Rome

We had an awesome beginning to our vacation in Paris and were excited to end our adventure in Rome. After five nights in Paris, we flew to Fiumicino Airport from Charles de Gaulle to enjoy five nights in Rome. For planning information, see my post on Paris. I followed reviews and ratings on europeandestinations.com for choosing our accommodations in Rome and was pleased with our choice.

Tips:

I recommend purchasing the Roma Pass, which has two options: 48 hours for €28 and 72 hours for €38.50. The 48 hour pass allows free entry into one museum or archaeological site, while the 72 hour pass allows free entry to two. Both passes include free public transit for the duration of the pass (not including metro transit to the airport). If you’re interested in purchasing Rick Steves’ Rome book, you can find it here.

Although the Colosseum is covered by the Roma Pass, you must make a reservation for a €2 fee for entry. We thought we could show up to the Colosseum and walk right in with our pass. We were wrong and had to come back another day after we made reservations. This is a new requirement that started in March 2019.

If you are interested in touring Borghese Gallery, you will need to make a reservation online ahead of time. We booked about a week in advance and the earliest morning time was sold out. A maximum of 360 people are allowed to enter at various two-hour time slots throughout the day.

For most of the sights in Rome, it seemed beneficial to have a tour guide, if only for priority entry. If you’re interested in guided tours or for using the tours as a quick way to get inside, find an official reputable one since there are so many choices. We didn’t use a tour guide but could see the benefit for easy priority access. Tour groups skip the ticket-buying line and typically had a special line for security.

Modest dress, no shorts above the knees or bare shoulders, is recommended for most, and required for some, entrance to churches. Keep that in mind when packing for your trip.

Food:

Yep, you guessed it, pizza, pasta, and gelato! We stopped for gelato at nearly every opportunity, and we don’t regret it. We even found our favorite gelato gem called Il Capriccio di Carla. Look for gelato that is in covered metal containers with natural colors and natural ingredients to find the best!

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Strawberry gelato from Il Capriccio di Carla

You can’t really go wrong with pizza and pasta, and nearly every restaurant we enjoyed offered varieties of them. We noticed food prices in general were cheaper in Rome than in Paris.

Accommodations:

We stayed at Relais Santa Maria Maggiore, and the hotel was really nice. It included a good breakfast of assorted meats and cheeses, fruit, pastries, and cereal. Our room was just around the corner from the breakfast area, so it was really convenient to grab a quick bite on our way out for the day. Our room was a nice size and had air conditioning. To reach the hotel, we took the Leonardo Express train from the airport to Termini Station. Tickets cost €14 each way. Termini Station was shockingly crowded, but we made our way out and walked ten minutes to the hotel. We had dinner the first night at a cute restaurant called La Forchetta d´Oro that was just around the corner.

Sights:

The Colosseum – You can’t picture Rome without the Colosseum. Like I mentioned above, make sure to have a reservation before you arrive. You can choose to print your reservation or pick up a ticket onsite. There is a small area by the entrance to the Roman Forum where you can collect the reservation ticket (look for signs). If you choose the “print it yourself” option, it will be sent as a PDF to your email that you can show for entry. 

The Colosseum was a 15 minute walk from our hotel. We spent about an hour walking around the Colosseum and reading the exhibits. The Colosseum is undergoing long-term renovation to restore the ground level, and you will likely see scaffolding and other various construction work. 

Fun side note – we heard a story of three cats that live at the Colosseum. We had the pleasure of meeting the black one, who we were told likes to say hello to tourists by swiping at their feet.

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Local resident of the Colosseum

Roman Forum and Palatine Hill – The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are located right next to the Colosseum. We used our Roma Passes to enter and did not need a reservation. We entered the Forum area at the entrance located on the Colosseum side after waiting in a lengthy line. When you use that entrance, the best way to explore is to turn left and start with Palatine Hill, then come back down to the Forum area.

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Vittorio Emanuele II Monument – We exited the Forum across the street from the “Altar of the Fatherland.” The sheer size of the monument is one to behold. It was built in honor of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy, and was completed in 1935. A lift to the roof can be found inside that allows visitors 360 degree views of Rome for a small price.

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Capitoline Hill – We walked up Capitoline Hill behind the monument on a winding road and wandered through the Capitoline Museum, which the Roma Pass can be used for. The area has cool statues and architecture. The museum wasn’t very interesting for us, so we didn’t spend much time there.

Pantheon – From Capitoline Hill, we walked over to the Pantheon (long day!). Entrance to the Pantheon was free. It was crowded but not too overwhelming. Modest dress is recommended. We walked around for ten minutes and went on our way.

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Trastavere – We followed the Trastavere Walk outlined by Rick Steves and thoroughly enjoyed experiencing a less touristy side of Rome. The streets were quiet, laundry was hanging on balconies and windows, and the atmosphere was enchanting.

Make sure to stop by Biscottificio Artigiano Innocenti – a traditional cookie and pastry bakery that has been around since the 1940s. The sweet woman we spoke to, Stefania Innocenti, baked all of the cookies you see. We asked her what her favorite cookie was, and her reply was that she loves all her cookies. We could definitely understand why. They were all delicious, and you should make sure to buy any that strike your fancy.

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Cookies from Biscottificio Artigiano Innocenti
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Charming Italian street in Trastavere

Vatican City – Reservations are highly recommended for the Vatican Museums, which can be made here. We chose the open tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. We took an Uber to reach Vatican City. We arrived around 10:00, and the ticket-buying line was quite long. With a reservation, you are able to go straight to the security line. It took us less than 10 minutes to get inside. You could spend a lot of time here exploring the gardens, museums, and churches. If you plan to visit St. Peter’s Basilica as well, make the Sistine Chapel your last stop before you are ready to leave. There is an exit in the back right corner of the Sistine Chapel that will lead you directly to St. Peter’s Basilica, however, it is sometimes closed.

Sistine Chapel – The Chapel draws quite a crowd, and it’s easy to understand why.  It contains Michelangelo’s ceiling and his famous Last Judgment. The Sistine is the personal chapel of the pope and the place where new popes are elected. The modest dress code is strictly enforced here – no bare shoulders or shorts/skirts above the knees. No pictures are allowed inside. It was very crowded, but if you wait long enough you will be able to find a seat along the walls to take in the impressive paintings.

St. Peter’s Basilica – Entry is free for the basilica and the crypt. You can choose to climb to the top of the dome – €8 for the stairs or €10 to ride an elevator partway then climb to the dome. Cash is required to pay for the dome climb. If you choose the stairs, you’re looking at a total of 551 stairs to the top. Taking the elevator will have you climbing 320 stairs to the top of the dome. The climb is extremely narrow, winding, sweaty, and claustrophobic. Prepare yourself. The top of the dome was crowded, but the views were beautiful. There is a restroom on the rooftop on the way down. The exit from the dome climb opens into the basilica.

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View from the dome at St. Peter’s Basilica

Heart of Rome – We followed Rick Steves’ Heart of Rome Walk starting with dinner at Campo de Fiori at one of the many restaurants lining the piazza. The area was lively, with musicians and children playing in the square. The evening was a great time for this walk to experience the nightlife of Rome.

Piazza Navona – We reached this piazza right at sunset, and it was a blast walking through here admiring the beautiful fountains and cheering on dance performers. I definitely recommend spending a few minutes in this area enjoying the atmosphere.

Trevi Fountain – So crowded but so beautiful. There were a lot of people gathered around the fountain, so you’ll have to muscle your way through if you want to get up close and personal. It’s worth seeing if only for a few minutes.

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Trevi Fountain

Borghese Gallery – This was one of my favorite museums. The art and sculptures were beautiful, and it was really nice to slowly wander through the rooms enjoying each piece. Reservations are required, and your visit is limited to two hours. Only 360 people are allowed to enter at a time, so the crowding is kept to a minimum. You will need to pick up your ticket when you arrive, then line up outside the second floor entrance.

Rome was a great vacation destination, and I’m happy we had the opportunity to experience yet another culture! The five days we enjoyed there were busy but full of gorgeous sights and delicious food. We hope to explore more of Italy in the future!

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