I have to admit, my visit to Rome was the only one that I did absolutely no research for. It was super unlike me to not have a Google Doc going, but I was more excited to reconnect and hang out with my sorority big sister, Dainelle. I do wish that I had done a little more research ahead of time because we had one full day of sightseeing together, but the next day I was on my own as she headed to Paris and I waited for my husband to arrive for our weekend in Florence.
Danielle studied abroad in Rome, and I visited Rome when I studied abroad in Florence, so we were both familiar with the city…but we were there almost ten years ago! As I mentioned in my post about Paris, there were certain attractions that I booked ahead of time to skip the line, and Rome was very similar. We were lucky to go to Rome in the off season, so we were less worried about the lines and more concerned with getting a good tour. When traveling to Rome, here are the three tickets I would suggest you book ahead of time:
The Colosseum is just so stunning and impressive and spectacular – words can’t really describe it. This is of course a must-do in Rome, but make sure to book your tickets and guided tour ahead of time, especially if you go during a more touristy time. We went in the off season, and luckily waited in no lines to buy tickets, but were surprised that the guided tours were already completely booked. We were able to do the audio tour, but the guided tours get you access into the underground level, so I highly suggest booking a tour ahead of time!
Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Entrance into the Colosseum includes entrance into the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill (18 Euro total). When we went, there was a line forming across from the Colosseum that was an entrance to the Forum for those that already had a ticket. If you didn’t have a ticket, you had to walk all the way around to the ticket booth for the Forum/Palatine Hill – make sure to not wait in a line unless you know you have what you need! We saw so many people waiting in line for 15-20 minutes before they realized they needed to buy a ticket elsewhere.
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill have a bunch of signs at each sight describing what you’re looking at, so a guided tour isn’t necessary. We didn’t do a guided tour or an audio tour because we were short on time, but next time I definitely will. From listening to a few tour guides that we passed, I think a guided tour is worth it because you hear a bunch of fun anecdotes and interesting facts than you otherwise would by walking around on your own.
The one tour we did plan ahead (thanks Danielle) was the Vatican, and I can’t imagine a better experience. We used City Wonders and did the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & St. Peter’s Basilica tour. Our tour guide was so engaging and so knowledgeable, and did an excellent job linking the art that we saw in the museums to Michaelangelo’s inspiration for the Sistine Chapel. I learned so much more on this tour than I would have ever learned on my own. Of course the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica were still as magnificent as I remembered – a definitely must do!
Other Things To Do in Rome
I’m not going to do a full travel guide on Rome because I wasn’t really prepared this time around and I know that I’ll be back to Rome soon. For now, though, definitely make sure to see the sights during the day and at night. Rome does an excellent job of lighting up all of the sights at night (Colosseum, Piazza Venezia & Altar of the Fatherland, Trajan’s Column & Trajan’s Market, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps). Also, when walking around Rome, it’s inevitable that you just end up stumbling past Roman ruins. It’s so cool to find ruins when you aren’t expecting it, so keep your eyes open for them.
For a cool panoramic view of the city, go to the Terrazza del Pincio – go left at the top of the Spanish Steps and walk until you come across a gorgeous view. For a cool free design museum, go to the Boncompagni Ludovisi Decorative Art Museum.
I also failed to research restaurants in Rome, but it’s Italy so everywhere we went was amazing. Here are some of my favorite restaurants that we stumbled upon:
We were meeting some friends near the Trevi Fountain and Danielle had been recommended Piccolo Buco. She promised that although it was really close to the Trevi Fountain, it was some of the best pizza she’s ever had. It lived up to the hype! The restaurant is tiny, and we had to wait about 15 minutes, but it was worth it. The spicy yellow pizza was unbelievably amazing and the service was great.
Cucina & Cantina
Before Timmer arrived, I stayed in an AirBnb with Danielle on a super cute street a little further away from the main touristy area. This was one of the owner’s recommended restaurants and it had good reviews on Trip Advisor. When we got there, there was a super short line to get in, so the restaurant host Anna got us both a class of Prosecco. She was so great and made us feel like old friends, and once we got in, the service was amazing. Get the meatballs!
I went here with Timmer when he (finally) arrived in Rome. It is also next to the Trevi Fountain, but is down a narrow alley so it deters a lot of tourists. Piccolo Arancio had a huge wine list, cacio e pepe, and black truffle pasta. In other words – a total win!
Where to Stay: The Inn at the Spanish Steps
For a luxury stay without the luxury price, stay at the Inn at the Spanish Steps. I was blown away by their customer service, and we got upgraded to a suite at check-in. I went there early to drop off my bags, and they offered me a welcome glass of champagne, plus a whole plate of pastries on their rooftop terrace. Later on in the evening I went back to the bar to get a drink while waiting for Timmer’s train to arrive, and I ordered a glass of wine that came with an entire spread. There were sandwiches, wraps, chips, olives, and pistachios – all included with the purchase of my drink.
Overall, Rome was a great trip. I can’t wait to go back and show Timmer around – send me your other Rome recommendations!