THE ULTIMATE TRAVEL GUIDE FOR AN AWESOME TRIP TO ROME, ITALY
What to see, where to sleep and what to eat in the eternal city?
SO, WHY ROME?
Rome is one of my all-time favourite cities. UNESCO World Heritage sites, amazingly delicious food, and wonderful people, all help make Rome my must-see destination. I always get so excited whenever I visit this epic city that I can’t get off the plane fast enough!
My very first experience in Italy’s capital came in the autumn of October 2012. My husband Zac and I had to fly out the first Sunday of the month as we were joining up with a tour that afternoon. After leaving very early in the morning, we got halfway to the airport and Zac realised he had forgotten his passport, so we had to turn the taxi around to retrieve it. What a great start! It gets worse. Once arriving at the check-in desk, I excitedly handed over my flight tickets only to be told that we had turned up at the airport on the wrong day. I had mistakenly booked the tickets to fly out on Monday. Oh dear! I was so embarrassed, but also sad, as that was one less day we would have in Rome. We tried to see if there were any flights out that day, and there were, but unfortunately, they were all fully booked. We turned around, red-faced, and headed back home to restart our journey the next day.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and make a purchase from my blog. While clicking these links won’t cost you anything, they will help me to keep The Travel Vine up and running! Click here to read my full disclosure policy. Thanks so much!
As it was mid-Aumtun in Italy I assumed the weather might not be that great; but getting off the plane at Funemenco Airport (one day later than I thought I would – boo!) and feeling the late afternoon sun on my face, straight away made me fall in love with this place. It is absolutely stunning. With its fantastic architecture from the Trevi Fountain to the Colosseum, as well as the beautiful ornate squares of Piazza Navona and Piazza San Pietro, there is so much to look at it will make your head spin! It’s a masterclass of how major cities should look.
One of the best things about visiting Rome is getting to sample their fantastic cuisine. I was in my element here as I just love carbs – especially bread and pasta – yum! I’m a cheap date! On one visit with my family, we would often eat at this amazing restaurant down the road from our hotel. They made the most incredible pasta, coated in a rich tomato and basil sauce, scattered with pieces of crayfish, or prawns-on-steroids as I called them. I loved mopping it up with thick, white crusty bread. Drool… I’m going off-topic here, I know, but I promise you, the food here is epic!
Next, I want to tell you all about my most memorable experiences in the ancient capital of the Roman empire, and share with you some travel tips and tricks along the way, so you can decide for yourself if these famous monuments are worth the money and the long queues. Newsflash – they are!
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
My first stop in Rome was the magnificent Colosseum. I arrived via train at a stop called ‘Colosseo,’ directly underneath the building. Once I walked up the station steps and emerged back into daylight, I got my first glimpse of this iconic structure. The first of the Seven Wonders of the World I’ve got to experience – tick!
Completed in 80 AD under the rule of Emperor Vespasian by thousands of slaves, this structure is now nearly two thousand years old. It is still possible to see some of the original stone details from the Colosseum’s walls, such as the pillars around the arched windows and the stone tablet that faces the Roman Forum written in the old Roman language.
I got to check out the interior as part of a tour and I was really excited to tread in the same footsteps as the ancient Romans. When you walk through to the open-air arena, you can see the floor has been exposed, showing you the underground tunnels where warriors and animals would have been held before going into battle for the spectators. It’s so cool! [>>>>> Click Here For Full Article <<<<<]
It was so hot when my family and I visited here that I thought we might burst into flames! Despite the heat though, none of us were put off exploring. In fact, we all really enjoyed it.
The Roman Forum was originally the centre of this ancient city, and legend has it that this was where Romulus declared a neutral zone against Remus so they could meet in peace. The Forum was home to many political and social events, from education and public speeches, to criminal trials and religious sermons.
There are many notable buildings still standing within, but my absolute favourite was the beautiful Arch of Titus, devoted to the Emperor himself. It is truly amazing. Sculptures and stone carvings depict battle scenes with a warrior on horseback, which I imagine is probably Titus. I kept finding myself looking back at it while walking around the park.
Remember while you are wandering around to stop and have a look back at the Forum from different vantage points, so you can fully appreciate what an important and impressive place it once was.
Via della Salara Vecchia, 5/6, 00186 Roma RM, | Buy tickets here [>>>>> www.getyourguide.co.uk <<<<<]
I came to this beautiful piazza straight from the Pantheon, which was only a five-minute walk away. I enjoyed the wonderful atmosphere from the surrounding coffee shops and restaurants, as well as the stunning architecture of the adjacent buildings and fountains.
The most outstanding feature of Piazza Navona has to be Bernini’s Fountain of Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi). It was built in the 1st century AD, and there is an obelisk in the middle that stretches to 16 meters in height, so there’s no chance you will miss it, no matter where you stand in the square.
Make sure also to check out the Neptune Fountain (Fontana del Moro). A gruesome-looking piece of art, with horses, cherubs and mer-looking-people who appear as though they are drowning while trying to get out of the fountain.
What an awesome place, and it is free, so make sure to visit when you’re next in Rome.
00186 Rome // Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi | www.rome.net/piazza-navona
The first time I visited the Vatican was in 2012. I was so amazed at how incredible it was. There are several highlights from my visit here, starting with The Gallery of Tapestries. Covering the walls are these enormous, elaborate works of art, which back in the day, would have screamed, ‘Hey, look at me and all my wealth!’ There are some extraordinary ones of Jesus which were designed by Raphael, including the most famous piece, ‘The Massacre of Innocents,’ showing babies being ripped from their mother’s arms on King Herod’s orders, as he found out that the Messiah had been born. Definitely not to be missed!
The Map Room is another area that blew me away! In fact, it might actually be my favourite spot in the whole of the Vatican. The maps sure are beautiful in vivid shades of blue and green, but it was the ceiling that took my breath away! There are sculptures of cherubs and muscular-looking men, as well as women with angel wings and flowing hair. The patterns around the sculptures range from Greek to Italian and even Asian. You’re going to be looking up a lot so prepare for neck cramps!
The Sistine Chapel, although not my favourite room (controversial, I know!), is truly wonderful. It’s not just the ceiling or the walls which are fabulous, but the room as a whole! One of the most significant pieces in here is ‘When God Created Adam.’ It shows God reaching out to Adam while he is lying on a cloud, and their fingers touch. It’s extraordinary.
One of the last areas I saw was the Raphael Rooms. They were spectacular, filled with a cacophony of painted pictures made up of people and patterns. They adorned every wall and ceiling. The only drawback was how packed these rooms were. I kept getting swept along with the crowds, so I only had a short amount of time to take it all in. [>>>>> Full Article Click Here <<<<<]
Back in 2012, I visited the Trevi Fountain just minutes before sunset, and I have to say that this would definitely be the best, and busiest, time to go! Stonework tends to take on a softer, warmer look when the sun is setting, and seeing it lit up so perfectly made me realise that it had been worth the effort of the long walk to get there.
The fountain was completed in 1762 by Nicola Salvi, and is said to be the most beautiful fountain in the whole world. Yep, I think I’d have to agree with that! And at nearly 26 meters high and 50
meters wide, it is also the largest. In the centre stands a massive statue of Oceanus, where it appears as though he is rising up out of the sea in anger, and the rest of the poor sculptures look terrified and are trying to get away from him.
Don’t forget to throw a coin in the fountain before you leave. The myth goes that you must toss the coin with your right hand over your left shoulder in order to return to Rome in the future.
Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Rome | www.rome.net/trevi-fountain
MUSEO NAZIONALE DI CASTEL SANT’ANGELO
You couldn’t miss this awesome castle if you tried as it is conveniently located right at the start of the Via della Conciliazione, the road that leads you straight to the Vatican. Built in 123 AD for Emperor Hadrian as a tomb for his family, this impressive, round-shaped castle once stood guard over the past Popes before it was later fortified into the impressive fortress we see today. It currently houses a fantastic museum of fine art, antique furniture, and medieval weapons.
I’d just left St. Peters Square and was on a tight schedule when I discovered this place, so I didn’t go inside, but I did have a quick walk around the castle grounds, taking in some of its features like the formidable castle doors, designed to keep out the riffraff of the day. The unusual brickwork around the castle is worth a closer inspection. You can see some stonework outside the castle which looks like it might have been added to soften the fortress-like look, and make it more homely. From the front of the building, it is just possible to catch a small glimpse into one of the open rooms on the second floor. The small courtyard area has walls decorated with frescoes of elaborate vines and floral patterns. It also gives you a little taste of how beautiful the rest of the castle would be.
Next time I’m in Rome, I’ll check out the interior. It looks great from the outside, but looking back now, I wish I went inside. Oh well, just something else to look forward to on my next visit!
Lungotevere Castello 50, 00193 Rome | www.rome.net/castel-sant-angelo
This structure was built by Emperor Hadrian to cross the river Tiber to his new castle on the other side. It is considered the most attractive bridge in Rome. If you stand at the foot of the bridge before you start to cross it and look straight ahead, you will be rewarded with a great view of the castle. It’s also got lovely views from the other side, looking down along the road leading to the Vatican. Several beautiful angel statues line both sides of the bridge. They carry various religious
objects, such as a crown of thorns and a cross, and are carved from white stone which adds to their angelic look. This bridge used to be where pilgrims would cross the river Tiber to get to St. Peters Square when they were heading to the Vatican. I imagine seeing such heavenly statues as they crossed the bridge back then, would have hinted to the Pilgrims that their journey was coming to an end.
It really is a beautiful spot just to stand and admire the river’s surrounding views and beautiful scenery.
Ponte Sant-Angelo, 00186 Roma RM
Even after seeing them, I had to Google why the Spanish Steps were so famous. All I could find was that they were built to connect the Piazza di Spagna at the bottom of the steps to the Trinita Dei Monti Church at the top.
In my opinion, the Steps are on everyone’s Bucket List purely because they think it should be. My husband Zac and I visited here on our first trip to Rome. They were packed with hordes of people,
leaving barely any space to walk down them. Every few feet we were aggressively accosted by vendors trying to sell us cheap plastic rubbish! It was more like running the gauntlet than taking a stroll!
If I were you, I would visit early in the morning on a weekday and see if the crowds are any better. This is what I will definitely be doing the next time I’m in Rome.
Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Rome
ST. PETERS BASILICA
When I visited the basilica back in 2014, I was completely covered up, except for my neck, yet I was initially refused entry. My outfit didn’t seem good enough for the guards. Strangely enough, the younger girls who were wearing short-shorts and spaghetti-strap tops with their boobs popping out were absolutely fine! I kept adding layers of clothes, until the guards finally decided to let me in!
Despite this negative, the basilica is incredible! The interior is constructed from shades of pink, cream, and blue marble. This contrasts well against the white and gold ornately patterned coffered ceiling. Each section contains different designs, including floral patterns, prominent family crests and cherubs.
The centrepiece of the basilica that will have you swooning is the black altar under the central dome. Sculpted in bronze, it is shaped into a canopy-like structure designed by Glan Lorenzo Bernini in a baroque style. Just stand in front of it – crowds permitting – and admire how truly awesome it is. At almost 20 meters tall, you really can’t miss it. I guess that’s the point. I’m not particularly religious, but it’s hard not to feel something when you are here – whatever religion you follow.
PIAZZA SAN PIETRO
The first time I visited here, it was a weekday in autumn. The Pope had just finished holding a service in the square, so it was very busy. If you really want to enjoy your visit, then I’d suggest not visiting on the days the Pope holds services – unless you want to see his holiness.
The obelisk in the Piazza’s centre is from Egypt and was acquired by the Vatican in 1586. You can get the best views if you approach the square from Via Della Conziliazone, with the Castel Sant’Angelo at one end and the Vatican at the other.
As I went to leave, the heavens opened. I made a mad dash under some archways to protect myself from the rain. As I began drying off, I was approached by a man trying to sell me an umbrella. It might have been one of the most expensive plastic umbrellas in the world as his starting price was €30.00! Honestly. With a strong gust of wind, it would have bent and snapped. A bargain, right? Obviously, I didn’t buy it, but he kept trying to sell it to me as I continued walking off up the road, relenting only after several blocks. Watch out for these guys!
00120 Vatican City | www.vatican.va
Built over two thousand years ago, the Pantheon is so well preserved that you wouldn’t think it had been constructed as far back as 125 CE! It was towards the end of the day when I arrived, and it was still quite busy. Although the building’s exterior is simple, with a frontage that looks like the Acropolis in Athens, the interior is amazing. Built in a circular shape, it is decorated in blue and pink marble, making it look similar to the design of St. Peters Basilica at the Vatican. In the centre you are presented with a beautiful dome sporting a coffered ceiling as well as seven alcoves around the side, displaying striking statues of Christian martyrs.
Essentially, it is a beautiful building, but it is just one room. You probably won’t need to spend heaps of time here.
Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Rome
WHAT TO EAT?
As I said in my intro, Italian food is epic! I have eaten at a number of different establishments during my visits here. Sadly, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many of them have closed their doors. However, I can still share some of my recommendations on what to should eat during your stay. During my travels through Italy, I met a fantastic Italian waiter who actually took the time to explain Roman cuisine to my family and I. The most surprising revelation was that in the north of Italy, where meatballs were invented, they are actually made with a creamy sauce (pictured) instead of the more well-known tomato-based version. Sorry, but personally, I prefer my meatballs cooked in a tomato sauce, but the creamy version is still super yummy!
You’re also spoilt for choice when it comes to delicious pizza. The dough in this region is usually thin and crispy, and the toppings are made from excellent quality produce. I went to a spectacular takeaway pizza bar near the Vatican walls, beside the bus station, and it still remains one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you its name though!
Another item you can’t leave Rome without sampling is their gelato. During my travels, I’ve easily eaten my own body weight in pistachio and coconut flavour. The Italians have mastered a perfect creamy taste, which is just in a different class altogether. Like most Italian cuisine, the ingredients used in their gelato are very simple, but of the highest quality. Try as much of their cuisine as you can, you won’t be disappointed. You may end up a little bloated and stuffed, but definitely not disappointed. Read on to discover what I think is the best gelato shop in Rome.
One evening, as I was trying to find the Pantheon (which it turns out was just around the corner), I started wandering down this narrow laneway and felt myself getting a little hungry. Just like a mirage appears in the desert-like magic, an ice cream parlour emerged out of nowhere to answer my prayers!
When I approached this unassuming little spot, there was a decent-sized crowd lining up, including locals, so I was confident that I was probably onto a winner. I was right. It was incredible, and by far the best gelato I found during my time in Rome. I had raspberry-ripple flavour. It was so sweet, creamy, and just perfect. I’d been doing a lot of walking that day, and as it was still quite warm I took a seat at one of the tables outside, enjoyed my gelato and watched the world go by. Heaven!
Via della Rotonda, 22, 00186 Roma RM
WHERE TO STAY?
There’s lots of options for where you can stay in Rome, as well as something to suit everyone’s wallet. I have stayed in two completely different styles of accommodation on both of my visits here. The first place I stayed was definitely more of a budget-friendly option, but it still had great facilities including shuttle bus services and an internet café. The accommodation on my second trip to Rome was a huge upgrade and more of a ‘splurge’ option. This time I was in the city centre, close to several attractions. Depending on your budget, I would highly recommend staying at either of these establishments, so read on to see if they are right for you.
CAMPING VILLAGE ROMA
As far as cheap accommodation goes in Rome, this place really is a winner, but if you plan to sleep during your stay, I’d highly recommend bringing some earplugs, as it was very, very noisy.
The cabins are simple, with single or bunk beds, wardrobes, and a basic en-suite bathroom. I’d say it would be perfect for anyone on a tight budget. The on-site facilities are excellent, with a kid’s play area, internet café, BBQs, a pool, and a restaurant called Ciao Bella. I ate here one night and the food was delicious! It was also pretty cheap, so I was pleasantly surprised. The only downside of my experience here was the very slow internet (unless they have updated it since my stay). But you can’t have it all!
The icing on the cake was definitely the airport shuttle. It was so handy and cost-effective. They also have a super cheap shuttle bus that can take you into Rome each day. [>>>>> Click Here For Full Article <<<<<]
Via Aurelia, 831, 00165 Roma RM, Italy | Book Here >>>>> www.guestsreservations.com/camping-village-roma
I stayed in this excellent hotel on my second visit to Rome. It had a great central location with several museums and piazzas being just a short stroll away.
I found the room itself to be somewhat simple, but it was spacious and comfortable. The best part though was the bathroom. It had a bath! You will probably do a lot of walking around Rome, on hard stone surfaces, through ancient sites, so your feet will ache badly at the end of the day, and you can take full advantage of the beautiful bath, which even had a dividing wall for extra privacy. There is also a phone next to the toilet so you can do your business while doing your business, if you like that sort of thing!
The breakfast served here is also very good. There’s a great selection of hot food, as well as fresh fruits and breakfast cereals, which were all delicious. Most importantly, they serve chocolate pastries – which is the most crucial part of a healthy breakfast… after coffee of course! [>>>>> Click Here For Full Article <<<<<]
Via Vittoria Colonna, 28, 00193 Roma RM | www.hoteldiplomatic.it
I hope you liked my adventures in one of the best cities in the world. Are you planning a trip to Rome? Did this post inspire you to visit here one day? Will you be visiting any of the places I have written about? Let me know in the comments below.
You can become a subscriber of The Travel Vine by simply entering your email address below. That way you can be one of the first to be notified when I post new content.
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Rome? Scroll to the bottom for more posts on this amazing city.