Travel Tips: Rome – Italy


24th Jul 2012

Photos of Roman Colosseum

We decided to start our three week honeymoon in Rome, it was romantic, wondrous, overwhelming beautiful and fast paced so make sure you have lots of energy to keep up with the Romans, when in doubt, stop and grab a seat to enjoy the view and rest those feet with a nice glass of wine and some pasta for a re-charge.

Visiting the Roman Colosseum is a pretty easy and great decision to make while in Rome. We went a couple of hours before it closed to avoid the crowds and to capture the evening sunshine. Helpful hints:

  • Buy your ticket through the Roman Forum entrance located up the hill to cut the line and we spent most of our afternoon there wandering around because the Forum has more area to cover than the Colosseum.
  • Wear a hat and sunscreen on sunny hot days and good walking shoes because it’s rocky and there are some hills and stairs to climb.
  • Buy the audio tour headphones or purchase/download an audio app to your mobile device (Rick Steves has some great ones), we found it gave us a good idea of what we were looking at and the history behind it, otherwise isn’t just a bunch of old rocks.
  • Bring a bottle of water, you can refill it at clean water fountains, there will be a sign on the fountains that are all good to drink at.
  • Stop for a bite to eat in between visiting the Forum and Colosseum to re-charge your batteries.  Less touristy restaurants aren’t a far walk, get out your map and head about 10 – 15 minutes away from the area.  Jeff and I almost always chose a restaurant without food photos on the menu, a good sign that the place has locals eating there.  Also less is more, so a small menu usually means fresh local ingredients and a savy chef.

Enjoying Rome Together

Rome is a walking city and getting lost in the narrow streets is a wonderful way to spend a day, afternoon or couple of hours even.  Happy hour has become popular too, so between the hours of 6-8pm you can usually pull up a seat at a wine bar and enjoy free nibbles.  If you are looking for a personal souvenir I suggest visiting this local shop called T-Nobile Pelletaria Artigiana that features handmade Tuscan leather goods at affordable prices, I bought a handbag that I adore (there is another location in Cortona-Tuscany if you miss out while in Rome).

Pantheon & Trevi Fountain

If you spend some time walking the streets of Rome it is inevitable that you will stumble upon the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps at some point or the many other Palazzo’s around the center of Rome.  We did buy a map to point us the direction we wanted to head, but honestly we only pulled it out when we were hungry or short on time.  It was fun to just embrace our internal compasses and then be surprised when we found these ancient and wonderful treasures.  I think my highlights were the Pantheon where Raphael is buried, the Trevi Fountain even though it’s buzzing with people and our walk above the Palazzo del Popolo, if you go before sunset and climb the stairs at the far end (opposite side from the shops & restaurants) you will get a panoramic view of the city and it’s a nice walk.

Roma Photos

I don’t have photos of our trip to Vatican City and the Vatican Museum, because I really wanted to be present while taking in the masterpieces by Raphael and Michelangelo.  We bought the audio guides, a definite must for me to have an appreciation for the artist and an understanding for the art piece.  My favorite sections at the Vatican Museum were Raphael’s Rooms, the Sistine Chapel and The Gallery of the Geographical Maps with huge painted maps of Italy followed by the Tapestries which are massive rugs depicting religious scenes.  I would have to say seeing both the work by Raphael & Michelangelo blew me away, these are not to missed and won’t disappoint, just think of all the trials and pains they went through painting with quick drying plaster, drawing perspective on a curved wall or stretching their arms to the ceiling and all the while trying to keep the church and critics happy – no pressure!  Did you know the Michelangelo struggled with his confidence while doing the Sistine Chapel, he was a sculpture first most and thought his paintings weren’t good enough – wow I think they are pretty amazing! Give yourself half a day to enjoy the museum, the interior architecture is also a sight to behold. Helpful hints for the Vatican Museum:

  • Book your tickets in advance online , you’ll have to pick a time and day but it’s worth beating the line ups.
  • Go first thing in the morning or near the end of day (in the summer they have later hours so check out those times) to beat the crowds.  On Wednesdays the Pope addresses the masses and we didn’t wait, but it also meant the shortcut in the Sistine Chapel was closed, there is a door located in the far right corner that leads to St Peter’s Basilica to avoid lining up in the square in the hot sun.
  • Wear appropriate clothing as there are restrictions, no stomachs, shoulders or knees visible.  Ladies bring a shawl or scarf to lay on your shoulders during the hot months.
  • Buy the audio guide or download an app guide for your mobile device to hear about the artist and work before you, it brings everything to life.  I have heard that if you purchase the audio guide through the museum that you have to return the headphones to get your ID back before heading into St Peters, so double check that if you plan on using the Sistine Chapel short cut.
I hope these tips help you enjoy your trip in Rome, we sure had a blast and I highly recommend spending a few days exploring this great ancient city that won’t disappoint. Viaggia felice!

6 Responses

  1. I don’t see Rome in my future but it’s nice to have your memories. Thanks for sharing!

  2. A couple notes:

    Restaurants must note on their menu any items that are previously frozen, so you’ll know if something’s fresh!

    Rome is a walking city, you’ll be tripping over some of the sights they’re so close together. Make sure you wear good footwear! My feet hurt for days after Rome because we walked so much!

    The Rome airport (Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci) is a mess, have fun with that! Leonardo would be horrified to have his name associated with such a place.

    From the airport you can hop the “Leonardo Express” train right to the Roma Termini station every 30 minutes for 14 €.

    People can be pretty pushy in Rome – as is with any big city – so don’t be afraid to be rude, just do it with a smile.

    I loved the Roman Forum, it’s big and there’s lots to it. I wish we had brought a small picnic, and sat in the grass on Palentine Hill – hint, hint.

  3. Great post Brandy! Lots of good advice which we plan to follow when we go this fall. I especially enjoyed your commentary on your favourite spots; it gave me a sense of the excitement you felt. I am really looking forward to seeing the art in the Vatican Museum.
    Jeff, your dad is really interested in the Roman Forum so we will probably spend quite a lot of time exploring it; I will have to remember your suggestion to bring a picnic.
    I bought a CD to learn a few basic phrases in Italian but it’s not as easy as I thought it would be.
    May I please have a copy of the photo of the two of you having a drink? You both look so happy in that shot. Thanks. xo

  4. Wish we could bring you both along as guide and photographer!

  5. I wish that too, so many more areas to discover in Italy.

  6. We just got back ourselves. If you are still there, I would recommend two offbeat tours; the 4 hour Food Tour & the absolute must – a tour of Rome on the back of a Vespa. What a blast that was. Enjoy and don’t get too frustrated with their lack of structure and compliance with rules as we’re used to in Canada; it somehow seems to work…..sort of.

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