As someone whose diet consists almost entirely of pasta, you can imagine how much I loved Italy (and how much Gwyneth Paltrow would dislike me). Rome is one of those cities you have to visit at least once in your lifetime if you get the opportunity. Absolutely ancient and vibrantly modern rolled into one, there is so much to see and so much shopping to do! As I’ve mentioned before I can explore ruins, old castles, churches and even graveyards without ever getting bored. My husband, on the other hand, calls ancient ruins “piles of old stones” and completely lacks interest. But there is something in Rome for everyone.
Of course we visited the major landmarks like the Colosseum, which was a highlight for me. The men dressed as gladiators are a real laugh a minute, and joining a tour is a good way to learn more facts about the rather gruesome history of this feat of engineering. It was so hot while we were there that we decided to forego a walk around the Forum, but if you’re interested in history I’d recommend that too.
We stayed near the main train station because we arrived by train from Venice. This is not exactly close to the main attractions, but we elected to walk everywhere so that we could explore the shops and get a feel for the city. If you’re going to do this I recommend wearing cool clothes and flat shoes! There are of course many places to stop and buy the best ice cream you’ve ever tasted, so it is totally worth the walking! While exploring we came across the Trevi Fountain, so beautiful but so hidden away. I threw in some coins and made a wish, but I can’t remember what I wished for so I can’t tell you whether it came true or not!
I’ve also mentioned before that I am a bit of a Dan Brown fanatic, so of course when in Rome I wanted to visit all the places mentioned in Angels and Demons and follow the Path of Illumination! I did manage to find the (almost) 2000 year old Pantheon, which was beautiful and awe-inspiring, visit the Vatican and St Peters’ Square, and finally do a tour of Castel Sant’Angelo, so let’s just say I took some short cuts. There is actually an official Angels and Demons Tour you can do in Rome (click link for information).
The Vatican is so big (being its own country and all) and there is so much to see that it really deserves its own Tuesday Travelog. We booked a tour beforehand, so we skipped the queues and got a lot of interesting information. I would recommend this. Out of respect I made sure to cover my legs and arms, but of course I regretted this later in the day when doing the hours-long hike back to the hotel. If you’re there in summer I recommend bringing a change of clothes for afterwards! The art is jaw-dropping. I was so excited to see great works of art like Michelangelo’s Pieta and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel up close. We didn’t manage an audience with the Pope, but if you book in advance I think this would be one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. The new Pope seems like a sweetheart.
My recommendation is that you book as many guided tours as possible to get the most out of your experience and the best inside information. Try a site like Around Rome Tours to book some in advance and beat the queues. Especially in summer Rome is a very busy, touristy place! Be sure not to miss the pizza, pasta, coffee and ice cream, my idea of culinary heaven. And just a quick heads up, down from the Spanish Steps there is a whole range of designer stores like Louis Vuitton if you’re feeling flush!