Several years ago I bought a travel book of Italy, but I never quite got round to going exploring. This spring, I ventured to Rome for a long weekend with my mum. I’ll tell you right now; a long weekend was not enough!
I got on a flight to Fiumicino (Romes biggest airport) with no forward planning from me. The trip was a gift from my parents for my 30th birthday, so I was happy to go with the flow. We had some provisional plans and had booked tickets for St Peters basillica and the colosseum; it works out cheaper to book before.
We stayed at Hotel Gravina San Pietro which was near Vatican City and close to a main road and bus routes. There is a huge amount of things to see in Rome, there’s a ton of things I never managed to see or do, but i’ll cover what we seen.
After dumping our bags around 1pm, we had the rest of the day to start exploring. I’m a huge fan of Rick Steves travel books. He’s an American travel writer but the way he writes his books is so much more interesting and easy to relate to. So we started with ‘The Heart of Rome’ walk from his Travel Rome book.
Starting walking towards the Vatican, we walked through the middle of St Peters basillica grounds. Then we crossed over the river Tiber and walked through Piazza Navona, towards the Pantheon.
The Pantheon is an impressive dome structure with an open top. It is the worlds largest, unreinforced concrete dome, it’s almost 2,000 years old and has been in continuous use since it was built. The open circle in the centre is 142m across. I wandered around for ages, wondering what happens when it rains, but there’s several drains on the floor – they thought of everything apparently!
Following this, we walked toward the Trevi Fountain. Hands down the busiest attraction I’ve ever been to, second only to the Mona Lisa! You hear the fountain before you see it, and then the street leads onto some steps to the left down to the fountain. It’s so busy, you can’t even see the steps, or the railings between the steps. We didn’t hang around for long, it was amazing to see but the crowds were unreal.
Then we wound through a few more streets and on to the Spanish Steps. By this time, the sun was low, and the lighting was beautiful. The steps were lined with stunning flowers all the way up, and the little fountain at the bottom had lots of people eating ice cream and taking photos.
That night we went for late dinner at a place we found on Trip Advisor called Papa Rex. The wine and pizza was just what I needed. Mum had seabass which I sneaked a taste of and that was perfectly cooked and delicious too.
On our first full day we took the open top bus tour and got off at the Colesseum. Turns out, the ticket also covers Paletine Hill and the Forum. I thought these would be extras that would take 5 minutes and not be particularly interesting – how wrong I was! The colesseum was incredible, but so was Paletine Hill and the Forum.
We ended up spending 5 hours walking around all 3. Seeing these ancient structures fascinates me, how amazing to think the ruins we see today, were such magnificent structures that drew in thousands of people for events.
We took the bus back to the hotel and headed back out to have dinner at another lovely pizza place near our hotel. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of it, but it was amazing. Very popular with the locals and for takeaway!
Then we walked into the busier areas to see the Trevi fountain at night and have a few drinks at the Pantheon.
In the spirit of making the most of our last day, we were up and out early. The plan was to see some more of the sights, then finish up with the St Peters basillica tour in the afternoon. We discovered our open top bus tour tickets were still valid, so we hopped on and took the scenic route!
The bus took us to the north of Rome through Villa Borghese and the streets were stunning. Europe really knows how to brighten the streets with coloured buildings, and beautiful shutters and plants.
While on the bus, I spotted a huge monument I wanted to visit – Altare della Patria – also known as the national monument to Victor Emmanuel II. It’s HUGE. We walked up the vast stairs and took some pretty photos. Walked inside and took the stairs as high as we could go, the views from the top were excellent.
We took the bus again and got off at St Peters basillica and took an audio tour around the church which was incredible. The art work and architecture is so detailed and intricate. There’s a huge 4 poster alter right in the middle and various alters around the rest of the church. We just walked around taking in all these fine things. I wanted to see the crypt, but unfortunately it was shut.
To end the night, I wanted to get the bus back towards the Spanish Steps and Trevi fountain to have dinner near there. The atmosphere was incredible. Tons of restaurant seating outside, people enjoying drinks and dinner out in the warm streets. However, we are fussy gits. Sat down in a restaurant and didn’t like how long it took them to take a drinks order… so I ate a bit of bread and we left!
We decided to take the bus back to the restaurant we went to the first night. Sharing wine and some delicious food – a perfect way to end the trip!