This time last year, for my birthday, my husband had me on a plane on my way to Rome. It has been a dream of mine for years! It is like an art mecca, and no shortage of items to take photos of. And for me, a little ole utah photographer, this place was like a dream come true. A++ points for the hubby I will tell you what. So let me tell you my favorite spots, and must dos if you too find yourself in Rome.
The first thing I should advise you on, is check the calendar. We didn’t before we went and got lucky. The catholic church has a holiday in August for a week, and all catholic churches and the Vatican are closed. We were lucky because we showed up on the last 3 days of the holiday and were able to sneak them in the last day. But it was CROWDED. We asked a swiss guard there and he recommends you come in the fall or early spring.
We arrived in the mid-morning by the time we got off the flight and boarded a train to Rome. The airport is about a 1/2 hour train ride away. We always use public trans or walk so we can see the city, it is much more fun this way I think. So we rode into Termini, the train hub there. Now we didn’t know how close our hotel was, about a mile, so we took a subway to the nearest bus stop. We could have just walked, but it was an adventure. All in all the whole commute took us about 45 minutes. Not bad.
We stayed at Aleph A Boscolo off of Barberini. After visiting Rome and walking around I would recommend you stay near the Trevi Fountain / Spanish Steps. This area is close to all the sites and a short walk to the colosseum and about a mile from the Vatican. But the Aleph was an amazing hotel. We had a huge rooftop balcony and the bed was so comfortable. After checking in and taking a shower we knew we had to get up and go or we would go to sleep. So we were off.
Here are my top 10 places to hit
. Trevi Fountain
. Spanish Steps
. St. Peters Cathedral
. Sistine Chapel
. Via Nationale Street
. Gelato Cecere
. Castel St Angelo
. Trevi Fountain. You can’t go to Rome and not see the Trevi Fountain. It is beautiful. I recommend going both in the day time and at night. We found ourselves there every night enjoying a gelato. Interesting fact about the fountains in Rome, the water is filtered so you can fill your water bottle up at any fountain and it is like drinking bottled water. So don’t waste your money on new water bottles, just get one and fill it up!
. Spanish Steps. This one has a neat story and has an ambiance to it. They were built in the 1600′s by a pope to reach the French church that was placed at the top of them. They are SLICK so be careful, I imagine after having millions of people walk on them that rock gets buttery smooth. They are long and beautiful, worth at least a walk down. And you can see the whole city from the top.
. Pantheon. This church has to be one of the coolest places I have been. It was built in 126 AD and still stands people. It is round on the back with a straight facade. The roof has what is called an oculus, a hole in the top, that is stunningly surrounded by coffered stone. And did I mention that Raphael – you know the famous renaissance painter – is buried there? You can see his grave on the interior.
.Colosseum. This by far you have to see. It is a marvel and so rich in history you would be crazy to not walk around inside. This was built in 70 AD by the romans, of course, and served as a theater of sorts. They had meetings there, and also competitions. Gladiators fought there and were housed there under the floor. Also, little known fact for you, they would sometimes fill the bottom with water and have aquatic battles in there as well. It was neat to walk around in and check out. We paid $15 to get a tour guide and skip the line, once inside she did give us a bit of background and then lets you go on your own. You can book ahead, but I think it is more, but we just showed up and paid cash.
.Vatican. If you are an art buff like me I highly recommend going here. They house amazing pieces of artwork and the interior of the museum is a beauty in an of itself. I had to go because my all time favorite statue, Laocöon, is there. I had to see it. We took the tour guide option since the line when we arrived was a 4 hour wait. It was $20 a person and we skipped the line. Done. This tour was cool because not only did you have someone who knew her stuff, but it dumped us out at the Sistine Chapel and then St. Peters Cathedral. However, I would like to note a few things. They don’t allow backpacks, so bring a small bag / purse or something. You have to wear either a skirt or shorts that go to your knee. Lastly it is an old building and parts have no air conditioning. So be prepared with a fan or water.
. St. Peters Cathedral. This building is amazing. It is the opening to the Vatican and what you see in Angels and Demons. The building is GINORMOUS, like I can’t even compare the size of it. You could easily fit 3 Rockefeller plazas in there. I mean huge. They have some amazing statues, like the Pieta by Michelangelo inside, not to mention St. Peter is buried in the center of it. Worth a walk around.
. Sistine Chapel. This is AMAZING. You have to make sure you see this. Have you ever heard of the Creation painting? It is inside of this tiny little chapel. The ceiling is covered with a bunch of paintings and a huge mural on the one side. This is where conclave is held with a pope dies, pretty neat room. They ask for no pictures, but we may or may not have snuck a quick iphone pic.
. Castel St Angelo. This church sits just outside of the Vatican. I wanted to stop by this one because it is known as the church of angels. It is also shown in Angels and Demons, if you have seen the movie. It contains a beautiful bridge that connects it to Rome, every 50 feet or so there is another angel statue. They are truly beautiful to see.
. Via Nationale Street. This street is just neat. All the shopping you could want and amazing food you can find is on this street. We found it by accident while wandering between chapels and piazzas. We popped out of a alley and were on the street and decided to take a gander. It was pretty amazing and fun things to look at.
. Gelato Cecere. This is a little gelateria near the Trevi Fountain. It is owned by a boyfriend and girlfriend in their 60s, they are an amazing couple and we went there at least twice a day. The people even recognized us, sad but true. We liked their store because it was friendly and never too crowded. Oh and they had amazing Gelato. I am pretty sure I gained all my trip weight at that place.
Lastly I should mention food. I didn’t go to one restaurant that I didn’t like. All italian food is amazing and even their fast food is better than anything you can get in the US. So if you go, just find a place and eat. You won’t be disappointed.
I can assure you that I will be making a return trip to Rome, it is too amazing to only visit once. Have you ever been to Rome? Is there a place you recommend?