After months of planning, Mrs. CurryOnTravel and I took a two-week trip to Italy. My future posts will cover our adventures to La Spezia, Florence, Naples, Capri, and Sorrento; however, this post is about Rome.
What is there to say about Rome that hasn’t been said already? A city that filled with history, culture, amazing food, and copious amounts of wine does not disappoint. Thousands of tourists flock the ruins, the cafes, the restaurants, and the gelaterias, because truly, how else would you experience Rome?
What to do there
You can spend an entire week living in Rome and enjoy the city. It hits you eventually that the road you’re walking on is next to ruins that are over 2000 years old! Since we did not have a week, Mrs. CurryOnTravel and I toured Rome in 2.5 days.
After checking in to our room, we freshened up and headed straight for the Metro station. Rome has a great metro system and a 24-hour ticket is 7 euros a day, per person. The great thing about the metro pass is you can ride the subway or the bus as often as you want, and the ticket rolls over the next day until it expires.
After taking the subway to Barberini station, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. The late afternoon is the perfect time to view the fountain. The light hits the sculpture and the water perfectly. It’s tradition to toss a coin over the left shoulder from the right hand, and it’s illegal to take coins from the fountain.
Fontana di Trevi
After spending the time in Trevi Fountain, we took the metro to the next stop at the Spagna station to visit the Spanish Steps. Stand behind the “Fountain of the Ugly Boat” and admire the steps. You can view the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. Flowers decorate the steps in the spring, and the charm of the Piazza di Spagna neighborhood compel you to sit on the steps and enjoy the feeling. We brought a bottle of wine to enjoy on the steps and to cap our first day in Rome. There are plenty of dinner options in the Piazza di Spagna neighborhood, but I have to mention the Pompi gelateria. Try their Tiramisu and their gelato, and you’ll be glad you did; it was a great start to our trip. I also recommend the Venchi shop for desserts (especially their chocolate, hazelnut, and pistachio flavors).
Fontana della Barcaccia
Hacking Tip: Unlike America, shops do not usually hand out samples in Italy. From the restrooms to the flavors of gelatos, they all have a price; there is even a price to sit down at a café! The cheapest option is to get the “standing” price, but it helps to ask if a location has separate prices. To use a restroom for “free”, order an item from the café first, such as an espresso that is about 1 euro. To get samples for items, such as trying different gelato flavors, order a cup and then ask for additional samples. Shop owners are more open to samples if they know you intend to buy. Restaurants charge a coperto, or an additional sum, if a couple only orders one dish. The extra charge was for the person to sit in the restaurant (this made for an interesting conversation with a waiter).
Next morning we headed to Vatican City, where we visited the Vatican Museum and the famous St. Peter’s Basilica. One can spend the entire day admiring the art and the history in the museum. Guided and audio tours are available, and can be booked as part of the ticket. Audio tours are truly recommended to make the most of the museum. As you complete the Vatican Museum, you’ll head into St. Peter’s Basilica. I cannot recommend the Treasury Museum enough. The artwork and the decoration will leave you in awe. You can visit the underground tombs of old popes, say a silent prayer, or stare at the beauty of the frescoes.
Hacking Tip: To truly experience the best trip book your tickets in advance for the museums. Yes you’ll pay a reservation fee to book an online ticket, but it will let you skip the lines. Some places, like the Borghese Gallery and the Colosseum book very early, so reserve the tickets to make your trip planning easier. I also recommend reserving the early time to visit the museum to avoid the crowds. By the time we left St. Peter’s Basilica, the line to get inside was already at 2.5 hours!
After Vatican City, we walked to Castel Sant’Angelo. You cannot miss the cylindrical shaped building that truly resembles the “Castle of Angels”. Tickets are available for tours of the old mausoleum, and unlike the Vatican, you should have no problem buying them on the spot. You can take the Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge to cross over and take a great picture of Castel Sant’Angelo.
Let Angels guide thee…
After crossing the Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge, you’re just a 15 minute walk to Piazza Navona. Take your time in the Piazza to truly admire the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or “Fountain of the Four Rivers”, joined by an Egyptian obelisk. It’s a great place to relax after the long walk from the Vatican and sit by the fountain.
Pantheon and the Ruins
Take the narrow streets from Piazza Navona to make your way to the Pantheon. The “Temple of All Gods” is now a church, but take the time to marvel at the structure which is still standing after almost 2000 years! The church inside is equally beautiful. Sit inside the church as you take a break from the sights, and plan your stop.
The Temple of All Gods
Our 4th day in Rome was also the last day in Italy. We started the day by visiting Piazza del Popolo. There is a lot to see in the “People’s Square” so take your time as walk by the obelisk of Ramesses towards the churches of Santa Maria. The fountains Fontana del Nettuno and Pincio are absolutely gorgeous. I would recommend a visit to the Piazza in early to mid-morning. You can also visit the museum of Leonardo da Vinci, however we skipped it because the reviews we received were less than stellar.
Piazza del Popolo is close to the Borghese Gallery, so you can cover them both in a single visit. From Villa Borghese or Piazza del Popolo you can take the bus to Piazza Venezia. The Venetian Square is perfect for visiting several landmarks nearby. Start by visiting the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. It’s fun just climbing the steps and looking at the Piazza from the top. There is no charge to explore the monument from the outside.
Our next stop was the Roman Forum ruins. There are tours that cover the Roman Forum, Palatine and Capitoline Hills in a single visit. I truly recommend them to grasp the historical significance of the ruins. It is spectacular how the ancient columns, or their remains, are still laying there. The ancient temples are more than 2000 years old, and a great guide can truly make the history come alive.
Hacking Tip: Obviously there is a lot to see in Rome, and luckily there are walking tours that you can join to get a good historical background about a site or a structure. The tours can range from a few hours to half a day, but be prepared to walk! We truly broke in our new walking shoes by averaging 10-12 miles a day (which made me less guilty about eating all the pizzas and the desserts).
We saved the best of Rome for last when we visited the Colosseum. The Colosseum is located next to the Colosseo metro station, very convenient if you want to avoid the walk from Piazza Venezia. Outside the station there is a large water fountain that dispenses free filtered water and sparkling water. We joked with other tourists that perhaps this was as close to free as one can get in Italy.
Since we booked our Colosseum tickets in advance, we arrived at the entrance at our designated time slot. Expect security lines to enter the gate. The tour itself is about 45 minutes to an hour and the guide explains the different levels of the structure. Our time-slot was in the evening, so we had a rare tour of the Colosseum in the moonlight.
It was great to see how senators and emperors enjoyed a grand spectacle thousands of years ago. You get to see how slaves worked underground while the crowds enjoyed the matches. You can view the Arch of Constantine from the top floor, while seeing what Romans would have seen before us.
There are amazing pizzerias by the Colosseum. After our tour we sat down, relaxed, and ate one of the best pies with wine while watching the moon shine over the ruins. Our trip had come to an end.
How to get there
Airports and Trains in the major cities of Italy really make trip planning easy. You can fly into Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence, or Sorrento based on the cities you want to visit. Thanks to travel hacking we found great deals to fly into Rome.
Hacking Tip: Rome is busy airport so expect long lines at immigration. Service can be lacking and it is always best to ask multiple people for confirmation. Rome is charming, but tourists can be a target at the airport and in the city; selfie sticks and cameras make for a terrible disguise. I recommend wearing an RFID Neck Security Wallet to protect the important items like passports, credit cards, and cash. ATMs are ubiquitous, so only withdraw limited amounts at a time. Use common sense when traveling and you’ll truly enjoy the experience.
Where to stay
This is the first trip we decided to try Airbnb®. Hotels can be expensive and some provide limited amenities. By researching the higher rated rooms, we had a great experience for a fraction of a cost. Hotels and Airbnb® rooms charge a city-tax, charged in all major cities of Italy. Make sure you get a receipt for the taxes.
I recommend staying close to Termini Station for several reasons. Taxis are expensive, and ride-sharing services are non-existent, so the most cost-effective and time-saving way to get to the city from Leonardo da Vinci airport is to take the Leonardo express train from the airport to Termini Station. Termini Station is the hub for metros in Rome. Lines A and B meet here, and it is a great way to access parts of the city without spending your time in commute.
Let me know if I can provide more information about Rome, and I’d love to hear how your stay was. Did you enjoy Spanish Steps as much as we did? Drop me a note.
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