Traveling in Rome, Italy
Rome, the city everyone thinks about first when Italy is introduced to the conversation. Rome is old, and filled with millions of things to see and do. Whether you’re in the heart of the city, or exploring around the outskirts, you’re bound to find visual treasures. As far as the architecture goes, Rome’s ancient past still provides a lot of the framework today. Although most areas in Rome are restricted for the safety of you and the monuments, the foundation of Rome can be extensively explored and experienced.
For us, we started our journey in the city at Termini Station. This is the main train station for the city, where thousands of travelers and commuters are coming and going. The station itself is also connected as a hub to the subway/metro terminals. From this point not only are you in the heart of the city, you have access to anywhere in the city. For those travelers from the United States, the metro works identical to how it works back home. Simple to use, and it has English translations. To make it easier for new travelers, some monuments are depicted as pictures on the metro stops to help make certain locations stand out, like the Colosseum.
Once we got our bearings on the city, we determined what we were going to accomplish. We had two definitive sites we wanted to see, the Colosseum, and the Vatican. I myself, had previously visited Rome and was still familiar with the city, however it was still challenging to remember the locations of specifically.
The time we got into Rome was around 10am and we were both getting hungry after our almost two hour train ride from Florence. Our first mission was to find something to eat. Now there is a menagerie of options when it comes to food in Italy, let alone Rome. Being there on two separate trips and spending a total of 15 days within the city I can say that there are a lot of great places. Going out to eat during traveling can sometimes put a dent in your funds. A great way to avoid any excessive dining bills is to set your limits for each person before you leave for each day. It’s hard at first, but being self-disciplined can come along way, especially for your bank account. A rule Rain and I follow is 35 Euro’s a day (roughly $40 USD), per person. This includes all the meals for each day.
When Rain and I travel our goal is to experience as much of the culture as possible. One of the easiest ways to understanding a culture is through food. Dining traditions, styles in cooking, and the types of food eaten can give a good insight to the people of any region. With that being said, a tasty and inexpensive option is to eat where the locals eat, away from tourist attractions. You can notice a dramatic price change just based on location. Another great option is street food. Vendors usually have a good selection on food and drinks. Also, you can eat on the fly too, before catching your next train or rushing to another monument!
If you were to visit Rome, I would suggest three locations that will make Rome a wonderful time for you. Number one, the Vatican where the world renowned Pope is housed for the majority of the time. It is also the location of the beautiful St. Peter’s Cathedral and the famous Sistine Chapel. Number two the Colosseum, where you can experience what Ancient Rome was like 2,000 years ago. Number three, The Fontana Di Trevi, or commonly known as the Fountain of Love.
If you’re unsure on what to see first, or want to make the most of your time there you should go straight to either the Vatican or the Colosseum. Both are equally extravagant and take the most time out of all the sights. The Vatican alone can take an upwards of 3 hours just standing in line. Then you have to manage your time trying to witness all of St. Peters Cathedral, the entire Vatican museum, and most important the Sistine Chapel. Whether you are religious or not, these sights are true marvels and the architecture that was put into them is indescribable. I once had a teacher in high school, who said, “If you ever get the chance, even if it’s just for a moment, go to a Cathedral”. Back then, I didn’t think too much of it, I knew the cathedrals were large and well designed, but being from the United States and having zero exposure to cathedrals I had no idea of how big and how stunning they truly are. Visiting a St. Peter’s gave me a perspective that can only be experienced in person and not through words. So, you’re going to have to trust me and see for yourself.
The Sistine Chapel is something that I feel everyone should see once in his or her lifetime. The murals, which were brilliantly painted by Michelangelo, take your breath away and they pull the floor from your feet. Whether it be a feeling of amazement and beauty or something truly divine, Michelangelo gave us something that very few people in the world can give; a complete loss for words. You get the feeling of just sitting down and taking it all in. All your emotions are put aside and you just want to feel the energy in the room. Other than being in silence, when it puts you in a state of awe, your brain scrambles to pull words out to describe your emotion.
Fun fact – The artwork on the walls and ceiling are entirely painted. Every arch and every border you see is painted. The depth and the detail and his ability to show true perfectionism will taunt your brain. You feel as if the ceiling was designed with sections to tell a story. When in fact the story was told straight from Michelangelo himself with only a brush.
The real story about his time as a painter gets interpreted differently depending on your tour guide or which history classes you took. What’s important to know, is that he was not a painter and the mural took roughly 11 years. He actually despised painting. His true passion came from sculptures, which in my own opinion are even more captivating and I could probably write a whole separate post about them. Michelangelo took all his energy and vision from sculptures and portrayed them with paint. If you consider yourself a seasoned painter, you should be able to pull out the style of painting and how it relates to sculpting.
Pro tip – The Sistine Chapel closes before the cathedral, so don’t let the long lines fool you that it’s still open. It closes to the public at 4pm or 16:00. My recommendation would be: visit the Vatican first then make your way to the Colosseum. Also you are NOT allowed to take photos inside the chapel, so take your time and enjoy the experience.
The Colosseum is another one of those monuments that steals your eyes. You could look at many pictures online and probably get a good sense of this relic. Once you’re there though, it becomes a whole new picture and all those photos you saw don’t provide it justice. Unlike the Vatican, where art and murals are displayed to attract attention, the Colosseum attracts the attention through its atmosphere. Old rocks, some rubble and carved out seats is just enough to draw you in and take you back in time. You might even just admire it from the outside and then get distracted by the other monuments around it, like the Arch of Constantine. But I would recommend going inside the Colosseum. You should experience the atmosphere that housed one of the largest ancient games in the world. To see what the Romans saw almost 2,000 years later is something quite amazing.
For those reading and assuming the lines are long and tedious, don’t be fooled, they are. Plus you must go through lots of screening (security and metal detectors) before you even buy the tickets, and the tickets can be expensive too. But is it worth it? Yes, you don’t even need a tour just walk around and enjoy the sights.
Lastly, I have one last recommendation to visit, the Fontana Di Trevi. Commonly known as the Fountain of Love. This is an amazing fountain and is much larger than you think it is. Bring your loved one (or ones) and toss a coin in! Oh yeah, it’s completely free too, no fees or anything!
Pro Tip – The fountain of love is ridiculously crowded and everyone wants a photo. The good news is that people most of the time understand that everyone wants a photo or video, so just move with a crowd and take turns sitting in front of the fountain. Just be sure to repay the same respect you are given there, or be more respectful. The bad news, LOTS OF PICK POCKETING goes on around the fountain. There are usually plenty of officers to keep watch, but you can’t be too safe. Keep your bag close to you and keep an eye out for coincidental nudges. These thieves generally work in groups (usually of 3) and it works like a triangle. You have the distraction, the shield, and the thief.
No, I have not been a victim of pick pocketing, but I have witnessed close calls and have read stories. You can never be too careful, so mind your bags and personal space.