Rome was one of my favourite places in Italy to visit mainly because it was a mixture of city life and history! You couldn’t walk a few blocks in Rome without bumping into a magnificent building or statue. Rome also has amazing shopping and food. My husband and I spent 4 days in Rome. It marked the beginning of our 4.5 week Europe honeymoon. Here is my account on magical Rome, taken straight out of my honeymoon travel diary:
After a 24 hour flight from Sydney to Rome, we were relieved to see our private transfer waiting for us at the terminal. Our flight had been delayed by one hour so were getting concerned that he wouldn’t wait for us. We certainly looked and felt like we had been on a 24 hour flight, so when we sat in the air conditioned vehicle, I felt like closing my eyes to rest for just a little while. I’m glad that I did not, because as we drove through the city, we were greeted by ruins of the Roman Forum, the Palentine Hills and the Collosseum. All these ruins were right in the middle of modern buildings and people going about their day. Although I had researched these places before, it was more than I could have ever expected. The architecture made me feel like I was stepping back in time.
Our hotel gave us a really helpful map with pictures of ancient sites to mark tourist destinations. These maps seem to be provided by all hotels and restaurants and are free of charge, so I recommend using them rather than purchasing one beforehand. Rome feels safe. Every second person is a tourist. You can spot them because they are using these maps. They are also wearing clothes like they are going on a trekking excursion and are they’re clasping their handbags or wearing their backpacks on their chests. Note that this is also a great description of how we would have looked to everyone else!
We managed to find the Trevi fountain while it was still daylight. It is located in the middle of a busy square full of people from all over the world. The Trevi Fountain looks beautiful by daylight; the water is blue and the statues are giant. I found myself looking a every intricate detail and wondering how the Romans of the past managed to make such a beautiful place. Everything about the Trevi fountain is created to perfection. Rick and both made a wish and I tossed two coins into the fountain.
Next were the Spanish steps which are located below a Cathedral. We wonderered through the Cathedral which had limited light. We kept silent as they were performing a service.We only stayed a few minutes before heading out to walk down the Spanish steps. The Spanish steps were not what I expected. The Steps looked much taller in photos but I would still recommend seeing them. If not only to eat a gelati as you sit and listen to people talk in all the languages of the world.Rick and I ate a hearty Italian meal in some random alleyway where the waiter only talked to you in Italian. I used a combination of my limited Italian skills to communicate with him. The pizza as expected, thin and crispy with fresh tomato sauce and thinly sliced prosciutto. The pasta tasted like it was from a tin can, so we made a note to find a place in Rome with good pasta. Rick and I were so tired from the day’s events and site seeing that we fell asleep by 8.30pm.
Due to my mild case of jetlag, I woke up bright and early and we had a delicious breakfast of fresh bread, proschuitto and cheese. We spent the day wondering around the ruins of the Roman Forum, the outside of the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain has become my favourite part of Rome and looks best at 9am in the morning when there is no one else around. Rome is definitely my kind of city, everyone wakes up late and stays up late. Shops are not open until 10am and some places even have a 2 hour siesta after lunch.
The Pantheon looks giant especially when you walk inside, look around and then up into the ceiling. The Pantheon was only 15 minutes walk from our hotel. When we arrived, it was 9.30am and there were only a small number of people wondering around. The light was radiating from the ceiling and you feel like you are in a time captule as you view ancient statues and tombs of aristocrats who had been gone for thousands of years. As we were exiting the Pantheon, it was 10am and there were flocks of tour groups beginning the first leg of their tour. My suggestion is to arrive at the Pantheon as early as possible so that you can spend time viewing every magnificant piece of history that it has to offer.
In the afternoon, we walked towards Piazzo Venezia to meet our tour group for a Segway Tour around Ancient Rome. The Segway tour was one of our favourite parts of our trip. Our guide, Armanda, took us through the cobblestone roads that were only accessible by small vehicles or that would take a long time by foot. We segwayed past the Roman Forum and looked down at all the ruins, to the top of Circus Maximus, the Palentine Hills, the Colosseum and a number of Piazzas. We ventured out of the tourist area where we segwayed uphill through the orange gardens and a lookout. This gave us a view of St Peters Basilica, the Trevere River and Ancient Rome. We peeked through a keyhole of a property owned by Malta to see a section of a garden which perfectly framed the top of St Peter’s Basilica. Armanda said that this section was closed off because it was a property owned by Malta, but the amazing thing about it is that by looking through the keyhole, you were in effect experiencing three countries: Italy, Malta and the Vatican City. By the end of the Segway tour, we felt even more excited to continue exploring Rome.
We were up bright and early on Day 3 and decided to have a go at using the much talked about Metro system in Rome. Rome has many underground entrances where you can take two Metro lines that can take you to absolutely anywhere in Rome. With the map provided by our hotel and a unlimited day pass, we managed to navigate our way to Ottaviano stazione. This is the closest station to the Vactican City where we had to collect our tickets for the Papal “Easter Sunday” Mass. From the station, it is easy to get to the Vatican City. You follow the crowd, the signs and the arrows for 10 minutes until you reach the main entrance.
St Peters Square was buzzing with people waiting in line to visit the Basilica and taking photos by one of the two fountains located in the square. When we walked through the arches that lead to St Peters Basilica, I first noticed how grand the fountains positioned in the middle of the Square and how magnificant the Basilica loooked at the end. I also noticed the statues of men located around the walls of the Square. They are positioned there as if to guard the holy grounds. Rick and I wondered around aimlessly for a moment, found the Post Office and proceeded to send our parents a postcard from the smallest jurisdiction in the world. We then attempted to find signs that would lead us to the Bronze Doors at the end of the Columns that would lead us to the place where we needed to collect our tickets. I felt like I was in the amazing race and that someone would be there to greet us with our next clue! I found a security guard who looked very official and asked him for details of how to get to the Bronze Doors. In a very official way, he looked around and said “Ok, you may go to the Bronze Door, but leave your bags here and only one of you can proceed”. I waited outside the line while Rick was allowed to skip the line and enter through a very secret looking passage way that lead to the Bronze Door. When he returned, he explained that the reason why it seemed so official is that when you reach the Basilica, you had to continue to through the passage, where only a small number of people were allowed entry, and walk through the room with the Bronze doors. Inside this room was a man who then used your letter to find your yellow tickets that would grant you entry to Easter Sunday mass.
The line for the Vatican Museum reached around the Vatican City, so we searched for one of tour companies so that we could “skip the line” with a tour group. We found a very casual looking Italian man who explained the tour and lead us to a tour group. For 20Euros plus the entrance fee, we were able to skip the line to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. These places were amazing and words would not be able to explain the holy presence that we felt as we walked through the corridors of the museum and the intricate works of Michelangelo in the Sistine chapel. If all I saw were these three sites in Rome, I would have been satisfied. I said a little prayer of thanks as we finished at St Peters Basilica and promised each other that we would return again. Although it was great to “skip the line” with our tour, the rush of following the guide’s blue umbrella everywhere is not for the faint hearted. When we returned, a suggestion is to get there bright an early and purchase your tickets with an audio guide. It will give you the time that you need to look at each beautiful piece of art from all angles. I found myself looking up at the gold guilded artworks, left or right at the many ancient statues, or straight ahead at corridors full of tapestries from biblical times. The gardens of the Vatican City are also worth a mention as they are peaceful and a great place to sit down and rest your feet.
We ended the day by using our day ticket to see the sites at night. The Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain are definitely worth a viewing at night. These places get lit up and look so magnificiant against the dark sky. And since we had replaced our track gear with a trench, replaced our backpacks with a wallet, and our trainers with comfortable yet dressy shoes, I found that we were no longer asked to purchase random street trinkets. Just a small tip to look less like a tourist. Do not worry if you are not of Italian decent, you can still look less like a tourist. Rome is a wonderfully diverse culture filled with locals from all walks of life. One of the many reasons why I love Rome!
Easter Sunday is the biggest day of the year for the Vatican City, if not all of Rome. We once again purchased a day pass and took the Metro to Ottaviano. When we exited the station, the streets were brimming with people wanting to attend Easter Sunday mass. We clutched our yellow admission tickets like it was money and waited in line with thousands of other people. Amongst the crowd were a family who were trying to enter the gates. When asked if they had a ticket, they replied with a question “Where do you get those tickets from?”. My heart sunk for them. Although the tickets are free, you had to make a formal request to the Vatican sometimes six months prior to the event. A man overheard this woman and asked her for the number of people in her party. She replied by saying that there were 3 in her party. She was trying to hide the disappointment in her face. We were pleased to see the man smile and take 3 tickets out of his wallet, and said “3 people from our party could not make it so please take these”. She thanked him and proceeded to the entrance with glee. What a blessing!
After passing the metal detectors and security guards, we entered the square which was decorated in brightly coloured flowers. We took a few happy snaps of the guards dressed in brightly coloured uniforms and hats. I also ran from one side of the square to the other when I heard the trumpets sound as the Vatican City marching band entered with a song.
Although it was crowed, it was definitely worth the wait. One of my favourite moments was when we heard the Pope using his official hammer to bang on the Bronze door of 4 Basilicas across Rome. We also enjoyed his entrance in the Pope mobile as he waved to the roaring crowd. The mass itself was filled with joy. The choir sang in the background and the prayers of the faithful were read in various languages. The Pope gave the Mass in Italian and when he started speaking, we were amazed to see the sun come out of the clouds to fill the Vatican with a gleaming ray of light – God was definitely present. We managed to figure out the times that we needed to do important things like saying the Our Father and the peace offering.
I love the fact that as you walk out of the the Colosseo station, you see the Colosseum! A mix of the new and old in the one location. We explored Rome again for the last time by visiting the inside of the Colosseum. It is definitely something worth visiting. We looked out from all viewpoints to see all aspects of this ancient site. We rested on sections of marble seating and explored the many corridors. There are holes in the walls because thousands of years ago, the most expensive materials were taken from the Colosseum and used to build other parts of Rome. We finished our last night in Rome by visiting the Trevi Fountain, farewelling the Pantheon and eating a delicious Italian dinner!
Planning a trip to Rome? Here are some more helpful links that we used to plan our 4 day itinerary! Enjoy!