“Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city.”-Anatole Broyard
After a few days in Naples, exploring the Campania Region of Italy, we took a 9:00am train from Naples to Rome. We caught our train at Napoli Centrale and arrived at Roma Termini. The travel was super easy and only took a little over an hour to get to Rome- I love how easy train travel is in Europe! Once in Rome, the first thing I needed was a restroom! We could not find one in the Roma Termini, even though I know there had to be several! So we skipped across the road to the first cafe we saw, practically ran to the bar, ordered a cappuccino and espresso, then immediately asked for directions to the restroom. Sweet relief.
While planning our trip I researched, and ultimately purchased, a Rome City Pass. This is a 3-day attraction and travel pass which allowed us to travel by metro, bus, and tram, and included a one-day pass for the CitySightseeing Bus Tours. Conveniently, there was a bus stop right in front of the cafe across from Roma Termini! We initially wanted to catch this bus from Roma Termini to the B&B with our luggage when we first arrived in Rome; this is typically allowed with Big Bus, but CitySightseeing did not allow it (this was our first experience with CitySightseeing, we usually use Big Bus). So we just took public transportation to our B&B and decided to do the bus tour on our last day in Rome. Using it on our third day worked out because we made several stops, including the Colosseum which was a bit of a hike from our accommodations. Our overall impression of CitySightseeing was that we found the staff to be not very friendly, there wasn’t an an audio tour with history (my favorite part of bus tours), and were simply not as reliable as we have experienced in the past with Big Bus. Since it was included on the City Pass it wasn’t really too big of a deal, just good information to have for future reference. So with that minor inconvenience, we hopped on a public bus to the Bed and Breakfast to check in and drop off our luggage before our explorations.
Day 1: Explore Rome
On our first day in Rome we simply walked about taking in the sites and getting a lay of the land. We saw several points of interest, and of course ate very well! You can easily visit all of these places in a single day if you choose. Our first stop was at the Spanish Steps, located on a hill, you can take in the scenery below. This is a big tourist spot, so there are a lot of vendors selling trinkets at the top of the steps. If you plan to visit this area, remember that is now illegal to loiter and sit on the steps. Police officers patrol the area and will ask you to leave if you are caught sitting on the steps. This law had recently gone into effect and I had read about it prior to our trip. As the articles stated, people were being asked to leave if they were seated on the steps. In this area, Piazza di Spagna, there are tons of restaurants and fancy shops you can visit as well. As we were leaving Andrew saw a McDonald’s, so we had to pop in to see what Italian treats were served. We got some ham and cheese croquettes and a couple other things that were unique to the area. On our way out, I saw a plaque on the wall- it turns out it was the first McDonald’s in Italy! How cool is that!? The next stop was the Trevi Fountain, where it is also illegal to sit on the steps, which is about a 5-10 minute walk from the Spanish Steps.
Another 10 minute walk and you can find the Pantheon, which we really enjoyed visiting. We ended up returning on our last day in Rome since we found ourselves in the area with some extra time. Admission is free, and there is an audio guide included with Rome City Pass. When you visit you must be dressed appropriately, and they only allow a certain number of people in at a time. On our first visit we listened to the tour and took several laps around the giant dome to see all of the murals and memorials. Directly across the street is a famous roman bakery called, La Casa del Tazza d’Oro that is well known for their Granita Cafè con Panna, which is basically a coffee slushy topped with a creme- so of course we stopped in to try it for ourselves. Not really my favorite thing, but worth a try! At many of cafes in the area (in Rome and Florence is where I experienced this) you first go to the register and put in an order for what you would like (i.e., your coffee, pastry, gelato), pay, then you give your receipt to the cafe / bar attendant to receive your items. So we followed suit and enjoyed our frozen coffees at the bar. On our second visit to the Pantheon we simply rested in the pews, for quite some time, soaking in the gravity of the dome. We then took a stroll to get some gelato at Giolitti down the street.
Day 2: Vatican City
On our second day in Rome we woke up early to visit the largest Christian Basilica: St. Peter’s Basilica and Square. Admission is included on the Rome City Pass, but be sure to schedule your tour time prior to your visit, and remember to wear modest clothing. The basilica opens earlier than most other attractions in the area, at 8:30am. I read several articles in preparation, and all mentioned to arrive super early to avoid crowds, so we got there around 8:15am and there were only a few groups in front of us. This was great because we didn’t have to wait in a long line, and got to visit the basilica with only a few other people. When we finished our visit the line was unbelievably long and wrapped around the entire square!
With the Rome City Pass a tour of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums is included. When you purchase your City Pass you must indicate which date you want your tour to be on (for both Vatican Museums and Colosseum), then the company will schedule your tour and send you specific tickets for admission for these two attractions. When they initially scheduled our tours and sent our tickets, they mistakenly scheduled it for the same day and only an hour apart: Colosseum at 9:30am, Vatican Museums at 10:30am. This could never work, just with travel alone since they are on opposite sides of town. So I contacted the company to change one of the tours to be on a separate day. They were super helpful and accommodating and re-scheduled our Colosseum tour for the following day.
I want to reiterate the importance of purchasing passes and admission tickets for big attractions before your vacation; this is made evident every time we trot by people waiting in line for tickets. We arrived for our 10:30 tour and passed by literally hundreds of people waiting to buy tickets for the Vatican Museums! Just like my story about the Paris Catacombs! After buzzing through the line and security, we ushered our way through the museum and finally got to experience the Sistine Chapel. We stood there looking up in awe for at least thirty minutes. Imagining the time and effort that went into this piece of art was really awe inspiring. For those of you planning your trip, it is important to note that it is illegal to take photos of the chapel, so I made a postcard purchase at the museum to commemorate our visit. While it is illegal, this doesn’t really deter some people; we saw tons of people sneaking pictures, and the security guards would sniff them out and yell at them, the guards were everywhere! Later we visited the following museums which were all super interesting and worth a visit, especially because they are all included on the city pass!
- Museo Leonardo da Vinci Experience:
- Hours: 10:00am-7:30pm; last entry 6:00pm
- In a nutshell: a pretty small museum, with art work and neat interactive displays.
- Piazza Navona is a fun area with shops, restaurants, bars and cafes, fountains, and a nice place for local artists. Nearby you can also visit some museums…
- Gladiator Museum:
- Hours: 10:00am-7:30pm; last entry 6:00pm
- In a nutshell: teeny tiny museum, easy to pop in for a few minutes or skip entirely, or a good place to rest and access free wifi!
- Stadio Di Domiziano (Piazza Navona Underground):
- Hours: 10:00am-7:00pm
- In a nutshell: This was a really cool museum that outlines the History and Architecture of Rome, the Popes, and Olympic games. You can also walk along original Roman walls and streets that were much lower than the streets of today.
- Gladiator Museum:
Day 3: Explore Rome
The following places we visited were all included on the Rome City Pass, and we visited them all in a single (tiresome) day using the CitySightseeing Roma Bus as our main mode of transportation. There were a few times that we waited at the bus stop too long for our liking, with the app saying a bus was there, so we ultimately took a taxi for time-sake. First thing in the morning we hopped on the bus to head to the Colosseum where we had a timed ticket for 9:45am. We went straight to the Colosseum to see if we could get in early, and they were very strict with the admission times, we walked by the Arch of Constantine which is basically in the same lot. With our early arrival we ended up with some time to kill, so we decided to walk a few yards to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. These historic ruins were really fascinating to visit and has some amazing views and history. The Colosseum is another place where you just have to soak it in for a period of time, imagining all that those ruins have seen in its history, incredible. After our visit at the Colosseum and the historic ruins we took a taxi to the Baths of Caracalla. Learning about the history, and even the technology, of the Baths was really fascinating. We learned so much about the history of Romans this day, which was expanded later when we made it to the other side of town to visit the Museo Nazionale Romano.
Last Morning in Rome:
On our last morning in Rome we walked to the Campo De’ Fiori market near the Piazza Navona where you can purchase produce, flowers, spices, and souvenirs to bring home. At the edge of the Market is Forno, a bakery where we bought pastries and ate them by a fountain nearby, then took a stroll around the market before being picked up by a Shuttle from the B&B to take us to the Civitavecchia Port, about 1.5 hours from Rome. Where we would embark on our 4-Day Western Mediterranean Cruise.
Where to eat
- Tried and True:
- Forno: a bakery in the Campo De’ Fiori market.
- La Casa del Tazza d’Oro: a bakery near the Pantheon, be sure to try the iced granita.
- Giolitti: gelato shop, multiple locations.
- Prosciutteria Trastevere – Cantina dei Papi: unbelievable charcuterie board and wine.
- Pizza Zizza: really yummy pizza near the Vatican City. They had a chef’s sample platter with six different pizzas, obviously that is what we ordered, and were not disappointed.
- Hostaria La Botticella: a cozy, authentic restaurant which was one of our favorites. We were the only ones in the restaurant when we first arrived, then it began to fill up. I order the special, a hearty and messy homemade lasagna and Andrew got a mushroom ravioli, both were fantastic! Unfortunately we lost the photos Andrew took on this trip, so we did not have the picture of the outside, and were unable to remember the name of this restaurant. Luckily with some detective skills and solid reviews on yelp and TripAdvisor, I was able to find this amazing restaurant so I could be sure to share it with you!
- Cantina e Cucina: a delicious authentic Italian Restaurant that was only a seven minute walk from our B&B, that greets you with a glass of Prosecco if you have to wait. I ordered another lasagna, completely different from the Hostaria La Botticella, it was nearly perfect, each layer was the exact same width and was super soft that someone without teeth could have easily eaten it.
- Places we didn’t make it to but look good:
- Supplizio: Roman street food (rice balls)
- Pizzarium Pizza: by the slice (10 minute walk from the Vatican Museums)
Where to Stay
Every place we stayed on this trip was absolutely incredible: great locations, amazing accommodations and service, and good prices. In Rome we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast called, Corso Vittorio 308 . This was a perfect little place where we were able to walk almost everywhere, or easily access public transportation. You can choose to add breakfast, but we opted to eat at local cafes or grab stuff on-the-go. It was also conveniently located a 5-minute walk to the White Cloud Laundrette. We only pack carry-on bags when we travel now (check out my post on how easy it is) which is so much easier when traveling to various locations, lighter when walking up narrow European staircases and down cobblestone streets, and we save money on baggage fees. So for a two-week trip, finding a laundromat is very important. I looked up places, and their reviews, prior to our trip to plan out when and where we would should go. We were able to drop off a bag of clothes before dinner one night and picked up our clean laundry a few hours later for only about $20- cheaper than paying for checked baggage! This was the first time we have ever had our clothes laundered for us, in the past we have done our own clothes at laundromats or stayed in an Airbnb with a Washer and Dryer.
All in all Rome was an incredible city, full of remarkable history, food, and architecture. What are your favorite things to do in Rome? What about your favorite restaurants? I will be sure to add them for when I return!