This is a 4-part series on our 8-day Italian adventure, and on this particular post let’s focus the spotlight on il mio preferito, Rome. Oh Roma! I can’t wait to go back.
We stayed at an Airbnb a few steps from the Vatican Museum. It was the perfect spot because aside from it being close to the Vatican, it was close to Ottaviano metro station as well. There were plenty of shops around, with Todis and Carrefour Express nearby. We shopped for supplies on the first day ‘cos we opted to cook. We did eat out, but most of our money went to the gelaterias.
As first time tourists, we wouldn’t want to miss the usual spots so we tried our best to visit everything, but 4 days isn’t enough to cover them.
Our first day was somewhat awkward because our flight arrived midnight in Rome (Fiumicino) and we booked our Airbnb the day after our departure so we waited in the airport for a few hours to be able to check in. Also the earliest possible bus to our destination is around 4am so there’s that. When we arrived at our accommodation, it was raining the entire day and we were so tired we decided to just stay in the house. We went out when it was dark, checked the area and bought groceries.
Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica
It was a Sunday and we were hoping that the Pope will hold a public mass (which didn’t happen) but he did show up in one of the balconies as he did a Papal message. He was so tiny though as it was way up high. Best bring binoculars if you want to see him clearer! Otherwise, you can just watch him on the massive screens all over St. Peter’s Square.
I was expecting St. Peter’s Basilica to be grand, but I was still overwhelmed when I stepped in. I don’t know where to look. Everything is just snap worthy.
Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum
We got in for free because entrance is free on the first Sunday of the month for most of the heritage sites in Rome. Prepare for the queue though as it can get long. For other days, it’s advised to pre-booked tickets so you don’t have to wait very long. If you don’t mind the queue, don’t bother with skip-the-line tickets. There are lots of people who are going to approach you, and tickets can be expensive. Have a look online, they’re cheaper!
After the Colosseum, we ate at one of those family-owned Italian restaurants. We were very hungry from all the walking so we finished everything in just a few minutes. But the food was really good, too! After that, we proceeded to walk to Fontana de Trevi. It was already dark but it’s alright because a lot of people were walking towards the area anyway. As expected, there were tons of people and of course, we did the throwing of the coin (or coins, for me hehe)
From the Trevi Fountain, we walked to Piazza di Spagna but stopping for a gelato along the way. The Italians really did good with their food. Everything there is delicious! We took a rest along the steps, and did some people watching. We climbed all the way to the top where we encountered one of those tourist scams. A man handed us a rose telling us it’s free. I did say no but he insisted that we keep it as a gift. After a while, he asked us for money in exchange for the rose lol. There’s a metro station close to the Spanish Steps which we took to get home.
Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel
Our third day is literally spent in the Vatican City. You have to at least spend half of your day to be able to tour around the Vatican museums. WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. It’s better if you have a guide with you so you’ll know the significance and importance of the pieces inside the museum. It’s also nice to know about the history and meaning of the artworks especially in the Sistine chapel. If you hate crowds, this is not the tour for you. I tell you, it can get suffocating in there. The entire time we were touring, I was thinking how rich the Vatican must be. I mean, aside from the tickets being generated by the tourists, can you imagine the treasures in there??
All of my senses were tired after the tour. It was just sensory overload. We went home, ate Caprese salad and had some wine.
Truth be told, I didn’t know what the Pantheon is. I keep associating it with Parthenon (which is a temple in Greece) so I didn’t really have any expectations. When we went in, I was pleasantly surprised because it’s beautiful. It used to be a temple but is now being used as a church. The most interesting part of the building for me is the dome as its only source of light. We wanted to catch the beauty of it in photos but we only had camera phones. It needs to be seen in person to be better appreciated!
After the Pantheon, we took the tram to Trastevere because we wanted to experience the flea market and how quaint of it as a neighborhood that we’ve been reading online. Unfortunately, we got lost and we were walking around in circles. We did find a big fountain near the botanic garden and did a bit of sightseeing. It rained so we just decided to go back to our airbnb and have our rest, as we’re traveling to Florence the day after.
- Buy the Roma pass when you’re staying for at least 3 days. It can be used in buses, trains and trams within city limits. There’s a 72-hour Roma pass and a 48-hour one. You can buy them in metro stations.
- If you buy single-use bus tickets (which you can purchase in Tabacchi shops), remember to validate them. You can actually be fined and/or penalized if the ticket inspectors catch you without a ticket or an unvalidated one.
- The bus stops/stations can be quite difficult ‘cos they are not that conspicuous. Not all buses provide information on the next stop so be attentive. The metro can get confusing as well. If all else fails, don’t hesitate to ask the locals.
- If you plan to visit a site which needs a ticket, check online if you can pre-book to save you the hassle of queueing. I don’t recommend skip-the-line tickets ‘cos you’re still going to queue anyway. Remember, entrance is free on the first Sunday of the month for most heritage sites.
- Bring cash. Though a lot of places accept credit/debit cards, cash is preferred.
- Wear sunscreen. Coming from gloomy UK, I did not expect Rome to be quite sunny considering we went there in October.