Both bucket list destinations and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Rome and Venice are two of the most inspiring city break destinations in the world. Filled with fabulous art, architecture, historical landmarks and mouth-watering gastronomy, if you can’t choose between a city break in Rome or Venice, we don’t blame you. To help you choose, we’ve pitted the two cities against each other in a no holds barred destination battle of gladiators and gondolas.
Originally built on group of seven hills, Rome occupies a strategic position on the banks of the river Tiber and is under an hour’s drive from the Tyrrhenian sea. Located in the Italian region of Lazio, Rome spans both the east and west banks of the Tiber, with the modern parts of the city situated on the eastern side. Connected by over 25 bridges, the city is made up of ancient districts known as rioni as well as quartieri urbani and suburbs and is home to just shy of 3 million people.
Venice is situated in the Venice lagoon and its archipelago stretches over 30 miles from Jesolo to Chioggia. The lagoon is protected by a line of sandbanks, otherwise known as lidi and Venice’s Lido, a much loved seaside resort since the 1800s, is located on one of these sandbanks. The lagoon has been Venice’s lifeblood for centuries as it provides source if income from maritime trade, as well as acting as a key defence and protection for the city. Built on a canal system with around 400 bridges, the commune of Venice is home to approximately 260,000 people with just 55,000 living in the historic part of the city.
As the founding city of the Western world and the capital of Italy, Rome is one of Europe’s most significant cultural destinations. Once the centre of the ancient Roman empire, the city is consequently the home of world famous sights like the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Pantheon. For this reason, Rome is the ultimate destination for anyone with an interest in classical history.
Its cultural attractions certainly don’t end there either. The Eternal City is also the site of the Vatican, the home of the pope and the headquarters of the Catholic church. Every year, millions of people pay a visit to the Vatican in order to glimpses its legendary landmarks which include St Peter’s Basilica and the iconic Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo himself.
The city is so rich in history and culture that it would truly take a lifetime to see every one of Rome’s cultural points of interest. Instead, it’s better to stick to the sights that you interest you the most and spend your time soaking up the atmosphere of this incredible city.
Venice has its origins in the 5th century onwards, when locals from the mainland fled to the swamp-like islands to escape the invasions that followed the fall of the Roman empire. Affiliated with the Byzantine empire from the 10th century onwards, the city became a crucial port for mercantile trade and profited handsomely from this industry. The founding of the city’s most famous building, St Mark’s Cathedral, happened when two Venetian merchants stole the body of Mark the Apostle from Egypt and brought it back to Venice. As a result, the magnificent church was built to house St Mark’s remains and he became the patron saint of Venice.
Having conquered much of the Mediterranean, including swathes of Byzantium and many Greek islands, Venice became a huge power in the middle ages and the design of the city’s palaces and church grew more and more opulent. By the 1500s, Venice’s political power had begun to wane but it retains its astounding collection of artwork and breathtaking architecture to this day.
Food and drink
The city that created some of the world’s best love pasta dishes, Rome’s most famous spaghetti dishes include carbonara, cacio e pepe, amatriciana and gricia.
Artichokes are also a mainstay of Roman cooking and carciofi alla giudia, artichokes which prepared Jewish style and fried whole, are popular with both locals and visitors. If you happen to visit Rome during the winter, keep an eye out for the local variety which are known as carciofo romanesco.
Rome might not be as famous as Naples for pizza but pizza al taglio is a much loved snack on the go for many Romans. Pizza al taglio refers to pizza served by the slice and, in Rome, these slices are typically rectangular in shape and prepared in a sheet pan. Roman pizza toppings tend to be simple rather than elaborate with margherita, plain tomato and sausage with mushroom being some of the most popular.
A similarly fast food, it would be a mistake to come to Rome and not try some supplì. This local delicacy is best described as a deep fried croquette filled with mozzarella, risotto rice and a tomato based sauce that often contains meat. Supplì are Rome’s original street food and these classic snacks are available throughout the city in a myriad of variations.
If you’ve any room left, it’s time to move on to the sweet stuff. Rome is renowned for its excellent gelato and the city is well stocked with gelaterias that offer traditional artisan flavours alongside more experimental creations. In addition to that, Rome’s pastries are irresistibly appetising. Look out for maritozzi, a historic local delicacy that consists of a sweet yeasted bun filled generously with whipped cream.
Venice’s cuisine is a joy for seafood lovers, with a wide array of fish based dishes. Longtime local favourites include sarde in saor, sardines marinated in a deliciously sweet and sour marinade, baccalà mantecato, whipped cod that’s often served on bread or with polenta and risotto made with squid ink. It’s also worth keeping your eyes peeled for any moeche on the menu, this small crabs are caught in the lagoon and deep fried to be eaten whole. La Serenissma is also renowned for risi e bisi, a dish that sits somewhere between risotto and soup and is made with peas and pancetta.
In terms of on the go snacks, a wickedly tasty mozzarella in carozza, otherwise known as a deep fried mozzarella sandwich is a Venice favourite. Above all, Venice is arguably most famous for its cicchetti, which are small plates served in the city’s historic wine bars, which are known as bacari, and are designed to accompany your glass of wine or aperitivo.
Rome is characterised by a typical Mediterranean climate which means hot, humid summers and mild, wet winters. June, July and August are the warmest months of the year, with temperatures climbing into the 30s and it’s also peak time for tourists. Autumn is often more pleasant, with the sunshine sticking around until November but there’s also an increased chance of rain. In winter, the temperature rarely drops below zero and snowfall is unlikely.
Located in Northern Italy close to the Adriatic Sea, Venice is characterised by cold, damp winters and humid, hot summers. Spring in Venice tends to be dominated by sunny spells mixed with rain until mid April or May when the sunshine prevails.
By high summer, the city is baking in 30 degree heat and can feel very muggy. September and October are known for good weather, blessed with plenty of sunshine but at more bearable temperatures in the mid 20s. Frost and fog are common from December onwards, as well as the occasional light flurry of snow.
Value for Money
As one of the most coveted European destinations, a trip to Rome can be expensive and visitors should be vigilant against scams specifically set up to target tourists. However, with a little forward thinking, it’s possible to find good value experiences in Rome. Start by choosing to say outside the centro storico and opt instead for an area which is geared towards locals not just tourists.
Venice is renowned for being expensive and, as of the most famous tourist destinations in the world, it’s hardly surprising. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to overpay for an average hotel or mediocre meal when visiting Venice and, as a result, it’s worth doing your research ahead of time on how to enjoy Venice on a budget.
Spellbindingly beautiful, culturally rich and blessed with some great food, Rome and Venice are both cities that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. However, if you’re searching for a living, breathing Italian city and true taste of the Dolce Vita, then Rome is the ideal city break destination. Book your Rome or Venice city break from our inspiring and best value selection of Italy City Breaks.