Behind the Scenes at Rachel’s Rome Writings

Sorry for neglecting the blog of late. I have been insanely busy! I thought I’d share an interview I did with Wandering Educators a while back – better late than never – and I’ll be back with more great Rome features in the New Year!

Originally posted here:

From Jessie at Wandering Educators:
I took 5 years of Latin in high school. It wasn’t enough for me – I couldn’t learn enough about Rome, Italy, languages, and food (well, you know me). So, I am drawn to all things Rome – past, present, and future. From Romulus and Remus to Gelato, I am all in. So imagine my delight when I found a website ALL ABOUT ROME  – for thinking people! Rachel’s Rome Writings, by Rachel McCombie, is more than a travelogue – it’s a resorce for learning about Rome  – places, spaces, walks, food, and more. You can read about the Tomb of Eurysaces, the top Rome attractions, archaeology, churches, places to stay, the Seven Hills of Rome. It’s so much fun to dig into this site and explore. AND! Rachel is our NEW Rome Editor, so look for more great articles from her – both on our site, and hers. Her latest here? Rome’s Trevi Fountain – understanding the rituals. Love it!

Rachel McCombie

Rachel McCombie

We sat down to talk with Rachel about her site, Rome, travel tips, and more. Here’s what she had to say…

WE: How did you get to love Rome?
RM: It all started when I was at university. I studied Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, meaning I got to study both ancient writings and the surviving monuments. In my second year, one of my many amazing tutors told me about a summer school which is held every year at the British School at Rome, and I decided to apply. I’d been to Rome before, but this was a lot more intense – site visits all day every day, with lectures in the evening. It was the best two weeks of my life, and I really got to know and love the city. I’ve been going back regularly ever since!

WE: Please tell us about Rachel’s Rome Writings…
RM: I’ve always kept a journal and I loved reading back over what I’d written on the trips I’d made to Rome. Since the thoughts I’d jotted down weren’t really that private, I thought it would be nice to start a blog and share my experiences with the world! It started off as just a transcript of some of my travel journals, but it’s a lot more varied now, with posts ranging from history lessons to wine bar reviews. I’ve also taken thousands of photos of Rome during my time there, so it’s a great way of sharing those, too.

WE: How can travelers best plan a journey to Rome?
RM: Don’t go in July or August! It’s unbearably hot. October is my favourite time of year to go, as the weather is on the hotter side of warm without being stifling. I’d definitely recommend finding a hotel or B&B that’s as close to the historical centre as possible – not only is the atmosphere better, but it means you waste a lot less time on public transport! The centre of Rome is small enough that you can get around on foot to see all the main sights. As for planning what to see, it depends on your interests really. Rome is bursting with archaeology, museums, interesting churches, and of course shops and restaurants, so I’d recommend investing in a good guidebook – I like the Eyewitness Guide to Rome – and seeing what takes your fancy.

WE: What are your favorite off-the-beaten path places to see in Rome?
RM: Some of the smaller churches are wonderful, I think. The Caelian Hill – sort of behind the Colosseum – has several amazing churches which hardly any tourists seem to know about. Santi Quattro Coronati is a favourite, particularly if you get to hear its resident nuns singing, and it has a stunning chapel with scenes depicting the conversion of Constantine. I’d also recommend the Janiculum Hill, which is on the Vatican side of the river – the views from there are incredible.

WE:How can travelers best live like locals in Rome?
RM: Perhaps try renting an apartment from somewhere like Holiday Rentals. Make sure you visit an Italian supermarket – the food is great and the wine is cheap. Alternatively, go to the Testaccio market, where there’s an abundance of delicious local produce. If you want to dine out, try Trastevere, over the river – it has some of the best trattorias, and an energetic atmosphere for a night out. Try tonnarelli cacio e pepe – a pasta dish with pecorino cheese and black pepper. It’s a Roman speciality, and so simple but so delicious.

WE: What are your top Rome travel tips?
RM: Don’t try to do too much, because you won’t be able to fit everything in. And don’t worry about getting lost in the maze of back streets – you see more by getting lost! Finally, don’t waste too much time queuing. If you turn up at the Vatican and the queue goes right the way round the piazza, don’t bother – just go back at around 6.30pm and you’re likely to get straight in. For the Colosseum, buy a ticket at the Forum Romanum first thing in the morning, and that’ll let you skip the queues (it’s a combined ticket for the Forum, Palatine Hill and Colosseum). Don’t get drawn in by the numerous tour guides who’ll harass you outside, and don’t photograph the men dressed as gladiators unless you’re prepared to cough up around €5.

WE: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
RM: I’d like to share this photo that I took of the Via Baccina in Rome because it summarises what I love about Rome. Quiet backstreets with tall, ochre-coloured buildings with loads of shutters, and remarkable archaeology lying unexpectedly around every corner. That’s the Temple of Mars Ultor at the end of the street, built by Augustus in his forum. It’s just absolutely amazing to be able to walk down a modern street and see the same columns that Augustus would have seen.

About Rachel Ingram

I graduated from Oxford University in 2009 with an MA in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History from St John's College. After graduating I worked as a Geographic Researcher at, spending lots of time researching and writing travel guides to worldwide destinations, developing my copywriting skills. After working as a copywriter and content consultant at (formerly SEOptimise), where I most enjoyed working with travel clients, I went self-employed. I now divide my time between freelance copywriting and running the business I set up with my boyfriend - - selling aviation gift experiences. In my spare time I'm training for a Private Pilot's Licence, and I also enjoy travelling, wine and baking. My favourite authors are Charles Dickens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Bill Bryson.
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2 Responses to Behind the Scenes at Rachel’s Rome Writings

  1. Chris says:

    Rachel, this is a great article about one of the most amazing places in the world. We really enjoy the people and history of Rome and have reviewed many hotels to eventually produce our guide to the best places to stay in Rome. Hope you don’t minding sharing it with your readers as it covers small hotels to luxury residences and notes on wheelchair accessible hotels which Rome is short of. Many thanks!

  2. Mischelle says:

    First of all, I want to thank you Rachel for very interesting and useful info regarding Rome. I am going to visit this city with my family at the and of August, so I am trying to find as more information as I can to make our holiday perfect. I read your note that August is not a good choice to go to Rome, but that’s the only period we can go (jobs, school…) … 😦 I saw a link Chris posted for hotels, it looks interesting but we’ve already booked one apartment on . A friend who lived in Rome suggested us to rent an apartment instead hotel to experience the Rome like local :). I am so exited!!! Will let you now about our experience! Can’t wait! Thank again!

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