It has been my dream for many years to travel to Rome, Italy. In May 2016 that dream became a reality when I planned a surprise trip for my husband. Rome is one of those iconic places that you must visit at least once in your lifetime. The whole city is filled with priceless history and monuments that we all have heard of in our lifetime. Other than the fact that Rome is one of the cities where the first sustainable civilizations were started, it is also a city full of life and countless activities and sights.
The hotel that we stayed in is called Capo D’ Africa. It is literally right down the street from the Colosseum. It is a small boutique hotel with about 60 rooms. The hotel offers a gorgeous rooftop restaurant and bar with stunning views including the Colosseum. We spent practically every evening up there either drinking coffee or a glass of wine to unwind after a long day of walking. The hotel also offers tours throughout Rome that they can set up for you with transportation. We booked the Vatican tour through the hotel and were not disappointed. If you are looking for a hotel that is close to the sights in a safe area, than check this hotel out!
What to do and see:
The first day that we were in Rome we decided to drop our luggage off at the hotel, freshen up after that 10 hour flight, and go explore. Surprisingly enough navigating through Rome was super easy, and luckily my husband was with me so there was no way of getting lost. We walked from our hotel by the Colosseum and spent some time admiring the gorgeous architecture. We took a tour of the Colosseum and Ancient Rome on another day that I will describe in more detail shortly. After spending some time at the Colosseum we walked by the Arc of Constantine, which is located right by the Colosseum and Ancient Rome. We than strolled to the Altare Della Patria, the incredible marble building in the center of Rome. You can actually climb the steps up to the interior and see the eternal flame guarded by two soldiers 24 hours a day for Italy’s unknown soldiers. The architecture on this building is stunning even though it is one of the newer structures in Rome.
After strolling and admiring those three sights we set out to find the Trevi Fountain.
The Trevi fountain is pretty easy to find when walking from the Altare Della Patria. It is maybe a five minute walk to the Trevi fountain. Oh the Trevi fountain, it was everything and more than I had imagined. I was stunned at the intricate architecture on every inch of the fountain. The only upsetting part was the herd of people around the fountain. We had to literally push our way to the fountain. My recommendation is to go early, like 8 AM to avoid all these crowds. We went around 2 PM and again at night, around 9 PM. You would think it would be less crowded at night… nope it was worse! The crowds were totally worth the view and the experience. I even threw a coin in the fountain, so that means I will be returning one day?!
We ate late lunch around the fountain at a very small restaurant called Spiriti E Forme, that had delicious pasta and pizza. That was our first Italian meal and it did not disappoint. Naturally after a stuffing meal I decided it was time for gelato. We did not have to walk far to come across Bar Fontana Di Trevi. The gelato was mind blowing, seriously the best I have ever eaten! I am pretty sure regular ice cream or gelato from any where else will never compare to that gelato. I am craving it just thinking about it.
Our second day in Rome started with a tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. We booked a tour with Viator before our trip. Our tour included a very knowledgeable tour guide named Emanuela, who took us on a walking tour that started at the Roman Forum and ended at the Colosseum. The Roman Forum is a very vast area of important Roman temples, government buildings, and squares that date back to over 2000 years ago. The temples and buildings are so well preserved, and the story behind each important land mark is so interesting. Our guide did an outstanding job explaining each part of the forum. As much as I loved the Roman Forum, I was even more excited to finally see the Colosseum. All I could think about is wow, I am actually standing in one of the oldest and best preserved structures in the world. It is the biggest amphitheater in the world with three tiers, plus an underground area. We were able to see the underground area, the main floor, and the top tier. I highly recommend a tour because we were able to skip the super long lines and got to see the underground and top tier. It was totally worth every penny and a memory I will never forget.
The next sight to see in Rome is the Pantheon. The Pantheon is best known for its giant dome shape and the oculus in the center. It is still the largest unsupported dome in the world. It seems like the Romans knew what they were doing when they built their structures. The pantheon was initially a temple to the Gods, but was later converted to a Christian church. The Pantheon is situated in the Piazza della Rotonda with a beautiful fountain in front of it. We really enjoyed walking around the square, eating gelato (of course), and seeing the beauty of the Pantheon from the inside and outside. We did not need a tour because this square was so easy to find and entry to the Pantheon is free.
We move onto the Spanish steps which are located in the Piazza di Spagna. This piazza also has a fountain right in front of the steps and is a great place to unwind after walking. There are many restaurants and gelato places in the piazza as well. Unfortunately while we were in Rome, the Spanish Steps were getting a make over. I was pretty sad that I was unable to get a good photo, but we were able to climb the side stairs up. Let me tell you, that climb is no joke. I felt it when I got to the top and decided I was not going to be making it down.
Next is the Vatican, which as many of you know is a whole city of its own. We booked a tour through our hotel for a full tour of the Vatican including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peters Basilica. The Vatican museum was one of the first areas we toured. I could not believe at how big it was! The ceiling of the museum was stunning and covered in gold and various paintings. Next we made our way to the beautiful Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel is well known for the paintings behind the altar and on the ceiling by Michelangelo. I really wanted to snap a photo, but you are not supposed to take pictures or talk. My favorite part of the whole tour was St. Peters Basilica. Talk about some high ceilings, the Basilica rises to 448 feet (136 meters)! The whole Basilica is covered with prestigious artwork and the most beautiful altar I have ever seen. The Vatican itself really made us feel so small, but yet so humble when we were done with the tour.
A few more of my favorite sights in Rome are:
Piazza Navona, which is an elegant square with many restaurants and bars. There is a stunning fountain in the middle of the square where people gather to relax. In the summer the square is filled with locals and tourists enjoying a coffee, meal, or drink with the company of friends. We actually stumbled upon this square on accident when walking to the Spanish Steps, and I am so glad we did!
Castel Sant’Angelo, which is a mausoleum of Hadrian and his family. The Castel Sant’Angelo is located very close to the Vatican. It is situated on the Tiber river, which you can walk along side and enjoy the view. We ate at a small restaurant called Il Fico right across from the Castel Sant’Angelo. I highly recommend visiting this restaurant as the food was amazing especially after a long day of walking.
The Villa Borghese gardens, which is the third largest public park in Rome. It is very close to the Spanish Steps and offers stunning views of Rome.
Piazza Del Popolo is another large square in Rome that is literally called “the peoples square”. When we were in Rome, a tennis tournament was actually held in this square. There were many people enjoying the tournament or just enjoying the beautiful summer day.
I feel like I could go on and on about all the places to see in Rome because there really are that many sights. The sights mentioned above are only a portion of the places we visited while in Rome. Each day that we set out to tour a certain landmark, we came across another hidden landmark that we loved just as much.
Rome was everything I had imagined it was plus more. As the Italians say “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Embrace the culture and the customs, let your hair down and do not be afraid to get lost. Go ahead and plan your trip to this stunning and historic city, it is waiting for you!