Roaming around Roma
Each week we profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.
By Los Angeles Flight Attendant Kimberly Atkins
As a flight attendant, I have mastered the art of visiting a city in 24 hours. However, there are some cities where it would take a lifetime of exploration to truly see it all. Rome, the Eternal City, is definitely one of those. Here are my Rome essentials, 24-hour tips, and the best way to conquer the Roman Empire in the shortest amount of time.
My husband Marco was born and raised in Rome, and we met on the Roma-Firenze Eurostar train when I was living in Italy right after college. I then became a flight attendant and worked as an onboard Italian language speaker from 2008-2014. In that time, I commuted to Rome from my base in Washington, D.C. I've spent countless hours wandering the streets of this magical city, exploring hidden alleyways and major tourist attractions and hunting down special works of art tucked in the corners of old churches. Rome, to me, is enchanting. And, while we will probably never get to see it all, here is my favorite game plan to explore La Cittá Eterna.
First things first, leave the expensive jewelry at home, and watch your pockets. Violent crime isn't prevalent in Rome, but pickpocketing is huge, so watch your purse, backpack and pockets, especially in crowded areas and on public transit. That being said, I feel very safe walking around the historic center of the city at most times of day and night, but when I'm alone I try to stick to well-lit, populated areas. Avoid walking around the Termini train station area at night, and, if you have to, watch yourself, and maybe opt for a cab.
How to get there
When we go to Rome, we fly directly into Rome from Chicago, Newark or Washington D.C.'s Dulles Airport. If you aren't familiar with driving in the madness of Bella Roma, and you don't absolutely need a car, then avoid renting one and go with public transit. The public transit is incredible in Italy, and everything is fairly well connected. Also, taxis and Uber are reasonably priced and available at all hours of the day and night.
Hotel Romanico Palace and Spa
On this trip we had the pleasure of staying at the Hotel Romanico Palace and Spa. The hotel is in the city center, about a 40 to 60-minute drive from the airport. If you have a car, the staff at Hotel Romanico were extremely helpful and informative with parking options. The lobby and lobby bar are beautiful with a great selection of fairly priced drinks and a glass window in the floor that showcases some ancient Roman ruins. Just below the lobby level, the hotel is equipped with a small gym with all the essentials (free to use during your stay) and a beautiful spa — a little oasis in the center of a bustling city. They've recreated the atmosphere of ancient Roman thermal baths, and you can't help but relax and feel like royalty in this spa. After a few days running around the city seeing all the sites, this spa is the perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon.
The rooms at the Hotel Romanico Palace are the stuff of dreams — decorated in palatial Italian decor, some more classic, some more modern. Ours was an end room with classic Roman Palace decor and a huge bathroom equipped with a jacuzzi tub, WC and bidet, and a three-way shower that felt like a luxurious, ancient Roman bath. Not only did the shower have a traditional shower head and rain shower but a travertine waterfall that cascaded out of the ceiling and onto a marble throne (bonus waterfall shoulder massage). It was pure magic. If you're interested, they also have themed rooms and suites.
Recommended walking tour
There are an infinite number of ways to explore this city… so, by all means, plan the route that works best for you. This route just happens to be my favorite, and Hotel Romanico is the perfect starting point.
For our first stop, set your sights on the Spanish Steps. Piazza di Spagna is a 15-min stroll from the Hotel Romanico. Turn right out of the hotel to start your walk and hang a left on Via Vittorio Veneto. You'll pass by the American Embassy and Piazza Barberini on your way. If you're ready for a snack, my favorite forno is along your route. A forno or oven in Italian, is basically just an old-school bakery that sells simple but incredibly delicious breads, pizzas, focaccia, baked goods and occasionally other snacks like arancini (a breaded and stuffed risotto ball of yumminess). A traditional forno is affordable, quick and very popular with the locals.
Piazza di Spagna, The Spanish Steps
When you get to the Spanish Steps (named for the Embassy of Spain located in the Piazza), be sure to check out the church at the top of the steps, the famed Trinità dei Monti. Walk down the iconic steps to the boat-shaped Fountain of the Barcaccia, and snap some epic pictures of the fountain built by the famous Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his father Pietro Bernini. The water in the fountain is supplied by an ancient Roman aqueduct from 19 BC. Legend has it that the Tiber river had an epic overflow in 1598 and carried an adrift boat to the center of this Piazza. That boat inspired Bernini's design. The Shelly/Keats house is also in the Piazza on the east side of the steps.
Head down Via Dei Condotti where you can window shop the best of high fashion and luxury stores like Dior, Bulgari and Ferragamo. If you need an espresso, check out Antica Cafe Greco, a favorite of expat poets and writers like Keats and Byron. Start heading to the east (your left), and follow the signs for your next stop, the Fontana di Trevi.
Fontana di Trevi, The Trevi Fountain
This breathtaking and world-famous fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. Built in 1762 and designed by Roman sculptor Nicola Salvi, it has been featured in numerous films, including Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" where Silvia and Marcello go for a jaunt in the fountain. WARNING: Don't follow Silvia's lead…it is strictly forbidden to dangle your feet or hands in the sparkling, crystal-clear water.
The travertine used to construct the fountain comes from nearby Tivoli, an incredible place to go for a day trip if time allows. Be sure to throw coins into the fountain. The proper way is to hold the coin in your right hand and throw it over the left shoulder. Legend says you should always throw three coins… the first to return to Rome, the second to bring you love, and the third to ensure marriage. An estimated €1.4 million is thrown into the fountain every year. The money from the fountain is donated to subsidize a supermarket for the city's needy. Good job, Roma.
Once you've thrown your coins, follow the signs toward your next stop: Il Pantheon.
Enjoy the winding cobblestone streets lined with charming shops, gelaterias and street performers. When you come into the Piazza della Rotonda, you can't miss the impressive church built in circa 113 AD. It was built on the site of an earlier pagan temple originally commissioned by Emperor Augustus in 27 BC. The Pantheon is most famous for its large hole at the center of the dome, and it is still to this day the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. This building is even more special, because it is one of the only ancient buildings in Rome that has been in continuous use throughout history, so it is perfectly preserved. It is absolutely breathtaking and free to enter, so go in and enjoy. When you're done, head on over to Piazza Navona.
Just 5 minutes from the Pantheon, you'll find one of the most famous piazzas in Rome. Used by the ancient Romans as a stadium, and flooded to recreate "show" naval battles, Piazza Navona is now home to street artists and musicians.
During the Christmas season, it's a must see for its specialty Christmas Market. The focal point of this long, oval piazza is the central Fountain of the Four rivers, representing four of the largest rivers of the four major continents; the Nile (Africa), the Danube (Europe), the Ganges (Asia) and the Plata (America). It was built in 1651 by none other than the famous Roman sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who won the commission of the fountain in a design competition. Enjoy the live music and art as you walk around the piazza. Don't miss the smaller fountains on either end of the piazza, the Museo di Roma, and the church of Saint Agnes.
Campo de Fiori
Campo de Fiori, literally meaning "field of flowers," is exactly what this piazza was in the Middle Ages. Today it is a bustling piazza with a daily farmers market that has everything you could need from fresh fruits and veggies to specialty pastas and spice mixes, fresh pressed juices, souvenirs and even gourmet Italian truffle products. At night this is one of the more popular and rowdy piazzas for aperitivi (happy hour) and nightcaps.
If you head out the back end of the piazza down Via dei Giubbonari, you can enjoy the numerous Italian shoe shops and clothing stores on this quaint street. And don't forget to hang a right on Via dell'Arco del Monte to head toward Ponte Sisto and Trastevere.
Trastevere literally means "across the Tiber," and while crossing the Tiber River, or Il Tevere, you'll be walking across Ponte Sisto. This famous walking bridge was built in the 1470s and is a favorite spot for more alternative musicians. The views from the bridge are gorgeous, and you can even catch a glimpse of the glowing Vatican dome to your right as you cross the bridge.
You'll be entering Trastevere through Piazza Trilussa, a popular evening hangout. You'll find young Italians and international students meeting up here and occasionally enjoying a drink on the steps of the popular piazza. Head into Trastevere, and just get lost. This Bohemian wonderland has maintained so much of the character and soul of Rome. Ancient homes and apartments line the tiny, winding cobblestones streets that are packed with amazing cafes, bars, restaurants and pizzerias at every turn. Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere holds the namesake church that dates back to the year 340. This is definitely the part of town to put away your map and wander, and just enjoy the dolce vita.
We've come to the end of today's roaming. Trastevere is where I leave you. If I'm in town, you can probably find me sipping on a Campari Spritz at Caffè della Scala or having a traditional Roman Tonarelli al Cacio e Pepe (handmade egg pasta with a simple but decadent dressing of Pecorino Romano and black pepper) at Osteria da Otello. From here, you're a 20-minute cab ride or a 25-minute bus ride back to the Hotel Romanico. If you're up for an after-dinner stroll, head up the river and check out the Vatican illuminated at night.
When you're ready to keep exploring the city, I've got a few more tips, recommended restaurants and day trips on my blog, Kimmie Flies.
Thanks for joining me on this adventure, and have a great time roaming around Roma.
Canada's largest city spreads out along the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, and it's a dynamic, multicultural and inclusive experience like almost no other place on earth. Not only is Toronto a thriving living city,it's also become one of the world's truly must-visit destinations. Regularly ranked as one of the greatest places to live, Toronto is the cultural center of the country and home to the biggest events, the most pro sports and the greatest concentration of theaters and restaurants.
Recent decades have seen regular multi-million-dollar upgrades to the city's public spaces, with a slew of great museums, iconic architecture and the redevelopment of the now glittering lakefront adding to the city's appeal.
Add in an ever-growing number of world-class hotels, upbeat nightlife that runs from dusk until dawn and a vibrant and diverse culinary scene influenced by the eclectic makeup of the city's people. Bright and bustling, cosmopolitan and cultured, unpredictable and energetic, Toronto has become one of the greatest cities on earth.
What you see and where you go will depend on the length of your stay. A week is good, longer is better. But even a long weekend will give you a taste of 'The Six' — one of the city's many nicknames, reworked recently as 'The 6ix' by one of its most famous sons, Drake.
However long you stay, you can't hope to see it all. So, consider what follows a starting point for your first visit…
City Hall, Toronto
The checklist sites
No visit to The Six can be considered complete without ticking off several of Toronto's true heavyweight sights. All of the following are in or within easy reach of the city's compact, walk-able and very vibrant center.
The CN Tower is unmissable in every sense, a vast freestanding spire that looks down upon the city and takes its place as one of the 'Seven Wonders of the Modern World'. Head up for the city's best 360-degree views, or get your heart racing on the EdgeWalk — a journey around the circumference of the tower's main pod, 116 stories high and tethered by a harness.
Back on solid ground, Ripley's Aquarium is almost right next door to the CN Tower and is home to 16,000 aquatic animals and the Dangerous Lagoon. A moving sidewalk that whisks you through a long tunnel surrounded by sharks and stingrays is guaranteed to make your heart race all over again.
Also close to the CN Tower is the Rogers Center, home to Canada's only baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Visit on game day for the full experience, or take the stadium tour to go behind the scenes and through closed doors.
In a city of so many museums and galleries, the Royal Ontario Museum stands out. Not just because it's home to a world-class collection of 13 million artworks, cultural objects and natural history specimens, but as much because it hosts exciting Friday night events that include dance, drink and top DJs.
Two other must ticks include the Art Gallery of Ontario, which houses 95,000 works of art and is free for visitors under 25, and the Hockey Hall of Fame, which taps into Canada's national obsession in stunning depth.
Art Gallery of Ontario
Casa Loma is a must-visit Gothic castle in the heart of the city. North America's only castle is filled with artworks and treasures from Canada and beyond, but its big pull is the network of hidden tunnels to explore as they stretch out beneath the city.
Toronto's multi-cultural makeup is visible all across the city but reflected best in its remarkable culinary scene (see Where to eat and drink). The city's 'fresh and local' mantra is perfectly showcased at St. Lawrence Market, one of the world's greatest food experiences. Pay it a visit and grab a peameal bacon sandwich — a Canadian staple invented in Toronto and now considered the city's signature dish.
St. Lawrence Market
Afterwards, walk off the calories by wandering the historic cobblestone and car-free Distillery District. Once a vast whiskey distillery and an important spot during prohibition, historians mention that even Al Capone would visit the Distillery to load alcohol destined for the States . This iconic landmark now distils creativity within the 19th century buildings now home to hip restaurants, bars, independent boutique stores, galleries and theaters. Visit in December for the Toronto Christmas Market.
Finally, don't even think about returning home without having had a picture taken with your head poking through an 'O' of the multicolored, 3D Toronto sign at City Hall — the most Insta-worthy location in a city of so many. You'll need to head there early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
If you stay long enough, take a ferry and hop across to Toronto Islands, a chain of 15 small islands in Lake Ontario just south of the mainland. They're home to beaches, a theme park and a breathtaking view of the city's skyline and will very happily fill a full day of your stay.
The bucket list
You absolutely cannot leave Toronto without having witnessed the power of the Niagara Falls and its hypnotic mist up close. Trying to visit the Falls from the States is a trip on its own, but it's almost non-optional when you're less than two hours away in Toronto. Take the trip, buy the T-shirt and tick off one of the world's must-see sights.
Explore like a local
Away from the sleek, gleaming towers of downtown lie many of Toronto's less obvious but no less essential attractions. West Queen West is Toronto's hippest neighborhood and artistic heart, a one-mile strip of very chic galleries, stores, restaurants and boutique hotels. Kensington Market is a fantastically chaotic neighborhood and perhaps the best example of the city's famous multiculturalism. It's not a market as the name implies, but a collection of independent shops, vintage boutiques, art spaces, cafés, bars and restaurants from every corner of the globe.
The Bata Shoe Museum is one of the city's quirkiest collections, an unexpectedly fascinating exhibit that retraces the 4,500-year history of footwear. And as you wander the city, you can't fail to notice that Toronto's walls are alive with graffiti. Take a free 90-minute walking tour through the back alleys of Queen Street West and down Graffiti Alley to gain a better understanding of the city's street art scene. If you visit during the sunnier months, escape the hustle by heading just east of the center to High Park, the green heart of the city where forests, walking trails, picnic spots and even a zoo await you. Ideal to unwind after a long day of urban adventures.
When to go With the sun shining, May through October is a great time to visit, but the city is alive through all four seasons. The Spring and Autumn months are ideal as the humidity and visitor numbers are lighter, while Toronto comes alive through the colder months through a wide array of winter celebrations. One of the most spectacular is the Aurora Winter Festival, a six-week celebration that sees the Ontario Place, West Island transformed into four mystical worlds. Whichever season you choose, plan to stay for at least five nights to get a true flavor of the city.
Toronto skyline view
Where to stay To be at the heart of most of the attractions you'll want to see, aim for downtown. One of the best options is the Marriott City Center, not only because it's located right next to the CN Tower but also because it's attached to the iconic Rogers Center where the Toronto Blue Jays play and countless concerts and popular events are held.
Toronto Blue Jay stadium
Opt for a Stadium room and you'll look out onto the field. If you want to experience Toronto's non-stop nightlife, the Entertainment District is the place to be. If you're looking for a luxury experience, discover Canada's first St. Regis hotel in the heart of downtown.
Where to eat and drink Nowhere is Toronto's incredible diversity more evident than in its food scene — taste Toronto and you're tasting the world. The city is brimming with restaurants and cafés serving everything from high-end fine dining to comfort food from an informal neighborhood joint — plus every option imaginable in between.
For fine dining, consider Alo, Canis and Edulis. Book a table at Canoe, Lavelle, The One Eighty or 360 at the CN Tower and you're guaranteeing a view as spectacular as the food. Or experience the city's remarkable fusion food at DaiLo (French-Cantonese), El Catrin (Mexican-French) and the unexpected mashup of Rasta Pasta (Jamaican-Italian).
The above suggestions don't even scratch the surface of a food scene to rival any city on earth, with options to suit every taste and any budget.
How to get around Toronto is perfect to explore on foot or via a growing network of cycle routes. For a quicker journey, buy a Presto card to use the TTC, Toronto's subway, streetcar and bus system.
How to get there Fly into Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) with United and you're around 15 miles west of the city center. The most comfortable route in is via the Union Pearson Express, which runs every 15 minutes and gets you downtown in 25 minutes ($13).The TTC is a cheaper option at under $5, but it can take an hour and a half and involves a number of transfers, while a taxi will take around 30 minutes and cost $45.
United flies to Toronto from numerous U.S. cities including our Hub city locations. Book your trip via united.com or by downloading the United app.
Around the web
Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).
Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes
Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.
These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.
Australian wildfire relief efforts
Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.
Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.
These medical supplies will fly to Melbourne (MEL) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.
By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives
Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.
On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.
Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund
We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.
Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.
In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.