And you, Rome? What do you have to offer us for the next two and a half days? Very quickly we found out that Rome would be giving us history, heat, and a few headaches! Being the capital city, Rome is filled with bustling commuters, eager tourists, and what felt like 100,000 Vespas zipping around every corner and alleyway, but we were excited to join the masses and explore the city on foot, just like we do at home in NYC. With complimentary water from our amazing Airbnb, Domus Alberti in the hip Monti district, we set out to see the sights!
What to see:
- TF/SS/BG/P/PN- what is this gibberish exactly? These represent five sights we were able to visit on our very first afternoon in Rome. While some people could easily spend hours at each historic place, we were on the express track and wanted to see as much as possible during our two days. We’d recommend this style of sight-seeing to anyone wanting to hit the top places, while trying to avoid dealing with the masses of tourists for too long!
- TF= Trevi Fountain- sadly under construction during our visit, but was grander than I’d expected.
- SS= Spanish Steps- totally mobbed with tourists, but we trekked to the top just for the view.
- BG= Borghese Gardens- the Central Park of Rome, we enjoyed strolling around this hilltop green space, but sadly missed our chance to see breathtaking works from Caravaggio and Botticelli at the Museo e Galleria Borghese (book your tickets ahead!).
- P= Pantheon- we stumbled into this 2000 year old temple almost by mistake, but were happy to have appreciated the impressive interior before closing.
- PN= Piazza Navona- the public square where over-priced meals is the name of the game, so instead we enjoyed sitting by the Fountain of Neptune and people-watching. So that’s it- your first Roman express experience!
- Ancient Rome- get your “skip the line” tickets and Rick Steve’s iTunes audio guide and you’ll be ready to see the most historic and well-known sights of Rome. The Colosseum was enormously impressive and we spent a good 2 hours exploring the Ancient structure and envisioning the bloody battles that took place on the main stage. Next, we moved to the Palatine, Rome’s most exclusive neighborhood. Evidence of massive villas, gardens, pools, and even gyms can still be seen on this beautiful hilltop. Walk down to The Roman Forum and pass through what used to be the bustling city center. We definitely recommend hitting these Big 3 in one day- lots and lots of walking, but you’ll be happy you didn’t exit the queues.
- Tomb of St. Peter- this was a special tour offered by the excavations office at the Vatican that a friend of mine recommended, so with our pre-booked tickets in hand we were ready to go into the belly of the beast. If you are claustrophobic or prone to feeling faint in hot, tight quarters 70 meters below ground (as I am!) I’d think twice before going on this tour. I managed to pull it together, but the whole experience was quite overwhelming, physically and mentally. This was an amazing tour where we visited mausoleums of rich, Pagan families, saw untouched dirt from the days of Constantine, and peeked at the site where St. Peter’s remains were discovered. Bonus of this tour- you get to enter directly into the Basillica afterwards instead of waiting in the line that can easily take 1-2 hours!
What to skip:
- Public transportation- it’s a nightmare! There are basically three main train lines that cut through the city, and while they are not complicated to navigate they are incredibly crowded and not worth the hassle in the summer heat. So, you think the buses are a better alternative? No way! The morning of our Vatican tour we waited as three, very crowded buses passed before deciding we’d be better off hopping in a taxi. Also, don’t forget about Uber abroad to avoid transportation headaches!
- La Carbonara– honestly, we were very underwhelmed by the food in Rome, but I feel it necessary to alert readers to one place in particular, La Carbonara. This restaurant kept popping up in every website and blog I read about where to eat dinner in the hip Monti district, so we decided to give it a try. It was some of the worst food we’d had in Italy! A flavorless paccheri pasta, tough grilled beef with raddichio, and utterly unappetizing pork marsala. Perhaps we should have ordered the restaurant’s namesake dish, spaghetti alla carbonara!
Where to eat:
- Gelateria La Romana– the one shining culinary star of Rome, in our opinion. After a very long day of touring, we made the trek to this small gelato shop, which had a line out the door the night before. It was worth it! Ricotta Caramelized Fig Jam and Affogato for me, and Caramel and Chocolate for Danny. We were much happier campers after this treat.
- Al Forno della Soffitta– an amazing brick oven pizza place in a northern neighborhood of the city. Grab a bite here and follow it up with Gelateria La Romana- made a great first night for us!
- Pizzarium/Bonci– before visiting the Sistine Chapel we tracked down this Anthony Bourdain recommendation and went to town on some seriously inventive pizzas. Danny wasn’t 100% sold, but I was loving the unique combinations- asparagus and ricotta, white proscuitto, and sliced potato. They slice by the ounce, so you can pick as little or as much of the ones you want. Also, must try a suppli- fried spaghetti ball!
Explore this Ancient city the Casey and Danny way by looking through our pictures. Coming up next- our final stop in the Amalfi Coast!