I was excited to go back to Rome, very excited. Why? Because my readers decided that it was where I should go and spend the 100,000 Starpoints that American Express and Starwood (back then) really wanted me to use over a weekend in Rome.
During this weekend in Rome, I was hosted by Starwood, who gave me 100,000 Starpoints to spend in the best way I saw fit. I took advantage of the ability to book any flights (with no blackout dates) and used 60,000 Starpoints for my sister’s flight from Lisbon and mine from London. With the remaining 40,000 Starpoints, I booked 2 nights at the St. Regis Rome. (edit, this doesn’t quite work the same way not that Marriott took over Starwood)
Thursday (or a normal person’s Friday)
When I arrived at Fiumicino airport, things were looking good – I left a very wet London earlier that morning – there was actually some sun. I also had butterflies in my stomach as I was to have a very special person with me over these 3 days: my lovely sister Renata, who as she lives in Lisbon, I don’t get to see every day like I used to. Some magic happened and both our flights landed on time and we actually met on the terminal without even calling each other. That was certainly a sign of that was to come.
We hugged and just got into our ‘official taxi’ – it usually is not so difficult to get an official taxi in other European cities, so please beware (and don’t believe a word other people say. €48 flat fee including luggage is the deal). We just said, ‘andiamo a St. Regis Hotel, per favore’. (my Italian is stellar as you will find out).
Half an hour later, we entered this Rome grand dame hotel. We were a bit too early to check in, but our room was ready (we had an email from the St. Regis concierge the day before double checking if we needed anything or help with any bookings). We took the opportunity to unpack and check it out, and I must say, we were not disappointed! Thanks to my Starwood Platinum status, we were upgraded to the best available room at the hotel, which happened to be a lovely suite, as in the one that appears on hotel photographs. It was lovely.
No rest for the wicked, and it was time for some lunch with my friend Diana, aka Browsing Rome. She wanted to take us to a real restaurant, something simple, yet delicious – and we loved Colline Emiliane which was located at moments from Piazza Barberini, not far from the hotel. We loved how Italian this place was – and how local everyone else was too. Luckily Diana is fluent and we were able to order – and having all these Emilia Romagna specialties really made me want to explore this region further… perhaps next year!
After lunch, we walked around Piazza Barberini where we saw the Triton Fountain which had just been unveiled after a good clean up. Diana wanted to take me shopping, and she suggested the Prati district, not far from the Vatican – I thought it was a great idea as we would get to have a little walk around and yes, I would not mind looking for some new shoes. Or a coat. Or a handbag.
We walked and walked and sadly, we did not buy anything. Can you believe it? Whenever we liked something, there was nothing our size… We decided this would not stop us – and we should persevere. So we actually walked from Prati to Via del Corso and explored this lovely part of town. Via Condotti never disappoints and it was fun having a look at some of my favourite Italian brands – such as Max Mara (I wanted a new grey coat and didn’t find any), Tod’s or Gucci.
At this stage, we got to the Spanish steps and it started to rain. And it never stopped again during our time in Rome.
We decided to go back to the hotel and change for dinner. Obviously, this is code for ‘we wanted to be back at 7pm as the hotel sabers a bottle of champagne and gives a glass to everyone sitting at the lobby’. When we got to our suite, we were surprised by our own bottle of prosecco (how did they know I was so thirsty?), and actually never made it downstairs in time… oh well!
After changing to a more fitting dining attire, we headed towards Trastevere, a neighbourhood I had heard of, but never been. We were there to meet my friend Maria, aka Heart Rome, who had planned a whole night out for us.
I instantly fell in love with the area – it felt so untouristy (it is quite touristy during the day, apparently, but less so at night), so real. Loved it. We headed to a little bar for a pre-dinner drink, and I know I picked the wrong drink as I was in Lazio, not Veneto, but I had to have an Aperol Spritz. I love this drink (my favourite one was at the Aperol Terrace in Milan earlier this year) and I really try not to have it outside Italy (it is everywhere now, but in my opinion, just not the same!).
To say dinner was amazing, it would be an understatement. We had possibly one of the nicest meals I ever had in Italy (and this should tell you something) at Glass Hostaria, which not only looked stunning… the modern twist on Italian classics was incredible. I loved the foie-gras ravioli and my half chocolate-half Guinness button pasta. The champagne, the lovely Chianti and the moscato at the end certainly made it even more special. It was just the perfect evening.
And as good girls we were, we went to bed early. It had been a long day (up at 5am for a 7am flight) and by midnight, it was time to say Buona Notte.
Friday (or a normal person’s Saturday)
After breakfast, which was complimentary as usual for all SPG Platinum members, we got a cab to the Villa Borghese, one of Rome’s many landmarks and home to an impressive art collection. A visit to Rome cannot be all about shopping – and while I had no plans to do the reverse, i.e. only sightsee, I thought a bit of culture was due.
Just before 11am, we met Jeanette, our private Walks of Italy guide, who for two hours, was going to guide us through this amazing place. When we got into the entrance, I was a little bit scared when I saw the queues… but then thought, this is when a private tour really makes a difference. No queues, no time-wasting.
Sadly, no photos could be taken inside the Gallery, but I have to tell you I really enjoyed it – I was a bit worried about being forced to look at stuff for 2 hours, but found myself lost in Jeanette’s tales of Caravaggio. She was an amazing story-teller, and knew the museum really well.
By 1pm, we were starving, starving! And how can one be hungry in Rome? It is just wrong!
As we had a date with our Flytographer photographer for a little photoshoot in Rome, we decided to have lunch nearby. Trastevere was really in my cards for this trip and this is where we spent most of our day. Thanks to Maria, we had a lovely simple lunch at Osteria der Belli, where we enjoyed homemade Sardinian specialties – I loved my gnochetti!
We were hoping that the rain would stop, but of course it did not. Oh well. We met our Flytographer at Piazza Santa Maria and just walked around the neighbourhood, trying to capture real life moments, and boy did we get some!
From Trastevere, we walked towards the Campo di Fiori, but only after a stop for some coffee and cannoli (again, suggested by my friend Maria, who by this time, was able to join us too).
We decided the rain would not stop us (you can see how our hair gets progressively worse, but hey, you only live once). We did a bit of sightseeing and even managed to tick off the Piazza Navona, which is always a nice sight.
From there, we walked to the Pantheon, where we finally stopped for a drink (it was 5pm after all!).
We said goodbye to Maria, and continued our mission: to find shoes. I don’t know what it was, but the shopping Gods were not with us this time. I think it was the first time I ever went anywhere and did not buy anything. But I ate – so that has to count for something.
My sister was keen to go to the Fontana di Trevi, and how could I disappoint her? I can’t tell you how busy it was, but we managed to get our photo taken eventually.
We had exciting plans for dinner (more on that later), but with an hour to go, we decided it wasn’t worth going back to the hotel – so we decided to walk. More. In the rain. (it really seemed like a good idea).
To say we were soaked, would be the understatement of the year. I do not remember ever having such wet feet (and the most appalling choice of suede shoes for the day), but eventually, we made it to our destination: a private loft in the Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle II where we were able to cook our own dinner.
Walks of Italy organises some incredible activities in Italy (I loved my walk with them in Milan) and not all involve walking. Some involve making you work in other ways). I loved the idea of an evening with a private chef and actually learning how to make my own pasta.
David, our chef, made us feel at home instantly – it must have been the glass of chilled prosecco waiting for us. I loved the space – it wasn’t actually his house, it is a rooftop floor with an amazing balcony (obviously not to be enjoyed on that evening and a purposely built space for this type of activities).
My sister and I were joined by an American couple, and I have to say, we had a fantastic evening. It turned out that we were naturals (we did require a lot of direction, ha) , but at the end, we did it. We cooked some very interesting shaped pasta (pici, just so you know) amatriciana, which is one of Rome’s most famous sauces.
And with this, we went back to the St Regis, where our lovely suite awaited. We were knackered with so much walking! But so happy, I could not tell you!
Saturday (or a normal person’s Sunday)
We had been warned NOT to eat breakfast. But I need to eat shortly after waking up so I only had some eggs. Needless to say, half an hour later I regretted this decision.
Our morning was going to be slightly different from the previous one – we were going on a food tour. For 4 hours. And die after that, of course.
Spending a morning with Eating Italy was one of the nicest memories I will have from this trip. Our tour (in the rain ha ha), was run by Kate, and we were joined by 6 other very hungry visitors to the Eternal City. We were there to explore the neighbourhood of Testaccio (another place I had never been to) and basically eat our way around it.
From wonderful charcuterie and cheese, to pizza, to cannoli, to pasta and gelato – you name it, we had it all. I loved visiting the market and actually having a chance to buy something (well, I hadn’t bought any shoes, I could not turn up at house empty-handed). Chestnuts, cheese, bread and tomatoes – not an usual combination if you are inspired by the local specialties.
We really had an amazing time, and before we knew it, it was time to quickly head back to the St. Regis Hotel, pick up our luggage and head home.
Good things come to an end – and this weekend was incredible (and would be nothing short of perfect if it wasn’t for the never stopping rain).
On this trip, I spent 100,000 Starpoints which covered both our flights and our hotel stay. If you would like to know more about the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, click here and find out how it can help you go to even more places, always in style. If you apply and are approved for the Preferred Guest Credit Card my lovely sponsors are also giving you 20,000 Starpoints when you spend £2,000 in the first three months of Cardmembership as a bonus (UK residents only) – that is enough for one night at a St. Regis Hotel (seriously) or two nights at the Sheraton Lisbon (one of my favourites). Click here for Terms and conditions.
And I am pretty sure Italy will keep calling my name. I can’t wait to go back.
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