I think everyone can agree that a long stay in Europe would not be complete without a visit to the beautiful country of Italia! There are so many must-see cities that I wanted to check out in Italy, but naturally Rome was my very first pick. Having never been before, my husband and I made a lengthy list of the classic Roman ruins and sites that we needed to see during our stay. In other words, we were on a mission to be the ultimate tourists in Rome! You name it, we wanted to see it. Although it definitely was no easy task to cover in just a few days, we thoroughly enjoyed our busy time spent “Rome”ing around The Eternal City.
Our very first day in Rome was quite the whirlwind. Our itinerary included seeing what seemed like everything under the sun within the central area of Rome. Fortunately we booked a hotel right by the Spanish Steps, which was close to the Metro and in the middle of all the action. I highly recommend getting a room within the heart of Rome like we did. It may take a lot of researching to find a good one, but it is completely worth being situated within walking distance from all the major sites.
The first area of the city that we wanted to discover were the iconic Roman ruins including the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill. If there is one part of Rome that you need to see, then this is the one! We took an easy Metro ride over and got off at the “Colosseo” stop. As soon as we walked out of the station we were met with the most incredible view of the Colosseum. Currently ranked as one the 7 new wonders of the world, the Colosseum is one of the most magnificent structures ever created. Because we came during the off-season, there was hardly any wait at all to purchase our tickets from the Colosseum booth to tour the landmark. We each paid 12 euros per ticket, which included entrance into the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill. Apparently there are a bunch of ways to do it, but we found this to be the easiest and most convenient. We noticed a lot of scammers out front trying to offer overpriced tours, faster ways to get in, etc. so I would advise to avoid those if you can. If you do happen to find yourself visiting during the busy season and want to avoid the long line, then I would suggest buying them from the Palatine Hill Office which is a short walk from the Colosseum and a lot less crowded.
For me, seeing and experiencing the Colosseum was such an amazing spectacle. It is so much more impressive than portrayed in photos, and I couldn’t help but day-dream about what it must have been like to be there during the height of its glory…
“Are you not entertained?!”
After the Colosseum we walked through The Arch of Constantine and into what remains of the Forum that once served as the imperial city center for the ancient Romans long ago. I was expecting to see just a few columns or fallen over rocks, but was astonished to witness what seemed like an entire city of ruins covering every inch of the vast space. It was so amazing, and one of my favorite things that we did that day. We had so much fun exploring all through the ruins and overlooking the remains from the top of Palatine Hill. One tip I recommend doing before entering is to check out before and after renderings of what the Forum used to look like, and what is left today. You can truly get a greater sense for how glorious the Forum and its surroundings were meant to be during that time.
If you feel like walking a little further, be sure to check out the Italian Capitol Building. It is really beautiful and offers great views of the Forum.
We were pretty much starving after that point, so we went back to the Spanish Steps to try out some freshly made pasta off the street. This place was called Pastifico and they had the tastiest homemade pesto and garlic pasta for just only 4 Euros! It was the perfect amount for lunch and gave us more energy to walk down to see the Trevi Fountain and get some gelato. We wanted to experience Trevi Fountain both during the day, and at night. We often do this when sight-seeing because it is magical to see landmarks both ways (don’t forget to throw a coin and make a wish)! Also not too far from the fountain is the incredible Pantheon. It is completely free to tour inside and is one of the most perfectly built structures I have ever seen. The fact that it is still in such good condition today is simply amazing!!!
We spent a lot of time by the Pantheon strolling along the different streets and alley ways finding some fun shopping. Close to this area is another must-see in Rome which is the Piazza Navona. There are many city squares, but this is the main one complete with pretty fountains and lots of great restaurant options. We decided to eat dinner around the square and dined at the most authentic place, Da Francesco. Our dinner we had here was probably the best meal of our trip. For an appetizer we had a golf ball-sized piece of fresh mozzarella with carbonara and Bolognese for the main courses. All of the ingredients were handmade including the pasta and our waiter was the sweetest little Italian man ever. This place was also super reasonable and it would be such a shame to miss while visiting Rome. We absolutely loved eating REAL Italian food here!
Italians really do have the most delicious food. Mmmmm…
It never ceases to amaze me how much ground we can cover in just one day sometimes. We were so exhausted by the end of our first day, but it was just the beginning of our little tour of Italy. During the middle of our trip we took the train to spend some time in Florence (which I will be covering in another post soon). After Florence, the last half of our time in Rome was spent visiting the world’s smallest country and heart of the Catholic Church.. Vatican City. This definitely had to be one of the major highlights of our trip as it was so magnificent to experience in person.
We took the Metro and started our tour at the Vatican Museum. This museum showcases great works of art including Michelangelo’s famous masterpiece, The Sistine Chapel. The only way to actually see the chapel is through the museum and by purchasing tickets to get in. I personally thought the price was a little high, even with our student discount, but it was just one of those things that you have to do whatever it takes to see. I had no clue that Michelangelo actually painted every inch inside the Sistine Chapel. From The Last Judgement, to the Book of Genesis, every fresco he created was painted to perfection. Our necks got sore from looking up at the ceiling because it was so incredible and we could not stop staring! Unfortunately no photos were allowed inside.
Since the museum was located separate from St. Peter’s Square, we had to walk pretty far to get to the center of it all because we had no idea just how big Vatican City really was! As we made it to the center we got right in line to see the massive and ornate St. Peter’s Basilica (free admission). Again, we were in the off-season so this made the lines move really fast and efficiently. St. Peter’s Basilica was by far the biggest and most grand of all the major cathedrals that we have seen in Europe. I absolutely loved seeing the gorgeous Pieta, and my husband really enjoyed seeing the burial crypts below and in particular the tomb of Peter himself. St. Peter’s was just so stunning, and so was the rest of the square and city. No matter what religion you are, Vatican City is something that cannot be missed when in Rome.
Phew! I think I covered just about everything that we did during our busy, yet amazing time spent in the city of Rome. Out of all the cities we have seen in Europe, Rome has had the most historic sites and attractions to visit making it one of our favorites. This one is really tough to narrow down, but here is my list of absolute must-sees/do’s when visiting lovely Roma.
The Savvy Suitcase Top 3 Picks:
1. Colosseum. A famous world wonder for a reason.
2. Food. Pasta, Pizza, Gelato, it is all GOOD!
3. Vatican City. Spectacular.
4. Pantheon. I had to throw it in, it was so amazing!
*Our next european destination includes a beach! YAY!