Europe · Italy

How to Explore Rome

Rome has a lot to see. And I mean a lot to see. I was there for two and a half days with a flexible agenda and was able to see much of what the city has to offer from a tourist point of view. The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican Museums and Trevi Fountain were a few of the major historic sites we visited. So how did we manage to see a good amount in this short amount of time?

We planned each morning. At breakfast, we would figure out how to attack the day. Having a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do and see helped keep us on track. With three opinionated girls on this trip, there was a little back and forth happening. Be sure you’re willing to listen to what your travel partners want to see, too. Compromises will need to be made.

Day 1: This day was meant for understanding our whereabouts and seeing the sites from a distance. We only had the late afternoon and evening due to our train getting into Rome around 10 a.m. Our hotel was about a five minute walk to the Colosseum, so we headed there first. We turned the corner and saw our first glimpse of the massive structure. Being a history nerd, I was in awe. We also could see the Roman Forum from where we stood, so we were able to get a feel of what was around us. There are a lot of travel buses that have a stop on the main road near the Colosseum.  We stood near the buses and listened to the prices and deals each line had to offer. We chose the one with the best deal (25 Euros for 48 hours of unlimited travel) and hopped aboard. We were able to see where the main sites were located, giving us an idea of how we could tackle the city realistically.

Our first view of the majestic Colosseum
Our first view of the majestic Colosseum

Day 2: This was our busiest day of the visit. We woke up and dressed for the 90 degree weather, but still was appropriate to get into the Vatican museums, and hit the road bright and early. We signed up or a tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum for about 25 Euros a person. Word of advice: BE CAREFUL when signing up for these tours. Some people are just scammers and will take your money with no intention of giving you a tour. I was nervous when we signed up because all we received was a colored sticker and was told where to stand. Thankfully, it worked out in our favor. We started with an hour tour of the Colosseum. After a quick break, we made our way to the Roman Forum. At this point we switch tour guides. The guide we had for the Forum was wonderful. He was studying to be an official tour guide of the Vatican and touring the Forum was part of his student work. An hour and a half later and ready to fall over from the extreme heat, we took a break to eat lunch. Our original plan was to go to the Vatican next, but the line was too long. We sadly never had the opportunity to go inside St. Peter’s Basilica. Because the line was too long, we elected to go to the Vatican Museums. The paintings, sculptures and the Sistine Chapel are all beautiful.

We took a break after a full day of exploration to go to our hotel and get ready for the evening. We went out see the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain; both were flooded with people. We ended our night with a late dinner and some gelato (of course) and turned in for the night after an exciting (and exhausting) day.

Quick note: After reading a post from My Travels for You, I remembered that we went to dinner at Trastevere. It’s not a restaurant, but a square. There’s restaurants and bars with many people and lots of energy. Check out her blog for some more information! 

Day 3: Today we got back in our nice clothes and went back to the Trevi Fountain to experience it during the day. It was packed with people again, but this is to be expected. If you want to see it with fewer people, expect to get there bright and early – like 6 a.m. early would be my guess. We spent the majority of our afternoon at the fountain and in the surrounding areas, and then took off by foot to explore the city with no map. It was Sunday, so most of the attractions were closed.  We ended up getting lost in Rome and, of course, it was fun.

So one question remains: What would I do differently if I go back?

1. Stay in Rome longer. Being in Rome on a weekend and only for that short period of time didn’t allow us to see all that the city has to offer. Did we see a majority of the tourist stuff? Yes. But I would like to see the hidden gems of the city as well.

2. Visit the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. Plan for a long line and wait to get inside St. Peter’s. I may not get the chance to go back and see this, though I really hope I can, but as of now I don’t know what I missed inside this famous location.

3. Explore the Catacombs. I read about these in my Lonely Planet book and became completely intrigued. Also closed on Sunday, plan to visit these on a weekday. Not surprisingly, don’t visit if you’re claustrophobic. I hear it’s not for those who dislike small spaces.

Rome is a city of history, mystery and intrigue. I highly recommend visiting if you have the opportunity. For all my history geeks, you will fall in love!

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