When choosing vacation destinations, Rome undoubtedly makes the bucket list. Excitement is high for this venture considering Rome is beautiful, rich in culture and history, and presents a multitude of stunning landmarks that will create memories to last a lifetime.
Options for accommodations are endless – from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious five-star hotels. As with most big cities, the closer guests are to the city’s main attractions, the more expensive the rooms become. But, if you opt for a two or a three-star destination, you can be in the heart of the action for a fraction of the cost.
Breakfast is usually included in the price. However, if by chance the hotel you have chosen doesn’t carry this option, there is an abundance of great cafes to discover where you can get an espresso, cappuccino, or latte with fresh pastries for a fraction of the cost of what you would spend at a hotel.
In these smaller hotels, elevators are often made of wood and only large enough for three people at a time, or one with luggage. So be prepared for this scenario because if you’ve already mastered it, it’s entertaining watching new arrivals trying to figure it out.
The fastest and easiest way for visitors to orientate themselves is to get a pass for the “Hop On Hop Off” bus. Likely, you’ve seen these before as they are found in almost any city that boasts a lot of attractions. They are the double-decker buses with the top deck left open so that tourists can enjoy unobstructed views and take great photos. Daily passes can be purchased either on board or at any tourist shop throughout the city, for the price of approximately 15 Euros. This includes headsets and narration of the sights you are seeing. The great thing about this bus is that if you see something you like and want to investigate further, you can simply hop off and spend some time exploring. When you’re ready, you can hop on the next bus that comes along. It stops at every major sight in the city with buses running approximately every ten minutes so there’s never a need to rush.
For our exploration purposes, we began at The Coliseum, where you can opt for a guided tour or wander through on your own. This is obviously one of the most popular attractions in Rome, which, as you can imagine, translates to huge crowds. To pass some time while waiting, men dressed as gladiators offer to have your photo taken with them… for a fee.
The Roman Forum, which is just up the road from the Coliseum, is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. And it’s huge. You can spend hours wandering among these impressive, palatial ruins, just imagining what life must have been like there in the days of Caesar and Caligula. Most of The Forum is set up like a sprawling park, and you don’t have to pay admission for the majority of it.
The Trevi Fountain is full of Baroque marble sculptures and gushing streams of water, which you actually can hear from a few streets away. The sound becomes continuously louder as you approach. This is one spot you must visit both by and by night because both options offer such different and unique experiences. At night, the fountain is lit up and surrounded by endless sidewalk cafes. It is said that throwing a coin into the fountain will ensure your return to Rome so be sure to do it. It is believed that an estimated 3000 or more Euros are tossed into the Trevi Fountain daily.
The Piazza Navona, in my humble opinion, is the most beautiful spot in Rome; made up of three marble fountains, surrounded on one side by historical palaces, with restaurants and patios on the other side. It is there that you can find the BEST pizza in Rome. It is quite pricey, though, as is eating most places in Rome for that matter.
The Vatican is undoubtedly one of those MUST-SEE places. There is no charge to explore The Vatican City and St Peters Basilica. If you want to visit The Sistine Chapel (and you really should), there is an entry fee and it’s only open for viewing at certain times of the day. You might consider purchasing one of the “skip the line” tours that are offered. Just seeing Michelangelo’s works of art is worth the cost of admission, especially knowing that he spent four years of his life painting the chapel by candlelight while balanced on a catwalk up high and lying on his back. Now that’s dedication! Watching the colorful Swiss Guard is also quite interesting, and there is always the possibility that you just might catch a service by The Pope himself.
The Spanish Steps are absolutely the best place to hang out, eat a Gelato and people watch. An impressive fountain by the artist Bernini is in the square at the bottom of the steps, and the magnificent Trinita dei Monti church lies at the top. If you happen to be there in the spring, the entire staircase is covered in colorful flowers from top to bottom.
This particular area is Rome’s answer to Rodeo Drive in LA, Bloor Street in Toronto, or Fifth Avenue in New York, as it is the most expensive shopping street around with Gucci, Rolex, and every designer known to man lining the streets with one boutique after another.
The city’s layout makes it easy to navigate. The Coliseum and Roman Forum are situated at one end of Rome, and most of the other sights are at the other end. The street Corso Vittorio Emanuele runs pretty much from one end to the other. If you ever find yourself disoriented (which will likely be a lot) just find your way back to this street, in no time you’ll stumble upon a familiar sight.
If you happen to be a fan of Italian food (and who isn’t?) you’re going to be very happy. A word of advice, though – try to find a restaurant that isn’t adjacent to a big tourist attraction. The difference in food quality, as well as price, is like night and day. Fresh homemade pasta, wood oven pizza, catch of the day Mediterranean seafood, homemade gelato, Italian espresso, Chianti… are you hungry yet?
The best times to visit Rome are in spring or fall. The temperature is comfortable for walking and exploring this ancient city. Rome is always a huge draw for tourists from all over the world, but the crowds seem less in these off-peak times. The summer holiday months are swelteringly hot in Rome, and almost all Romans head for the coast, as the city is overrun by millions of tourists during this time.
Whenever you decide to visit Rome, we promise that it will be an experience you’ll never, ever forget.
Article and Photos by Andrew Hartl