Rome for the weekend? You bet! With the Pope’s stunning announcement of his retirement and spring upon us, now is an exciting time for a quick weekend escape to the Eternal City. Here are my tips for three perfect days in Rome.
Plan ahead of time
Of course you can’t see all of Rome in just a weekend, but you certainly can see the historic center of Rome. To maximize your time and to avoid long lines, it is essential to have a game plan before you go. Every minute will count—and don’t plan on sleeping much.
If this is your first visit to Italy, it pays to work with a travel agent or an incoming tour operator to help you find the best deals and to plan your trip. Quiiky is the first and only Italian tour operator specializing in gay and lesbian travel. Quiiky, a five-year-old company affiliated with Sonders & Beach and a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, can arrange all or part of your trip. Be sure to ask about private tour guides, which while expensive, are a smart way to get lots of local knowledge and customized information. Visit quiiky.com.
Adventurous travelers will find it easy to self-organize a trip to Rome too. You can buy most of your tickets online and in advance. There is also plenty of information online on the history of Rome and the historic attractions. Now with Google Maps and Google Images, you can almost map out and visualize your entire trip even before you leave.
Stay in the center of it all
There are a number of wonderful hotels in ancient Rome. For a quick trip, consider the 2nd Floor bed and breakfast (www.2floor.it). This cozy hotel has amazing views of the ancient ruins of Rome and is steps away from the Coliseum. The hotel caters to the LGBT traveler but is perfectly suitable for gay and straight guests traveling together. The charming rooms have free Wi-Fi and private baths and some offer small balconies. This hotel meets even the fussiest traveler’s needs and you can’t beat the affordable price.
What makes the 2nd Floor an ideal choice for travelers with a short time in Rome is its Coming Out Bar on the first floor. Guests enjoy complimentary continental breakfast and Italian cappuccino and espresso. By midday, the restaurant is bustling with a young lunchtime crowd and by evening, this is the spot for early cocktails. By 10 p.m., the restaurant becomes a small bar and dance club. The DJs play international and American music. (By coincidence, during my own three-day getaway last month, the DJ was wearing a Philadelphia Flyers hat.)
While I didn’t see this hotel personally, Quiiky also recommends the Kolbe Hotel, a luxury hotel in the center or Rome. This four-star hotel is located in a historic building that dates back to the 15th century, with many rooms overlooking the Roman Forum. Visit www.kolbehotelrome.com.
Eat, Pray, Love
There are two things you can’t avoid when in Rome: eating and visiting a church.
On Via San Giovanni, check out the casual Bisteccheria Pizzeria. For an authentic Italian meal, try Divin Ostilla Enoteca, a small wine bar. And the Coming Out Bar also offers an affordable menu of Italian classics.
Rome’s number-one tourist attraction is the Vatican, a must-visit even for non-Catholics. There is the iconic Sistine Chapel and the treasures within the architectural marvel of the Basilica of St. Peter. If you plan enough in advance, you can arrange a visit to the necropolis underneath the Basilica, where the tomb of St. Peter is. It is best to use a local tour guide to help you set up this tour, and it could take up to four months. Visit www.vatican.va.
The Coliseum is Rome’s second-most-visited attraction and a gorgeous and surprisingly preserved wonder of the world. You can buy a two-day ticket that gives you access to the Coliseum and the Roman Forum, the political, religious and legal center of the ancient world, beautiful by day and by night.
It pays to shop around for the best airfare deals to Italy. USAirways offers nonstop daily service to Rome from Philadelphia International Airport. You may find more competitive fares and a wider variety of in-flight amenities by leaving from Newark and JFK airports, in the New York City metro area.
Once in Italy, it is easy to get from the airport to the city center. Take the Leonardo Express Train to Termini Station. Once there, follow the signs for the Metro and take Metro Line B. It is designated with a blue color. Take this line two stops to Colosseo Station. From there, it is a short walk to the 2nd Floor and other hotels.
Jeff Guaracino is the author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing” and the co-chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.