The final post about Italy – Rome was our last pit stop of our Italian vacation, the heart and capital of Italy. Honestly, I loved and hated Rome for so many reasons mainly because I felt totally lost as a traveler. It’s pandemonium of modern and ancient Rome and so many hidden gems. Comparing Rome to the other cities, I found it impossible to walk anywhere – so you were really forced to use public transportation – the metro and the buses.
We didn’t mind public transportation, but you solely base your time schedule on the buses (that is if they show up within 5 to 10 minutes or sometimes longer) or you have the option of the constant metro – but it’s not built to go everywhere in the city. There are only two lines – Metro A and Metro B. However, Rome is so full of culture, history, and people – you find yourself enamored with historical buildings, a multitude of fine eats, and the busy city life. Rome was not built in a day, so we gave ourselves 4 full days to explore the wonders and sights here.
We stayed at Hotel Virginia in the Repubblica Termini area, and it was within 10 minutes of walking distance of the train station. It was a decent stay because they did offer breakfast in the downstairs restaurant between the hours of 7am to 10am but there was no internet available either. Typically an Italian breakfast is coffee and a croissant, that’s it. They had the strangest hair dryer that I had ever seen, but it worked.
If you plan on staying for a couple of days in Rome, buy the Roma Pass. For the time frame of three days, it allows you to use all public transportation, and get into 2 museum free and then a discount on any attractions after the first two. It pays for itself, if you see the Colosseum and the Forum, and also helps you skip the long lines, too. We bought the Roma Pass immediately as we arrived in the train station at the Tourist Information booth, it doesn’t get activated until you first use it. We bought it on Saturday, and didn’t use it until the next day, Sunday.
We enjoyed the night life of Rome, it felt so much alive and full compared to the other cities. There was always groups of people walking, talking and enjoying Italy. The most famous of all fountains, the Trevi Fountain was a hotspot for many tourists. Legend has it if you toss a coin into the fountain, it ensures your return to the City of Rome. They also collect the coins at the end of the night, and subsidize it to Rome’s poor.
Rome is a pretty huge city, and so is the Vatican – it’s in own holy city and deserved it’s own day to visit. The Vatican Museum’s hours can be slightly confusing, but on the last Sunday of the month - they offer free admission between 10am to 1pm. But it also means the longest line in history, or in ROME. We waited about 1 1/2 hours until we got in, to avoid paying the regular $12 admission fee. If it’s not a big deal to pay for admission for you, don’t go on the free Sunday. We were stuck outside waiting under the sun, slowly sun burning, harassed by gypsies and endless tour guides who promise to take you to the front of the line to avoid the fee. (It’s free so it was another local scam).
There are some impressive works of art, a lot of Madonna and Child, and more importantly home to the Sistine Chapel. It was absolutely gorgeous and magnificent, and a lot smaller than I had imagined what it would be. The masterpiece of Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II, Sistine Chapel, and they say it took him four years to complete. The are hundreds of ancient Roman sculptures, tapestries, old world maps, mosaics, ceramics, and so much more. Take a tour, you’ll find yourself walking for at least a minimum of 2 hours.
St. Peter’s Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. It’s one of the holiest Catholic sites and they have a strict dress code. I’m almost wasn’t allowed inside because my shirt with crochet sleeves was see-through. Make sure to adhere to dress code, men are allowed to wear shorts, but for some reason women are not allowed, anything showing knee is regarded bad. On certain days, like Sunday or Wednesday the Pope will come out, too.
Our favorite area of Rome was Ancient Rome – the Colosseum, the Forum and Palatine Hill. The Colosseum was originally four floors and the main stage for the gladiator battles. It had the spectator capacity of over 50,000. It was absolutely magnificent and glorious – it’s like taking a peek into the Roman days. We took an audio tour to get more of an inside perspective, it only lasts about an hour or so.
It literally took us 6 hours to walk around this entire section, and we took our time. Water and shade breaks because we wanted to see and explore it all. It was interesting to see the mock-ups of what the Colosseum would have looked like, and how much marble was actually there. Most of the marble had been stolen over the years and used it for other buildings throughout Rome.
There was so much about Italy that we loved and the fantastic eats are still on my mind. We ate plenty of Panini sandwiches and delicious pasta dishes. The food truck (small food in a space) craze is already there – small food stands are everywhere on the street. Sandwiches are perfect for lunch.
I loved this simple plate of spaghetti with Bolognese sauce. It was absolutely amazing and the rustic presentation was gorgeous. I ate all of that pasta and Eric enjoyed his last pizza of Quattro formaggi. It’s made of 4 cheeses (Parmesan, Blue Cheese, Mozzarella and Fontina). It’s so light and airy and practically melts in your mouth.
Overall, my husband and I felt like this was the best vacation we have ever experienced, almost like a second honeymoon. We were able to visit a couple good areas of Italy, the good and the bad of it all was all enjoyed. I have been suffering from Italy withdrawals and have been finding ways to incorporate a little bit of Italia in our daily life: The long walks, the simple meals, somewhere to walk to enjoy some gelato or better yet make my own gelato, and to remember “il doce far niente.”
Always carry a water bottle, use the water fountains found anywhere to refill your bottle.
Cappuccino/Espresso and “cornetto” is the standard breakfast in Italy. Do not expect eggs and bacon, and etc..
You’ll never get the check if you don’t ask for it. “La Cuenta por favore.”
You can drink alcohol in the streets, there is no strict enforcement of the drinking age either.
If you want ice in your drink, it’s considered something luxurious – you must ask for it.
Most attractions & museums are closed on Sunday, or Monday – plan accordingly.
Tourist Information offices are always helpful stops and they provide free maps.
Gelato is good for digestion, feel free to eat it once or twice a day.
Walk and walk until your feet hurt, and get lost in the city.
Day 10: Rome, La Dolce Vita stroll – Trevi Fountain, Dinner at Ristorante Il Gabriello
Day 11: Vatican Museum, dinner in Travestere – Dar Poeta Pizzeria
Day 12: Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill; Pantheon,
Day 13: St. Peter’s Basilica
Day 14: Depart for home ;-(
P.S. It took me a month to write all of this up finally because my mind was still daydreaming about Italy. If you ever get the chance, travel to ITALY!