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Our first stop in Italy was Rome, a city with no shortage of awesome landmarks and ancient architecture. If you wanted to see everything, you could easily spend a week or more here, depending on how much you want to take in at each site. We only had a couple days, so we were only able to see the main landmarks.
We ended up with the following plan:
Day 1 (half day):
The Vatican Museum | St. Peter’s Basilica | Castel Sant’ Angelo | Piazza Navona | Pantheon
The Colosseum | Roman Forum
We arrived in Rome in the afternoon, and after getting to our hotel and settling in, it was already late and almost time for dinner. We ended up just taking the metro to Barberini station, which was a 10 minute walk to the Trevi Fountain, one of the most famous fountains in the world. It was PACKED with tourists, so it was difficult to get a decent picture of it, but here it is. I did eventually nudge my way to the side of the fountain, where I did the mandatory backwards coin toss to ensure my return to Rome.
For dinner we went to a small cozy restaurant near the Barberini metro station, called Osteria Barberini. We got there as the restaurant opened, and were lucky enough to get seats without reservations, but we were told we would need to eat quick. We saw a couple groups get turned away as they were fully booked out for the night – and for good reason! The food here was spectacular. Peterson and I ordered a truffle bruschetta to share, and both got the truffle pasta special. Definitely worth trying out if you’re in the area, but be sure to make reservations.
Vatican City, Vatican Museum & St. Peters Basilica
We allotted an entire day for the Vatican City and surrounding areas, as we had no idea how long it would actually take. We had read that the lines could get insanely long at the Vatican and as we had no tours or time-slots reserved, we were prepared for the worst. We arrived at the main plaza of the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Square, around 10am, where we were lucky to catch a ceremony going on with the Pope! There were some speeches and songs performed, which we did not understand as it was all in Italian. We watched the ceremony for a bit and admired the plaza’s grand architecture, before we headed to the Vatican Museum entrance to do the tour.
Sure enough, the line up for the Vatican Museums was pretty lengthy, wrapping around the walls of the Vatican, but we were able to get in after an hour or so in queue. We rented some audio guides and navigated our way through several courtyards of statues, halls of paintings, and admired the intricate roof designs.
I was most impressed by St. Peter’s Basilica, which was at the very end of the tour. Pictures don’t do it justice!
A few minutes away from the exit of the Vatican City was Castel Sant’ Angelo, a circular castle-like building that also serves as a tourist attraction. We had purchased a Roma pass, so we were able to gain free admission into this museum. The top of the castle offers a nice panoramic view of the surrounding area, and you can even see St. Peter’s Basilica from there.
From Castel Sant’ Angelo, we kept walking across the Tiber river, through charming narrow streets towards Piazza Navona.
Piazza Navona was a popular plaza filled with artists selling their paintings, and plenty of tourists gathering around the central fountain statue. Numerous restaurants lined the sides.
Just a few streets from Piazza Navona was the Pantheon, one of the best preserved buildings of ancient Rome. Admission into the landmark is free, so we went in to have a look, as the line was relatively short and moved quickly.
After a whole day of visiting landmarks, we went to find some dinner. We sat down at a nearby restaurant called Cantina e Cucina. We weren’t too hungry, so we decided to share two platters of smoked salmon and salami and cheese.
What better way to wrap up the long day than with some delicious gelato? Before heading back to the hotel, we grabbed dessert from a place called Gelateria Come il Latte, which served delicious gelato with waffle toppings. It’s supposed to be one of the best gelato places in Rome, or even Italy for that matter.
You can’t say you’ve visited Rome and not go see one of the most iconic Roman landmarks, The Colosseum, so this was the first stop on our last day in Rome. We took the metro to Colosseo station, which is right beside the Colosseum.
After a few days in Rome, I couldn’t help noticing the huge amounts of graffiti everywhere, especially on the sides of trains. I don’t know whether they just treat it as art and leave the graffiti, but it made the trains and stations feel very unkempt and dirty.
It was a sunny day, and as we stepped out of the metro station, we could already see the lines wrapping around the Colosseum. Great, more lines. Even with the Roma Pass, we had to line up for over an hour before we were able to get inside.
The walking path through the Colosseum first takes you up to the upper level of the arena, where you can get some nice overview shots of the inside. As you can see, the interior isn’t as well preserved as the exterior. After making our way around the arena, we took the stairs down to the lower level, where we could get a closer look at the underlying structures beneath the arena floor.
The Roman Forum
Next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine. It was all fenced off so we couldn’t really get a great picture of it. Adjacent to the Colosseum was The Roman Forum, consisting of the ruins of old government buildings that used to be the center of Rome. Admission into the Roman Forum was included in the price of our Colosseum ticket, so we went in to walk around. It was essentially a large park with numerous stone paths that take you up and down stairs to different buildings and viewing platforms. It was actually quite tiresome, especially in the summer heat.
I think three days is a good amount of time to spend in Rome, especially if you have less than two weeks in Italy, as we did. You can comfortably visit most of the sights without having to rush through them, and still have some time leftover for relaxing at coffee shops or restaurants. The landmarks are a great way to learn about the rich history of Rome, and I found myself in awe, seeing the type of architecture that was possible back then without all the modern tools we have today.