I love Rome. With so much of the world left to explore, I don’t always visit cities again but Rome is something special. If I was offered the opportunity to go to Rome tomorrow, I would say yes without hesitation – despite only visiting recently. I’ve well and truly got the Rome bug so I was so excited to head back to Italy this year as part of my Europe12in12 personal challenge. Spring is a beautiful time to visit Rome as it’s the perfect weather for sightseeing and walking so I wanted to share my three day guide of the city and of course my Stay, Eat, Visit favourites as I feel like I’ve finally nailed where my top recommendations are in this beautiful Italian capital.
Day 1: Central Rome
Rome didn't fall in a day but the centre of the city can certainly be explored in one. The city centre is simple and walkable and you can plan a circular walking route to see the Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and then back to the Pizza Navona for one more gelato in just half an hour, not allowing for stopping time. All these famous sights are free so walking is a fantastic way to explore the city and get a real feel for Rome on your first day.
The Castel Sant'Angelo is also a great option to explore, depending on how many days you are in Rome. If you’re under 25 it costs 10.50 Euros (15.50 Euros full price) to enter and it’s an interesting look into the military history of Rome. It’s full of incredible ceilings and offers a good view of the city, particularly St Peter’s Basilica.
Day 2: St Peter’s Basilica and Vatican City
The Vatican City is well worth a visit (and technically counts as another country to add to my list, although I won't be including it unless I have to!) First we headed to St Peter’s Basilica – get there early if you can because the security checks mean that queues build up fast. We were one of the first ones into the Basilica and we headed straight for the 551 steps to the top of the dome. If you haven’t realised yet, I’m obsessed with getting the best view of any city I visit and St Peter’s Basilica offers the best in Rome. The journey to the top is incredible too, as you climb along the curve of the dome, leaning to one side, before reaching one final spiral staircase so steep and narrow it only offers a rope to help you reach the top.
After St Peter’s, we headed round the corner to the Vatican, dodging tour guides as we went. I would really recommend booking tickets for the Vatican in advance as the queues are a stressful experience and some of the worst I’ve come across! With our pre-purchased tickets, we breezed straight through to explore the Pope’s residence. It’s a fascinating place packed full of history from all over the world and I particularly loved the Egyptian section. Of course, everyone makes a beeline for the famous Sistene Chapel, down beautiful painted hallways and incredible map rooms but on’t let yourself be swept up in the crowds, take your time and appreciate the stunning route too.
To eat, head down the road just outside the Vatican for one of the best experiences of your life. Dine E Toni has a menu – but you wont get a copy. Instead, you will be ushered into a seat and offered “anti pasti” and “vino,” followed later by “pasta?” “carne?” and “dessert?” Just say yes! You will be brought some of the best food you have ever eaten, but beware, the portions are huge! We were brought two plates of pasta each for our pasta course (it’s not negotiable) and then shared the meat and dessert courses just so we could try everything on offer. It’s Italian food and hospitality at its best and I still dream of that pasta…
Day 3: The Forum, Palatine Hill, Colosseum and St Callixtus Catacombs
Of course you can’t visit Rome without visiting the Colosseum. We got up bright and early and bought our tickets from Palatine Hill and explored this and The Forum first; the place was empty and we could explore without any crowds. I’d recommend an audio guide, which are iPods so you only need to buy one and you can easily share and save some pennies. They’re really informative and without them, you can end up wandering around the ruins a little aimlessly without knowing what you are looking at.
The Colosseum is simply incredible. It’s the reason I’ve always wanted to go to Rome since I was a small child and, luckily, it doesn’t disappoint. Again, buy a guide if you want to know what you’re looking at and learn more about the fascinating history of the place.
After the Colosseum, we headed to the St Callixtus Catacombs. I’d been itching to visit some catacombs and I was assured that these were the best. They were also easy to get to – you simply catch the 118 bus from outside the Colosseum. And wow, were they worth it! You cannot take photos or go into the catacombs alone, so you are given one of the monks who look after the catacombs as a guide. Our guide was Brother Obet and he was the best tour guide I have ever had. He knew everything about the catacombs, kept us hanging onto every word, told us stories and showed us the most incredible sights. We saw paintings of Jonah and the Sea Monster (before the story evolved into Jonah and the Whale) and even some 13th century bones left untouched in an abandoned grave. Oh and he called my brother the Son of Superman…
He also recommended that we walk down to the Appian Way and of course, we couldn’t ignore his advice after our incredible tour. It's well worth exploring if you can get to the edge of the city and the perfect end to an incredible three days in Rome.
Have you been to Rome? Let me know what you loved - or if you will be going!