The City of Rome is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Europe if not in the entire world. Strolling through the Roman streets between its old ruins and impressive monuments feels like nowhere else. The entire city of Rome feels like an open air museum, where you can explore ruins, historical buildings and cathedrals at every turn. This city is even more beautiful in the night when the ruins are almost mystically lit, giving the impression that what you’re visiting not a real-life city, but the setting of a historical movie scene.
If you haven’t been to Rome before, when you’ll go there for the first time you’ll feel that you can finally get a grasp on your knowledge of the ancient world. This trip felt overwhelming because of the multitude of well-known historical facts and settings that I had the chance to refresh my memory about, or that I actually discovered there. It makes you understand what an important role the Roman Empire had in our culture and civilization and what a great empire it really was. I felt like I missed out on more than half of Europe’s culture by not visiting this place earlier.
Getting back to present time 🙂 visiting Rome means covering a large area and the struggle starts right from the beginning, when you try to plan the trip. You soon realize that Rome is a huge city with many important areas, so it isn’t easy to even determine where the city center is and where it is best to stay. After going through travel blogs and checking the travel guide I bought for this trip, I gave up and restarted my research on Rome with a good movie and a cup of tea on a cold November evening. Funny enough, the classic movie “A Roman Holiday” helped me more than anything else in deciding what tourist attractions I would really like to see while in Rome 🙂
In the end, we booked a hotel close to The Colosseum and this turned out to be a very good idea. Most sights were within walking distance, or could be easily reached by metro.
The rest of the help regarding planning came from the very nice receptionist at the hotel. She gave us a map offered some key suggestions on how to visit Rome’s most important attractions in 5 days.
Good to know:
Rome is a very touristic city, therefore there are many “tourist traps” in terms of restaurants, beggars and all kind of scams meant to trick tourists out of some cash 🙂
Although Italy is known for their delicious food, in terms of restaurants it’s always a good idea to check trip advisor, yelp, and other sources simply because there are too many restaurants that market frozen pizza for example as the best pizza you could possibly eat anywhere in Italy.
If you have time, try the “Il Tartufo” dessert at Tre Scallini in Piazza Novana; although a bit pricy, it was definitely worth it. Trastevere is well-known for good cuisine. Antica Osteria Rugantino, for example, is worth a trip to Rome just for their amazing vegetarian pasta, their chicken in spicy tomato sauce, and their hospitality 🙂
In close proximity to popular tourist places, there will always be all kinds of scammers disguised as people working for some ONG raising funds for charity, or old ladies who have presumably lost their purse and are looking for some spare change to buy a train ticket home, so keep an eye on your belongings, and be aware that it’s most likely nothing other than an ingenious (and aggressive) way of scamming you out of some money.
In terms of buying a city pass, you can choose between the Rome Pass or Omnia’s Vatican & Rome Pass. The Rome Pass covers the entrance to most of the museums of Rome and public transportation inside Rome, but doesn’t include the entrance to Vatican. The Omnia Vatican & Rome Pass is more expensive but you get both the entrance to the Vatican and also the Rome Pass.
Usually, a city pass is meant to help tourists save money, but in Rome I would say it’s made to help you save time :). Public transport and the entrance to the museums and attractions is quite cheap so buying the city pass won’t really help you save much. Another reason for not buying the city pass is that some of the attractions are so big that you could easily spend a number of hours in a single place so visiting more than one or two places per day isn’t really feasible.
I would recommend buying the Omnia pass though, which includes both passes; it’s expensive but helps you with skipping the long waiting lines at the entrance to the Vatican (Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica) and at The Colosseum. I actually know somebody who waited in line for almost four hours to enter the Vatican Museums and in the end unfortunately there wasn’t enough time left to see much. Another advantage of the Omnia Pass is that it also includes taking a hop-on hop-off bus, which is quite handy after hours and hours of walking.
We went with the Omnia Pass, but keep in mind that you cannot buy the Omnia Pass in Rome, you need to take the metro and go to the Vatican to buy the pass and also to book a specific timeslot for your visit. It will usually be the next day. I don’t know if you can buy the card and also make the appointment online, but my guess would be that you need to go there at least one time before the actual visit. It is easy to take the hop-on hop-off bus from the Vatican, but if you want to take it from anywhere in the city it might be quite challenging. The map with the stops is more an illustration than a real map, and at one point after walking a long distance to get to a bus stop, the bus didn’t stop at that specific stop.
Vatican Museums are really crowded and vast, there is not enough time to see it in one day. It would be really nice if the Omnia Pass would cover one more entrance, but it unfortunately doesn’t.
The trip from the Fiumicino to the city center will take good hours using public transportation, therefore taking an official taxi might be much faster. On the return trip, note that there is a flat rate from the city and the airport so ask your hotel reception to book it for you.
A good time to visit Rome would be early spring/late autumn, the weather is still very good but the number of tourists decreases slightly. You can get decent weather in Rome as late as November.
St Peter’s Basilica and Vatican Museums
Italians are one of the most religious people I’ve seen. It was amazing to see crowds gathered at the Vatican on a Sunday morning, listening to the sermon. We were also lucky enough to be there at the time the Pope himself made an appearance at the balcony to bless the on-looking crowd.
While visiting St Peter’s Basilica, it is important to go up to the Dome. From the Cupola you will get a glimpse inside the cathedral, but you will also get to see the amazing view over St Peter’s Square. Unfortunately, it was a rainy November day when we visited, therefore the photos don’t do it justice. Up on the roof, you will also get a glimpse of a mysterious network of walking paths connecting the rooftops.
The Vatican has more to offer than just its renowned cathedral: there are also the vast museums, and as I said already, I was really sorry that we didn’t have enough time to enjoy the astonishing art at a normal pace. After an entire day spent there, I felt I didn’t get enough time at the museum, and we didn’t get a chance to see the Vatican’s Gardens.
It was impressive to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and it felt important to have an audio or written guide with you in order to understand the symbols and details hidden in the paintings.
I was excited to finally see this landmark of Rome! Being the largest amphitheater ever built, the Colosseum is an impressive building, especially considering that it was built almost two millennia ago.
A short walk away from the Vatican, you will find this cylindrical shaped castle with the statue of an angel at its top. During its long history, the castle went from initially being a mausoleum where ashes of famous Roman emperors were laid to rest, to becoming a military fortress, and later on a papal fortress, residence and prison.
The surroundings of this castle are amazing since the building is located on the Tiber River. From the top, you can see the Vatican and Rome, as also the stunning bridges crossing the river.
There is also a passage that connects the castle with St Peter’s Basilica. It was built so that the pope could escape the castle in case of an attack. We were very curious to cross this passage, but it was of course closed to the public 🙂
A short walk from the Colosseum will take you to the Palatine Hill, the oldest part of the ancient city. It is said that this is the place where Romulus founded the original city of Rome. Here, you can take a stroll among the ancient ruins and enjoy the breathtaking views over the city – the Palatine Hill being one of the seven hills on which Rome was built. The downside is that this is quite a large area to cover, so it will take you a couple of hours to explore it. Wear some comfortable shoes 🙂
The Roman Forum is a large square that once hosted the most important buildings of Ancient Rome. Everything that was of a high importance was built in or around this square, and you can still see surviving ruins of the main temples and basilicas. The area is no doubt extremely beautiful even today.
Fontana di Trevi
This beautiful fountain is probably the best known fountain in the world!
If you haven’t heard the story yet, it is said that if you throw a coin in the fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder, you will one day return to Rome. I hope the legend is true, since I would really like to see Rome again someday 😉
This ancient, famous temple is a church today and it is one of the best preserved buildings of Ancient Rome. Although there are large crowds both inside and outside the Pantheon at any hour, it is possible to enter when there are no mass services.
After watching Roman Holiday I promised myself that I’ll one day go to Rome and I’ll take a photo on those steps! Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be this time, since the landmark was undergoing renovation work. Although I couldn’t get my iconic photo, Piazza di Spagna, where the steps are located, is one of the most vibrant and coziest places in the city. It is definitely worth seeing.
Without mentioning yet one more time how inspired I felt by the city of Rome, I would close by simply saying that Rome might seem too much a classical and predictable destination for many, but I don’t think there will ever be enough time for a traveler to experience everything this eternal city has to offer 🙂