Back last year I had no clue as to what to get my boyfriend for his birthday. After umming and ahhhing for a while I decided to book us flights somewhere new for our annual leave together at Whitson. I know he loves abit of history so decided to go for Rome! I booked the flights with Easyjet the day they came on sale for summer 2017 so they were fairly reasonable for midweek but the weekend was double the price! So I went for Monday-Thursday and printed off the tickets to pop inside his birthday card. He was so chuffed! I booked the hotel at a later date as I wanted to do my research. Being the goofy geek that I am, I ordered my trusty Lonley Planet Guidebook for Rome from Amazon and read it back to front and inside out. Expedia, LastMinute.com and other major booking sites were all much of a muchness so I went with Expedia to get my nectar points bumped up and booked a lovely boutique hotel called Hotel Orange which was just outside the Vatican City walls. It was small and trendy, located on a leafy side street, spotlessly clean and the staff were so lovely and friendly! I would highly recommend. It was less than 2 minutes from the Vatican museum entrance queue and 5 minutes around the corner from the spectacular square of St Peters.
The flight was only 2 hours 20 minutes from Bristol and the Italians are 1 hour ahead of the UK. We got a taxi from the airport and he gave us a card with a number to book for the way home which was super helpful – the hotel staff did it for us as our Italian is pretty poor! A return trip was around €100 which is standard for most big cities but the train looked fairly straight forward and I think it was €14pp each way. But we only had a few days so jumped in a taxi to maximise sightseeing time!
When we got there, we checked in, dumped our bags and changed and headed straight out to explore, the weather was glorious the whole time we were there so shorts, t-shirts and dresses were all we packed. Our hotel was around a 20 min walk to the river to the city centre which was nothing. Rome is such a walkable city, everything we wanted to see was no more than 30 minutes by foot from wherever we were. As soon as we started walking my eyes lit up, everything was so old and beautiful! Big old buildings with enormous doors and windows with wooden shutters.
The roads were super busy and we loved all the tiny smart cars and mopeds parked in the most tiniest of spaces. We were starving and wanted one thing…..PIZZA. We wandered around and came across Piazza Navona, a huge square lined with pretty pizzerias and cafes with a beautiful fountain right in the middle. We sat down and had a big pizza each and a Peroni, bliss!
While we were sat down I looked up where all the main sites were on my phone – I have a Three Feel At Home contract for my iPhone so can use data abroad at no extra, which is great for my job, so I used google maps ALOT while we were there! Its so easy to get lost in all the tiny cobbled streets in Rome but its a nice way to find little things you wouldn’t see on the main streets. We headed straight for the Trevi Fountains but on the way we went past the Pantheon which blew my mind! Its a former Roman Temple which is now a church. You can just wander in for free and the domed ceiling inside is spectacular.
After that we carried on to the Trevi Fountains. Its the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. It was super busy with tourists as I expected but I managed to squeeze through and throw a coin in to make a wish. Coins should be thrown with the right hand over the left shoulder. An estimated €3000 a day are thrown into the fountain which last year equated to a staggering $1.5 million US dollars! The money gets given to a supermarket for Rome’s needy. It is stunning and I read that Italian fashion giant Fendi sponsored a €2million restoration in 2014-2015. Like I said it is ridiculously crowded with tourists but our taxi driver to the airport told us that the government are looking at ways to improve this in the future. But it is definately a must see!
We then found the Spanish Steps which were stunning! We actually went back again on the Wednesday too to climb to the top to see the amazing views. The 135 steps are featured in one of my favourite old films ‘Roman Holiday’ with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck so I really wanted to see it! It is surrounded by plush, upmarket shops such as Chanel, Gucci, Valentino and Balenciaga.
Worn out we headed back to Piazza Navona and found a few lovely bars to sit and have a few drinks before bed on one of the side streets. On that note, the square is around a third of the price more expensive for food and drinks but the side streets off it are packed with bars and pizzerias with great food and it is a lot cheaper.The next day was Colosseum day and we were SO EXCITED. I’d prebooked our tickets and printed them off before we went which is my top tip as the queues for people who hadn’t booked or who had booked but hadn’t printed off where quite lengthly. You go through airport style security, scan your ticket and your in. Super easy! The tickets online were only €12 each plus booking fee on http://www.coopculture.it and that gets you entrance to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. We walked down there and when you see it in the distance its so exciting! We were down there by 9:30am and it was already busy so get there as early as you can. There are guided tours you can book (guided tours are wandering around in big groups all over the city) but we decided to read up and wander around ourselves.
When you first walk in it is a real ‘WOW’ moment and it is mind blowing how people built this with the use of no modern technology. There are underground tours you can book too but it was already full for when we were there. I won’t talk too much about the inside but all I will say is it is EPIC. I loved playing on Age Of Empires on our old computer at my parents when I was a kid and I felt like I was in a real life version! The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are equally as impressive, there are little boards dotted around everywhere explaining what everything was and what the buildings were used for. So interesting and we loved it. Also, outside the entrance the Roman Forum is the best place to get photos outside the Colosseum.
I had read in my Lonely Planet book that the area on our hotel’s side of the river called Trastavere was a great place for an evening out. We wandered there from our hotel down the pretty river path which took around half an hour and as there are a few university’s located nearby so theres lots of nice bars and restaurants located around windy cobbled streets and around a pretty square Piazza Santa Maria. We had a few drinks and dinner and it was such a lovely atmosphere around there. We loved it so much we went back on the last night too. I was wondering what everyone was drinking in the bars – lots of people sat with bright orange drinks in wine glasses with a lemon and a straw?? I quickly discovered my new favourite drink, Aperol Spritz!! A mix of Aperol, Prosecco and soda water. So refreshing!
The last day we planned to visit the Vatican. Again I prebooked our tickets and printed them off to make life abit easier. I booked them on the official website http://www.biglietteriamusei.vatican.va which were €21 each again plus booking fee. We were just over the road so booked it for 10am. I really wish we’d gone earlier as even at this time it was pretty busy but not unbearable. When you follow the signs for the museums onto the street you get ushered into queues for groups etc but it doesn’t really matter as everyone goes through the same door and through security anyway and into a large lobby. There are LOTS of tour guides trying to sell their services for tours if you’d rather but again we just wandered around ourselves. After security it really confused me – you then have to go to the rather grumpy men behind the glass desks and get actual tickets printed even though you’ve already printed them, it is not explained anywgere and with enormous groups looking lost too it is quite chaotic. It wasn’t even that busy when we went either. Its nowhere near as slick and easy as the Colosseum. After that you head into the museums. It’s very clever the way everyone is shepherded through the museums and eventually into the Sistene Chapel itself. There were 2 options – long route through the museums or a shorter one into the chapel. We took the long one to get our moneys worth and you get to see vast collections of paintings and stone statues from Roman times which have been collected by the Popes which I found fascinating, lots of religious artefacts and all sorts of other things. You then pass through a long corridor which is beautifully decorated including the entire ceiling and then shortly after into the Sistine Chapel itself. It was completely amazing and I was speechless. One of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen in my life. I read up about it all afterwards and today Michaelangelo’s masterpiece is background to the site of the Papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The guards inside are very strict shouting and people for taking photos which is strictly prohibited and trying to quieten down the visitors to make it as peaceful as possible. Obviously at the height of summer it was quite claustrophobic in there but I would love to go back in quieter months to have another look. I assumed (which one should never do) that St Peters Square was included in the tickets which unfortunately it wasn’t. It was a completely different ticket to go in there which we didn’t realise which was a shame. But you can walk pretty close to the barriers in the square and get a good look at the Basilica itself from the outside.
Also, the Pope does his audience on a Wednesday morning at 10am and you can wait outside and see him go past – but I’d booked our museum tickets for the same day at that time so we completely missed him!
I can’t recommend anywhere to eat in particular as everywhere we went was simply amazing!! You don’t have to go far for good food, coffee and gelato, 3 nights is not enough to try all the good places! I could live there quite easily 🙂 We sat for hours on the last morning outside the Pantheon in a cafe drinking cappuccinos and people watching.
Rome is a photographers dream and I loved playing around with my camera whilst wandering around the pretty cobbled streets. We loved Rome and would definately recommend for a nice romantic little city break for 3 nights or a ‘mini moon’. Theres loads to see and do to fill your time and the food and drink is just devine! One thing I would say is – we saw lots of people struggling with pushchairs on uneven cobbled streets, so if you are a wheelchair user or older and maybe abit unsteady on your feet this is something to be aware of, we stubbed our toes and tripped up ALOT. But thats all part of the charming character of Rome.
Thanks for reading,