Confession: I have never booked accommodation through Airbnb before.
Shock. Horror. A travel blogger who has never used Airbnb!?
And I only found out recently that Airbnb also provides their own experiences.
I know, I'm so late to the party.
But thanks to the Airbnb experience we had during our trip to Rome, I will 100% book more experiences through Airbnb in the future.
On 12th July, our first proper day in Rome and on my 24th birthday, we were invited to take part in an Airbnb experience run by Sian, a freelance PR and Marketing Manager as well as a blogger over at Live The Wonderful Life. She has been living in Rome for the past 2 years and is certainly an expert when it comes to showing new tourists the best places to go in the city.
She has put together a brand new Airbnb experience targetted especially for first-timers, which was perfect for what we were looking for, as we were first timers in Rome.
Sian's experience focuses on giving first-time visitors to Rome a practical intro into the city. Overall, it was a 3-hour experience, where we walked through some of Rome's prettiest areas while Sian shared practical tips, transport tips, neighbourhoods to visit, how to avoid common mistakes and so much more in order to get travellers clued up with useful information that they can use on the rest of their trip.
Here is a rundown of everything we did during the experience and why you should definitely consider Sian's experience if you're visiting Rome for the first time:
Our tour began at Ponte Sisto bridge, which had the most beautiful views of the Tiber river which connects to several other bridges. This is where we met Sian and photographer, Lida.
Sian was bubbly, chatty and it was obvious she had a wealth of knowledge over the city and how to explore it at the best advantage, especially if you're a first timer like we were. Not only does she share common facts and history of Rome, but she shared tips and tricks on the littlest of things you wouldn't really think about prior to planning your trip.
Lida was present to take photographs of our tour and as you can see, her photography is something to be in awe over and she has the most beautiful Instagram page.
We proceeded to walk across the bridge, whilst being told that the bridge spanned across the river Tiber, whilst taking in the beautiful view of St Peter's Basilica in the background.
We headed into the pretty neighbourhood of Regola, which I recall my first reaction as "now this is what I imagined Rome to be like!" It's Renaissance-era buildings, cobbled streets and modern flat complexes were what made these streets ever so interesting to hear about the history from Sian. It was once a completely industrial neighbourhood and is now one of Rome's most diverse neighbourhoods. We could of easily had got lost down it's twisted medival streets.
We eventually approached Rome's oldest outdoor market, Campo de' Fiori, which was bustling with atmosphere and plenty to see. I am sad that we didn't make a return here because there were lots of fresh food and flower markets. An Instagram dream!
This was when Sian gave us our very first useful tip when we approached a water fountain: you can drink the water from the water fountains and there's an app which you can search for the nearest ones. Josh and I were both astonished at this fact and we got to try water from our very first fountain.
It was such a big deal, but it became the most useful tip from the entire trip thanks to Sian.
Along the way, we stopped into a teeny tiny bakery where we were treated to an Italian delicacy: Babà.
Italians take their Babà very seriously and it's certainly a marmite delicacy: you'll either love it or hate it.
Sian got Josh and I one to try. It's basically a mushroom-shaped cake saturated in syrup and it's special ingredient: rum.
Having a rum infused cake was something I had never had before for breakfast, but I liked it.
And because it was my birthday, Sian surprised me with a birthday candle inserted into mine with everyone singing 'happy birthday' to me. The sweetest gesture ever!
After this, Sian led us to our first coffee shop of the trip: Barnum Cafe.
It was about time we had a sit-down and I like that Sian had planned strategic rest stops for us to sit down and rest our legs from all the walking, plus the tour included us trying some local coffee.
This was where I learnt A LOT about Rome's coffee culture and why I am so thankful to Sian for inspiring me to write my Rome Coffee Guide.
Plus, it was fab timing to connect to the local Wi-Fi, which again, Sian was able to provide us with a full list of places around Rome with good Wi-Fi spots. So useful!
Sitting down over coffee was a great opportunity to get to know Sian and her background, which is something I have never experienced with a regular tour guide.
Because it was just us two, it meant we had one-to-one communication with Sian which made us both feel like we were getting to know her much better than if we would if we were with a whole group of people. That's why this tour is so ideal for couples looking for a more intimate experience.
We were able to exchange stories and Sian was able to give us more advice on how to navigate the city and other tips and tricks.
Sian's tip: Download Google Translate on your phone, for when you want to order coffee. This way, you can speak Italian and the person serving you will appreciate it much more.
Afterwards, we headed to Piazza Navona and took in all the sights and realising just how close everything was.
Thanks to Sian, we were astonished to find out how close we were to certain attractions, as we originally thought everything was so spread out.
She was so insightful and was able to give us tips on places to visit, where to eat and drink and other attractions to visit during our trip.
One of the many highlights of the tour was the food we got introduced to.
Oh my god. One word = Carbonara!
We headed to Pasta Chef which is located in Monti. When we arrived, it wasn't open for another 10 minutes, but there was a whole crowd waiting to come in, proving just how popular it was.
Classic Carbonara made in Rome is made out of four ingredients: guanciale, egg, pecorino and pigs cheeks!
Sounds a weird combination, but it was by far, the best Carbonara dish I have ever tasted. Washed down with some local red wine was a real treat.
To end the tour, Sian took us to a local gelato shop where we got to sample some local gelato. I tried milk and nutella flavoured gelato which was AMAZING.
Sian's tip: Don't eat Gelato at places with huge mounds and very bright colours. It won't be as good quality gelato!
Sian has created a memorable experience that will give any first timers the best start to their trip. Sian has perfectly mixed the top tourist spots to see, along with the not so well known, but hidden gems of Rome.
I would highly recommend anyone who is heading to Rome for the first time to choose Sian's experience for your first day. It will set you up ready to get the very best out of the city and it gives you the chance to have 1-to-1 time with Sian, instead of being one of many tourists in a big crowd during a tour.