In 2018, two days after I left my job in California, Brian and I packed up for a four week trip to Europe. We had planned a Mediterranean Cruise with family, leaving from Venice, so decided to make our first stop in Italy, specifically Rome. I was still exhausted from finishing up at school, on top of the jet lag, that it took a few days for me to get acclimated, but once I rested up, we were able to do a lot of sightseeing. Throughout our week, I was awestruck by the history. I often found myself staring at a random building and pondering what life would have been like here centuries ago. Everywhere you look there is something with a historical background. Right across the street from our hotel was what archaeologists had recently discovered to be the actual site of Julius Caesar’s stabbing. It is an archaeological site that used to be a theater.
Where to stay:
- Historic Center – A great place to stay, especially if it’s your first visit. The site is gorgeous and you will have easy access to most of the places you would like to see.
- Trastevere – A very historic neighborhood, with a vibrant night life. There are numerous pubs, cafes, and restaurants along its cobblestone streets. It is also in walking distance to the historic center. The nights are a little louder here, so take that into consideration when planning your trip. Even if you do not stay in Trastevere, you should at least visit.
Where to eat:
- Emma – You cannot go to Italy without eating some of their authentic pizza. This was a delicious pizzeria we were recommended to go to and loved it! It’s a casual restaurant with fresh food and an extensive wine list. Reservations are helpful.
- Renato e Luisa – This was our favorite restaurant while in Rome. Here, we enjoyed a delicious authentic Roman meal with nice ambiance and fabulous service. The bread basket and wine list was a wonderful start, but we continued to be amazed at the quality of the food throughout the night.
- Mimi e Coco – An energetic tapas bar with great food and drinks. It was quite packed the night we went but were able to get a table near the bar. Reservations would have been preferred. However, the service was awesome with tasty recommendations from our server, including some dietary accommodations for me. I, of course, thoroughly enjoyed an incredibly large cheese plate while Brian ate his Italian staple, prosciutto e melone.
What to do:
- Breakfast at The Vatican – Search for deals online to get the best prices. We had a nice breakfast on the Vatican grounds, before being allowed access to The Vatican museums an hour before the public. This is a great way to beat the horrendous crowds that appear later in the day.
- St. Peter’s Square – This is in front of the Vatican, and actually more of a circle. Here you can check out St. Peter’s Basilica and maybe catch a glimpse of the Pope! If you climb to the top of the dome, you can get an excellent view of the square.
- The Sistine Chapel – View the beautiful ceiling art as well as one of Michelangelo’s most famous works, The Last Judgement fresco.
- Piazza Venezia
- Trastevere – Get a feel for the authentic Roman Culture with its many cafes, pubs, and ancient houses.
- Trevi Fountain – The most elaborately decorated fountain I have ever seen.
- Visit The Colosseum – Gladiator tournaments and other forms of entertainment were once held here.
- Roman Forum – You can walk around the ruins of ancient squares, temples, and other structures. Plan to spend a large amount of time here, as the grounds are huge and worth exploring in its entirety. It is highly recommended that you purchase tickets to both the Roman Forum and The Colosseum (they can be sold together) to avoid additional lines.
- Palatine Hill – Roman Forum tickets will give you access to this as well. It is one of the oldest areas and gives some of the best views of the city.
- Circus Maximus – See the remains of one of the earliest circuses, also the main center of ancient chariot racing.
Tips: Crowds are intense, so be aware of your surroundings and keep your items in front of you and close to your body. When in line, hold your ground as people will try to jump the lines.
It gets hot in the summer months, so we recommend bringing sunscreen and a hat/umbrella for sun protection.
Look both ways TWICE before crossing any street as road signs in Italy are a mere suggestion it seems, not a requirement.