Rome was not built in a day, and that is the reason why it is impossible to see the entire Rome, to grasp the culture, to take in the complete beauty that this place has to offer, ever (and definitely not in a day !).
Since I have always gone to more conventional places like beaches and mountains for a vacation, vacationing in a city was a very different experience. I was skeptical too, whether the entire stay would be worth it, whether I would be able to cover all the important places in those few days or would I be left with 1-2 days on my hands with nothing much to do. Will I get bored of looking at the museums or get tired by walking too much? Many people suggested that Rome is not worth more than 2 days (3 days at max) but after being here, I think otherwise. I could have spent weeks over here.
I stayed in Rome for 4 days, in a hostel named “Legends”, situated at a 5 min walking distance from the Termini and metro stations, making the commute as easy as it could be, though for most of the time, I walked because everything was so close by and navigating using actual maps in the narrow streets was more fun.
Must visit places
It is not just an Amphitheatre, it is the biggest Amphitheatre in the world. Being a part of the many wars and politics of Rome has left it in ruins, yet it stands tall amidst its broken walls and has a lot of history to offer. Hosting gladiator fights for the whole city to watch, the seating mechanism designed so amazingly so as to accommodate thousands of people gracefully, and what not.
The queue around the Colosseum is huge so the tickets should either be bought online or a guide tour should be taken. The guide tour costs around 45 bucks, which includes Colosseum, Palatino and the Roman Forum. I found the guided tour worthy of the money as things became more interesting with a guide explaining the bits and pieces about this architecture marvel.
One should go to see the Roman Forum if they visit Colosseum. The great rulers of Rome held their fort from here. Though it is in ruins too, but it is still a beautiful sight. It is surrounded by many Archs, which are usually built to symbolize victory.
Again, the guided tour made the experience a lot better. While going out, we caught a glimpse of a Christian wedding in the church situated just near the exit.
The Vatican City
There are three major stops in the Vatican City.
1. The Vatican Museum: Filled with paintings and sculptures, every turn is a different sight. Some part of the ceilings are painted in such a way that they look like carvings made out of plaster (3D effect). Many rooms are protected with curtains so that not even a single ray of sunlight can enter, because the paintings are sensitive to sunlight. There is a particular painting in which the eyes and feet of Jesus Christ follow you wherever you go.
2. The Sistine Chapel: The famous painting of Michalangelo, The Creation Of Adam, and many others of his artwork adorn the ceiling. You are not supposed to talk or click pictures here as it is the most sacred place of the Vatican City.
3. St. Peter’s Basilica: I cannot recall the number of chapels situated inside this Basilica but there was one wherever I looked. They have the remains of St. Peter and some other saints in the cellar.
Getting a guide is worth here as well as it saves the time spent in queues and is more informative.
Situated in the middle of a very busy street, it sees a lot of rush because of that and also maybe because the entry is free. A Roma temple turned church, it is a religious place, thus hands and legs have to be covered while entering and while you are inside. We did not take the guided tour here but there are audio devices placed around the periphery. We read about a few facts online. Since it is a church, there was a chapel inside, and it was quite peaceful to be there.
There was a restaurant just across the Pantheon, where I had the best dish, called Gnocchi, of my entire trip.
Legend says throwing a coin in this fountain brings you back to Rome, something I got to know after coming back from there. The place is mostly crowded and it was very difficult to sit near the fountain for some time so I preferred to watch it from a distance with a Gelato in hand, but the view was breathtaking, from everywhere.. Though I did not throw the coin, but I do intend to go back someday for sure.
These famous steps are situated overlooking a busy street of the city. I went here twice, to take some rest after walking for long but they give such a romantic feeling. If you are lucky, you might find someone singing or playing music there. I have heard it’s an even prettier sight in spring.
Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of this place as I took the pictures while sitting on the steps but it was just peaceful to sit there and watch the streets downstairs.
The innumerable Piazzas and streets
There are so many beautiful streets in this city, hustling and bustling with tourists, people singing and playing music, branded stores, ice cream parlors, restaurants. Piazzas are the city squares and there is one at every 10 minute walk. If you have nothing to do, nowhere to go to, and are out of plans, an entire day could be spent just roaming on the streets, eating Gelato, going into quaint little cafes and stores.
Try out these things
Wine. Wine. And More Wine
You cannot go to Italy and not have wine. I wish I drank more wine but being very tipsy would have deprived me of my amazing experience but having a glass of wine with food was almost a constant for me.
If wine was not enough, there is a Gelato shop every 2 minutes with so many flavors.
Gnocchi is nothing but a type of pasta, like Penne, Fusilli, but the one I had (right outside Pantheon) had the most amazing pasta sauce in the world (along with the cutest waiter serving it).
Pizza and Pasta, it goes without saying
Some learnings from my experience
BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS
The guide in Roman Forum had warned us, I was cautious all the time about mugging and was always avoiding dimly lit roads in the night. While trying to shop, I kept my bag down for 2 minutes, most likely the phone was on the seat as well, and went to stand in a mirror to look at the shoes I tried. That was all it took for someone to steal my phone. Fun fact, it happened in a Bata store, which is apparently not an Indian brand but still, it hurts.
Lesson learnt: Do not keep your stuff out of your sight for even a second, and if possible, just carry the important stuff like cash, passport and your phone in a small travel pouch and not huge backpacks/purses.
Avoid flights with huge layovers
The airline which took us from India to Italy (Milan) was Saudi Airlines. The plane was good and comfortable but the layover in Jeddah was for 10 hours while going and 16 hours while coming back. There was not much to do on the airport as well, except trying weird colored lipsticks.
Lesson learnt: Though it is necessary to save money by going for cheap airlines, a little splurging to make your travel comfortable is fine too.
We had not booked any train tickets beforehand and in Milan, we faced a grave problem, booking train tickets on a short notice was around 120 Euro each. To make matters worse, the Forex card was not working at the time and there was not enough cash to cover the train expenses for the entire trip. We ended up buying a 4 Trip Eurail pass with the help of the customer service executive, which costs 160 Euros and then you just have to pay 10 Euros for every train ride (200 Euros in short).
Lesson learnt: Don’t panic if things get goofed up sometimes, take peoples’ help, have good amount of cash, but most importantly, no need to book everything ahead, just get the Eurail Pass 😀
I am definitely going to go back to this city once more in my life, and would probably stay for a longer time. I could not capture my entire personal experience in this post as it is huge, but if you want to read it, you can check it out here.