Guide: Rome, Italy

by Carrinicole

ROME IF YOU WANT TO

Rome is my favorite city in Italy. It has the perfect fusion of the old and the new:  you are able to imagine the glory of Ancient Rome while seeing these breathtaking structures within bustling piazzas. The rich history of Rome isn’t limited to the Ancient either; dedicating a day in Vatican City is a must. The history and power of the Pope and Catholic Church — which houses an impressive collection of art —is mind-blowing.

When you need a break from the sights, there’s always a piazza steps away with the opportunity to pop under an umbrella, order an Aperol Spritz, and soak it all in.

  • Currency: Euro

  • Getting here: Leonardo de Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO)

  • Getting Around: Metro & Walking. Taxi is a last resort.

  • Where to Stay: Charme Spagna Hotel

  • Itinerary:

    • Key Sights: Colosseum, Pantheon, Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Cathedral

    • If you have more time: Forum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Altar of the Fatherland

    • Shopping: Via del Corso, Via del Babuino, Via di Ripetta, Via Frattina, and Via dei Condotti

    • Restaurants:

      • Bottega Giulia

      • Gusto Osteria

GETTING HERE

Leonardo de Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO) 

Once you land at the airport, you have a couple options on getting into the city:

Train

I prefer taking the train into the city from the airport because its easy and economical.

  • A few steps outside the airport is the entrance to the train where you can buy a ticket into the city center.
  • If you’re staying at Charme Spagna, once you get to the end of the train, you take one more metro. It drops you three blocks from the hotel.

Taxi

The drive is around an hour and will be pricy. I tend to avoid taxis in Rome, because you have to be on your guard – many will take you the long way or drive in circles to increase your fare.

Getting Around

Rome is a walking city, so you will primarily spend your days on foot. For farther distances, I’m a fan of using the Metro to get around. I avoid taxis here because chance of getting driven in circles stresses me out.

WHERE TO STAY

Charme Spagna Hotel

Location: Old City Center

My priority for a hotel in Rome was to find a location near the sights, away from tourist trap shops/restaurants, and near quality food. The Spanish Steps are located in Rome’s luxury shopping neighborhood, so I knew we would be near delicious restaurants there.

Hotels can be quite expensive in Rome too —and because our stay was short —we were not planning on spending time in the hotel beyond sleeping. I looked for lodging that had nice amenities, but avoided luxury pricing.

Charme Spagna hotel felt tucked away and a part of the neighborhood – definitely not near a tourist hotel block! You had to take an elevator to the hotel, and the building had other businesses within it. We ended up eating breakfast outside the hotel, as the included breakfast wasn’t as fresh as we’d like it to be. But, I appreciated the location – steps away from the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon. The highlight was strolling the surrounding piazzas, stopping for a drink, and relaxing in the evenings.

ITINERARY

Rome has everything you want from an Italian city – architecture, history, sprawling piazzas with fountains, and amazing food & drink. I recommend taking your time here, do not pack in too many activities per day: taking in the culture and way of life is just as much a part of vacation as the sights you see.

PRO TIPS:

  • Three nights is the perfect amount of time to stay. We only had two nights, but I have been to Rome before. If it’s your first time, you could spend anywhere between two to five nights here.
  • Most of you will be going to Italy in the summer – and heat can definitely be a challenge. Be sensitive to the heat and take necessary breaks since many sights are outdoors. I recommend going to museums earlier in the day to beat the heat, and seeing outdoor sights in the evening. Not only is the sun less intense, you’ll have less crowds right before closing.
  • BUY TICKETS AHEAD OF TIME! I cannot recommend this more. You can reserve tickets for the Vatican Museum and Coliseum in advance. The line to try to get in to the Vatican Museum is multiple hours long in the hot sun. Do not make that mistake.

DAY 1 – Travel Day

Afternoon Activity – Walk around the outdoor sights. 

Spanish Steps

Altare della Patria

Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland). This national monument is in honor of the first king of a unified Italy.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is my favorite building in Rome. This structure was a former Roman temple, and now a Catholic church. It is one of the best preserved Ancient Roman buildings, build in the early 100s AD. Almost 2000 after originally built, the ceiling is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The center of the dome has a hole — an oculus —and is the only source of natural light in the building. The interior houses the grave of the painter Raphael, and other artists and kings.

Dinner: Bottega Giulia

We walked the side streets around the Pantheon and found ourselves at Via dell’Orso.

DAY 2 – Catholicism Immersion Day!

PRO TIP:

  • You must be dressed appropriately. For men, that means long pants and a button-down shirt. And for ladies, that means shoulders and chest covered with pants or modest skirt/dress. No shorts.
  • If you go in summer, it will be hot and likely uncomfortable to wear these clothes all day. I wore a linen shirt-dress that kept me cool; Chadwick wore white jeans, and packed a light button down in our backpack to put on when he needed to.

Vatican Museum

  • Admission Info:
  • Our reservation was at 11am. We got up early and decided to walk the 35 min walk to Vatican City to see more of Rome.
  • Vatican City is a walled in “city within a city” of Rome, with its own police and post office. It is one of the highlights of Rome, not just for the sheer scale of St. Peters Basilica and size of the Vatican Museum, but for housing the Sistine Chapel.

Vatican Museum Highlights

Pio-Clementine Museums

This houses some of the best ancient Greek and Roman sculptures anywhere in the world. Two important sculptures to see are the Laocoon & Apollo del Belvedere.

Ornate Ceilings

Don’t forget to look up! There are so many ornate ceilings throughout the museum.

Nero’s Porphyry basin

2000 years ago, Emperor Nero ordered a new bath for one of his homes, and this igneous (cooled lava) rock was transported from Egypt. The stone is purple, full of crystals, and this room a sight to see.

The Maps Hall

This gallery is the largest collection of geographical paintings in the world. They were created in the 1500s, and highly accurate for the time. The ceiling is also a sight to see in itself.

Sistine Chapel

Your route through the museum will end in the Sistine Chapel. Photos are not allowed in here, so take this moment to stop, slow down and take in your surroundings. There are seats along the walls of the chapel, and I recommend finding one to sit here, pull out a tour book, and move cell by cell through the panels of the ceiling. It is truly a moving work of art to witness and experience.

Bramante’s Spiral Staircase

This staircase is a double helix, which allows for a separate path for those traveling up and those traveling down the staircase. It is at the end of your path through the Vatican Museum, so don’t miss it!

Lunch

We had a quick bite at the Vatican to keep us satiated in the heat.

St. Peter’s Basilica

  • Admission info: Free
    • April-September: open every day 7:00am-7:00pm
    • October-March: open every day 7:00am-6:30pm
    • If you want to go to the Dome: 8:00am-6:00pm, 10 Euro for elevator, 8 Euro for stairs
  • This cathedral is built on the tomb of St. Peter, and took over 120 years to build, starting in the 1500s — enlisting famous architects / artists like Michelangelo, Raphael. Below the cathedral with St. Peter’s tomb is an entire grotto system of tombs.
  • The square — Piazza San Pietro — has two stunning fountains and an Egyptian obelisk that was brought to Rome in 37 BC. There are 140 statues on top of the pillars.

Highlights of St. Peter’s:

Brunelleschi’s Dome

This is the tallest dome in the world. You can pay an extra fee to climb to the top.

St. Peter’s Baldachin: a 95-foot canopy by Bernini. It sits over the papal alter (where only the Pope celebrates Mass), which is directly over St. Peter’s tomb.

The Pieta

This is one of Michelangelo’s most famous works, installed in 1500. It is truly a masterpiece of marble sculpture.

The Holy Door

The Holy Door is only opened for Jubilee Years, which is once every 25 years. Jubilee Years are a Holy Year where Catholics make a pilgrimage to Rome for the ritual passing over the threshold of the holy door to symbolize passing into the presence of God. It is cemented shut to ensure the doors remain closed between those years. The last Jubilee Year was in 2000, so it wont open again until 2025.

Afternoon Activity: Outside Sights

Trevi Fountain

Colosseum

Construction was completed in 80 AD and could hold up to 80,000 spectators for. gladiatorial contests and other public entertainment.

Dinner: Gusto Osteria

DAY 3 – Travel Day

For ease at the start of your travel day, I recommend taking a taxi or private car to the airport from the city. The concierge can arrange the car for you.

MAP

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