Rome and Me: Six Nations, sightseeing and spaghetti!

Rob Morris on 03 February 2017
As a lifelong rugby fan, a visit to Rome had been on the wish list for some time. In February 2017, we decided to have a child free city break to Rome with friends that would complete my set of visits to the ‘Six Nations Rugby’ destinations!

I’d heard lots of good things about Rome as a host rugby city and of course its sights, culinary appeal and historical significance needs no introduction. The unexpected bonus was the space we enjoyed whilst exploring. Traveling out of season really had its advantages affording time at the major attractions and tables for drinks and meals were extremely easy to find. Our photos lacked the blue sky back drop, but for us that was just fine!

Starting with travel and this is a good tip!

Flights to Rome can carry a premium; particularly on Six Nations Rugby weekends, so to help our pounds go a little further we met our friends at Gatwick Airport for a drink and an overnight stay at the more than adequate Sofitel Hotel, North Terminal and headed off early Saturday morning on a flight to Naples.

On arrival in Naples we purchased train tickets with ease and enjoyed a very civilised rail journey to Rome; complete with views of Mount Vesuvius and a glass of wine or two! The combined cost of flights and train travel was still significantly less than the cost of direct flights to Rome. The train journey was around one hour and forty minutes and we quickly found ourselves on the cobbled streets of Rome, winding our way on foot to our extremely well placed hotel, a short walk from the Trevi Fountain in the beating heart of Rome.

Our accommodation was the Rhea Silvia Luxury Spagna and everything about it was superb. From the espresso coffee offered on arrival, to the luxurious rooms, fantastic location, (essential for short city breaks) and ample breakfast served quirkily by hostess trolley to your room each morning, we couldn’t have asked for more.

By day we were typical tourists ticking off the major sights such as the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Pantheon and Roman Forum as we clocked up the steps, (comfy shoes needed for the cobbled streets) only breaking for the all-important ‘refuelling’ in the fantastic roman bars and cafés. As a cultural experience, Rome is right up there. The architecture and atmosphere are amazing and in our experience the city opens its arms warmly to its visitors.

Saturday night, we headed for the lively Trastevere district for dinner and drinks. This is a great area to visit if you are looking for variety of restaurants and bars that adorn the winding cobbled streets. Sunday night we stayed nearer to our accommodation to eat before enjoying some live music.

As we were on a rugby weekend; we wanted simple, good food and a few drinks of an evening and Rome certainly didn’t disappoint. There are fantastic pizzerias in abundance. We didn’t have a bad meal throughout our stay. We didn’t make any reservations and took places as we found them, enjoying sumptuous ani-pasta platters, superb authentic pizza and pasta dishes and of course several fantastic Italian wines!

Sunday was match day, usually the highlight of a rugby weekend, but it had some stiff competition on this trip! An afternoon kick-off gave us a free morning where we decided to visit Vatican City and the impressive St Peter’s Basilica. We were lucky to witness the Pope speaking to the gathered crowd looking down from a window high above. Whilst a privilege to experience, this did make it quite busy, but the crowds quickly dispersed and allowed us to enjoy a self-guided tour of the Basilica and take in its majesty and architectural splendour.

After a quick stop for refreshments we headed out to the Stadio Olimpico. Transport links are good from the city, so usually we would have travelled by tram, but from Vatican City, a taxi was the best, but not cheapest option.

The pre-match atmosphere outside the stadium was fantastic with the bubbling excitement and anticipation playing out over a backdrop of singing and marching bands. There were a plethora of bars and catering outlets – we enjoyed THE best margarita pizza I’ve ever tasted cooked from a converted pickup truck, folded like a a wrap and handed to us straight from the oven; delicious!

Wales, (my team) started slowly and were 7-3 down at half time, but fortunately, the players read the script and scored 30 unanswered points in the second half running out 7-33 winners, allowing us to leave the stadium full of excitement and looking forward to our last night and Rome once again hosted us nicely!

With the rugby, exploring and socialising done, Monday morning was for coffees and a leisurely lunch, our return train journey to Naples and our flight back to Gatwick to complete a fun and enlightening rugby and city break to Rome.

Being able to combine sport and travel is for me a fantastic opportunity and a great way to see the world. I have spent 20 years doing this professionally so if you would like to learn more about how you I can help you watch, train for or even play your sport overseas, please get in touch via rob.morris@travelcounsellors.com or on 01242 790 020 and I’d love to tell you more about my sports travel experience.

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