One city that I had always wanted to visit was Rome. It’s always been on my list, and I was even more inspired to visit after my trip to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast in the summer. So when Shane finally decided he was coming back to sunny Wales, we thought a pit stop in Rome would be the ideal place to properly catch up and spend some time together before he landed on Welsh soil.
It’s safe to say we absolutely loved our visit to Rome. It’s a really lovely city, with so much to do and such a rich and fascinating history. Despite going in mid-October, we had glorious sunshine and temperatures of almost 30oC (a welcome change from the rainy autumnal weather we’ve been having over here), and our days were spent taking in all of the sites, walking through the winding alleyways, and eating pizza by the slice, before warm evenings eating pasta and watching the sunset.
We booked a four night trip to the Italian capital and stayed in an Air BnB near Trastevere Train Station, which had great tram connections to the main sites in the city. We would get the tram into the city centre, which took about 15 minutes, but from there everywhere is easily reachable on foot and I think the beauty of visiting Rome is following these winding alleyways and streets and seeing where you end up. We walked at least 50 miles during our time there, fueling up on carbs and gelato on the way. Here are the top 10 things we would recommend from our trip…
Do a walking tour of the Colosseum
This was probably my favourite thing that we did. Purpose-built in Ancient Rome to provide entertainment and create an impression, showing just how strong, wealthy and powerful the Roman Empire was, this stunning amphitheatre stands proudly in the city centre and it is simply breathtaking. To think of what went on in the Colosseum, with gladiator fights and staged “animal hunts”, and to think that, despite part of the structure falling down due to natural disasters like earthquakes, it is still standing almost 2000 years later – it’s pretty astonishing.We did a 45 minute walking tour of the Colosseum, purchasing a “queue jump” ticket and we visited later on in the afternoon, so it was golden hour and it was quieter and simply stunning. I always enjoy doing tours like this, as you get to learn so much. It took 10,000 slaves roughly 8 years to build and I particularly liked hearing about how the Romans loved colour, and how it was structured to create “special effects” and a real show. Despite what remains now being referred to as a “skeleton”, it really is amazing.
Visit the Roman Forum
As part of our Colosseum tickets, we also had entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which we spent an afternoon looking around and taking in all of the amazing architecture and stunning views of the city. They are located in the same archaeological area and count as one admission. Walking around here gives you a glimpse into the Roman empire and the fact that it is surrounded by modern Rome makes it all the more magical. The Roman Forum was home to some of the most important and oldest buildings in the ancient city. What you see today is ruins, but tales of the past are everywhere and it is a must-see.
Go to Vatican City (but be prepared for crowds!)
You can’t go to Rome and not visit the Vatican City. It’s actually classed as its own country, is enclaved within Rome, and is the headquarters of the Catholic Church. Plus, it’s pretty fucking awesome. Again, we purchased a queue jump ticket which included a guided tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, followed by entry to St. Peter’s Basilica. The statues, design and architecture are exquisite, but let me tell you that this place is busy, like herding cats sorta busy.We were with a tour group of approximately 30 people, but there were hundreds of groups and hundreds of tourists making their way through the designated route. We found we were rushed along a lot, and you were often walking shoulder to shoulder with your fellow tourists, without really being able to stop and look at the paintings, sculptures and art around you. That being said, it is breathtaking and we really loved the Sistine Chapel. Getting to see that amazing ceiling and that Michelangelo painting felt like a bucket list moment for me.Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica is a far more relaxed affair. You can wander the building freely, taking in the ornate decoration and beautiful paintings. We found this a lot more pleasant, but would definitely recommend going and doing the tour of the other buildings once in a lifetime. It’s unlike anything you will see anywhere else.
Climb 500+ steps to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica
For an additional 8 euros you can climb 500+ steps to the top of the Basilica in Vatican City for amazing panoramic views of Rome and beyond. It’s not for the faint hearted as the steps are steep and involve climbing narrow spiral staircases that get smaller and more enclosed as you ascend, but the views are so worth it. We had beautiful weather and could see for miles and miles. I always love a good city scape view! Plus, if you’re feeling lazy, you can pay an extra 2 euros and catch the elevator.
Eat a gelato by the Trevi Fountain
This had been on my travel bucket list for quite some time and it absolutely did not disappoint. Following the signs to the Trevi Fountain takes you through winding alleyways and cobbled streets and then suddenly you open out into the Piazza and the fountain is just there – an absolute gem hidden in the midst of this whirlwind city. It is Italy’s most famous Baroque fountain and is the perfect place to people watch with a gelato. Again, it’s super busy, but we quite enjoyed watching people attempting to take Insta-photos and being whistled at by guards as they sat down on the fountain edge. It is really beautiful and I’m so glad I got to see it.
Climb the Spanish Steps
Another wonderful example of the Baroque style, the Spanish Steps are a must-see. They were built in 1723-1725 to link the Trinità dei Monti church that was under the patronage of the king of France at the top, with the Spanish square below. It is a popular place for artists and, of course, tourists who are trying to get that snap for the ‘Gram. Again, it’s pretty busy and you’re not allowed to sit on the steps either.
Eat out in Trastevere
One of our favourite areas of Rome has to be Trastevere. This funky, Bohemian area of the city clings on to its working class roots, and the narrow side streets feature delicious places to eat and drink, just tucked away from view. There is a young and vibrant feel to the area, and it is far more laid back and relaxed than the main tourist hot spots, with less people. We loved it so much and I would absolutely recommend a walk around its winding paths.
Take in the sunset on Altare della Patria
Anyone who knows me knows I love a good sunset snap and the view of the sun sinking behind the Vatican City from Altare de Patria is one not to miss. We paid about 10 euros each to catch a lift to the top of this palace in the middle of the city, and from there you could find the most amazing views. Definitely time it right as the light bouncing off the buildings at dusk is seriously amazing.
Eat pizza by the weight
One of our daily rituals in Rome was to grab a pizza by the weight whilst on a little walking break for our lunch. You can find these shops everywhere and the pizza is delicious and pretty cheap too! In fact, we found Rome to be fairly reasonable when it came to dining out. Shane and I aren’t too fussed about fine wining and dining, but the restaurants we visited were family-run, traditional and the food was amazing. One of our favourites had to be watching the sun set over the Colosseum as we dined on the terrace of the Royal Art Cafe.
Walk along the River Tiber
We spent a lot of our time in Rome slowly strolling along the river. I’d not actually realised there was a big river like this in Rome and it snakes through the city centre beautifully. I also feel like it would be the perfect place to head out for a carb-fuelled run, if I’d have had the chance!
Have you been to Rome? What were your favourite things to do?
Lots of love. xoxo