Rome is as difficult to describe as it was to capture in photos. Everything was larger than life, and it was shockingly urban after coming from provincial Venice. I expected something like Paris with the addition of Roman ruins, but it was a little more like Los Angeles – spread out and jammed with traffic. Venice was about the unexpected details, but Rome was about looking up and around and the marvelous, colossal structures. I have a lot of mixed feelings about Rome – the food and monuments were brilliant, but a few extremely rude Romans and air thick with exhaust put a bad taste in my mouth.
Our first night, we ate dinner in scenic Trastavere, which was a neighborhood Rome that was closest to what we experienced in Venice: cobbled stone streets lined with busy outdoor seated restaurants and twinkling lights hanging from the buildings. We decided to walk back to our airbnb that night and enjoy the lit up city. We had the streets to ourselves, and we stumbled upon ruins as we made our way back, which was one of my favorite parts of being in Rome. Seeing the Largo di Torre Argentina and Markets of Trajan in the relief of the evening lights was so much more magical than daylight.
It was so bizarre to stroll past the Colosseum as we entered the city each day and we wondered how people ever got used to it. We did a guided tour for the Colosseum that we purchased on the day, but we got unlucky, as our tour guide had an extremely heavy Italian accent and breezed through each section way too quickly. I would recommend doing an audio guide instead. The Colosseum was an incredible sight and hard for me to take in – it just seemed surreal standing inside of it. It was one of my favorite parts of Rome due to its sheer size and significance.
We grabbed some sandwiches and espresso nearby enjoyed a late lunch sitting on a wall looking out at the Colosseum – talk about a unique experience!
After, we visited the Roman Forum and went to the top of Palentine Hill and enjoyed the view of that entire part of the city at sunset. We wished we could have stayed longer – we felt we could have spent half a day exploring the maze of ruins.
We spent three days in Rome, and one day in Vatican City. Visiting the major spots was our goal, but we did manage to see a few off the beaten path places, as well. We started one day with an amazing brunch at Coromandel, a cute, reservation-only restaurant that seated us at a table layered in tarot cards! Alaina got dessert at the famous Tre Scalini in the Piazza Navona, and we sat near Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers. We saw the Trevi Fountain by night and by day, and it’s so much more beautiful at night with the water and statues lit up! I couldn’t even capture the fountain on camera, but it was gorgeous. Audrey Hepburn eats ice cream on the Spanish Steps in Roman Holiday, so of course we had to do it, too! But as soon as we sat down, a security guard told us we couldn’t eat on the steps – FYI!
We passed through the Jewish Ghetto, which was really interesting. I would have liked to eat there and explore the ruins a little more next time I go.
One of the most memorable parts of Rome was the Capuchin Bone Church. No photos were allowed, but it was a church in which the entire interior was decorated from real human skulls of the Capuchin Friars. It was morbid and beautiful – I’m not sure if I’ll see anything like it ever again! Google it for photos!
Wandering around Rome was a delight, but not nearly as picturesque as Venice. Next time I go to Italy, I’ll skip Rome and go to the less urban areas; I can’t wait to explore more of the Italian countryside!
If you go to Rome and want ideas and cost for a backpacker-mid level budget, here’s what we spent and where we went in four days (not including the sites in Vatican City in a separate post):
Airbnb: Four nights for $170 split by the two of us, 10 min walk from the Colosseum.
Food & Wine: €40 a day x 3.5 days = $151
Public Transit: €6 ($7)
Dinner in Trastevere
Largo di Torre Argentina – free to view
Palazzo Valentini Domus Romane – free to view
Markets of Trajan – free to view
Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill combo ticket + front of the line pass/guided tour – €30 ($33)
Trevi Fountain by night – free
Window shop down Via Condotti – free
Spanish Steps – free
Vatican City – €8 ($9)
Castle St. Angelo – free to view
Isola di Tiber – free
Jewish Ghetto – free
Capitoline Hill – free
Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II – free to view
Piazza Navona – free
Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers – free
Dessert at Tre Scalini
Pantheon – free
Trevi Fountain by day – free
San Pietro in Vincoli (Michelangelo’s Moses sculpture) – free
Capuchin Bone Church – €10 ($11)
Mercato Monti (market) – free
Total cost: $296 pp for three days and four nights in Rome/Vatican City