John and I spent 3 nights in Rome allowing us just enough time to visit all of the major attractions we wanted to visit (e.g. the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, Vatican City, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps). While others could argue that this was plenty of time in general, we just felt that it wasn’t enough time to truly experience all that the Eternal City has to offer.
We’ve heard mixed reviews from other travelers that you’ll either love it or hate it and we just so happened to really love it. Rome was probably our second favorite city next to Florence and we could’ve easily spent a couple of extra days here. I know everyone has their preference so I can understand when you already live in a large city like Chicago that you may want to get away from all the hustle and bustle that comes with a sprawling, cosmopolitan city like Italy’s capital, but one point to consider when making future travel plans is that Rome wasn’t built in a day so there’s no way you’ll be able to see it all in a day (or three).
Where we stayed:
We stayed at Hotel Degli Artisti, a boutique hotel located in the heart of Rome and about a 10 minute walk from the Spanish Steps. This was probably my favorite hotel out of the four hotels we stayed at. The concierge and staff at our hotel were extremely kind and helpful and they even provided us with a complimentary cellphone to use during our stay to help us navigate from the hotel to all the major sites and popular neighborhoods.
Since there’s so much to see and do in Rome and the city is so spread out, it might be hard to suggest one particular area over another for lodging. I do think the location of our hotel was great in terms of walking distance to some of the popular tourist sites such as Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona, but not others such as Vatican City (over a 30 min. walk from our hotel) or the Colosseum.
We took a high speed train from Florence in under 2 hours (also part of our package) and then cabbed it to our hotel. We were told that most taxis don’t accept credit cards, but we didn’t have a problem so I would just ask the taxi driver before getting into their cab.
Pro-Tip: Restaurants and shops in Italy do not accept US currency. Before we left, we were told most places accept US currency and not to worry about buying euros ahead of time, but that just wasn’t the case. Make sure you have local currency on you and call your credit card company ahead of time for any major purchases.
After checking into our hotel and freshening up, we enjoyed complimentary welcome drinks (one of the perks of booking through Costco Travel) on our hotel’s balcony before walking over to the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Both sites were extremely crowded around 5pm so if you want to get high quality photos sans tourists in the background, I’d suggest going early in the morning before anyone else is up (although I think we managed to get some pretty decent shots). On our way to the Spanish Steps we stumbled upon Via dei Condotti, one of three streets that makes up the “Trident” and is adjacent to the Piazzza di Spagna (bottom of the Spanish Steps), known for the most exclusive and high end designer shops lined up and down along the entire street. If designer shopping is your thing, this is the street for you! The entire area near the Spanish Steps is dedicated to high fashion, but there is a mix of high and low including popular chains like H&M and Zara on another street called Via del Corso.
When we arrived to the the Spanish Steps we were pleasantly surprised to see them covered in Azaleas that apparently bloom in April and only last for a couple of weeks! Aren’t they gorgeous? For dinner that night we chose a random restaurant with outdoor seating in an alleyway, not too far from our hotel (can’t remember the name), but it was one of the best meals we had up to that point and one of our favorites on the trip. In fact, we both agree that Rome probably had the best food hands down.
We booked The Complete Vatican tour through Walks of Italy which included express entry to the Vatican Museums-from the Sistine Chapel, to the Raphael Rooms and the Belvedere Courtyard followed by St. Peter’s Basilica with Michelangelo’s Pietà and Bernini’s baldachin. It was a 3.5 tour, but well worth it. It was one of my top 3 favorite tours mainly because I loved our tour guide and I really enjoyed learning more about Michelangelo and seeing his work. Note: Taking photos inside the Sistine Chapel is strictly prohibited. Upon entering we were told that if you get caught taking a photo the security guards will delete your photos, yell at you and then kick you out.
After our tour, we took a cab to Trastevere district which is south of Vatican City and one of Rome’s most popular neighborhoods. We were really craving pizza that night and so our taxi driver had recommended a restaurant in that area which just so happened to be circled on our map the concierge gave us before we left. Trastevere is a charming neighborhood with a younger crowd made up of cobblestone streets, medieval alleyways, trattorias, lively restaurants and bars all along the streets. I would consider renting a B&B in this area on our next visit.
Since it was still too early for dinner, we decided to walk up and down one of the streets to find a patio for cocktails when we stumbled upon a trendy and upbeat restaurant called Cajo & Gajo. We loved the energy, music and staff so much that we decided to just stay there and have dinner. We ordered their Buffalina wood-fired pizza that was just heavenly and full of flavor in addition to the complimentary appetizer they served us that was oh-so tasty (probably how they got us to stay). Definitely a must when you make it Rome. It was also at this restaurant where we met two sisters from the states who were traveling together with whom we instantly became friends. We spent the rest of the evening with them which included a dance off with the entire restaurant staff at Caramella restaurant. It was undeniably one of the highlights of our trip.
On our last day in Rome we had booked the Premium Colosseum Tour with Roman Forum and Palatine Hill through Walks. Another must if you enjoy Roman history as much as we do. It was pretty amazing to walk through and see where the emperors once sat vs. the commoners inside the amphitheater as well as being able to envision from which doors the gladiators entered, to learn more about their lifestyle and how they were chosen to entertain audiences during the Roman Empire. On our last night in Rome we had dinner at Collegio where we were served one of the best meals in Italy and received the most exceptional service on our our entire trip (ask for David if you ever make it here), followed by one last stop at Trevi Fountain. Legend has it if you throw a coin over your left shoulder it will ensure your return trip to Rome. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see if our wish comes true.