somehow manage to see a few of the sites in Rome… without having to be in Rome during the height of busy season. 

Enter Nettuno. 


This small, quaint beachside town is about an hour outside of Rome, easily reached by train from the city. There are not many tourists here, your English won’t get as much use, and this is certainly not the place to go for nonstop action and sightseeing. It is peaceful, quiet, and wholly authentic.  It also allowed them to take a day trip into the city and meet up with a wonderful guide to experience historical Rome, walk the streets, throw a penny in Trevi Fountain, and make their way back to serenity. 

When I checked in with them near the end of their stay last week, they shared the following sentiments with me.

Oh my gosh we are having an amazing time!! We are so happy we chose to stay in Nettuno! This town is so rich in history it's crazy! We had no idea! We met an amazing American family who runs the WWII US memorial cemetery here and they are just awesome. They have taken us to great restaurants! Definitely met life long friends. The Astura has been great. Literally right across the street from the beach.

Your directions for the train and subway were amazing and a life saver! We have not gotten lost once. Amazing!! The coliseum yesterday was breath taking! We ate at propaganda. Today we plan to just explore Nettuno some more.

We cannot thank you enough for planning this trip! We have already decided you are it from now on!!!

Friends, to me this is what travel is all about!!! It’s having the ability to go off the beaten path, have authentic experiences, and meet random strangers that become life long friends.

Yes, they got to see the Colosseum, and walk the streets of Rome. But they also had a truly unique experience by trusting their gut and trusting me! When I suggested not doing your typical Rome vacation, which is what they were originally considering, it was up to me to find something that fit the bill as to what type of experience they said they wanted. I think we did just that, and it brings me so much joy when I get to see that experience come to life and lived out. 

If you are the type of traveler that likes your travel a little more off the beaten path, but with options to hop on the path if you’d like, know that working with me will help you accomplish that effortlessly. I work very hard to give you just the experience you’re after. Feel free to contact me and discuss your ideas!

Rome daily itinerary: Day 2

Last week I blogged about how most visits to Italy include a stopover in the capital, and how you should allocate a full 3 days minimum in order to experience the city. This blog series will share a detailed Rome itinerary for 3 days, and all the attractions you should make sure are part of your travels. To read more in depth about my Rome Day 1 itinerary, make sure to read my blog about travel tips for visiting the historic sites in Rome.

This post is for Day 2 in Rome, and will provide you with a Vatican City itinerary, and the attractions and activities I believe are not to be missed, especially if this is your first time to the eternal city.


Day 2: The Spiritual

Vatican City is an independent city-state surrounded by Rome, and is the ecclesiastical home of Roman Catholicism. The main sites here are the Vatican grounds and Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and St. Peter’s Square.

  • Consider visiting the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel first, either first thing in the morning, or early afternoon when the morning crowds have died down a bit. Make a reservation on the Vatican Museum’s website beforehand. 
    • If you are mainly interested in looking at the artwork, a tour isn’t really necessary. If you are fascinated by the history and learning more about the artwork, consider a tour. On an individual tour, the guide can show you parts of the museum not normally visited by the standard tours. Consider an exclusive, private visit to the Sistine Chapel for a truly unique and emotional experience. This type of tour must be reserved far in advanced, but is worthwhile.
    • The Sistine Chapel is certainly one of the world’s greatest masterpieces, and Michelangelo outdid himself with the painting of the ceiling that will take your breath away and render you speechless…which is a good thing because noise in here is frowned upon.
  • Lunch Break. All the walking around and effort it takes to gaze at past priceless splendors is enough to build up quite the appetite. Consider a quick lunch in the Piatti neighborhood before heading on over to St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • The first building you will see from Bernini’s colonnaded St. Peter’s square is the largest church in the world: St. Peter’s Basilica. Highlights inside include many works by Bernini, Michelangelo’s Pieta, and the oldest statue of St. Peter in existence.
  • Next, make your way to Michelangelo’s other masterpiece, St. Peter’s dome. When you find your way to the top, you are greeted with a breathtaking panorama of Rome, and if you time it right, the sun beginning to set over the eternal city and covering it in a rose-gold light. 
  • For dinner, chose an establishment simply known for their good food and where you can dine alongside the locals, such as Da Enzo. Here, the superstar will be the food and your meal will certainly be memorable. During the summer months, make sure to have a reservation, as it is a very small restaurant. 
  • After dinner, take the short stroll to the Spanish Steps, which will provide the perfect people-watching perch.


Where to stay: See my post on a great boutique hotel in Rome here.

Where to go next: Consider a Rome and Amalfi Coast itinerary and this beautiful resort I highlighted here.

To put this Vatican city itinerary together with another detailed itinerary for visiting the Roman historical sites, click here.

If you like these Rome daily itineraries, check back next week for Day 3!

Rome daily itinerary: Day 1

Italy is one of my favorite countries. It has all the right ingredients for everything I love about travel. The culture. The history. The food. The shopping. The beauty. The scenery. The romance. But above all, Italians have an appreciation for life that I envy and want more of. This is why a meal in Italy takes at minimum 3 hours if you are doing it right. You cannot truly appreciate a meal with loved ones in 45 minutes, and if you are eating in Italy, it would be crazy of you to try.

For many visitors to Italy, Rome will certainly be part of the plan. When you have a multi-destination itinerary, people always wonder how much time should be allotted in each place, and whether or not they deserve a stay or can be done in a day trip. What I will say about Rome is… It wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect to see it in one. If possible, I would suggest at least 3 full days in the city to ensure you get some quality time to see and do a variety of things and not feel too rushed. In a 3 day itinerary I have put together for clients in the past, we dedicated one full day to exploring the historic center, but you could easily stretch this out to a week if this is where your interests lie and ancient monuments are something you are passionate about.  

There is something for everyone in what is known as the eternal city, and any list you come across should simply be thought of as a guideline, and further tailored to fit your individual tastes.  I’m the type of person that runs through a famous museum so I can cross it off my list (and checkin on Facebook) and then would be blissfully happy sitting at an outdoor cafe and people watching the rest of the afternoon.  So, more than anything I always encourage people to pay special attention to what kind of experience they are looking to have no matter what the destination or what any fancy guidebook tells you. 

So, what would my own 3 days in Rome look like? Let’s start with Day 1, where for me it makes sense to start with the history. View this as a bit of insight into how I work and create itineraries, and use it to inspire your own wanderlust. 

Day 1: The History

The historic heart of the city, called Centro Storico, includes the Michelangelo-designed Campidoglio, the Pantheon, the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, as well as the nearby Colosseum and Baths of Caracalla.  

  • My suggestion would be to start your day visiting the Colosseum and the Forum. (tip: make sure you buy the Roma Pass).  A tour of the Colosseum allows you to learn about the construction and history of one of the most famed structures of all time. It also allows you to imagine yourself as a Gladiator. (bonus points if your significant other resembles Russell Crowe)
  • Next up is the Forum, where you will tour what was ancient Rome’s showpiece centre. So much history was shaped here, and unless you are a total history buff, I would recommend a guided tour or at least an audio tour to properly put things in perspective.
  • You most certainly have worked up an appetite by now, so if you’re up for something special, have lunch at Aroma restaurant, set in a magical rooftop garden setting, with stunning views of the Colosseum. 
  • Finish your history day with a tour of the Pantheon, a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of Pagan Rome. It is the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome. 
  • After a nap (when in Rome…), make your way down to Trastevere. The former ghetto is chalk full of various restaurants and bars sure to please every budget and taste, with plenty of choices for entertainment afterwards.

Additional tips for Rome:

Where to stay: See my post on a great boutique hotel in Rome here.

Where to go next: Consider the Amalfi Coast and this beautiful resort I highlighted here.

Interested in the next 2 days of my Rome Itinerary? Check back next week and I will also include the 3 day Itinerary for you to download!


Feature Friday: Where to stay in Rome

Roma. Italy's capital is truly one of the world's most epic and thrilling cities. A journey here will leave you smitten by its artistic masterpieces and iconic monuments.  Deciding on the perfect place to choose as your home base and where you will rest and rejuvenate as you recover from days spent exploring all the city has to offer is of utmost importance.  I'd like to showcase an amazing property that would certainly be an ideal starting point to experience the elegance of Rome and continue this Feature Friday series exploring some of the great accommodations  in one of my favorite countries.  

Hotel Raphael is a magnificent residence that is a small museum itself, with works of art including sculptures, paintings, lithographs, antiques, and collections of Picasso ceramics and Mayan art. Staying at this charming hotel puts you within a stones throw of must-see destinations and is ideally located right next to the lively Piazza Novana, where both locals and tourists flock to. The fascade is covered in Ivy and the rooftop terrace gives you an amazing view of the eternal city.

As mentioned in last weeks Feature Friday post, Rome makes an excellent pairing with a visit to the Amalfi Coast. Because of it's central location, it also makes it easily accessible from other highly desirable destinations in Italy that we will continue to explore and highlight during this series on some of my favorite hotels in this beautiful country.

Contact me to start designing your next vacation and if you are interested in detailed and custom itineraries for Rome and beyond!