Since he visited Florence with college Tom has been totally smitten with Italy and so back in Feb 2017 we decided to go to Rome. We managed to book flights quite a bit in advance making them relatively cheap and flying from Bristol made life a bit easier.
Fumicenco airport has trains that run into the city making travel to the centre quite easy. From there we got onto the metro and made our way to San Lorenzo where we were staying.
We stayed in a small hotel/B&B called San Lorenzo Notche, run by a lovely little man who was more than happy to have a chat and give us any advice that we needed. On the first night we landed early evening so at the hotel man's suggestion we walked up the main road until we came across a little restaurant/bar and so decided to grab some food and a couple of beers there rather than wander on forever. We went to bed relatively early that night but were woken up at 7am (5am by uk standards) by the housekeeper making breakfast and so we started our first day in Rome pretty shattered.
As we were only there for a few days, making the most of every day really was a necessity. We had pre booked the ticket to take a tour of the Vatican online as we had heard it can get really busy and it definitely was. As soon as we left the metro you were met with ticket sellers trying to get you to buy tickets to ‘Skip the Cue’ and as the que came into view it was very clear why. It went round the block and beyond, all the way from the door. Although we paid a premium for the tickets in comparison to standing in the que (about £20 more) I feel it was more than justified when we breezed passed those outside in the drizzle and started our tour of the Vatican.
Inside is like nothing I have ever seen before. The most glorious marble statues, corridors filled with paintings and intricately carved ceilings. We tried to book a session for relatively early in the day (about 10am) but it was still very very busy inside which made it quite hard to really take it in as you were sort of getting pushed with the flow of people. As a artistic person, Tom was really keen to see the Sistine Chapel, despite that, I feel it’s something that has to be done when
in Rome anyway. The room was packed to the brim with people which made it quite hard to really take in the entire painting as it covered all the walls as well as the ceiling, but that definitely didn’t take away from quite how breathtaking it was in general.
We read somewhere not to dine at any of the places that were close to the main attractions, but having spent about 2 hours wandering around the inside of the Vatican we were pretty pooped by the time we got out. We went to a small pizzeria just outside the walls of St Peters basilica because I didn’t seem too expensive. Tom ordered a pizza and a pint and I asked for a spinach and mozzarella panini, but they didn’t have any spinach. The waiter, who spoke really good english, then told me he could do a “vegetable one” so I assumed he meant vegetable panini. I agreed. Tom's pizza came and then came my meal. A plate of pre cooked, frozen then microwaved vegetables. Which also included cold wilted cooked soggy spinach!! Needless to say I wasn’t happy but when I tried to speak to the waiter he had suddenly lost his ability to understand English. I ate what I could but with no condiments offered either it was quite hard to bring myself to eat it. What infuriated me even more was they then charged me 8 euros (£7.06/$9.78) for this plate of soggy veg when Tom's pizza and pint cost only 6 euros (£5.29/$7.33). I guess we learnt the hard way but learnt none the less. Stay away from the restaurants near the attractions.
We didn’t really have a plan for the rest of that day so we pretty much just wandered around.
Wandering the streets of Rome is actually quite nice as it has a few hidden gems hiding up little alleyways and round corners. We decided we wanted to find the Pantheon and Trevi fountain but in the search we came across the most breathtaking church I have ever seen. The paintings and statues were something I can't describe and photos really did it no justice either. It was totally unplanned and we weren’t even quite sure where we were, but we discovered we were in Sant'Ignazio Church and honestly it is definitely a must see when in Rome.
We eventually found the pantheon and actually sat inside for a little while. Although it was busy it was quite peaceful and so was a nice place to rest. The acoustics in there are to die for because of its shape. I had to resist all urge to start singing.
You could tell almost instantly that you were getting closer to the attractions as the crowds would get thicker. To get anywhere near to Trevi fountain we had to fight through a thick crowd of people, most of which are tourists but some were people trying to sell you selfie sticks or take Polaroid photos for a fee. Some of the people trying to take photos were actually quite rude when you reject having a photo taken by them, one in particular was very persistent and actually quite aggressive after I had told him for about the tenth time that we didn’t want a photo. But the fountain was beautiful, we stayed for a little while and as it was getting late we got the chance to see it all lit up and of course we tossed a coin in. When in Rome and all that.
The following day we intended to see some other of Rome's famous sites. We were up early again (mainly due to the staff in the hotel) but we got the the Colosseum around 10am and were again greeted by big cues and crowds. Tom had bought tickets online that allowed you into the Colosseum and the Roman Forum on the same ticket and they worked out to be about £9.50 with the booking fee. This stopped us having to stand in the huge cue for tickets so I would undoubtedly say it was worth it.
We stopped to have lunch half way through but after the vegetable fiasco the day before we decided to find a supermarket and get some sandwiches. We sat in a nearby park overlooking the colosseum and ate our lunch.
I found being vegetarian in Rome was quite difficult. There were a lot of ham and cured meats around and so I found myself eating a lot of tomato and cheese (not that I mind).
Surprisingly this day disappeared so quickly and so once again we were on the hunt for somewhere to eat. Tom’s housemate in uni was from Rome and so we went on the hunt for a suggestion of hers on where to eat. We walked for about an hour and a half through the back streets of Trastevere until we managed to find this place only to be turned away at the door. I was absolutely exhausted and starving at this point and was honestly on the brink of tears until we saw a man playing guitar with a live chicken stood on his head (no joke) and then found a lovely little pizza place with the nicest man who sat and chatted to us the entire time. The food was delicious and the hospitality more than made up for the long walk. To cheers our last night in Rome the barman gave us a free shot of grappa to send us on our way.
We wondered around for a bit just to take in bit more of Trastevere and found a cool little bar called Mr. Brown with a big crowd outside. I could hear lots of different accents and languages amongst the crowd and the music which was really nice. Good music, conversation and a few cocktails sent us home via taxi (which was super cheap might I add).
The following day was the day we flew home. Having seen most of what we wanted to see we made our way to Piazza Navona and then to the Spanish steps. Tom ended up speaking to a homeless man who suggested going up to Villa Borghese gardens as it provided a beautiful view across the top of Rome. He wasn’t wrong. I highly suggest the walk up, it isn’t far from the metro station Spagna and it really is a view I won't forget in a hurry.
Rome is a beautiful city full of history and art. There is a fair bit of walking involved but the metro systems cover the entire city and the tickets are pretty cheap, despite that one time we did get a taxi it was really cheap anyway and it was actually quite nice to see Rome at night without millions of people right next to you. The only thing that frustrated me about Rome is that everyone seems to be out to make money from you and I understand that comes with a destination that is as prime for tourism as Rome is but at times it really did spoil things especially when you're trying to take in a view and a man's who's trying to sell you a selfie stick or a bracelet won't get out of your way.
Despite that I would definitely like to go again. We spent such a short time there that we got to do all the things we wanted but didn’t get much time to really soak up the city after seeing the sites. I would definitely advise more than just three nights. The weather was lovely, grey but still warmish as expected in February making it perfect exploring weather.
So for Rome I advise good walking trainers, a fair bit of patience and money and to read everything, most info boards come in English and are so so interesting. I hope that I get to return to Rome one day, maybe not anytime soon but definitely one day.