Now that I’ve told you how we saved money while traveling to Rome, I’m excited to share what we did. Rome is a small city that is easy to conquer in a few days, or even less if you’re really pressed for time. If you’ve never been, make sure you visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum if only to look out over the crumbling structures and imagine what was nearly 2,000 years ago. Use the Roma Pass for these two attractions to get free admission and cut the lines. Sights like Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon are ones you’ll see often if you walk everywhere like we did. I would recommend visiting them all during the day and at night to get different views. Don’t forget to throw a coin over your shoulder into Trevi Fountain to ensure you’ll return one day. Duck into the Pantheon and download Rick Steve’s free podcast about it. He also has ones for the Colosseum and Roman Forum if you’d like to skip the tour guide.
One thing we knew we wanted to pay extra for was a guided tour of the Vatican. This is by far one of the best decisions we made and my very favorite part of the trip. We booked the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, and St. Peter’s Basilica Tour through Dark Rome. We were lead through the Vatican Museums, which are really extensive and featured some of my favorite art, including paintings by Raphael. This part of the tour transitioned right into the Sistine Chapel where we were allowed to take in Michelangelo’s masterpiece for nearly 15 minutes. Amazing. After that we walked through the incredibly massive St. Peter’s Basilica, stopping at major statues like the Pietà. Following the tour, our guide showed us where to buy tickets to go to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. We walked up hundreds of stairs in spaces barely wider than our shoulders, but it offered some of the best views of Rome.
On most Sundays at Noon, you can see the Pope delivering the Angelus or blessing from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Even if you are not religious, this is a really interesting experience. Thousands of people from all over the world come to hear him speak. His image is projected on large screens and people are singing, crying, and holding up signs. It’s a sight to behold.
One of our favorite places to hang out was Piazza Navona. This is a lively square lined with restaurants and tourists. It features gorgeous fountains, amazing people watching, and a gelato stand every few feet. Performers, musicians, and artists reside here, adding to the festival vibe. It’s a great place to take in the beautiful architecture and characters of the city.
When I travel, I like to get to know some of the neighborhoods of a city. Trastevere is described as being closer to the “real” Rome and less touristy than some other neighborhoods. It’s also described as having a bohemian feel. I liked walking around the different shops and trying restaurants the locals might actually visit.
Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II
When you go to Rome, you won’t miss the massive white marble monument honoring the first king of a united Italy, Victor Emmanuel II. I’ve never seen such a large tribute to any political figure in the United States. It’s impossible to take a photo of the entire structure unless you’re really far away. It featured some of the most impressive architecture of the trip, and that’s saying something.
We happened upon the Capitoline Museum as a backup plan when one of the museums we wanted to visit wasn’t open. The building itself is gorgeous and it houses some of the most famous statues from Ancient Rome.
While in Rome, we watched the Steelers game from La Boticella, a Steelers-themed bar. You may not be a Steelers fan, but you have to admit it’s kind of cool to find an American football themed bar while traveling abroad.
Lastly, I recommend walking into the many churches that line the streets. They’re all older than most historical sites in the U.S. Look around. Take in the architecture you see everywhere. Just walking through Rome is an experience like no other.