This is the second part of my Italian adventure last year. I spent a few beautiful, beautiful days in Florence, and then made my way to my second destination – Rome. I only had two days to spend here, but I made sure I made the best of it!
ON THE WAY
After we left Florence, we made our way to Rome through the beautiful Tuscany roads, landscape and the multitude of wineries. Before we left we tried to find points of interest on our way to Rome and we stopped at two beautiful locations (or so we thought).
First, we found this gorgeous looking thermal spring called Saturnia. We had heard about it before, it is Instagram famous and we were so excited that we could see it for ourselves! Unfortunately for us, it was a big, big, letdown and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Dirty, crowded, unclean facilities, and to top all that, there were also red worms in the water (apparently they are harmless to humans, but why the f**k would you want to swim with worms anyway).
Second, we stopped at one of the many Tuscan wineries and couldn’t help take in the view and also take a few Instagrammable photos.
I stayed at a pretty nice hotel called Trevi Beau Boutique Hotel, right in the heart of Rome and only a minute away from the Trevi Fountain. Large, modern room, great internet connection (because let’s be honest, we do care about that!) and hefty breakfast with great service.
One of our favorite dinner places was the one next to my hotel, called Il Chianti. It had great service and great food, inexpensive, and it’s also close to the Trevi Fountain – which is also gorgeous in the nighttime.
One other place that deserves a shoutout is Cucina del Teatro, a cozy little restaurant in a nook on one of those intimate, very Italian streets on our way to the Vatican.
Other than that our dining experiences were pretty average and below average. Before going into the Vatican Museums we had a couple of Aperol Spritz across the street at Cafe Vaticano. The drinks were fine but terribly overpriced. We had pizzas at Squisito Cook right next to the Colosseum – just close to average. The breakfast at Ristorante Pizzeria Navona was all right, but that might just be due to the location right in the beautiful Navona Plaza.
It was all topped off by a HORRIBLE experience at this restaurant called La Scuderia. Stale food, terrible service. At one point my friend wanted to speak with the manager and I told her not to because the staff looked like they were from the Italian mafia or something and I thought they will kill us. All jokes aside, DO NOT GO HERE. The reason we even chose this restaurant was that all the others were fully booked. We never thought to make a reservation because we assumed that there would be plenty of places to choose from, as it was in Florence.
As was the case in Florence, we were fortunate to find hotels right in the center of Rome, which made visiting all the places on our list extremely easy. We walked through the romantic Roman streets to almost all the places we wanted to see, except to the Colosseum because we saw it right after the Vatican and they are
We started our itinerary with one of the most famous fountains in the world – Fontana di Trevi, in the Trevi district of Rome. The best time to see it is early in the morning around 7 am, when there are few people around. Otherwise it’s so packed that you can barely even tell that you are next to it.
It’s spectacular at nighttime as well, but you do have to swim through the crowd of people to get near it.
Piazza di Spagna
After the fountain, we made our way next door to the Piazza di Spagna, another iconic Italian landmark. We got to rest on the beautiful Spanish steps leading to Trinita dei Monti Church and see the beautiful Roman scenery from above.
The Pantheon of Rome
Next, the Pantheon – the temple of the Gods, now a Christian church. This is one of the Roman landmarks we were deeply impressed by. An imposing building in the Piazza della Rotonda, completed by the emperor Hadrian around 126 AD. So very, very old.
The Pantheon is the best preserved ancient Roman building in all of Rome, and it has the single largest concrete dome in the world.
Right next to the Pantheon and on our way to the Vatican, we passed through the Navona Plaza, and got to see the famous Fountain of the Four Rivers.
The Plaza is built on the site of a stadium build by emperor Domitian. In Ancient times, Romans used to come to the stadium to see athletic games, and to watch gladiator shows (only during the time the Colosseum was being rebuild).
I was dying to finally see the Holy City, and I’m not even religious. On the first day we saw the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel, then the next day I got to visit St. Peter’s Basilica.
Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel
We bought our tickets for the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel online from tiqets.com, for €27 each. We got the skip the line ones, and they were lifesavers! Otherwise, the line was around the wall for hundreds of meters and we would have spent half the day there!
Unfortunately, these tickets would only skip the line to get it. From there, the adventure began. And it was not a good one. The museums were marvelous, and so was the Sistine Chapel, but we could barely enjoy the experience due to there being SO MANY PEOPLE in there! The problem was that there is only one corridor to follow throughout the whole tour, and so it’s not like you can take a break or look at something interesting in a corner somewhere.
At one point we were all waiting in a pretty big room, elbow to elbow, probably more than 200 people, waiting to get across and up a little staircase to the next room. I was thinking that if there’s a fire in there or something, we were all doomed.
The only moment of respite was in the Sistine Chapel where it was cool and we got to sit down and breathe properly. The Sistine Chapel is pretty amazing with works of art all over its walls and Michelangelo’s masterpieces on the ceiling.
One thing I would say though – all the paintings looked much smaller in person that in all the photos I’ve seen, and unless you’re directly underneath the painting you want to see, it’s a bit difficult to spot it from further away.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Fortunately, the entire experience at St. Peter’s Basilica was nothing like the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel. I could take my time enjoying St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica itself.
I bought my ticket in from one of the ticket vendors nearby. Don’t remember exactly how much I paid but it was probably around €20. There’s a small line with security check before going in and that’s all in terms of lines until you get to the Dome part of the visit.
The biggest church in the world, the basilica is as imposing on the inside as it is on the outside. The highlights here were:
- Bernini’s baldachin above the altar and which supposedly marks the location of St. Peter’s tomb;
- Michelangelo’s Pietà statue;
- The tomb of John Paul II;
- The Dome (extra €4 ticket, can be bought inside);
- St. Peter’s Treasury (extra €5 ticket, can be bought inside);
- Vatican Grottoes – A MUST!
We got the tickets to go inside the Colosseum from tiqets.com for €18, and we got fast track tickets this time as well. The ticket also included the visit to the Roman Forum along with the Palatine Hill. Thankfully we spent almost no time at all in line for neither the Colosseum or the Roman Forum.
The Colosseum is an iconic symbol of the Roman Empire and remains to this day the largest amphitheater in the world, being able to house around 80,000 people in its day. I had been at the Colosseum before when I was younger, but they were doing renovations so I couldn’t go inside. I couldn’t wait to finally see the
The Colosseum was what I expected, but also not what I expected at the same time. It looks smaller on the inside than I anticipated. It’s entirely made of red brick, the seats in the viewing area of the emperor and his suite being the only exception. The arena floor was made of wood. The sand we all have in mind when we picture the Colosseum is added to prevent slipping and to soak up all the spilled blood (lovely!). The passageways underneath the wooden floor were used to transport and house animals, gladiators and whatever else they killed up there.
All in all it was pretty spectacular and would definitely recommend it to all who decide to visit Rome!
The Roman Forum
After exiting the Colosseum we proceeded to the famed Roman Forum. The tickets from the Colosseum also provided entrance here as well, and thankfully the security check was fast and simple.
The Roman Forum was the beating heart of the Roman Empire. It housed several shrines, temples and statues, important government buildings, including the Roman Senate, and many monuments dedicated to Rome’s favorite rulers and people of the day.
It was really awesome to see all those not-too-shabbily preserved ruins and imagine what they must have looked like back in the day! But if you are really interested in seeing what everything is and what role it served, I suggest you do a bit of research beforehand and make sure you understand where everything is because there are barely any historical explanations provided. Either that or you can get a guide.
All in all, I greatly enjoyed Rome, but for the small unpleasant experiences here and there. The city is beautiful, it’s monuments imposing and well preserved. The food left a lot to be desired though, and I missed the warmth that we got from Florence. Or maybe I just had an overall much better time in Florence.
Did you enjoy my Rome With Me Insider Guide article? Do you have questions, comments or concerns? Leave me a note below or contact me, I’d love to hear from you!