It’s never been easier to explore Rome from the comfort of your own home – with the right resources and a bit of imagination! Armchair travel is the latest way to visit your favourite cities without catching a flight or even crossing town, whatever the weather or time of year.
This virtual Rome tour will draw on internet resources, the latest virtual reality technology and video-conferencing apps. But there are also lots of analogue ways to explore Rome from your own home – including books, classic films, food and more.
Ready to explore Rome through armchair travel? The next 20 tips should put a smile on your face if you’re ready to plan a trip to Rome or simply missing Rome right now!
1. Take an online cooking class in Rome
One of my favourite cooking classes in Rome is with Sandra of Cook ‘n’ Speak, who serves up a brilliant lesson in preparing Italian food with some Italian language tips thrown in from her home in Garbatella.
Now Sandra is also offering the Cook ‘n’ Speak experience online, with a remote cooking class via Zoom or Skype, for the ultimate virtual Rome tour.
This can be arranged as a one-on-one cooking lesson, Zoom party with friends, or you can even gift the experience to a lover of Italian food who would like to brush up on their language skills as well!
No matter where you are in the world, connect with Sandra and she can help you prepare some tasty Italian cuisine from what you already have in the fridge or store cupboard, or plan something a bit more special, by discussing and buying the ingredients ahead of time.
2. Explore Rome with a classic movie
Rome is a city which stands the test of time, and the remarkable thing about spying its ancient monuments in classic movies set in Rome is seeing how little the city has changed over the years.
Explore Rome and its timeless monuments with a romantic classic such as Roman Holiday or The Dolce Vita, or try a modern Oscar-winner such as The Great Beauty for your virtual Rome tour.
This multiple-award-winning film opens with a quote from Céline‘s Journey to the End of the Night: ‘Travelling is very useful: it makes your imagination work, everything else is just disappointment and trouble. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.’
So if that’s not the perfect film for exploring Rome through armchair travel, I don’t know what is!
If action is more your thing, more recent movies including John Wick 2 and James Bond’s Spectre were filmed in Rome – with the latter featuring a great car chase that passes via delle Quattro Fontane and heads down on to the Lungotevere river path. If you’re a Dan Brown fan, don’t miss the Rome sequences in Angels & Demons.
3. Make the real Fettuccine Alfredo with Salsa Alfredo
Although the internationally renowned dish of Fettuccine Alfredo is broadly imitated (with varying results) all around the world, until now, the only way to try the real Fettuccine Alfredo was to visit Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa in Rome.
Here, in this unique family restaurant, the true Fettuccine Alfredo are served with a final flourish at the table by expert staff who have been preparing this dish for decades.
But now, for the first time, you can eat the real Fettuccine Alfredo in the comfort of your own home, thanks to a new initiative from Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa: a home-cooking sauce called Salsa Alfredo!
The 200 gram jar, which serves two people, combines butter sourced from Beppino Occelli in the Langhe region of Piemonte, with 24-month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano produced by master cheese-makers Gennari.
For now, it’s only available within Italy but that is set to change soon. To order a jar, which costs just € 6.50, visit the Alfredo alla Scrofa store which also features plenty of other appetising goodies!
4. Try a Virtual Reality tour of ancient Rome
One of the best things about planning a virtual Rome tour is the fact that there aren’t any rules for armchair travel. That means not only ignoring the laws of gravity (more on that later!) but also being able to travel in time!
Rome Reborn is a virtual reality project which painstakingly recreates an ancient Rome tour in all its glory. With its products, you can take a tour of ancient Rome, making it perfect for planning a trip to Rome or simply to explore Rome from afar.
If you’re curious about the Rome Reborn ancient Rome tour, you can download a fun trial programme to your computer right here and try out the virtual tour of ancient Rome.
Choose your platform, unpack and run the programme, and then navigate through the ancient Roman Forum with your online guide! This is one of the best reproductions of an ancient Rome tour I’ve ever seen, so you won’t be disappointed!
5. Take an Italian yoga class online
How much are you missing Rome? Fit right into regular Rome life with a yoga class in the Ostiense district!
Yoga school YogAyur – which regular readers may recall has a lovely organic bistro and relaxing hammam – is offering a window into its world with online yoga classes via its Facebook page, plus paid classes on Zoom with two way interaction.
The YogAyur people have also started up a wonderful food delivery service at this time called TerrAmee which sources fresh produce from local farmers and smallholdings and delivers it to your door in the Rome area. We love projects like this!
Another way to tap into an online yoga experience in Italy is via Airbnb with the new Airbnb Online Experiences resource.
Based in a beautiful bucolic setting just outside Florence, we tracked down Sandrine, who offers a meditative yoga and slow-life coaching experience via Zoom to your home, anywhere in the world. To find out more, check out this link.
6. Explore Rome in a novel or memoir
No virtual Rome tour would be complete without some book ideas – a timeless way to explore Rome through armchair travel.
If a tour of ancient Rome is more your thing, check out classic fictionalised biographies including Robert Graves’ I, Claudius or Imperium, the story of Cicero by Robert Harris. Don’t overlook Italian authors for a really authentic virtual Rome tour.
Ragazzi di Vita is a novel by Italian author, poet and intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini which meticulously recreates the life of street kids in 1950s Rome. Ann Goldstein’s fine translation was published in 2016.
Although not set in Rome, one of my favourite Italian memoirs of all time is War in Val D’Orcia by Iris Origo. Set in Tuscany, it’s the true story of an Anglo-American woman, married to an Italian landowner during the Second World War, navigating daily life in the countryside – and Nazi occupation.
Remarkable stuff! For these books and more, don’t forget to order from your favourite independent bookstore to support small businesses if you can!
7. Mix an Italian cocktail or order a cocktail in Rome
Why are most of the world’s best baristas Italian? Knowledge, flair and talent means that some of the best cocktail bars in the world can be found in Italy right now. But if you’re currently missing that Italian cocktail experience, I have a couple of ideas for your virtual Rome tour!
You don’t get much more quintessentially Roman than Sambuca – a clear anise liqueur commercialised by Angelo Molinari in Civitavecchia in 1945. Today, sweet, aniseed shots of Sambuca are often set on fire in bars or served with the characteristic ‘fly’, a coffee bean floating on the surface.
This liqueur is great as an after-dinner drink, or as a stomach-opening aperitif. And here’s a Testaccina tip for you – try sloshing some Sambuca over slices of watermelon for a fresh summer treat!
Steering away from Rome, Italian aperitivo culture has conquered the world these days, with Spritz translating, well, into Spritz, in most languages! If you’re planning on some classy home drinking, do think about exploring options beyond the ubiquitous Aperol Spritz.
The Spritz originated in Venice, where it’s traditionally mixed with Campari, Select, rhubarb-based Rabarbaro Zucca or artichoke-based Cynar. These are more herbal and bitter than Aperol, giving new depths to the aperitivo classic.
Meanwhile, if you’re based in Rome, iconic Roman bar Drink Kong has mixed a selection of its classic cocktails and will deliver them to your door to replicate that Rome cocktail bar experience at home. Order here. If you’re based in the UK, NIO, Drink Kong’s international partner, is another option for pre-mixed cocktails delivered right to your door.
8. Explore Rome in lockdown with a drone video
The recent lockdown period in Rome saw silence descend over its beautiful piazzas and streets, gifting scenes of rare beauty to those lucky enough to see them.
Remember I said you could fly over Rome with the magic of armchair travel? Check out this beautiful drone journey over silent Rome for an unforgettable virtual Rome tour.
9. Go food shopping at Eataly and Volpetti
You may have noticed that food is a big part of my virtual Rome tour, because food a big part of Roman and Italian life!
Savour the tastes of Rome by ordering food from iconic Testaccio deli Volpetti which delivers anywhere in the world, subject to local restrictions. Otherwise, navigate to your local Eataly for lots of delicious online delivery options.
Meanwhile, if you’re in Rome, a smart local collective has created an almost encyclopedic website called Delivery Roma with lots of home delivery dining and grocery options, divided by food type and neighbourhood. Check it out if you’re stuck at home in Rome and wondering what to cook!
10. Plant an Italian herb garden
Fresh herbs in a window-box or garden serve a dual purpose: they bring colour and fragrance to a home, and delicious aromatic notes to home cooking.
Try planting an Italian herb garden to bring the flavours and smells of Rome into your home. Earthy rosemary and sage are great year-round additions which add particular flavour to winter dishes, roast meats and risottos.
Basil, meanwhile, is synonymous with fresh tomatoes and the flavours of summer. Experiment with origano and marjoram to deepen savoury notes on a pizza… close your eyes… and you’re in Rome!
11. Catch a Netflix drama set in Rome
While there are plenty of classic films set in Rome, it can be fun to catch up with contemporary Roman life or see something with modern production values on Netflix or other streaming services.
If you like modern grit and contemporary themes, check out teen drama Baby or modern mafia series Suburra, both filmed in Rome with local actors.
For a taste of the glories of the ancient world, get your ancient Rome tour fix with HBO series Rome, capturing the drama, glamour and tragedy of the city’s Imperial class.
12. Order Italian designer brands or support Roman artisans
Italian fashion is well-loved around the world, so it will be no surprise that I’m adding Italian style to the options for a virtual Rome tour.
Now is a great time to patronise all your favourite Italian fashion brands online, and if you want to keep things really Roman, historic Rome fashion brands include Fendi, Valentino and Bulgari, although the latter is now owned by international luxury group, LVMH.
If you’d rather go down the small time, artisan route, Frosinone-born radio broadcaster Greta Mariani has launched a line of glam reusable face masks available here for delivery anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, artisan Monti-based studio Le Gallinelle Abito are also selling beautiful, reasonably-priced cloth masks on their web store alongside other fabulous, homemade designs – check them out here.
13. Explore modern Italian music
Did you know that Roman rap was a thing? Now you do! Get ready to surprise that Spotify algorithm with a series of fierce tracks from the streets of the Eternal City.
From the godfather of Roman rap, Piotta, to man of the moment Carl Brave, there’s lots to discover – and it’s a unique way to brush up your Italian language skills! Here’s a track list to start you off.
14. Take an Italian language class online
Italian is one of the most romantic languages in the world and despite not being – say it softly – one of the most useful languages, it remains one of the world’s most learned languages for a simple reason: it’s bloody beautiful!
If this year’s the right year for you to learn a new language, you could do far worse than tackling Italian – and there are lots of online resources to start you off.
Luxe Associates Travel – who offer bespoke private tours to Italy – have recently launched a reasonably-priced online Italian class. While you’re at it, check out their tour packages for your next trip to Italy!
15. Explore Rome by reading the best Rome blogs and news outlets
When not in Rome, one of the best ways to explore Rome is to simply keep up with local news and features. Wanted in Rome, founded in 1985, is a monthly print mag and now online resource in English for expats and visitors to Rome. Showcasing a mix of daily news, jobs, and events, it’s a great way to keep up to date with what is going on in Rome.
Another useful leisure-time resource is Romeing, while some of my favourite blogs include An American in Rome and Livia Hengel’s The Italy Edit. All great ways to explore Rome from your armchair!
16. Drink wine from Rome’s Lazio region
Wine and armchair travel are just made for one another, I think you’ll agree!
Although the Lazio region isn’t as famous for its wine as Tuscany, Piemonte and Umbria, you can explore Rome through some of the delicious bottles coming out of its small wineries, with some of my favourites in the southern province of Latina.
Wines featuring international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot abound, and Rome’s famous Castelli region produces over 50% of Lazio’s wine, including its world-renowned Frascati wine.
However, I suggest you check out the three Cesanese grape varieties, producing rich and fruity red wines and some of Lazio’s most promising vintages.
If you want to continue your virtual Rome tour with a personal touch and a promise to visit Rome very soon, a new idea from local food magazine Puntarella Rossa could be just the thing.
Its Calice Sospeso initiative is a way to support wine bars from afar, by buying a drink or a bottle of wine now – with an extra €5 voucher thrown in just for you – that you can cash in in person when you visit the bar at a later date.
Participating wine bars include Testaccio local, Barnaba, plus lots more fine, independent bars. Another great way to explore Rome and give something back!
17. Invest in a Roman cookbook
The red and white tablecloth is optional, but why not make a virtual trip to Rome by recreating a Roman trattoria experience in your own home? The backbone of Roman cuisine is its four famous pasta dishes – carbonara, amatriciana, cacio e pepe and gricia, and mastering one or all four is an excellent use of your time!
To get to grips with Roman cuisine, its worth investing in an authentic cookbook. The best are also filled with images and anecdotes which transport you to Rome in an instant!
I love Rachel Roddy’s Five Quarters, a cookbook memoir about the Testaccio neighbourhood; Maria Pasquale’s Heart Rome, a true homage to Trastevere and Roman cuisine: while Vio’s Cooking, a souvenir book from a once-in-a-lifetime cooking lesson with Violante Guerrieri Gonzaga, is a great companion for stylish dinner party dishes.
Another great way to get to grips with classics of Roman cuisine and lots more is the new cookbook from Devour Tours, which offers 50 recipes from across Europe.
18. Explore Rome with a virtual visit to a Roman art gallery
Top of the list for many when exploring Rome is visiting one of it famous art galleries, so for our virtual Rome tour, I’m going to suggest a virtual gallery tour in Rome as well!
2020 marks the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death, and when lockdown this spring prevented gallery-goers from checking out a brand new dedicated exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, the gallery decided to create an online walk through the exhibition, so art lovers could enjoy the works of Raphael all the same.
If all this has brought out your creative side, another initiative from the Italian Arts ministry, dress like a painting, has been encouraging artistic cosplay all over the world. Check out the gallery here and have a go yourself!
19. Relive the stadium with a classic A.S. Roma match
Not all my readers know that I moved to Rome as a football journalist, and some of my earliest and happiest memories of getting to know this city were in the riotous Curva Sud – a fantastic way to explore Rome and a great entry for our virtual Rome tour.
The Football Archive channel on YouTube shows archive matches in their entirety, so grab a Caffe Borghetti and some peanuts and sit back for the glory that is Rome vs Parma for the Scudetto win, 17 June, 2001.
20. Explore Rome through a local’s Instagram account
A great deal of travel inspiration comes from Instagram these days, so what better way to explore Rome from the comfort of your armchair than on everyone’s favourite app?
For great puddlegrams and impeccable rooftop bars, check out the profile of Romewise – always guaranteed to raise a smile. Luigi Vitiello captures often forgotten corners of Rome in dusky shades of sunset pink, as well as treating us to glimpses of his island birthplace, Ponza.
Meanwhile, talented blogger and instagrammer Laëtitia Chaillou of ParisianInRome makes Rome life look just dreamy. While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow yours truly, Testaccina, for lots more adventures in Rome and beyond!
Well, that just about wraps up our virtual tour of Rome, so I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring Rome with some armchair travel. If you have any ideas for me, just pop them in the comments!
For more locals-only tips about visiting Rome, I’m going to send you now to my lists of the best cocktail bars in Rome, the best rooftop bars in Rome, and a rundown of the best beaches near Rome. Catch you soon!