I didn’t have any expectations of Rome. I arrived from Florence on the train and decided to stay for four whole days so that I could let myself enjoy it at a slow pace. I’m glad I did.
Rome is much smaller than I anticipated. You could walk the entire city if you wanted to. I only took the metro one early morning when I was headed to the Vatican to get in line. I stayed in the area right near the Trevi Fountain and walked all the way back from the Vatican. I also walked across the river to Trastavere and back. It is exhausting but it’s doable.
I don’t think I really have anything bad to say about Rome. It might have been because I was visiting in the off season but I didn’t even mind the tourist-y areas. I went in March and it was the perfect jeans an t-shirt weather in the sun during the day and light jacket weather in the evenings.
Piazza Venezia + Capitoline Hill
One of the first places I had a Roman cappuccino was overlooking the Piazza Venezia and the beautiful Capitoline Hill buildings and museums. Go inside and up to the the Capitoline Hill Museum Cafe for a view over the city.
*Don’t sit on the steps or a guard will come stop you!
Colosseum + Roman Forum
So to be honest. The Colosseum to me wasn’t as great as I had it built up in my head. Seeing it from the outside is the best part in my opinion. I didn’t reserve tickets ahead of time and just got in line (March) and it was only a short wait. Afterwards I headed next door to wander the Roman Forum, something I loved much more, especially exploring Palatine Hill filled with its orange trees.
*Note: The ticket for both of these is a joint ticket so don’t buy two.
I loved waking up early and having a cappuccino and chocolate croissant on the piazza of the Pantheon. The scale of everything is much smaller and compact. The actual space of the Pantheon also isn’t that large so you don’t need to allot as much time here as you do visiting other places.
This is the ultimate tourist hangout. The piazza is surrounded by beautiful buildings and lined along the sides with restaurants. On the plaza vendors sell all kinds of art and souvenirs.
After the Colosseum this seems to be the second most popular landmark in Rome. It was closed while I was there so I only saw it covered in scaffolding and empty of any running water. Be careful, this a is a big tourist scam/pickpocketing area. It’s not dangerous, just be smart about your things.
Piazza de Spagna, the Spanish Steps & Shopping
The Spanish Steps overlooking Piazza de Spagna and the surrounding streets off of Via Condotti are all about shopping and luxury. If you’re looking for upscale restaurants and lots of shopping spend some time wandering the area. Stop in Babington’s Tea Room for some afternoon caffeine and rest for your feet.
Villa Borghese & Borghese Park
Borghese Park is a beautiful park in Rome. My favorite part were the crazy Italian trees! Often called the “central park” of Rome, this is where the famous Borghese Museum sits. Make sure you book tickets online ahead of time for your timed entry. Otherwise spend the day wandering the park. It is always filled with people, renting bikes, Segways, watching street performers and more.
Piazza de Popolo
This was my favorite place to watch the sunset. Climb up to the lookout over the piazza and look down for a view over the entire city. It’s a great people watching spot.
Vatican City (St. Peter’s Basilica & the Vatican Museum)
This was the one time I took the Metro so that I could arrive early. I visited in March and started my day in Vatican City at St. Peter’s Basilica. There was about a 35 minute wait to go through security and go inside. I opted for the 15 euro tour when I first entered. Inside you can take as many photos as you want because all of the art that looks like paintings are actually mosaics!
Afterwards you can climb to the top of the Cupula dome. You can either walk up all 551 steps for 6 euro or pay 2 extra euro and take the elevator up the first 221 steps and then walk the rest.
In the afternoon I went to the Vatican Museum where the most famous sight lives, the Sistine Chapel. They say you should spend a day at each of the two places but you can do them in one day if you need or want to.
That being said if you do have time there were a lot of people with guides on tours through the museum and next time I would definitely book one. The stories and details I was able to overhear were things you would never know otherwise.
The Sistine Chapel will be the last thing you see inside the museum as it is designed as a maze that you can only go one way through. So no popping in to see one exhibit and then leaving quickly.
The only thing I knew about Trastavere before I went was that it was across the river and that people referred to it as the “Brooklyn” of Rome. I know, so many NYC comparisons. I wouldn’t put it at the top of your list but if you have time it’s worth a visit. It’s a much quieter and a little bit different side of Rome.