While taking on The Eternal City’s mouth-watering options for gelato, you might have come down with a guilty conscience. Perhaps you’re feeling a bit preoccupato and want to compensate by staying in shape.
This next two-day guide will take you to corners of the city where you can keep moving and counteract your consumption. Make no mistake: you’ll still be indulging in the pleasures of Rome, but you’ll have more opportunities to stay active between snacks. If seeing Rome the active way for a whole day isn’t your priority, you can always break off and discover a good chunk of the city by scooter. One of my favorite activities was a three-hour guided tour with Scooteroma.
To kick off the first day, pick up just south of where we last sampled gelato, across the bridge from Trastevere. Your first workout will involve climbing the hill to the Chiesa di Santa Sabina, a bell-towered church on the Aventine Hill dating back to 422 A.D. Its interiors feature a beautiful rectangular chamber with twenty-four columns of Proconnesian marble from Marmara Island. Adjacent to the church, wander through the giardino degli aranci, a delightful orange orchard, from where you can take in sweeping views of the Italian capital. [Just down the street you’ll also find the headquarters of the Knights of Malta where, through the famous keyhole, you can see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.]
From here, make your way down the hill to Mercato Testaccio, a market with surprising and mouth-watering offerings for a snack (or two or three). Browse the aisles and consider indulging in a sandwich filled with classic Roman mains like oxtail or meatballs at Mordi e Vai, or a cannolo at the Sicilian pastry shop. If you’re still hungry after your visit, I would highly recommend concluding with a stop at Il Trapizzino a couple of blocks away, where a delightful triangular creation of sandwich-meets-pizza is guaranteed to excite and sate your taste buds.
At this point, your conscience might call for your next unit of physical activity. In the afternoon, take a long jog along the Tiber River, which has been the pathway of trade and commerce throughout Rome’s history. Criss-cross from one side of the Tiber to the other on ancient bridges and pass notable landmarks like Castel Sant’Angelo and Isola Tiberina.
As the day cools off, head to the Spanish Steps. Take a breather and watch the crowds disperse. Then, if your legs haven’t had enough for the day, pick yourself up and make your way to the top.
On day two, take a stroll past St. Peter’s Basilica, and head up to the Musei Vaticani. With its fifty-four galleries and miles of artwork, including some of the most important pieces of Renaissance art and sculpture, this museum will keep you on your feet for hours (or even days). Consider booking a private tour through Musement to see all of the Vatican efficiently and skip long lines. On your way out, stop by the famous double helix spiral staircase (also known as the Momo Staircase).
Once your tour of the Vatican is complete, cross back from the Vatican into Rome. Wander through Prati, a neighborhood that is often overlooked, and take in the neat, tree-lined streets and alluring architecture. Then, give your feet a break, relax with an aperitivo at Sorpasso, and consider diving into their fantastic selection of artisanal cheeses.
From Prati, head over to nearby Castel Sant’Angelo, a landmark along the Tiber once also used by popes as a fortress, or venture a bit further to Vittorio Emanuele II, a monument to commemorate the first king of a united Italy. Both sites offer a great spot from which to watch the sun set and both involve a fair stair climb to continue burning calories.
The crest of Castel Sant’Angelo rewards you with some of the best views of the Tiber, the Vatican, and the center of Rome; from Vittorio Emanuele, you’ll have an unobstructed panorama from the Colosseum on one side to Piazza Venezia on the other.
If you chose Vittorio Emanuele for sunset, I’d suggest making your way to the Rione Monti neighborhood afterward and paying a visit to Ai Tre Scalini or Libreria Caffè Bohemien. Both are excellent options for aperitivi, the former an ancient wine bar dating back to 1895, and the latter with rich interiors and a classic feel.
After a busy second day around Rome, you deserve a reward after your climbing and perambulations. Make a reservation at Da Pietro or Al Moro in the center for mouth-watering Roman specialties like carciofi alla romana, spaghetti cacio e pepe and spaghetti alla carbonara, each perfectly palatable in preparation and setting.