It is safe to say that Rome is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet. The so called città eterna (eternal city) is one of the cradles of European civilizations and carries reminders of that in every corner of itself, you just can’t escape it. Despite having a quite large rugby scene it isn’t the rugby hotspot of the Italian country, but the Italian Rugby federation decided to place there the games of the national team for the Six Nations tournament as it was the most logical place to combine a large tourist attractiveness with an 80,000 seat stadium. When foreigners come to Italy for the first time they usually make reservations to visit Venice, Florence and Rome as they’re basically the essentials, and rugby fans don’t make a difference in this sense. Hence, here’s some local tips to make your trip to Rome worth it besides the obvious rugby game that you’re going to watch.
- Getting to the stadium
- Before and after the game
- Food and Drinks
- Staying longer?
Getting to the stadium
Many of you will remember that Italy played its home games at Stadio Flaminio during the first Six Nations years (also in Rome). This stadium was then abandoned migrating to Stadio Olimpico, the stadium where both local football teams play (AS Roma and SS Lazio). The two stadiums are not that far from each other (just 20 minutes walking), but lie on two different sides of the river Tèvere, that cuts the city in half with a large S. We are making the assumption that you won’t come by car to see the game, as you’re probably coming from outside Italy. If you do, we strongly suggest you not to meddle with the Roman street traffic: it could end in tragedy! Park it outside and hop on a subway which will safely and quickly take you to the city centre. If you plan to walk or bike there, instead, here’s a map of the sustainable ways to reach the stadium provided by the city council.
With public transport
Sadly, the subway network of Rome is subpar compared to other European capitals mostly due to the large abundance of historical sites that a subway shall not disrupt, so you’ll only have a few lines available. The easiest way to get to the Olimpico stadium is to take the “A” metro (MA) until the Lepanto station. This metro line fences the main train station (Roma Termini) so it’s easy to find. Then hop on the 280 or 301 bus in direction “Mancini”. Hop off at the “De Bosis/Stadio Tennis” station. This station is very close to the stadium, which is part of the same complex of the tennis stadium.
From the airport
If you land at the Fiumicino Airport you’ll have choice between the train, the bus, and the taxi to reach the city centre. We suggest you to avoid the taxi as it will probably cost a fortune considering the distance. There’s a train shuttle service called Leonardo Express which connects the airport to the city centre which will make your life very easy, taking you to the central station (Roma Termini). Alternatively, there’s also the option to take a regional train through the Trenitalia website but the purchasing experience may not be as tourist-friendly as we’d like it to be: your call! Finally, a bus shuttle service is also available, at the link here, and substantially cheaper, although taking quite some time to reach the heart of Rome. If you land in Roma Ciampino, the second airport, there’s a bus shuttle link with the central station of Roma Termini.
Before and after the game
If you’re planning to grab a bite before the game there’s a couple of places near the stadium where you can go. Sora Milvia has a wide assortment of fried food, all homemade and tasty. On the other hand, the nearby Trapizzino makes tramezzini with pizza crust, a borderline-cheesy combination that is indeed very tasty.
Before and after the game, the famous Italian beer brand Peroni sponsors the Six Nations in Rome with a series of events and dedicated entertainment sites. After the game you’ll be a few steps away from the so-called Villaggio del Terzo Tempo, where “terzo tempo” in Italian is how we refer to the after-match. Fans from both sides meeting, chatting, and making friends with the help of a few pints. What’s better than that?
The village is nested in the Foro Italico, the area where the Stadio Olimpico lies too, so it’s reachable simply by walking. However, it doesn’t end there: a few other areas in the city of Rome are dedicated to the Six Nations event. Here’s the 2022 plan for Italy-Scotland, you can expect something similar this year too.
Food and Drinks
If we’re talking food in Rome, we’re talking three staples: carbonara, supplì, and Roman pizza. I think that pasta alla carbonara requires no introduction, but you may not have heard about Supplì. These are a typical street food in Rome, consisting of a deep-fried, breaded ball of rice and tomato sauce. It’s quite easy to indulge on these, so be careful and respect your stomach! Roman pizza, differently from the original Neapolitan pizza, is a little thinner and more crispy. Romans love to get a slice to-go while walking down the street and chatting with friends, and as the motto says, when in Rome do as the Romans do, well that’s what they would do. To make your life easier in the quest for the best suppliers of these categories of food I had a chat with two of my Roman friends and fellow rugby content creators: Ottavio (RugbyCoach8) and Valerio (NPR).
Ottavio’s suggestion for the best carbonara in town is Luciano, an Italian trattoria (rustic restaurant) near Piazza Navona. Careful of the other restaurants nearby, all carrying names that remind Carbonara only to lure you in. Not far from there is the restaurant Alfredo Alla Scrofa, which gave birth to the American-loved dish Fettuccine all Alfredo. This dish isn’t particularly loved in Italy but for some reason Americans love it. Around Vatican City is Bonci – Pizzarium, a pizza shop selling what is probably the best Pizza Romana in town. According to Ottavio, Bonci also sells some of the best Supplì he ever had. Valerio had some interesting suggestions for what concerns the surrounding of the Stadio Olimpico. Besides Trapizzino and Sora Milvia, mentioned in the previous chapter, he suggested the restaurant La Romanina. Although it may not look like the most-starred restaurant in Rome, it is sufficiently near to the stadium and allows you to have a proper seated lunch. For a more casual bite, the Bar della Musica is located right in front of the press entrance to the stadium, and with him being a sports journalist, this qualifies as a pro tip. This bar has drinks and enticing sandwiches, and usually shows rugby games on the screens. Finally, if you feel like treating yourself with a fine-dining experience amidst ambassadors and presidents, you may want to drop a couple of hundred euros at Il Marchese. Careful though, you must book well ahead of time.
Bars & Pubs
If you’re planning to have a wild one, perhaps watching the other Six Nations games in the middle of rugby fans, there are a few pubs in the city that will do the trick. The most famous one is perhaps the Scholar’s Lounge, an Irish pub near the historical city centre. Many Italian fans go to Camden Town or the Shamrock, both near the Colosseum. Other ones are listed in this article from 2020, which could serve you as a guide.
If you’re just looking for a night out with no particular evil intention, Rome offers a wide variety of bars for any taste. It would be unfair to make a shortlist as the city is large and vibrant, full of possibilities. I still however want to drop a couple of suggestions that you may not find in many guides or websites. A great place for cocktails is Jerry Thomas, a speakeasy in the city centre near Piazza Navona. You must know the password though, it could take a while to figure out. A little off the beaten path is the Mr. Hyde pub, personally suggested by Valerio, where beers-aside food is great too. Finally, a little and apparently harmless kiosk called Fischio lies near Vatican City, in the Cipro district. You’ll be surprised of the vibe of that place. A lot more suggestions are available on the internet, for example this guide written by Romeing.
A few cities in the world rival Rome in terms of open air history and architecture. Traces of human life in the area date back to 14,000 years ago, while the classic Rome dates back to more than 2800 years ago. Through all these centuries, Rome has first become the most important city on earth and then progressively lost centrality while still retaining its relevance in the literature, arts, religion and history circles. Hence, regardless of what is your passion when you’re on tour, you’ll probably find it in Rome. For example, did you know that exhibiting your Six Nations match ticket you’ll get free access to the Musei Capitolini (museums)? To facilitate all that, I organised for you five walking tours that you can follow, and resumed the remaining important landmarks in a fourth chapter. About museums: there’s just too many to talk about! Hence, I decided not to, and to delegate this task to other websites that have already done the work of gathering them all into a single webpage for you. Here’s an example from Civitatis. My personal suggestions is to take the chance to visit the Vatican museums, if you have to choose one.
Colosseum, Imperial Fora, and the Circus Maximus
To begin your tour of Rome with a bang, reach the Colosseo (Colosseum) using the Metro B subway line. The subway station is named Colosseo as the monument. The Colosseo was the most important arena in the whole Roman empire during its time. It is also known as Anfiteatro Flavio, due to the gens (Roman family) that erected it in the 1st century (72-80 AD). Despite its 2000 years of age, it is still one of the largest and most monumental arenas ever built by humans, and it is probably the king of Rome itself. When AS Roma won the first-ever Conference Cup in 2022, the celebrations were done in front of it, as it represents Rome’s sports and competitive culture since the dawn of times. A large ruins complex lies west of the Colosseum, named Parco Archeologico del Colosseo. This archaeological park is one of the largest in Italy, and listing all the buildings and monuments included in it would take a couple of pages. To be honest you can probably spend the whole day in this historical park, as the number of iconic monuments and buildings in it is huge. I suggest to just stroll around and choose what you want to visit based on your feelings in the moment, it’s probably worth it anyway. One often neglected building that may interest a sports fan is the Stadio Palatino in the Palatine Hill. This stadium was used by the emperor Domitian and the following emperors as private horseriding circuit and for training, and its size is impressive. From Palatine Hill you’ll be just a few steps away from another of Rome’s most iconic historical sites: the Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo, in Italian). This horseriding arena could hold 150,000 spectators in its heyday, as horseriding races were some of the biggest events in ancient Rome. Now the arena is a public park where the city organises concerts, events, and other types of gatherings. Near the North side of Circus Maximus lies the Mouth of Truth, a famous historical site with a face carved in marble and engraved in a wall which has been made famous by Audrey Hepburn’s movie Roman Holiday. You’ll see tourists trying to put their hand in the statue’s mouth, rumour has it that it brings good fortune. Slightly north of the Mouth of Truth you’ll find yourself on the banks of the river Tiber (Tevere, in Italian) overlooking the Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina). This little island hosts a hospital and a church and is a beautiful spot at sunset (pro tip). If, instead, you are south of the Circus Maximus you can reach the Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla), an ancient thermal bath complex now in ruins that was used from the 3rd to the 5th century and is one of the largest documented thermal baths in history. the complex was used during Rome’s 1960 olympics for the gymnastics competitions.
Forum of Augustus, Trajan’s Column, and the Altar of the Fatherland
From the Baths of Caracalla you can come back to the Colosseum through a very scenic route. Cross the large street that fences the baths and reach for the Porta Metronia, a city gate from the 3rd century. Entering this gate direction North you’ll reach first the gardens of Villa Celimontana (15th century) and then the Parco del Celio (Celio park). This beautiful park overlooks the Colosseum and will take you right back at it. On the East side of the Colosseum lies the Domus Aurea, or “golden house”, which has been the residence of the Emperor Nero (Nerone, in Italian), of great fame. Continuing North-West from it you’ll reach the Forum of Augustus (Foro Augusto, in Italian), which was inaugurated in the year 2 BC. This forum includes the Temple of Mars, a famous temple dedicated to the god of war. From the Forum of Augustus proceeding North-West you’ll walk through Trajan’s Forum, one of the many Imperial Fora that you’ll be able to visit when in Rome. Near the forum lies the Trajan Column (Colonna Traiana), a famous column erected in the 2nd century (113 AD) to commemorate the emperor Trajan (Traiano, in Italian) and his victory in the wars against the Dacians. The column is to be read pretty much like a comic book, developing the story of the city in a spiral that wraps around its structure. From there, you’re just a few steps away from one of Italy’s greatest monuments: the Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria), a giant white monument from the 19th century celebrating national unity and pride. This monument is dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy (1861). By the way, if you do this tour the day of another Six Nations game, you can go watch it at the Scholar’s Lounge, not far from there. This Irish Pub has won numerous prizes and offers English commentary with wide screens.
Trevi, Quirinale, Montecitorio, and Piazza Navona
If you find yourself in Piazza Venezia or in front of Trajan’s column, you may head North-East to reach another sightseeing hotspot. This way you’ll walk through the Palazzo Colonna gardens, which surround the Presidential palace of the Italian Republic (Quirinale, named after the hill where it sits). These gardens lie where there used to be a 500 year old wineyard and are part of the Presidential palace complex. Through the gardens you’ll reach the square where the palace is, and from there you’ll be only a few steps away from one of the most iconic spots in downtown Rome: the Trevi fountain. This breath-taking work of art is one of the most famous fountains in the world, dates back to the 18th century, and has been seen by most people either in Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday or in Federico Fellini’s masterpiece La Dolce Vita. This fountain comes with the coin-tossing tradition: grab a tiny coin with your right hand, and with your back to the fountain toss it into it over your left shoulder. That money goes to charity!
From the fountain you can easily reach the Galleria Alberto Sordi, a walk-in shopping gallery with a belle epoque feel, and come out on the other side in front of Palazzo Chigi, residence of the prime minister, and Palazzo Montecitorio, where the Italian parliament meets. Very close to Montecitorio is one of Rome’s most famous ice cream shops, Gelateria La Palma, which is famous for its near-infinite assortment of flavours. Some of them are even salty, so go wild on it!
Fully equipped with a tasty ice cream you may reach the not-so-far Pantheon, an ancient temple built around 2000 years ago during Augustus’ reign and later converted into a church around the 7th century. The name “Pantheon” means “temple of all the gods”. From the square in front of the Pantheon you’re not far from the beautiful church of San Luigi dei Francesi, whose gold-plated frescoed ceiling and marble detailing is just breathtaking. Just around the corner, you’ll find yourself in another Roman iconic spot: Piazza Navona. This beautiful square is a prime example of baroque Italian sculpture and architecture, and is one of the most famous touristic spots of the city.
To conclude this tour, I’d suggest you reach Campo de’ Fiori, a famous square in the city centre, not too far from there. This square used to be the epicentre of the city centre’s commercial activity, but on a darker note, it was the prime spot for executions during inquisition times. A statue dedicated to the philosopher and cosmologist Giordano Bruno is placed in the square as a memorial to those who were executed. My suggestion is, at this point, to take any of the side streets near there and sit in the smallest cafè you’ll find. Those without any picture of food or any tourist-tailored content are the best!
Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese, and the Shopping Triangle
I had to make a choice in terms of walking tours, but there’s at least another dozen places in the city that are worth seeing. The most famous of them is probably Piazza di Spagna (Spanish square), with the iconic staircase of Trinità dei Monti, in English known as the “Spanish steps”. This iconic spot in the city has seen an uncountable number of celebrities taking selfies in front of them, music bands or sports teams taking pictures on the stairs, and so on. It is a beautiful, massive staircase that leads to a beautiful Renaissance church. All you need to do is to take the subway and reach the station “Spagna”.
From Piazza di Spagna you can organise a handful of hours into a nice walk. Begin with Via del Babuino or Via del Corso, both beautiful streets rich in historical monuments, shops, and casual street food. Together, these two streets form a shopping “triangle” where you’ll find the most exclusive shops in the city. Also, they’re perfect to stroll on until Piazza del Popolo (People’s square). This large square hosts multiple fountains and on its side you’ll find a steep staircase that leads to one of the most beautiful panoramic spots of the city: the Terrazza del Pincio. From atop you’ll be able to see just how many churches are in Rome: can you count all of them? It’s a common pastime for people who walk around there.
From the Pincio promenade you can enter the beautiful park of Villa Borghese, which is connected to it. You can easily waste two hours walking by in the park, because it’s just beautiful. One spot that I particularly like is the Temple of Esculapio, a little temple that hosts the statue of Asclepius (Esculapio, in Italian) the god of Medicine.
Vatican City and Castel Sant’Angelo
Regardless of your faith or lack thereof, you can’t say you’ve been to Rome until you’ve been to Vatican city and St. Peter’s square. The church of St. Peter is the keystone of Christianity and has seen pilgrims from all over the world come to it, as it’s where the pope sits. The church of St. Peter is beautiful in itself, but the real masterpiece is the Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina). This beautifully frescoed room is where new popes are elected, and its frescos dating back to the late 15th and early 16th century are considered some of the most beautiful in the world. The chapel’s ceiling was painted by Michelangelo, the Italian master of Renaissance, while the walls were painted earlier by other masters such as Botticelli and Pinturicchio. Behind the church of St. Peter you’ll find the beautiful Vatican gardens (Orti vaticani), through which you can walk until the other side where the entrance to the Vatican museums is. These museums are among the best in the world, so it’s definitely worth considering a visit, but plan a few hours inside, anything less is rushing it.
Not far from Vatican City lies Castel Sant’Angelo (St. Angel’s castle), an iconic fortress in the heart of Rome. Interestingly, this castle was born mausoleum, erected in the 2nd century to commemorate the death of the emperor Hadrian, which if you’re Scottish or English you’ll know due to Hadrian’s Wall. Over the centuries, popes have used Castel Sant’Angelo as a fortress during Barbarian invasions or city uprises, and now hosts a museum. Overlooking the castle at sunset from the bridge in front of it is a breathtaking experience.