Rome, Italy…this was the first stop on my first trip abroad. We spent three days there before heading to other parts of Italy. I was traveling with my mom and meeting my brother once his flight got in. My mom and brother had never been to Europe, either, so it was an…experience. We took a flight from Miami, FL to Rome with a couple hour layover in Lisbon. Overall, easy trip. We upgraded to TAP Portugal’s business/first class and had an amazing flight. Going back to peasant life in coach was a tough one. Once in Rome, we rented a driver to take us from the airport to our AirBNB. Overall, it was about a 45 minute trip and about 50 euros (we also had NO idea how to (or not to) tip yet). My advice for the next time: TAKE THE TRAIN.
Side note: aside from my first day – I had an awful stomach bug for the other 2 days. When I say awful, picture carrying around a plastic bag through a Vatican tour and running through the Sistine Chapel so I don’t get sick in a place of worship…
We stayed in a cute little AirBNB here:
Unfortunately, this flat is no longer available as a listing – but this is a very convenient location far enough away from a mass of tourists, but close enough to what you want to see. If you need an AirBNB referral code, go to www.airbnb.com/c/karliet or click here. You will receive $40 toward your first trip. Disclaimer: I receive a perk from AirBNB as part of their referral program. I am in no way affiliated with them.
Woah – talk about overwhelming. I’ll be honest in saying that Rome and most of Italy was not done the way I should have done it. It was the first trip to Europe and things were overstimulating to say the least. Regardless it was still amazing and an eye opening experience.
My mom and I set out to find a currency exchange via Yelp and Google Maps. If you’ve never been out of the US, here’s a tip: a lot of the buildings have the street names on them; stop looking for street sign posts. We should have walked about 10-15 minutes one direction and been there super quick (the Pantheon being the reference point). However, we walked about 45-60 minutes in the wrong direction and took a super long scenic route in 100+ degree heat and finally made it. Thank goodness that little currency exchange that screwed us on an exchange rate had amazing air conditioning.
I had the prosciutto pizza, my brother had some sort of calzone (on the left), and I believe my mom had pasta. She was super bummed she didn’t get the pizza. I’m not a huge prosciutto fan, but I could eat this for days. The fact that this was really my only meal in Rome still makes me sad. The waiter was incredibly helpful and the patio looked out on a “square” type area where people were gathering. We got to people watch in the most interesting way, eat delicious food, and drink fabulous wine. I don’t think I need to add anymore to that.
We were exhausted, so we called it a night early and got sleep for the rest of the trip.
My day started by puking in a bidet, but I wasn’t going to let it ruin my trip. I sucked it up, threw a plastic grocery bag in my back pack, and set out on our tours.
We used www.viator.com to book a tour that included entry to the Vatican (Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museums, Vatacombs), the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. The ticket included a guided tour through the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, Vatacombs, and St Peter’s Basilica, as well as a “skip the line” pass to gain entrance. The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum were self-led, but included a “skip the line” pass to the Colosseum. The tour cost was $100 USD per person, but I 100% recommend this, even if just for the skip the line passes. Those lines get LONG.
Remember: you need to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees out of respect while visiting the Vatican. They have scarves for sale outside of the museums, but they aren’t cheap. Save yourself some money and just bring a cover up.
This day was a blur due to my sickness and I wish I could re-experience it. Despite the miserable state I was in, everything I witnessed and learned was amazing. I can’t wait to go back and do it properly. Shout out to our tour guide for being the best and not getting mad when I held up the group because I was dying in the bathroom. *virtual high five*\
The guided tour included an English speaking guide that was very knowledgeable of events, facts, and stories to go along with the tour. He taught us all about the art, architecture, and history that was behind every crevice of the museums. We were given headsets to amplify the sound, so hearing him while we stood in the back was not a problem. He was also very tall, so he didn’t need a flag and we could just follow his hand through the mobs of people. I was amused by that.
By the time we made it to St. Peter’s Basilica, I was feeling a little bit better and the coolness of the stone interior felt amazing. This part was the most memorable of the tour for me. The entire architecture is outstanding and unbelievable. It really is a grand structure in every sense of the term. Learning about the paintings, the sculptures, and the history was incredibly intriguing. I’m not sure the steps, but you can attend mass at the Basilica. For not being someone that identifies as religious, this part of the tour was incredible to learn about. Through the Basilica, you also get the chance to explore the Vatacombs.
After the tour, you have the option to pay a couple of Euros to climb up to the top of a bell tower. It’s a lot of steps, but they say the view is spectacular. I couldn’t do it for fear of leaving body fluids as breadcrumbs to find my way back. My mom has a new hip and that many stairs just wasn’t going to do her legs any good. If I go back, I likely will make the climb. There were just too many factors for us this trip. They say it’s totally worth all of the steps, though!!
We only did the Vatican tour on this day. Rome was experiencing a heat advisory and unseasonable warmth. Mix that with my stomach flu and it was not pleasant. My mom and brother went out to explore little shops and off-path restaurants, which they enjoyed. I suggest not eating directly near the Vatican due to the price increase because of tourists. If you want authentic Italian food, head into those little doors ducked in alleyways without an English menu. I also suggest only doing the Vatican tour on day one since the rest of the ticket is on the other side of the city. Unless you’re really feeling motivated or have one day.
Luckily, I was keeping food down, but the heat was still so real. Over 100 degrees Fahrenheit was rough mixed with being weak from not eating/drinking for over 24 hours. Today, though, we set out to the Colosseum at about 9 in the morning. We took an Uber and were there relatively quickly. Once we got there and realized just how long that line is, we were INCREDIBLY glad we had a skip the line pass. We were in pretty quickly. We decided to rent an iPod with a walking tour, but honestly, it wasn’t worth it. I’m pretty sure you can download walking tours for free or cheap – I suggest that.
The site of the Colosseum was as incredible and magnificent as I thought it would be. Walking up to the breathtaking, ancient architecture is a site I’ll always feel. Knowing the history of the grounds and all dark secrets held within the walls is eerie, amazing, and unsettling all at once while you’re standing within the crumbling walls. I was a little disappointed that you could see the construction taking place, but…I guess they have to do everything that they can to keep it standing. Makes complete sense, but my bucket list picture didn’t include machines, fences, and braces.
Confession time? As magnificent as it was…there are only so many different views you can take in of the same circle before it becomes redundant. Sorry… I enjoy seeing historical sites, but once I’ve seen it – I’m good. And the crowds were starting to roll in even more than they were when we got there semi-early…so we dipped. We spent some time in the gift shops because they were air conditioned. We got lost trying to get out because we couldn’t find the exit, but we finally made it out to the grounds around it.
We walked from the Colosseum to the Roman Forum. Unfortunately, due to a multitude of reasons, we didn’t see much of the Forum, nor walk up Palatine Hill. We were all bummed, but at that time, it just wasn’t doable. Another trip, another time.
The Uber dropped us off as close as he could and we were able to hear our way to the fountain itself (and follow the MOBS of people – it was afternoon by this time already). My suggestion, take as you will: go early (like ass crack of dawn early) or go late – the middle of the day is a nightmare.
We each took one of our million euro coins that were weighing down our pockets/bags (that as an American with a lot of bills is extremely difficulty to get accustomed to) and made our wish while throwing the coin over our shoulder. I got my boomerang and was all of the things I hate in life…but when in Rome, right?
Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…..
The rest of our time in Rome, we wandered around ducking in and out of streets/alleys to check out all of the shops, restaurants, and coffee bars. I definitely suggest doing this as it’s a great way to discover hidden little gems.
Speaking of coffee, I mentioned in my top 10 about coffee. I’m a coffee drinker and so are my brother and mom. We drink more coffee than is healthy and it gets us through manic days. We did break the Nespresso machine because all we wanted was a cup of coffee before we set out the door (x3). Now, Italian coffee is amazing. It’s bold, it’s rich, it’s unlike anything I’ve had at home. BUT! Taking in a short shot or two of espresso took some getting used to. I’ll admit that I started to enjoy it and miss it a little. You can order drinks like cappuccino and cafe au lait, but I’m not a big fan of anything with milk. The closest you’ll get is a Cafe Americano – which is espresso with water. Just a little bit of info if you like your caffeine through an IV.
I wasn’t 100% satisfied with Rome. I had this grand picture in my mind of what it would be like because I looked forward to it for so long and it was the one place I wanted to go my whole life. I was disappointed with the masses of tourists. I’m not a big history buff, so in my mind, once I see a couple ancient buildings, they start to blend in my memory. It could have been a combination of my illness and the heat, but I think these thoughts still hold true to me. Maybe a different time might lend another experience, but this is just one person’s opinion. Would I go back? Of course. Would I recommend going? Absolutely, it should be on everyone’s list. I guess I was just bummed because it had such high standards in my mind…but I’ve learned that traveling. Don’t have expectations.
If you need an AirBNB referral code, go to www.airbnb.com/c/karliet or click here. You will receive $40 toward your first trip. I’ll be posting a home rental vs hotel soon! Keep a look out! Disclaimer: I receive a perk from AirBNB as part of their referral program. I am in no way affiliated with them.