Merry Christmas! As 2019 comes to a close, I had to get a quick European city break in to help with the English Winter Blues – having visited Iceland in September (which was incredible) I wanted something that would be a little relaxing, somewhere new (I have never visited Italy previously), and also something exciting. Home to The Colosseum; a wonder of the world, some seriously good food, and South enough to offer 10 or so extra degrees – I picked Rome.
London Gatwick to Rome Fiumicino booked via Skyscanner.
We arrived mid-day and took the Train to Trastevere train station (8euros pp single). This was local to our Airbnb Mama Roma.
Evening – Pizza at Nuevo Mundo (Amazing pizza).
Visiting the Giant Amphitheatre and wonder of the world – The Colosseum. So in December in Rome it is 100% off-season. It was quiet and nothing standard was fully booked.
However if you want to access level 3 and the underground of the Colosseum (33Euro) at any time of year, then you must pre-book and I would strongly advise to book on the official website here. It Poured with rain on our day 2, which meant our tour was cancelled, in a panic we jumped on a bus to the Colosseum to see if our tickets could be changed or refunded. The staff refunded us, and we decided to purchased standard tickets (15Euro) for the next day as the weather was much better, I booked these replacement standard tickets just before midnight that night for 8:45 entry the next day and there were plenty available.
The Borghese Gallery
As the weather was so bad, we headed for shelter in the Gorgeous Borghese Gallery , This is located in North Rome not too far from Piazza De Popolo. There are admission restrictions within this prestigious gallery and it is best to pre-book, however as it was December we turned up got some tickets for the next available time slot and sat in the warm and dry cafe eating vegan cake and drinking amazing coffee whilst planning the coming days with our Lonely Planet; Rome.
The gallery is stunning, the ceiling artwork is incredible, the collection is clearly outstanding with various halls dedicated to artists and eras, including Raffaello Sanzio work.
My favourites were the Halls:
- LOGGIA DI LANFRANCO
- HALL OF MARIANO ROSSI
- HALL OF THE EMPERORS
To book tickets use the official website, found here. Adult tickets inc booking fee are 22Euro pp. Tickets cannot be changed or reimbursed. Audioguides are also available for 5Euros.
I would highly recommend a visit here, and although the Roma Pass is no longer accepted, you can enter for FREE free-of-charge entry can be gained on the first Sunday of the month and every second Wednesday of the month, admission is free, but reservations are mandatory by calling them on +39 06 32810.
Admission allows 360 people to enter the galleries for a limited 2 hour period during a set daily schedule.
When we visited there was a special exhibition of Luigi Valadiers work, this meant strictly no photos.
In the evening we wandered around Trastevere for our evening meal, we chose Nannorellas – it had great Tripadvisor reviews, however we were disappointed with the food especially as we had had amazing Pizza at our favourite neuvo mundo the previous evening.
8:45 – Finally inside the Colosseum! It was very quiet inside, with no queue to get inside or go through the security screening, however the was a MASSIVE queue to purchase tickets for entry, Tickets were still available online, and you could show your ticket using a smart phone to gain entry, so I am not quite sure why the couple of hundred people long queue was so bad?! Pre-booking therefore is best!
We wandered around the bottom and middle levels of the Colosseum for around 2 hours, reading about the history and taking it all in. It gets more crowded as the day goes on.
Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Next – we entered the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. There was about a 10-15 minute queue for the security screening and entrance, but it wasn’t too bad. As you enter the Forum which is so grand in size it takes your breath away (the view from the Palatine Hill or actually from an exit opposite the Colosseum entrance shows this best) If you turn right and right again there is a great and elevated view of the Colosseum, and a great photo opportunity to document your visit.
Then we just got lost walking through the ancient market and just exploring, we were in their for hours! I really do suggest taking a lunch and some drinks – we only found vending machines. Most Bakery/patisseries in Rome sell fantastic and cheap delicacies but also freshly baked pizza which actually tastes great cold! so stock up! You will need it.
After exploring this vast site, we headed to the Capitaline Museum Cafe, entry to the cafe is free of charge and has its own entry, and from the terrace here you have stunning views over Rome.
Next up our first glimpse of the Trevi Fountain, where we were sure to toss a coin into the fountain to ensure our return to Rome. This infamous Fountain reportedly collects over three thousand euros a day, thats over 1 million Euros per year!
The Fountain is Gorgeous, and a stone throw from here is also the Pantheon and Spanish Steps/Piazza.
Dinner – we ventured out to the amazing Roscioli Bakery for fresh Pizza, Aranchini and Panettone. Yummy! Choose whichever pizza comes out fresh, they weigh it and give you a ticket, go pay, collect it and go find a seat in this bustling little place.
Lazy day! We just strolled around the city, we walked from our airbnb into the city, and saw the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Trevi in the daytime. We did some shopping and ate lots of Gillotti Ice Cream (amazing).
We got to St Peters Square at around 7:30am, the Basillica opens at 7am for any early birds. The Basilica was almost empty and really stunning, we explored for around an hour and then headed to the Vatican Museums for 8:30am. We did however skip going up to the dome (8Euro). You do not have to pay to enter the Basilica itself this is free of charge.
The Vatican Museums – I cannot stress enough, pre-book skip the line entrance tickets online, we walked straight in with no need to queue. However there was a seriously long queue for people waiting to buy tickets and get through security, the museums are large and there is so much to take in and see – you do not want to be exhausted by the time that you walk in the door.
There is a route to follow through the museums, and toward the end you reach the Stunning Sistine chapel, and at the very end the infamous Vatican Spiral Staircase – top tip – if you go up the escalator and turn right toward the exit instead of left to the museum trail you will see the staircase first (and I presume free of people, to get that stunning photograph).
I did rent the audioguide for the Vatican museums, we shared one – and if you would like to pay for earphones to listen, you will receive a wire with ONE earphone not two! This is so disgusting, I understand that the museum will ideally want each person to pay to rent their own audioguide, but these things will just not be used again, so steer clear of these, they’ll end up in the bin, littering the streets or in the ocean. Take your own and re-use. (We just set the volume to high and shared as our apple headphones do not fit the standard aux – silly me).
The Maps Room and Sistine Chapel are by far the stars of the show, and we spent around an hour in the sistine chapel – it is so stunning, and I would recommend the visit for these alone.
From the Vatican you can then walk around to the Castel Sant’Angelo and its Beautiful bridge! We didn’t go in as it was such a long visit to the vatican but next time it is on our list.
Dinner – out of town near our Airbnb we found this great local Italian restaurant La Tavernaccia da Bruno, and enjoyed some amazing Pasta, the best Bruschetta i’ve ever tasted and some Red Wine. It was also so reasonably priced!
Home Time for us, not before a lovely Italian breakfast and coffee in our local bakery. What a Foodie Trip, I loved Rome, it far exceeded my expectations and if you are thinking of visiting or including it on a trip, I would totally recommend it.
Budget in Rome
When we booked our trip, we explored the options of a tourist pass including the Roma Pass and Omnia Pass, for us it worked our better value to explore on foot, take the bus (1.50Euro ticket that can be used for 100 minutes on buses or 1 single journey on the metro), and pay for individual tickets, it would have saved us money had the Borghese gallery still been included or if you wanted to enter another museum or site such as the Sant Angelo Castle.
It is best to book tickets through the official sites, which unless you are perhaps fluent or native Italian speaker, can be difficult due to the fierce booking agencies:
The Borghese Gallery:
Love B x