This is the second post in a series I wrote about my first European adventure back in the fall of 2012. Our trip began with a long layover in London, England and ended in Paris, France. This is a recap from our first official stop where we did our best to see Rome in 2 days. You can find the other posts here.
As the saying goes – Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s such a large and beautiful city that, of course, would have been impossible. However, as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, it’s one you should definitely explore. One piece of advice…be prepared to walk!
We stayed in a cute little hotel called Hotel Camelia, just northeast of the main train station of Termini. It was the perfect location for this trip because we came in so late and rented a car from the station to drive to our next destinations. However, as we were walking around, I loved the look and feel of the neighborhood near the Pantheon and will probably research hotels around there should we ever travel back to Rome.
Our first day in Rome got off to a late start because we arrived a bit later than anticipated the night before and underestimated how tired we would be from the 30+ hours of traveling. Also, we had a support request for our business that we needed to address that night. It might have been business hours in the States, but it was 2:00 am by the time we were finished and turning out the lights. To say it was a long first day is an understatement, but that’s part of the deal when you own your own company. Of course, it was great that we were able to handle it from half way around the world too.
So back to our day in Rome. After a quick breakfast at the hotel we began at the Trevi Fountain, where rumor has it if you toss a coin in the fountain you will return to Rome one day.
The Trevi is the largest and undoubtedly the most famous fountain in Rome. And because of that, it is very crowded. Be prepared to wait a bit to get up to the actual fountain and give up your dreams of getting a clear shot of the fountain without others in it.
From there it was off to the Spanish Steps. These are the 138 steps that slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and the Piazza Trinita dei Monti church at the top. This is also another big tourist attraction so be prepared for more crowds.
Unfortunately, we had forgotten our pre-purchased tickets for the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill back at the hotel so we took a detour via the metro back to our room. It wasn’t too bad though because we already needed a rest.
45 minutes later we were out the door and on our way to the Colosseum. We bought a day pass for the metro for 8 euros so we decided to ride it as much as possible. If you visit the Colosseum you must be sure to buy a ticket before hand or visit one of the other two locations first – both of which have much shorter lines.
Short on time with too much to see, we grabbed a panini from a street vendor outside the Colosseum (not super authentic) and sat down to people watch for a bit. Then after a stroll around the outside of the Colosseum, we jumped in the short line (remember our pre-bought tickets?) and entered the complex within 10 minutes.
Wow! It really is an amazing structure with so much history. It’s hard to use the word beautiful knowing all of the destruction and lives lost here. They are doing a really good job with the restoration. A partial floor had been added so you can get a sense of where the fighting took place, while still being able to see into the underground areas. As with all of the sites in Rome, be prepared for lots of other tourists. Sensing a theme yet?
Next, was a walk through the Roman Forum. Our time here was cut short by an afternoon rainstorm. We took shelter under a very small stone awning and moved to get a better view (and cover!) when the rain subsided a bit. Unfortunately, the down pour lasted about 45 minutes. When it finally did stop we headed to the Pantheon.
The Pantheon was converted to a Roman Catholic church in the 7th century so it is one of the best preserved buildings in Rome. And it is still an architectural marvel – with the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. When we arrived the middle of the room was blocked off because it was wet from the rainstorm and we wished that we had been stuck here instead of in an apartment lobby. However, we didn’t spend too much time here as we started to get hungry so we headed off for gelato.
Our final stop for the night was the Vatican Museum. Once a month, during certain months of the year, they open the museum on a Friday night and luckily it landed on the one night we were in Rome. These tickets are also something you should purchase in advance as the tickets are timed and sell out. Although the museum was still crowded and the ever-present tour group was still here and there, I am sure it was better than the mid-day crowds.
We wandered the different halls looking at intricate artwork, statues and tapestries. We were able to take pictures as long as we did not use a flash so we tried to capture some of the beauty.
The last stop was the Sistine Chapel of course. However, you were not supposed to take photos or even talk in this room. They even have “sushers” and security walking through asking you to be quiet. Supposedly the excessive amounts of carbon dioxide from the massive crowds have damaged the ceiling and increased the restoration time.
Our night ended with a late dinner and a metro ride back to our hotel. A very long first full day, but our Roman adventure was not quite over…
The next morning we woke up early in order to get to St. Peter’s by 7:00 am. This time we took a cab to save time (and our feet!). The sunrise on the building and in the square was breathtaking.
We enjoyed looking around the basilica without massive crowds and even wandered up the ever-narrowing and winding staircase to the top of the dome.
The perspective from up there was amazing! Look at how small the people in this image are in comparison to the letters. They are on the left under the first window.
It also gave us this beautiful panoramic view of the city.
Then it was time to leave Rome and head off to more Italian adventures. The trip continues with a drive through Tuscany and some surprises in Cinque Terre.
Have you been to Rome before? What was your favorite thing about the city? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.