HomeTravelThe Italian city break with retro car tours & BA's brand...

The Italian city break with retro car tours & BA’s brand new plane


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WHY SHOULD I GO? Pizza, Aperol spritz and ancient architecture that doesn’t look out of place in the modern day. Need I say more?

Italy’s thriving capital somehow manages to blend culture, chaos and creativity in an elegant way.


Sun writer Sophie Swietochowski called up a classic Fiat 500 to help explore Rome in a dayCredit: Getty
After jumping on a plane to Rome at 8am, Sophie was tucking into a bowl of pasta by midday


After jumping on a plane to Rome at 8am, Sophie was tucking into a bowl of pasta by middayCredit: Getty
Water view - The Tiber and St Peter's Basillica


Water view – The Tiber and St Peter’s BasillicaCredit: Getty

I ramped up this elegance by flying in British Airways’ new, leather short-haul seats that have been fitted into its latest A320neo and A321neo aircrafts (more on that, below).

STREETS MADE FOR WALKING? If Rome in 24 hours is your goal, then you may want to choose a faster mode of transport than foot.

A guided tour in a candy-coloured Fiat 500 from the 1950s feels wholly Italian, particularly with our guide Fernando behind the wheel.

He nips round corners and in between cars as if we’re in a Ferrari, chatting to us in his own language (“spaghetti English”) while gesturing at famous landmarks — eyes on the road, please, Fernando.

Stops include the Colosseum, Aventine Keyhole and Gianicolo Hill where you’ll catch the best views of the city.

There’s time to hop out of the car for a photo at near enough every set of red traffic lights, gutsy Fernando insists in between horn honks.

It was bonkers fun from start to finish.

Passersby thought so too as they waved at our trail of vintage, open-top wheels snaking along the cobbled roads in a colourful convoy.

ANYTHING FOR THE BUCKET LIST? The Vatican City will take your breath away but don’t let that be because of the sardine-like crowds.

Arrive bang on the opening time of 8am and buy a skip-the-queue pass from thevaticantickets.com or headout.com. I promise, you’ll be grateful for it.

Marvelling at Michelangelo’s religious masterpieces painted across every wall and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in relative peace is something to be treasured for as long as the artworks have been here (the early 1500s, to be precise).

If you time it well, you may be able to catch the end of the Pope addressing the public in St Peter’s Square.

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An Audience With The Pope normally takes place every Wednesday at 9am in this same spot.

WHERE SHOULD I EAT? For efficiency, I ate at the Intercontinental Ambasciatori Palace Hotel, where I was staying, straight after check-in.

Located on the top floor and with floor-to-ceiling windows and bifold doors leading out on to a terrace, Charlie’s feels so sophisticated.

Tuck into Italian picky bits like burrata with tomato confit, mini caesar salad and filled pasta.

There are excellent grab-and-go pizza spots and sandwich shops dotted around the city too, if you’re trying to keep lunch quick and costs low.

And I’m not talking Tesco meal-deal style, these are monstrous-sized baps crammed with layers of meat.

 Try Zia Rosetta, if you’re near the Colosseum, which serves sarnies jam-packed with traditional fillings as well as fancier ones like ricotta, pumpkin blossom, sun-dried tomatoes and mint, drizzled with olive oil.

Rolls come in three sizes and the current “aperitivo” offer (OK, it IS a meal deal!) gives you a choice of two mini sandwiches served with an alcoholic spritz for just €10.

For pizza “by the slice” head to Bonci Pizzarium, at the western edge of Vatican City.

I FANCY A DRINK . . .  It’s good to keep things authentic.

As Italy is the home of prosecco, there are some excellent bottles in Rome.

Make a beeline for the sun-drenched rooftop of Edition Hotel in the city centre in the late afternoon.

Top prosecco or another lovely spritz isn’t the only thing you’ll be drinking up here, though.

Brace yourself for the view of terracotta buildings, sandwiched next to one another and extending for miles into the sunny horizon, painting a mosaic-like picture of this glorious city.

WHERE SHOULD I STAY? The Intercontinental Ambasciatori Palace Rome is so well-positioned; a 15-minute walk from landmarks like the Trevi Fountain, but in a serenely quiet spot.

It’s an historic site in itself, constructed in 1900, before becoming the American Embassy Library in 1946.

Now its grand rooms feature original architecture and some offer balconies that overlook a leafy road.

Of course, the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo was in the list of stops


Of course, the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo was in the list of stopsCredit: Getty
Sophie, right, and friend on their tour of Rome


Sophie, right, and friend on their tour of RomeCredit: British Airways


GETTING/STAYING THERE: Two nights at the 5H InterContinental Hotels Rome Ambasciatori Palace is from £439pp, including flights on selected dates in January next year, as well as 23kg of baggage pp. See ba.com/rome or call 0344 493 0125.

OUT & ABOUT: A Fiat 500 sightseeing tour is from €290 for two people. See rome500exp.com.

Best of British aboard BA

ARE you sitting comfortably?

You soon will be when flying with British Airways to short-haul destinations like Rome, Athens and Marrakesh.

The airline’s shiny new A320neo and A321neo aircraft – there will be eight joining its fleet this year – have been fitted with sophisticated leather seats and adjustable headrests perfect for mid-flight snoozing.

Best of all, extra-large overhead bins allow you to carry a normal cabin case with you at no extra charge.

This revamp is part of a £7billion transformation project and now Britain’s flagship carrier is taking things back to its national roots.

Every element of the A321neo aircraft I travelled on to Rome is British.

The leather is from Muirhead in Scotland, with stitching from High Wycombe.

The curtains and carpet are the only outliers, sourced from Ireland’s capital Dublin.

However, it still feels typically BA with red and navy blue motifs that match updated cabin crew uniforms, introduced seven months ago.

For me, it’s the addition of USB-C power ports above the table in the back of every seat, that’s most beneficial – a nifty idea that came from cabin crew.

With just one of these new aircrafts currently flying, it’ll be down to chance as to whether you’ll get on it.

But change is coming.

And it’s coming fast.

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