I posted a few weeks ago about our whirlwind, trip-of-a-lifetime to Europe in December. Well, I’m back with a recap on how you can see Rome and the awesome architectural attractions in only 2.5 days.
Day 1 (half day):
- Arrive in Rome – find transportation to your accommodation to drop off your bags; take shower clean up and head out to explore!
- Tour the Capuchin Crypt, Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps and stroll through the name brand shops and stores while enjoying the smells of a wide variety of foods.
- Once you have worked up a hunger, choose one of many authentic Italian restaurants but be wary, many of those on the tourist pathways are overpriced. We dined at La Barrique and I had the best meatballs of my life while the Ninja enjoyed a hefty portion of pork shank.
|Best meatballs in Rome at La Barrique
Day 2 (full day):
Hope you have your walking shoes ready because in order to see Rome, you’re going to do a lot of walking. Thankfully, a lot of the main attractions are near each other and are nestled in among residential areas and not set off separately like a lot of sightseeing stops in the U.S. We very rarely ever had breakfast at a restaurant or in our room. We did probably 90% of our breakfasts on the entire trip by purchasing fruit and granola bars in order to save money.
We stayed in the eastern part of Rome, as near to the sightseeing places as we could get without spending too much cash – I highly recommend you do the same. We also were near a train station which was extremely valuable. We stayed at Sette A, which you can find on Air BnB.
- We started this day by walking west towards the Colosseum. As we were making our way there, we stumbled upon the Trevi Fountain, which was gorgeous and worth a few photos (even used our selfie stick!).
|The Trevi Fountain – it stopped me in my track and
still leaves me breathless when I think about it.
- We stopped at the Basilica of San Clemente, which has several layers of churches and even a pagan temple contained in it. Spend the two euro for the tour below the street level, it’s very much worth it.
- Visit the Piazza Navona which features the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, which means Fountain of Four Rivers – there are so many photo opportunities in Rome that missing one here isn’t a deal breaker but it’s still a beautiful piece of history and architecture.
- Continue on your way to the Colosseum and unexpectedly find the Pantheon. It’s the first architectural dome built and it’s still standing in all of its glory. You can go inside and look around – there are several important people buried inside, including world famous Italian painter Raphael. He’ll come up later, as well.
|The dome ceiling structure of the Pantheon
- We dined at one of the many pizza shops near the sights. We spent a bit more than we wanted but it was worth the time we saved in not having to walk a long ways off the beaten path.
- Arrive at the Colosseum, which is conveniently near the Roman Forum. Do yourself a favor and purchase the Roma Pass. It gets you discounted entrance into many of the major attractions and let’s you skip the lines. Spend as much time as possible marveling at the architectural genius of the Colosseum and try to ignore the feeling of insignificance you’ll experience.
|Not the set for Gladiator
- After the Colosseum, head on next door to the Roman Forum. Note: to see all of the Roman Forum you will need several hours, however a lot of is remnants of buildings, temples etc., so if you don’t want to read about every column, you can get through it in a few hours. Don’t miss out on the original settlement of Rome, Palatine Hill. This is where Roman mythology says that Romulus and Remus were found in a cave on the hill by the she-wolf Lupa that kept them alive.
- We rounded off the day by visiting the Musei Capitolini – this was the only museum we visited on this day and it was specifically because we wanted to see the bronze statue of Lupa, the she-wolf that raised Romulus and Remus.
|The she-wolf bronze statue with Romulus and Remus below.
- We dined at a restaurant near our hostel called Da Giovanni – it wasn’t the quality of La Barrique but it was good and off the beaten path.
Day 3 (full day):
Again, you need your walking shoes on this day (pretty much every day in Europe that you aren’t on a train, you need your walking shoes). We had to check out of our hostel that morning but were able to leave our bags in the lobby to retrieve before our train left at 10:30 pm. The whole day was about the Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica.
- I recommend you get up early and get to a nearby train station in order to be at the Vatican City, which is technically a separate country, for your appointment. We wanted to tour the Vatican Museum first, because that is where the Sistine Chapel is located, so we made an appointment and bought tickets in advance (highly recommend doing this as early in the day as possible to avoid the lines and crowds). When you enter the Vatican Museums, you start on a path that allows you to choose different wings. We chose to take the long route to the Sistine Chapel, again to avoid the crowds. You will be mesmerized by the intricate ceilings and designs in the Papal quarters. It’s immensely humbling to walk through the same halls and rooms that Popes have inhabited since the 15th or 16th century. There were thousands of Papal relics, statues and paintings. Raphael’s work was highly featured and treasured.
- When you arrive in the Sistine Chapel you will catch your breath – nothing prepares you for this experience. Due to the forbidden nature of pictures in the Chapel, I don’t have any to post here (although I did get a fuzzy one of “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo). Here’s a link to a photo if you want to see it from Michelangelo.org.
- After we finished in the Chapel, we took another route through the Vatican Museum in order to see the statue of Laocoon, which the Ninja was really excited about.
|The statue of Laocoon
- After finishing in the Vatican Museum, make your way to Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Piazza di San Pietro. You can peruse around inside for as long as you want but don’t leave without going up the 360+ steps to Michelangelo’s Dome. You can take an elevator for the first 100+ steps but the last 200 or so you have to climb on your own. Consider yourself warned, it’s a helluva climb. The cost of the dome is an additional bit of change (<$10) but so very much worth it and the view of Rome is unrivaled.
- If you are lucky and plan far enough in advance, you may be able to visit the Vatican Scavi or known as the Vatican Necropolis. This tomb is believed to be the final resting place (remains and all) of Saint Peter, one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples. Admission is limited to 200 people per day and you have to email in advance to request an appointment. It costs 12 Euro and it’s very difficult to get an appointment but if you do, congrats! Enjoy it – we weren’t able to go because we didn’t plan far enough in advance. To contact for an appointment, email email@example.com. When you email you need to tell them all of the dates you will be in Rome and available to visit; how many of you there are; the names of everyone in your group; and in the case that you are travelling as part of a larger party, what your relation is (e.g. if it is a parish visit or a college trip). Tours are booked according to language so you need to specify this in your email too to ensure that you can understand your guide.
|Piazza di San Pietro or St. Peter’s Square from the top of Michelangelo’s Dome
- Before leaving the Vatican City, be sure to get some souvenirs. You can purchase Christmas ornaments, stationary, rosary beads and so much more (buy these before going into Saint Peter’s Basilica because you can dip them in Holy Water inside and make a Catholic friend very happy). The opportunities for Vatican City souvenirs are endless. Make sure to pose for a picture in front of the Basilica as well!
|Saint Peter’s Basilica
- We closed out the day by walking back to our hostel to grab our bags – since we weren’t in a rush (our train didn’t leave until 10:30 pm) we took our time looking at statues and old buildings around the city. We stopped to look at the Castel Sant’Angelo which was used as Papal refuge and residence and at one point was also as a prison (not for the Pope). We didn’t go inside because the price didn’t seem worth it but of course we got a picture. The Castel sits right in front of the Ponte Sant’Angelo which bridges the Tiber River and was completed in 134 A.D. by Roman emperor Hadrian. For those history buffs out there, Hadrian was known as one of the Five Good Emperors who ruled justly. He also built Hadrian’s Wall in Britain.
|The Ponte Sant’Angelo – Bridge of Hadrian over the Tiber
- Make sure you have some more great Italian food before you leave Rome – there are so many fabulous places to choose from!
Here are some general tips for Rome:
- Take as many photos as humanly possible. You are only there once (probably). If you didn’t bring a selfie stick with you across the pond, no worries, you can buy one from a thousand different street vendors for about $5 (cheaper than you probably paid for it from Amazon).
- Public toilets aren’t free so always have change on hand.
- Homeless people and beggars are rampant. This is both disheartening and frustrating – handle at your own discretion.
- If you wish to hear/see the Pope speak, Wednesday is the day to do it. We were there on a Wednesday and regrettably we didn’t wait around to hear him speak, as we were very focused on the Sistine Chapel. In hindsight, we should have listened to his sermon and then gone to the Chapel.
- SOAK IT ALL IN – You will be walking on streets that are more than 1,000 years old. Churches, palaces, homes – so many structures have been around for centuries; some even 2,000+ years. Take pictures, marvel at the beauty of 2,000 year old marble, imagine what it must have been like in ancient Rome. Lose yourself in history – be a geek and take pictures of yourself in front of everything. Ask questions. ENJOY YOURSELF! Romans are very, very friendly!
I sincerely hope you can visit Rome someday – for a big history buff like myself, it was a must-see for our Europe trip. I only touched the surface in terms of the things I learned and the feelings I experienced in Rome but this is the honest-to-goodness list of things we saw. You can get all this in within 2.5 days because so many sights are not museums, you can simply look around snap some pictures and head on to the next sight.
Stay tuned for more Europe itinerary trips and travel advice and if you have any questions please let me know. I would LOVE to keep talking about Rome.
Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~