As you may already know, for our spring city-break, we decided to choose the eternal city, Rome! It’s always been on my bucket list and for Konrad, as a Christian, it’s a symbolic town, so we bought our flight in December (Wizz Air- 30 euro/person). Buying cheap tickets to Rome is pretty common, however finding a decent accommodation in a non-budget-breaking price is another story. We were lucky enough to plan the visit for March, so most of the options were open and after checking the Airbnb and hotel research websites and, after changing back and forth, finally chose Piumith B&B (178 euro/4 nights/2 pp. including breakfast). The place was located next to Termini station and for the price you pay, it’s worth recommending. Another option to look for are: Airbnb, hostels or, during the summer, camp sites around Rome, but for the last option you need to include a daily price of tickets to and from the center and you deprive yourself of the possibility to wander around the city in the late evening, when it’s really beautiful, or in the very early morning, when you can have the only chance to see such attractions as the Trevi Fountain or the Spanish steps completely empty.
Once you decide on your accommodation and have your flight booked, these are our propositions as to what to see and sometimes in which order (especially important for the Vatican) that would fix the mistakes that we did and allow you to profit from the attractions of the city as well as breathe it in and relax a while.
The goal of so many pilgrimages, one of the most meaningful places for the Christians and an extraordinarily collection of art. It’s one of the places that you probably wouldn’t like to miss when you’re in Rome. And quite for a reason, as the Vatican Museums and the Basilica are impressive. However, it all comes with a price and this time not only the literal one. The crowds of tourists and the amount of hours that you’ll have to spend in the lines, unless you organize your visit wisely is unimaginable!
Probably the best way to visit Vatican and not to spend the entire day standing in front of the Basilica is: come during the week and in the MORNING! Ok, ok… I know it’s your holiday and all but in this case, make an exception. Better verify this information before arriving, but at this moment the Basilica opens to the public at 9 o’clock. The first reservations you can get for the Vatican museum start at 8.30.
So, in order to avoid lines as much as possible, go to the Basilica first! Yep, not to the museum, as for the latter you can purchase the tickets online, which will spare you a lot of standing anyway and there’s no way to book a visit in the Basilica, as the entrance is free. While visiting, make sure you BUY A TICKET TO THE CUPOLA while inside of St. Peter’s Basilica, as there is no other possible way of getting them, even though the entrance is in a different place (yep… there’s absolutely no information beforehand about that fact and if you forget to buy the tickets, you’ll have to stand the line to the Basilica again or buy the skip-the-line ticket for 15 euro O_O). The inside of the church is extraordinary. Seriously, I would even say too extraordinary. It’s so luxurious and rich that it somehow loses the atmosphere of a religious place. You can also see a part of the Catacombs, which is available to the public. There’s also a possibility to get a trip in the underground and admire the ancient thumbs, however, you have to apply before (via mail or a call) and wait for the acceptance, as they only allow 200 ppl a day and most of the people get declined either way.
After a visit in the Basilica, head between the columns and outside of the Piazza to the entrance of the Vatican Museum. You’ll probably see a really long line on the street before the entrance, but it’s possible to make a reservation in advance, so use the official Museum’s website and print out your booking (20 euro/person). There will still be a short line to make through the security, but it goes much much faster. The museum is amazing! Throughout the years it gathered uncountable number of fabulous exhibits, which are gathered in the equally beautiful corridors. Depending on how devoted you are, reserve a lot of time on the museum and the Sistine Chapel, as you’re going to need that! If tired, fancy a coffee on one of the benches in the square inside of the museum (cappuccino-1.5 euro, croissant-1.2 euro- not that bad for such a tourist place ;))
While you’re done with the museum digging, you can finally get to the Cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica. You either reach it by stairs (over 500 steeps- 6 euro) or can take an elevator (still 300 steps 😉 – 8 euro). The entrance is between the columns, right next to the long line to the Basilica. Just remember to buy tickets from the inside of the church, as it’s the only place to get them!
And the final warning: make sure you verify the opening hours of the Basilica, as it can change dynamically depending on various religious events happening. For instance, we found out that on Friday that we were in, the entrance to both Basilica and Cupola closes at 12.30.
This is one of the definite must-see in Rome. And, as you probably imagine, one of the most crowded 😉
Luckily, you can purchase the ticket online (9 euro), which is very convenient and it’s valid till the end of the year, so you’re not bound with the exact date and hour, as in the case of the Vatican Museum. One important information, the entrance fee doesn’t cover entering the third level, the arena and seeing the underground (the cells of the gladiators), for which you need to participate in one of the organized tours offered by the Colosseum (12-13 euro).
Anyway, if you decide to make a trip around the place on your own, you should consider it to take around 2 hours. An organized one takes around an hour and a half, however you may want to stay a bit longer later on to have more time for admiring the view.
Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Within the price of a ticket to Colosseum, the entrance to these two attraction is included. One not really nice surprise here: as all of the visitors have already purchased their tickets on the way to the Colosseum, there is no short or skip the line here, so, again, avoid the weekends. Luckily, there is only one entrance to both Forum and the Palatine, so you need to wait only once 😉 Having seen a lot of ancient ruins in Greece, Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia, I didn’t expect anything special, but have to admit the place is so abundant in monuments and remains that it’s definitely worth seeing. We were both overwhelmed by the magnitude and the sizes of each of the ancient place (ok, let’s admit it- EVERYTHING was built HUGE in Rome- interesting…. ;)). To be able to fully appreciate the place, prepare yourself a bit, as otherwise, you will be lost in all of the historical markers here, as there are so many of them from different times. We were lucky enough to have a friend, who happens to be a tour guide here, to tell us about the different fora and it was a great experience.
As far as the Palatine hill, the view is amazing!
Once you’ve finished visiting the most famous tourist places that require the entrance ticket, having a stroll in the center is one of the most pleasant ways to explore the city. One of the places to see in Rome is definitely the Pantheon, which supposedly was the biggest one in the country, however the current shape of the building is fairly new and the building has been transformed into the Catholic Church. As for all other churches, the entrance to the Pantheon is free. The inside is absolutely fabulous with all the glamorous paintings and ornaments which are almost too outstanding.
The Trevi Fountain
If you’re coming to Rome, you must have heard of the Trevi Fountain, or even seen it. Being 26 meters high and almost 50 meters long, it’s the largest baroque fountain in the city and, definitely, one of the most famous in the world. And a definite must see, as statues and the overall architecture of the place is phenomenal! The biggest flaw is the crowd! And it can be a real issue here, as the area around the fountain is not that big and people gather here all the time, even late at night. We managed to take some photos of an empty Trevi Fountain and were able to enjoy our time there, but it happened at 6.30 AM 😉 Otherwise….. be patient 😉
The Spanish Stairs
Extremely popular mainly because of the film industry, the Spanish Stairs are located between the Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Trinita dei Monti, with the temple of the same name as the later up on the hill. As we’ve been told, they could actually be called the French stairs, as the temple above them belongs in fact to the French.
As I’ve mentioned, the Stairs have become famous mainly because of the movies and are considered one of the most romantic spots in Rome. Quite honestly, worth seeing, but overrated.
Piazza Navona is undeniably one of the best known and most popular places in the city.
The place was initially built as a stadium that gathered 30 000 audience, and later transformed into a street market. Currently, with countless restaurants, cafes, great fountains, especially Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi right in the middle, street musicians, it lures the tourists from all around the world.
While visiting, make sure you enter the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. Actually, the patron of the Church, St. Agnese, died martyr’s death on the original stadium here.
If you’re tired of the busy and very much tourist oriented center of Rome, take a break and go to Trastevere. Not far from the main attractions, this district offers a much more relaxed atmosphere, less crowds, locale feel, great food and much better prices. It’s a great area to take as walk among the small cobbled streets and jump into one of the places for lunch or evening meal.
The prices both in the supermarkets and restaurants are lower than in the center and you can have a proper, good quality meal for as little as 5 euro. We got 3 slices of pizza for 5 euro, whereas I paid the same amount for just 1 slice in the center.
Villa Borghese is considered one of the biggest parks in Rome, definitely in the city center. The easiest way to get there is by underground to the Piazza del Popolo and up the hill. The park is well organized and offers a wide variety of attractions, from renting bikes and segways to numerous cafes and ice-cream vans.
It’s a great place for a sunny day to relax and escape a bit the city buzz.
At the end of the gardens, you will find the Gallery Borghese, which we thought a bit far-fetched and not that interesting, but turned out to be one of the best galleries in Rome. Make sure you make a reservation first, as there’s limited amount of visitors.
Definitely, Villa Borghese is a pleasant and welcoming place to visit.
Piazza del Popolo
On the way to Villa Borghese, this large square is definitely a place to see. The name of the Piazza derives from Latin Populus (poplar), although in modern Italian it means the Square of people and it was a place of public executions till 1826.
Currently, right in the middle of the square, you’ll find a tapered Egyptian obelisk of Sety I. Another notable things to see in the piazza is: Porta del Popolo, the Trident of streets separated by the two twin churches: Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto and, of course, the fountains. Although I’ve heard that Rome is known as the city of 1000 churches, I begin to consider it a city of 1000 fountains.
Campo di Fiori
One of the famous squares in Rome. During the day, the place is a market, full of food products, flowers and, unfortunately, tourist kitsch. It’s a nice place to wander around, although the prices of the products are not the best quality-price example. At night, apparently the square turns into a famous nightlife spot, which, quite honestly, we didn’t try out, as it’s not our kind of visiting. Although this place is extremely popular, in our opinion it’s a bit overrated.
OK, generally, I’m not a fan of ice-cream- really, I’m not… but in Italy, Gelatto is a completely different world…. It’s like a new dimension of something you thought you already knew…
I know, I know… you’ll say “we have good Italian ice-cream in (London, Berlin, Warsaw… wherever), but nothing, I mean NOTHING compares to the real Italian Gelatti! So, skip the diet and use the chance to try it! There are Gellaterias on absolutely every corner of the streets and most of them offer good quality ice-cream for around 2.5 – 3 euro.
Gianicolo was one of the places recommended to us by the locals as a romantic spot with fabulous view. Apart from the panoramic landscape from the viewpoint, it also offers you quite a few monuments (e.g. of Garibaldi right next to the viewpoint) and the Fountain dell’Acqua Paola, which dates back to the 17th century and is one of the oldest in Rome.
The most interesting custom here, which dates back 160 years, is shooting the cannons every day at midday.
For the ones searching for nature, you can always visit the Botanical Gardens, which we didn’t do and therefore cannot recommend. The entrance fee to the Gardens is around 10 euro.
Vittorio Emanuel II Monument and Piazza Venezzia
It’s definitely one of the landmarks of Rome, seen in almost every movie about the city. The monument was built to honor the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuel II. Being one of favorite places for tourists, it’s definitely not equally appreciated by the locals. Firstly, as it destroyed the Capitoline Hill and its architecture. Second, as the massive marble building is seen as too big and too bright. It’s considered by the locals a huge typewriter or a massive wedding cake. The building was later on a place of Mussolini’s speeches. And, apparently, the Romans aren’t the his biggest fans 😉
Having said all that, I must admit that we were much impressed by the building. Well… we’re only tourists 😉
Rome is definitely one of the most visited capitals in Europe and should be in the bucket list of every traveler. The history of the town and the abundance of ancient architecture are not to be found in many other places in the world. Our last words of advice: come here in spring- March, April are great, it’s already warm and you’ll avoid the crowds that can spoil even the most outstanding trip!