What is there not to love about Rome really?
Being considered as the center of the world for centuries, It has been my ultimate dream to set foot in the Urbs Sacra [Sacred City]. Rome is Rome. A city built on unfathomable history. The home to the Catholic Church, the birthplace of Julius Caesar, Augustus, the gladiator’s den… ruins and all the iconic symbols of imperial Rome.
Clearly, there is no place like it on earth.
My maternal grandmother was a massive Catholic devotee and somehow have influenced my beliefs and my fascination with the Catholic church and its history. I was raised in a household wherein we have to attend different mass schedules in a week[aside from sunday], church events, and even Sunday classes and outreach programs. I practically grew up in an environment where everyone believes in miracle, and oh boy.. you’ve got to believe in magic and supernaturals too! [for real!] lol
My fascination grew even more during high school years when our history teacher endlessly narrates the life of Nero, Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius and so on. I get to read stories of how Rome ascend to power, its civilization down to how and what the Sistine chapel was built for. How the then Pope Julius II ordered Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel using Fresco Technique when in fact he is actually a sculpture.
I remember imagining myself walking the streets of Rome, its cobblestone pathways, its dark and narrow alleys, its hundreds of thousands of years-old architectures and structures. To kneel and pray inside St. Peter’s Basilica, to explore the Vatican Museums and stare in great awe at the ceiling of Sistine Chapel… Places where I only heard of during my history class, while my teacher describes them so vividly – the history of the ancient times…
And now this?
Saying that it’s a dream come true would be an understatement to my rather astonishment – thanks to my other half who’s always there to support even the craziest of my ideas! lol.
Fast forward to the day we started planning our trip; after securing visas, tickets and all – I tried asking few friends regarding tips or guides, the how to’s, do’s and don’ts, at least to skip the trial and error part and save time, effort and money since we need to squeeze all the places we want to visit in a span of 2 weeks [14 days] . Unfortunately, I didn’t get much the help I needed for this trip and even Google gave me a hard time figuring out either [where are all those travel blogs when you need them, eeeh? ahaha].
Well, on the contrary, getting lost is part of the adventure. However, when you have limited time with a limited budget… getting lost is out of the question. So, here comes the trial and error part. lol
But first, let me devour into this little piece of heaven! Gelato here I come!
As with all first-time visits to a city; if I have known better, I could have allotted lots of free time to get lost and discover unsuspected treasures around Rome.
You need to keep a map handy, but try walking around without a plan or destination for a day. You never know what you’ll find!
And since the best way of exploring the city is by foot, we did just that right after arriving in the Vatican!
Alas! My heart jumps in excitement when I heard our pilot announced; “we are now on our final approach”.
It was raining when we arrived at the Fiumicino-Leonardo da Vinci Airport so instead of our original plan of riding the metro/bus, we end up hailing a cab instead. [And to my surprise, a beautiful young lady driver].
We paid 48 euro at a flat rate; I think this is regardless of how many passengers could fit in the vehicle, going to Vatican – We purchased our Roma pass online and had to pick it up from their main office inside the Vatican; which I don’t really recommend at all. We did not find any buses or public transports anywhere near and would be an excruciating experience when you’re carrying tons of luggage from the airport [We did a marathon walk from Vatican to Nazionale]. You can purchase your Roma Pass from the airport itself or from convenient stores around the city instead.
You have to take note that Roma Pass doesn’t work inside Vatican City.
They have a different system from that of entire Rome, and its a big city with a large transportation system. Lucky my husband had a much reliable navigator [offline]in his phone rather than mine. Uurgggh!
I’ve thought of including tips and guides in this post but decided will just save it for a separate article not to complicate things and confuse everyone. I hope you will still find my own experience useful and please feel free to share any tips you have in the comments below that could possibly help a first timer such as myself.
Here are our 3 days itinerary in the city of Rome!
We were supposed to join the free walking tour late in the afternoon after arrival [booked online] though certain mishaps prevented us from doing so and leave me a bit disappointed. Being a first timer – and doing things by trial and error, expect numerous detours along the way. We’ve encountered a lot of groups on our way to the hotel, walk passed through some places we don’t even realize as a major site including this column on my right which called…
After a long and tiring walk from Vatican to Nazionale; where we will be staying for 3 days and 2 nights, we rest for an hour and started our way out exploring the city with gelato and a map in hand. lol. It’s 5 pm and yet the sun is at its brightest.
We stayed in Eurostars International Palace hotel, along Nazionale, paid less than 500dhs for 3 days 2 nights. That is even cheaper than most hotels back home.
You may check out www.booking.com for really accurate and affordable rates that will match your preference. If you are on a limited budget but still want to rest peacefully in a comfortable room, this is highly recommended since it is in the heart of the city where everything else is within a walking distance; gelaterias are all around the corner, few steps to each other. You can’t choose where to buy. The hotel is in a great location, bus stations just outside the hotel going to major attractions. also with extremely helpful and kind staff.
There is so much to do in Rome and the Vatican City that your 4-5 days can be easily filled with loads of activities. Be sure to map out your must do’s, to-do’s before you step out of the hotel so you won’t miss a thing!
Along the way, we can’t help but to take a snap or two, You walk down the street and next to a modern building are ruins dating back thousands of years. The city is indeed a clash of a modern and old era.
Piazza del Popolo
Summer is almost over and the weather is getting cooler so walking is not an issue at all with 23-25 degrees in mid-day down to 19 degrees late afternoon. Make your way north to Piazza del Popolo, and if it interests you, check out the fabulous church of Santa Maria del Popolo or the Leonardo Da Vinci museum.
FYI, these places are not only crowded with tourists but also with seemingly pervasive salesmen. They will try to sell you almost everything from scarves, umbrellas, parasols and purses including roses! Though I kinda like the idea of roses, the way they approach you is somewhat very Mafiosi. Persistent. One of these guys came to me and gave me a bunch of roses, said its free! But actually, it is not!
Exploring Villa Borghese
Adjacent to the Piazza del Popolo, you’ll find the grounds of Villa Borghese. Stop at the east end for great views over the city and epic photo opportunities.
The beautiful Villa and grounds were built in the sixteenth century as a “party villa” for Cardinal Scipione Borghese. It now houses the impressive Galleria Borghese and the villa’s gardens.
We planned to just chill out for an hour or two in Villa Borghese, ponder and reflect over our written itinerar date and regroup for what is ahead. For many, a stroll in the park is a great vehicle for this.
The Piazza Navona
Back across the river, and home to Bernini fountains, cafés, colorful street performers, and large crowds, Rome’s famous Piazza Navona is a lively place to people watch and enjoy a cone of gelato.
Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi
If you have only a few hours to spend in Rome, the Pantheon is definitely a sight you cannot miss, it is the only ancient Roman temple to survive the millennia virtually intact. The architecture will definitely leave you dumbstruck, and you will need a few minutes just to sit in the piazza and take in the stately sight before heading inside.
The Trevi Fountain
No trip to Rome would be complete without seeing the Trevi Fountain!
Trevi Fountain (Italian: Fontana di Trevi) is a fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy, designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci. Standing 26.3 m high and 49.15 m wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. It depicts the sea god Oceanus with his seahorses. The fountain has appeared in several notable films, including Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, and is a popular tourist attraction. [excerpt from wikipedia]
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” To make sure we would return to Rome, we followed a curious Roman tradition. We threw a coin, with your back to the fountain and using our right hand, over our left shoulder into the water. This coin-tossing tradition was also the theme of 1954’s Three Coins in a Fountain and the Academy Award-winning song by that name which introduced the picture.
Probably the most famous fountain in the world, the Trevi Fountain is always crowded, especially at night when couples come for a romantic picture. The best time to see this beautiful fountain is before lunch when the crowds are thin. Don’t forget to throw two coins instead of one (one for love, one to return to Rome).
I was very excited to be waking up in the city of Rome…
Today, Our first destination is the Vatican. though we were a bit late since I overslept [which is a bit odd since I’m not the type of person to overslept especially when on vacation and the fact that I am in Rome].
Vatican City is easy to see, but you could spend at least a half a day there. Don’t leave Rome without spending some time to see the home of the Pope, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and all of the wonderful museums (16 EUR).
The Vatican is closely tied with Rome’s heritage, and there is a wealth of art and history to explore in its Vatican Museums. Start early to beat the crowds.
We reached the walled city at around 10 am and there’s already a hoard of tourists lined up to St. Peter’s. We took advantage of the waiting time taking snaps everywhere spending some time out front.
St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Basilica
Once you’re finished, you can go visit the world-famous Vatican Museums, which opens at 9 am, if you want to check out history at its finest. You can expect to spend most of the day at the Vatican if you’re a history lover!
If you are interested, following the basilica, climb the “cupola” for a workout and breathtaking panoramic views of the city across the river.
A massive collection of paintings and artifacts that I remember screwing a day of our itinerary since we’ve spent the whole day inside the Vatican which we were supposed to be done by midday.
I’m a natural history lover and everything was just so overwhelming that instead of just walking pass through the hallways of paintings and many more paintings, we end up checking the details of almost each piece of art inside the Vatican museum. My feet are crying in agony begging to rest! And my husband can’t wait to lay his back on our comfy bed. At the end of the museum lies the overwhelming Sistine Chapel. Though it is forbidden to take a snap inside the chapel, I did secretly take a couple or two on my iPhone.
At the end of the museum lies the impressive Sistine Chapel. Though it is forbidden to take a snap inside the chapel, I did secretly take a couple or two on my iPhone.
We went back to the hotel after Vatican and did rest for a while.
I was a cry baby when my husband doesn’t want to get up just because I want to see Rome at night. But, I insist!
On the streets, we saw a lot of people drinking from beer bottles, talking, chatting while sitting on the steps of a fountain or piazza. You can buy cheap bottles from the mini markets, and ask them to open it for you. My husband did buy a bottle and drinking straight from it while walking.
Aaaah. The sense of freedom that is not common where we are working.
There are countless evening walking tours either you are traveling solo and want a guide, with your special someone or group of friends, Any way you want… Just don’t miss the opportunity of exploring the city by night. It’s highly recommended! There’s no city quite like Rome lit up at night!
Even though the line of tourists can seem endless, The Colosseum, one of the most famous sights in all of Italy is not to be missed. It is nearly 2000 years old, and it is the largest amphitheater in the entire Roman Empire.
If the line at the Colosseum is long, head over to the entrance of the Forum where you can buy a combo ticket for both sights. Admission is 12 EUR. It’s open 8:30 am until one hour before sunset.
The Colosseum or Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre (Latin: Amphitheatrum Flavium; Italian: Anfiteatro Flavio or Colosseo) is an elliptical amphitheater in the center of the city of Rome, Italy.
Next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine, one of the largest of Rome’s ancient triumphal arches. The arch celebrates Emperor Constantine the Great’s victory and the battle that made Christianity the religion of Rome.
Arch of Constantine
We were supposed to go see the Orange Garden [Savello Park] on the Aventine Hill but we got lost taking a bus on a different route heading to…
La Boca de la Verita
My husband and I are teasing each other while tempting fate, audaciously sticking our hand inside the lie detector called La Bocca Della Verita (“Mouth of Truth”), If you have seen the movie Roman Holiday which was made famous by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in a memorable scene in 1953.
The food in Italy is arguably some of the best in the world. This is actually the highlight of our 2nd honeymoon-not! lol.
Prosecco anyone?! We ate just everywhere! Pointing here and there.
The highlights of our honeymoon-not in Rome include trying the best street food and restaurant dining.
We planned our culinary journey from morning by eating breakfast at street cafe’s, lunch at some small pizzeria around the corners and balancing it with a luxurious dinner near major attractions such as the Trevi Fountain.
There are a lot of free walking tours that you can join instead of the paid tours. One travel hack that you don’t wanna miss is when you book your hotel at booking.com, you can download the travel guide along with your booking that is designed from the nearest landmarks and tourist sites in your hotel.
Driving in Rome isn’t advisable—the traffic is chaotic in the best of terms and drivers are insane. Opt for wandering around by foot—the most romantic way to discover the hidden corners of the city—or use the impressive public system of buses, trams, trolleys, metro, and light railways.
If you’re in town for at least three days, try the Roma Pass—just 36 euros will get you full access to public transportation, admission to two museums, and discounts on performance and exhibition tickets.
Personal tip: read blogs about the place you are going to travel as much as you can.
I’m no expert of Rome, as a matter of fact, I still have and need to learn about it more than anybody else.
How I wish, I am by any chance a resident of its walls. There’s a lot more to explore in this city.
During our time in the city, we learned a few things – I will be writing a summary of the Rome tips I wish someone had told us before we traveled to Rome on a separate post. [Watch out for it!]
What I am sharing is what I have experienced during my 3 days stay – which is not enough to cover the whole city, indulging ourselves in decadent pasta, true Roman pizza and usually capped our meal with a cappuccino or gelato.
3 days is clearly not enough.
It feels like we are leaving too soon!
So much to see, but so little time.
Rome is famous for being one of the most historical, cultured and romantic destinations in the world, and whether you are visiting to enjoy the excellent food or to see the sights of the city, you won’t leave disappointed!
I am already praying for another trip! xoxo