Rome was perhaps one of the most fascinating cities on my trip through Europe. On the one hand, you have the remnants of the Ancient Roman Empire. You see the colossal structures and the marble statues. And then, you also realize that Rome (or, more specifically, Vatican City) is the home of the Catholic Church. And I don’t need to tell you about how much influence the church can exert.
It is a very ancient city, but what this means is that the infrastructure isn’t quite as modern as some people may have hoped. The metro system consists of just two lines, forming an “X” pattern with the crossover point suitably located at Roma Termini. What this means, though, is that most travelers will end up using the bus system more than the train. Even though Rome is quite large, we did end up seeing a lot of it on foot too. It’s not nearly as walkable as Florence, but walking did become a necessity in order to get around.
The Vatican Museum (Musei Vaticani) is also well worth visiting, not only for the Sistine Chapel, but also for the Raphael Rooms and the countless other exhibits. Even though it is located in the same area as St. Peter’s, you will need to walk all the way around the complex in a counter-clockwise direction to get to the museum’s entrance. Once you do, though, I found the lineup to be quite reasonable. Tickets are €16.
Purely through happenstance, we stumbled across the 50th anniversary celebrations for Lamborghini. Hundreds of Lambos from around the world gathered in Italy for an epic road trip, lining the street leading to St. Peter’s with Lamborghinis old and new… including this special police version.
Not surprisingly, you’ll find a lot of stunning attractions throughout Rome. The Spanish Steps weren’t as inspiring as I had hoped, but the Trevi Fountain (pictured below) was beautiful in the early evening light. Visiting Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas did ruin some of the experience, but I still recommend you seek out sights like these. Just be wary of the crowds.
Shown above is Piazza Navona, one of the larger public squares in Rome. Here, you’ll find many artists selling their paintings, as well as some pricier restaurants facing the square itself. If you take a short walk south from there, you’ll find Campo de Fiori, which is a less expensive area where more of the younger people congregate for food and drinks. Go half a block outside of the main square and you’ll find some more affordable eats.
For even more affordable eating, head west to the Trastevere area. There are many “tourist” menus here with set prices and reasonable food. You may also come across a few public performances, like the bubble artist shown here.
Of course, the ruins of Ancient Rome should be near the top of anyone’s list when visiting the Eternal City. I found that the Roman Forum wasn’t terribly impressive, since many of the ruins are, well, ruined, but it is a vast area to explore. Lineups to buy tickets can get quite long, so if you can pre-buy them online ahead of time, I highly suggest it. The €15.50 ticket for the Forum, which is valid for two days, also includes admission to the Colosseum and the Palantine Hill.
No trip to Italy would be complete without consuming copious amounts of gelato. You’ll find a gelateria just about everywhere and small cups usually start at about €2 or so. The flavors will almost always be only in Italian, so it may take a little guesswork to decide which you want to try.
And yes, we consumed a lot of Italian coffee too. Most Italian coffee bars are of the “stand-up” variety. You typically find the cashier and prepay for your drink in advance. You then take the receipt and give it the barista, telling them what you’d like to have. The drink is prepared and you drink it right there at the counter. Italians don’t tend to lounge around with their coffees, particularly for their midday hit of €1 espresso.
If you do feel like taking a break, then it’s oftentimes better to consider a late lunch, like how we did at L’Angoletto Romano Ristorante near the Pantheon. That’s also a good way to get away from the huge crowds that seem to follow you everywhere in Rome.
It does sound a little cliche, but the whole “when in Rome” mentality really does apply here. Yes, do a little planning so you have an opportunity to visit the major sites, but remember to take the time to enjoy la dolce vita while you’re there. Enjoy the coffee, indulge in the gelato, and eat as much fresh pasta as you can.
I have many more Rome pictures in my Flickr photostream, so be sure to check those out too. Ciao!