Do as the Romans do... 6 days and 6 nights in one of the most historic cities in the world - and we all know how much I love cities. Mum thought I needed a break, I thought I needed a break (spoiler alert: dissertation stress didn't), and also that mum definitely needed one, and my older sister wanted to go on holiday. My younger sister - who sometimes very kindly does my outfit shots for me at home - decided she had too much work to do and would stay back with dad and 'crack on'.
So we three intrepid explorers grabbed our passports, our super light suitcases (and my less light laptop and camera case), to board hand-luggage only to Rome, Italy. Let the adventure begin.
Where did we stay?
Hotel Regno on the most popular shopping street in Rome. Pretty hotel, close to streets with restaurants, not too far from shops and a supermarket. Good bus connections (and tourist information) nearby, comfortably walkable to major sites. As in, the Pantheon and the Trevi fountain are about 5 minutes walk away.
Would we stay there again?
It's a fab location, the staff were lovely and the wifi was super speedy - but breakfast was 'eh', there were only three plug sockets for the room (and one was unusable), our bathroom didn't ventilate properly and was a lil' bit mildewy. Plus you could hear everything going on in next doors room. I've lived in uni accommodation so thin walls don't exactly bother me, but hearing 6am shower singing isn't exactly my idea of a holiday. Some of the trip advisor ratings were great, some not so great, but the wifi is the tipping factor I think. I also think it really depends on the room you get, but it's alright.
When did we go?
Saturday 19th - Friday 25th of March. Rome has no 'off-season' really, but I think the Easter period was peak time to travel pre-summer. The weather was around 15 - 22 or 23 degrees centigrade, so not exactly super hot but nice and warm in the sunshine, quite cool in the shade.
Saturday - traveled most of the day, arrived in Rome early evening - took a fixed rate taxi from the airport to our hotel (30euros). Sussed out the room then went to find food.
|the Pantheon at dusk|
|roman architecture at piazzo navona|
|the fontana de quattro fiumi, or fountain of four rivers at the piazza navona|
(Palm) Sunday - strolled around for a bit in beautiful beautiful sunshine, came across the Pantheon and a Palm Sunday service. Walk around more, went to see some of the famous squares, fountains and churches, like Piazza Navona and the Fontana de Quattro Fiumi. Found a spot for lunch, walked more and went back to the Pantheon to see if it was less busy (it was). I went back to do some work for the afternoon.
|you can see St Peter's Basilica from the Tibor river|
|Sty Peter's Basilica|
|you'll have seen this if you follow my instagram, but the famous spiral staircase in the Vatican Museum|
Monday - Vatican day! Super sunny and really busy. Mum booked tickets in advance so our queuing experience wasn't as intense as some. We walked there past a castle, the river and some street market stalls selling prints, books and souvenirs for a Euro. Inside the Vatican Museum are some really famous paintings/frescos and lots of statue heads. It's fascinating.
We also looked around St. Peter's Basilica, the large church in the Vatican City, as well as the Pope crypts that exit through the centre of the Basilica (so if you see people in a place that looks like you can't access it that's why). It's an incredibly decadent church, well worth the visit if you have the time. You can also go and look inside the dome at the top.
Tip: it can get really, really crowded in the Vatican museum because there are many large tour groups passing through, so try and time your room change so you don't get lost in the middle! There are some rooms that are really quite small and it can be quite overwhelming, or you might miss something - I had to go back and find The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel.
Double tip: lots of the museums are closed on a Monday, so it's quite a popular day to visit the Vatican City.
|the Roman Forum and Colosseum|
The Roman Forum is less logically laid out. It's a massive site, first things first, and there isn't really anywhere we could find to get drinks or food - so make sure that you bring some if you're doing what we did and going over lunch time / having a look on a warm and sunny day. (Stay hydrated.) There are also sections that you can't go and see unless you've booked a tour - like a lot of the reconstructed buildings - so keep that in mind if the Roman Forum is something you'd like to see!
Tip: The audio-tour for the Colosseum is really good if you're not having someone show you round. It follows along v. nicely and has lots of cool info if you're into your history - gladiators fought one or two fights a year, for example - and interesting tidbits about construction and where a lot of the traditional marble features have ended up. I wouldn't suggest getting the audio-tour for the Roman Forum really - the space is very large and the numbers aren't always chronologically placed. A lot of the information on the tour is a verbalisation of what's on the description cards around the forum .
Double tip: the suggestion to do the two over two days is a good one! Mum lamented that we did them the wrong way round, it would've been easier to start at the Forum and then go onto the Colosseum.
|rooftops of rome|
Wednesday - Gallery Day 1: Mum thought that it'd be nice to go and see the Gallery Borghese and the park that surrounds it, so we hopped on a bus and off we went hoping they'd have tickets available for the day. Unfortunately they didn't, and we had to book some for the next day. The weather was probably the worst of the week, but we still went to have a little look around the park and one of the free galleries there. You get fantastic views of the city by the avenue that leads to the Spanish Steps to exit - which were almost entirely shut for cleaning. Dammit marble. The rest of the day was spent on Tibor Island (the island in the centre of the Tibor river), and at the Barberini Gallery instead.
Tip: The Borghese Gallery does have a site to pre-book tickets. If you have a Roma pass the you have to ring their call centre. You can't use your Roma pass to buy tickets at the Borghese Gallery.
|The Piazza outside the National Monument|
|gallery borghese estate at dusk|
After our tour we had a verrrrrrrry long wait for the bus to take us back into Rome, where we got a light lunch and cake. My sister had been banging on about having 'proper Italian Tiramisu' for ages, so we found a little cafe that served it in a fancy jar. Mum was nice enough to treat her and myself - though because I'm not a fan of coffee I had a pistachio and chocolate covered dessert instead... though that's for a different post. It was back on the bus not long after to go to the Borghese park, and I got to look around the National Gallery of Modern Art before stepping into the Gallery Borghese.
I'm definitely more of a modern art fan than renaissance.
Tip: I'd highly suggest getting bikes to ride along the Appian Way. It is really, really long. Very pretty, and there are a couple of really cool things, but we didn't get time to see them all because we were on foot :( The catacombs tour is about 40 minutes long, and they run from 9am-12pm then break for a bit until 3 or 4pm. There are refreshment vending machines but no cafe at the site.
Friday - Last day :( And best weather day :( :( We got up early to go and see the shopping streets, some of the squares we hadn't managed to find, and try and see a less busy Trevi Fountain before calling a cab and heading to the airport. The skies were so pretty I definitely got all the 'no I don't wanna leaaaaaave' feels.
Tip: if you're unsure about taxi rates, get your hotel or guesthouse to call a taxi for you :)
Essentials to bring?
- flat shoes - Rome has so many cobble streets and the best way to see the city is on foot in my opinion. Be prepared for at least some walking, and being comfortable. I took my Asos chelsea boots and my New Look trainers.
- guide book - it'll help you get from place to place and tell you a little about each.
- suncream/sunglasses - Rome has lots of bright white marble architecture and it glares. If you have sensitive eyes bring sunnies for dat sunshine-y weather. I brought (and rocked) my Firmoo pair.
- ehic (european health insurance cards) - just in case. You never know when you might have an accident. D:
- a bag that fastens securely - Rome is also notorious for pickpockets unfortunately, so having a bag that securely fastens and is preferably cross-body is a really good idea so you don't lose anything.
Any regrets? What would I not do again?
We probably (definitely) wouldn't get the Roma 3 day pass again. Or at least not for my sister and I. It's nice that it gives you the ability to queue-jump and free entry for your first two attractions, but the discount from anything else is generally the same as an under-25 concession. It also limited what we could plan for, and the Gallery Borghese only gives Roma pass discounts from their call centre... which is kind of expensive to do abroad. The Roma pass does give you free travel on public transport to the touristy attractions, but we couldn't see anyone validating tickets on the buses apart from one other family with a Roma pass.
All in all it was a beautiful, fabulous city to explore, and I'm glad that I've done most of the really historical toursity things so that if I go again in the future I can really explore the city. There is so much ridiculously impressive architecture everywhere that I was a bit... well completely overwhelmed at what sort of things I wanted to take photos of. I waS NOT PREPARED ENOUGH.
I hope that this has been somewhat useful for you if you're planning to spend a few days or longer in one of the oldest cities in Europe. It's definitely worth a visit :)
To finish, I'll share my favourite pair of shots from the trip with you - not landmarks and not really anything people would probably take photos of but hey. They're completely unedited (other than optimised for web viewing) so I'm quite proud :)
If you have any questions then ask away and I'll do my best to answer - the vlog is below! :)
[the Rome food diaries // wanderlust // travel]