After leaving Michelle in Marrakech, I hopped on my next RyanAir flight to Roma, where I was meeting my good friend Erin the next day. After a night recharging alone in my hostel, Erin and I found each other in Termini train station the next morning, and we made our way to our AirBnb apartment on the opposite side of the city (about a 30 minute commute via bus/metro).
We spent five total days in Rome (with a day trip to Pompeii), and for us that was absolutely plenty for a first-time visit. Roma is intense, and is hard to conquer. Frequent wine and gelato breaks are absolutely crucial when visiting this part of Italy. In regards to western history and civilization, nothing tops Rome. It is so incredibly impressive, with random ruins, statues, and archaeological remains being dug up and preserved all over the city. However, as far as cities go, Rome isn’t my favorite. I much prefer Paris, Barcelona, London, and even Amsterdam. Tourists are everywhere–everywhere in Rome. Thankfully, with the help of Rick Steves, and because of the ticket reservations made at the Vatican and Colosseum, our trip to Rome was much more enjoyable.
Free Walking Tours
During our time in Rome, Erin and I did two walking tours, both of which were fantastic and very informative. It was a great way to get a really good layout and understanding of the city. The first tour took us to the Spanish Steps, several churches (my favorite being Sant’Ignazio with its optical illusion ceiling), The Patheon, the Trevi Fountain, and so much more. The second tour took us from the northern entrance of the city to the Vatican. On the way our guide pointed out various ruins and remains of former Popes. He also took us into a few churches where I learned about Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Now whenever I see them in paintings I understand their significance so much more!
Erin and I began our Roman vacation lounging and people watching on the Spanish Steps. As pointed out by our tour guide, the Spanish Steps were constructed by the French (hence why the Fleur-de-Lys is present throughout the design. The French flag is also flown at the top of the steps (of course it is.) Finally, the name of this monument is not actually Spanish Steps; the only reason it has been given this nickname is because the steps are right next to the Spanish Embassy for the Vatican.
Despite the hoards of tourists (the Lizzie McGuire movie is soooo not accurate!), the Trevi was my favorite monument in Rome. It is just beautiful. The two horses represent “bad water” and “good water.” Most people do not know that the proper way to make a wish in the Trevi Fountain is to throw three coins into the fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder: one coin to return to Rome, two coins to fall in love with a Roman, and three to marry one.
The Pantheon is Rome’s most preserved piece of architecture. It is very impressive and houses the remains of two kings and one Queen: Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, and Margherita.
This was by far my favorite church in Rome; I found it much more impressive than the Sistine Chapel. For the best views of the ceiling, stand on the small yellow dot on the floor and look up. The ceiling is absolutely flat even though it seems like it’s curving. The ceiling is an optical illusion!
Though Nîmes houses the most preserved Roman arena, Rome houses the biggest one. Erin and I joined in on a walking tour for both the Colosseum and Palentine Hill, and we learned a ton. Our guide pointed out which parts are original and which are not, and was able to paint the gladiator scene in our heads on the inside. On Palentine Hill, we learned about the history of the birth of Rome as well as the individual functions of the remaining buildings of the Roman forum. You can literally see in some of these photos how much the Romans built on top of each other.
Thanks to Erin’s amazing research skills, we got into the Necropolis and Vatican gardens. The Vatican Necropolis lies about 5-12 meters under the Vatican City below Saint Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican sponsored archeological excavations under from 1940–1949 via Pope Pius XI, who wanted to be buried near Peter the Apostle.
The Vatican Museum
I didn’t take many pictures inside the museum, but it is very impressive. I especially enjoyed the Egyptian work, sculptures, and many tapestries. Similar to Le Louvre, the Vatican is a like cattle-herding, except there is only one main route all the way to the Sistine Chapel, where the Pope himself worships. Erin thankfully did a ton of research and we bought advanced tickets online. Otherwise be prepared to wait for hours (I’m not kidding!)
Saint Peter’s Basilica and Pope Francis
While Erin and I unfortunately did not get to go inside Saint Peter’s Basilica, we did get to see the Pope and participate in his homecoming parade, which was a cool cultural activity within itself! The photo of the Pope was taken by two Canadian women we met standing next to us who were much quicker with their cameras!
Thanks to Rome’s aqueduct systems, Rome has natural fountains all around the cities. Erin and I carried our water bottles and filled up frequently!
If you want pizza, pasta, and gelato, Rome is the place for you. Although I never starved, I wasn’t overly impressed with the food in Rome.
I really enjoyed wandering the streets of Rome and admiring the very impressive Roman-style architecture (no pun intended!) it is so easy to get lost in the streets of Rome!
I wish I had read more about Rome before coming, because there is literally just so much! Overall I had a great stay in Rome and recommend a trip to any person regardless of your interest in history– it is definitely a must-see! I recommend a nice balance of museums, site-seeing, and leisure. Rome is exhausting!
Have you ever been to Rome?